Kwara: Major takeaways from AbdulRazaq’s first days
By Abdullahi Ahmad
London, June 1, 2019 (AltAfrica)-If there was any state where many commentators had expected instant roll back of certain actions or policies of the previous government, Kwara State probably ranked first on the list.
And not only are there many things some people might rightly expect immediate ‘punitive actions’ on, the new Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, has a huge political capital to pursue such actions without much consequences beyond the cries of witch-hunt by the affected parties.
If anything, he would be hailed for being so ‘proactive’ by most members of the public on account of some annoying late-hour actions and decisions of the defeated hegemons.
We have seen some new governors embarking on such actions like pulling down statues, directly instigating the public against their predecessors, or reversing appointments. While it may be hasty to blame governors who took such decisions, the snag (about such actions) is that they may be seen as vindictive, shortsighted and reactionary.
AbdulRazaq has avoided that in Kwara. As noted above, the out-gone regime took certain decisions which were easily questionable. These included late-hour appointments into statutory institutions, unlawful payment of severance package and passing of legislation clearly meant to hurt the new administration. It is safe to conclude that these had been done to provoke AbdulRazaq into taking rash actions, thereby portraying him as vindictive and mean.
But the man has risen above such petty partisanship. While it may be necessary to review such steps as had been taken in the interest of the state, the Governor has instead assumed the status of a statesman who opted to govern by consensus. This is reflected in his utterances and actions since taking office.
In his inaugural address, the governor went conciliatory by saying that this is a people’s government and will operate as such. When everybody expected him to sound like a belligerent war general on the actions of the previous government, he made it clear that whatever inquiry made into the past would be to the extent that such effort will help the public cause he intends to serve. In saying this, AbdulRazaq is clear about the fact that he is not interested in running after anyone if such is not connected to the bigger Kwara dream.
His not rushing into immediate reversals of mendacious policies or appointments of the out-gone government means he’s a leader capable of rising above the fray. He is showing that his actions or decisions would never be rash but a product of deep thinking and pro-people considerations.
From his inaugural speech to his first official functions, AbdulRazaq is embarking on fence mending and confidence building among critical stakeholders in Kwara State. He started with his party men just hours after he was inaugurated. And shortly after holding his maiden security briefing Thursday morning, he met with the State’s Council of Chiefs during which he took their advice and sought support for the new government.
He then met with over 300 thoughts leaders drawn from across the state and interests, where he made it clear that the era of ‘I-Know-It-All’ or a one-man show is over. Reflecting on his unprecedented margin of victory, he said he owed his mandate to the people and is ready to lead according to their consensus through constant consultations and open fora.
Then came the turn of the civil servants who AbdulRazaq told to please be as frank as possible with him each time he meets or asks them for advice on the running of the state. He demonstrated this when he, contrary to some opinions, said politicians corrupted the civil servants, and not necessarily the other way round. He said he believed that his own agenda to run a transparent and accountable government will be replicated by the civil service.
He also subtly disowned an earlier jab that the civil servants often are the clogs in the wheels of progress. Rather than key into the pervasive anti-civil servants narrative, he instead courted and gave them hope.
As with every leader with such emotional intelligence, the reaction was predictable as the civil servants, senior and junior, gave him a standing ovation after he spoke to each of the issues they had raised without talking down at them.
In what was a departure from the past, the Governor said he would not encourage sycophancy. And in practical terms, he showed that he meant his words when he told the people on the high table to please sit down when they got up when he rose to speak. That is not a one-off show. He had earlier told aides and protocol officers he inherited to never stoop or kneel when talking to him. He understands that such actions often lead to sycophancy and master-slave relationship which are unhealthy for constructive engagements between leaders and followers or superiors and subordinates.
Finally, he has been very business-like and averse to the grandiose of office. On Wednesday as everybody waited for him at the Government House venue of his inauguration, he topped his culture of leading his often-lean convoy by driving himself to the venue, seemingly demystifying the officialism of many public functionalities.
Apparently afraid of the security implications of his Spartan and pro-masses disposition, a retired army colonel openly urged him at the thoughts leaders’ meeting to prioritise his personal security.
Showing great understanding of statecraft, contrary to campaign-period claims that he’s inexperienced, AbdulRazaq is always very comfortable reeling out facts and figures of investments and the hard choices needed to rebuild the Kwara of his dream.
Some persons have said it may be too early to draw conclusions on his unusual show of courage and connection to the people. Perhaps they were speaking from experience. What those who hold such opinions do not realise is that AbdulRazaq has always charted a different course that has led him to reaching the phenomenal peak of his career as a self-made entrepreneur.