By Rafiu Ajakaye
AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, Governor of Kwara State and new chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), looks many ways like the iconic US President Harry Truman: strategic, humble, foresighted and exceptionally deeper than his critics may admit, and not flippant or garrulous by any stretch. He is a man of consensus who believes in the unity of Nigeria and its people.
AbdulRazaq has maintained a fairly low media profile that many say is at variance with his vast network of friends and protégés within the elite circle of Nigeria, a huge popularity among Kwarans at home and in diaspora anchored on the successes of his first term across many sectors, and his pedigree as the scion of one of Nigeria’s earliest and most decorated lawyers of all time: the late AGF Abdulrazaq, SAN, life bencher, and first lawyer in northern Nigeria.
His phenomenal listening skills, sense of history, willingness to emulate great strides from anywhere and anyone, and in-depth appreciation of the core issues of governance make him a man to watch as he leads his colleagues. His greatest strength is his calculated silence and measured speech in time of tension.
Opinions among politically neutral Kwarans are that his success at the poll matched his performance over the last four years. The outstanding performance of his party at the polls is one of the best by any APC state — a triumph that proved wrong many bookmakers who had predicted that the pre-election struggles within the state APC was going to consume him. Reverse was the case: three in every five Kwarans who voted APC did so because of him.
AbdulRazaq comes to the job with impressive records as a Governor. He has breathed life to the state’s basic education, which had collapsed when he assumed office in 2019. He revived public water. The state’s healthcare system has improved under his watch, with Kwara posting some of the best indices in the sector while acknowledging the huge gaps that still exist. Last week, Kwara emerged the best state in primary healthcare delivery in the entire North Central, beating Abuja to the crown.
He has not only appointed the highest number of women to cabinet positions but has also gone ahead to make gender parity a state policy. He was the first Governor to make such a policy in Nigeria. His love for youth inclusion in government is anchored on his data-driven position that Africa has the youngest population in the world, and it is a disservice to not have them at the decision table. His background as a big private sector player has helped to chart a new course for small-scale businesses in Kwara State while building a new political culture around self-reliance and responsible leadership.
If he holds an opinion on an issue, it is mostly guided by history, a need for moderation, and a patriotic duty to preserve the interest of the underserved or the silent majority.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is positioned to resolve many national questions — a duty especially thrust upon him by his antecedents as a federalist, resource control activist, and a pragmatic political figure who must now unite the fractured country. He will need the Governors who are themselves political leaders of their various states to push through such agenda for national acceptance as States wield many powers based on our constitution. He will be working with an NGF whose leadership is an ally who belongs to his party and actively worked for Tinubu’s emergence and shares his views and passion on many issues of national development.
The President-elect can count on AbdulRazaq, himself a smooth political operator, to mobilise his colleagues for a national consensus to tackle myriad of issues, including the challenges of youth bulge and unemployment, expansion of the middle class, herders-farmers’ conundrum and food security, climate change and renewable energy, gender parity, among others.
The Governor is well-versed in the SDGs, which is expected to get better attention and funding under the Tinubu presidency if Nigeria wants to make appreciable progress in human capital development by 2030.
He is rated very high in rural development as a Governor, with several road and other developmental projects in the Kwara hinterlands and improved social mobility across different demographies. That is a major reason for his smooth re-election in the last election.
AbdulRazaq has come under the radar since words got out that his peers were increasingly looking towards him for the NGF seat. He understands the burden of leadership and history this places on him as far as his native Kwara is concerned. If history is a guide, the Governor has a record of attracting development to the state: the $59m AfDB agroprocessing zone, one of the few so far approved for the country, the UBEC smart school, the recently approved $7m diagnostic centre to be sited in Kwara, and the multibillion naira 284-kilometre tax credit road projects approved for BUA in Kwara, among others.
The NGF, an amalgam of equals, has been established for the purpose of rallying resources and political stakeholders for national development, good governance, and effective peer learning among the Governors and related bodies within and outside of Nigeria. It recorded successes, including sustained partnerships with development partners in the areas of healthcare delivery and smoothening relationships between the national and subnational governments.
AbdulRazaq’s leadership of the club is certain to up the ante, given his record of achievements in the healthcare and education sectors, and gender mainstreaming — three thematic areas where he had credited his optimism and feats on collaboration with the development partners.
Ajakaye is Chief Press Secretary to the Governor