Kwara State @ 50 (1) By Issa Aremu

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There are divergent views about the progress so far since the states creation of 12 states by the military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon 50 years ago. There are the pessimists who hold that the states have not achieved the desired goals of development. In some extreme cases they even called for the abolition of states with even nolstagia for the old three regions. On the other hand there are the optimists and enthusiasts who see states, now 36 as success stories. Lagos and Rivers states are commendably up beat with all inclusive anniversary programme with rolled out drums for celebration.
In a sense both positions are valid. The truth is that States have recorded some achievements but far from the expectations at the beginning 50 years ago. As a guest speaker at two non-official anniversary lectures in Ilorin at the weekend, I bear witness that despair had replaced hope 50 years after Kwara state came into being.
Three of the original 4 states which still retain their identities, are Kwara, Lagos, Rivers and Kano.
Last Wednesday, 17th May 2017 my brother and Secretary to the Kwara State Government, Alhaji Isiaka Gold singled out unity, peace and development as the greatest achievements . Other listed achievements include the Federal, State and private universities, industries, an emerging aviation hub, advanced health facilities, modern recreational facilities, and comparatively good infrastructure.
The question however is that if so much had been achieved, why the ”low-key in consonance with the mood of the country”?. We must learn to celebrate statehood and nation-building with good spirit. Statesmen and stateswomen who often block public roads and airspace to mark their birthdays and weddings of their sons and daughters have no excuse to do less for the states and public space they occupy. The promise of governance is security and welfare of citizens. Public officers must use every day to account for how far they have met this singular constitutional expectation. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos must be commended for almost all year, all inclusive celebration of Lagos state in a number of creative mass participatory ways.
We must definitely mark States at 50 with critical but constructive review of the past and the present and offer views for a better states in the next 50 years. The official government logo and theme of the anniversary is “Celebrating Harmony, Shaping the Future”.
Kwara from May 27, 1976 started as Central West State but later became known as “KWARA”, a name derived from the local name of River Niger among the people who constitute the state. Under Ibrahim Babangida military dictatorship BORGU LGA (New Bussa) was taken away on Aug. 27, 1991 and merged with Niger State. No demand whatsoever from the Borgu People to leave Kwara State either by way of petition, referendum or protest. It was a military fiat.

According to projected population figures in the 1980s, Kwara state had an average of 4.8 million people with an area of about 73,000 square kilometers (making it the 5th largest state in the Federation as at August 26, 1991).
Kwara State had since 1967 reduced considerably in size as a result of further serial state creation exercises in Nigeria.
On 13 February 1976, the Idah/Dekina part of the state was carved out and merged with a part of the then Benue/Plateau State to form Benue State. Again On 27 August 1991, five local government areas, namely Oyi, Yagba, Okene, Okehi and Kogi were also excised to form part of the new Kogi State, while a sixth, Borgu Local Government Area, was merged with Niger State.
As of 2006, the population of Kwara was 2.37 million, half of what it was in 1980s based on the Nigeria 2006 Census.
This population size constitutes about 1.69% of the Nation’s total population. It occupies 30th position in the league of states compared to its 5th position before. Its land mass is now 36, 825 km compared to 73,000 square kilometers.
Endless agitations and pandering of past military dictators to such indulgences undermined the viability of the existing states as much as poor governance. What Nigerians need is development not just new territories for endless governors and their appointees.
In its 50 years of existence, Kwara State has been governed by 19 Military administrators and Governors to date. This is an average of two-year tenure per Governor. Frequency of governors, especially military governors had undermined the state’s development.
The hope is that NEVER again should unelected gunmen rule Nigeria. Most of the military governors between 1985 and 1999 actually underdeveloped Kwara State!. Interestingly no woman ever governed the state and in recent times since, 1999, deputy governors are almost by design far older than the governors. It’s time to encourage youth participation in governance. The other 3 original states, namely Rivers, Kano and Lagos are among the top 10 high GDP states. Kwara ranks 28th on the ranking of states by GDP beaten to it by even newest states like, IMO, Edo and Oyo.
Kwara State should improve on productivity through reindustrialization. Paradoxically at creation, Kwara was the fastest growing state with bold Development Plan through Kwara State First Development Plan (1970 – 74/75) in May, 1970 (within the context of the country’s second National Development Plan (1970 – 1975) and Second Kwara State Development Plan (1975 – 1980).
The plans laid solid foundations for accelerated economic growth, increased productivity in agriculture providing favourable climate for industrial development and improving the quality of life of the people through the provision of necessary infrastructure. Kwara must return to development planning.
Most of the industries have closed down with loss of thousands of direct jobs.
Kwara State must be ambitious in state building.
Issa Aremu, mni

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