Renowned human rights activist and pro-democracy crusader, Comrade Razaq Olokoba, is a man of many caps. He is a Chartered Public Administrator (CPA), member, Nigeria Institute of Management (MNIM), and Security Consultant. On top of it all, he is the Convener and National President of the Campaign for Dignity in Governance (CDG).
In this interview in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital city, Olokoba who also hails from the state spoke extensively about the Kwara Central Senator-elect Saliu Mustapha and his ability to chart a right political direction for the state and his capability to provide robust representation for his people at the Senate.
Before the last election, your political network worked hard for the Kwara Central Senatorial Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mallam Saliu Mustapha, how do you feel now that your choice has won the election on February 25, to become a Senator-elect?
To start with, the emergence of Saliu Mustapha in the political space of Kwara, is the arrival of a political Legend and when you see one, you must recognize him. Saliu Mustapha is a political Legend and we must hold on to him. We must use him to mentor the young people. He is a figure that is worthy of emulation. We have scarcity of people of impeccable character in the political space in Nigeria. We have had a senator in this country, which has turned the political space in this country into a comedy. There was no time he would be in the National Assembly that we would not have one crisis or the other.
So, we don’t want our state to turn into a state where we would have a comedian as a senator. With Saliu Mustapha, Kwara is heading to the right direction in terms of parliamentary politics. In the last two to three years, when you talked politics, the first person that came to mind is Saliu Mustapha. He took over the political space and he has been influencing the political direction of Kwara. At all levels of victories in Kwara State in the last election, Saliu Mustapha played a significant role, so, his victory was much expected long before the election. His victory is one in Nigeria that does not require debate. He has a very convincing and impressive victory. When you are looking for a free, fair and credible election, victory of Saliu Mustapha should always come to your mind. He won his election with a landslide.
By this, all the organizations that took part in his electoral success should be thoroughly commended. APC as a party needs more of Saliu Mustapha in the party. As the party has scouted and discovered Mustapha, it should also endeavour to scout for more of his likes in Kwara because of being an asset and not a liability. With him and others like him, voting would be based on objectivity and on conviction that these are the men and women that come from us that we are going to vote for. I have no doubt in my mind that we are going to have a credible representation at the parliament. I have no doubt in my mind that Saliu Mustapha would fashion out a robust relationship at the Senate such to an extent that we are going to have what we call parliamentary dividends of democracy.
Having won his election and he is on his way to the Upper Legislative Chambers, what then is expected from his people for him?
Thank you very much. What we need do is to build buffer around him to ensure that he continues to rise politically. We must make sure that Saliu Mustapha, the Turaki of Ilorin becomes a political Institution in Kwara. He should be made to rise to a formidable pillar so much that no significant political decision could be made in Kwara without referring to him. That is as much as we should go with him.
Did his popularity influence the outcome of other elections in the state in the last election?
It a very glaring assertion that his popularity influenced the elections at all levels in Kwara-presidential, senatorial, parliamentarian and the gubernatorial. His popularity is so overwhelming so much that people outside Saliu Mustapha’s senatorial district were set out with the mind set of going to vote for Saliu Mustapha and thus ended up voting for the APC across board. In fact in subsequent elections after his election of February 25, his name was used to canvass for votes for all other APC candidates. To say the least, Saliu Mustapha has become such a political phenomenon in Kwara State today that cannot be wished aside.
So, all the good people of Kwara Central Senatorial District should rally round him to give him the required support to make him excel in his legislative and other responsibilities expected of him. Saliu Mustapha came at the time the people need a political leader that can chart a right direction for Kwara State. He came at the time when the state needs someone as a proper mentor for the youth of Kwara. Saliu Mustapha’s style of operation is not different from the style of Governor Abdur-Razaq when it comes to the area of promoting peace. Even when he is criticized, he accepts criticism in good faith. He is not a controversial person and he has never preached for violence for once throughout the period we have been monitoring his political activities. So, I am impressed with his victory.
I also commend the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for giving the victory to the person who actually won and I also commend the good people of Kwara Central Senatorial District for recognizing and voting for the right man to be our representatives at the Senate. We want to encourage him to sustain his large political heart and style because we will need his political ideology in Kwara at this juncture in the state when it appears there is no political arrow head in our political space. And as a political Legend that he is, I am sure he would offer the state the needed political style.
Now coming down to the state specifically, how did you see the last election?
Thank you for that question. Last election came with a peculiar dimension. Peculiar dimension because it showed clearly that political consciousness in Nigeria is rising day in, day out. If you look at the campaigns, you will agree with me that the contents were impressive. Before now, what we used to witness was how many bad boys can you wield? What capacity of violence could you exhibit? That was in the past but thankfully, that is no longer the case now.
How do you mean?
Take the last election for n instance. The last election compelled the political class to go for issue-based campaigns. And for Governor Abdur-Rahaman Abdur-Razaq, I consider people of Kwara State lucky for having him back for a second term in office. He had major limitations as a governor. His party itself, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has a lot of limitations as well. But luckily, shortly before the election, they were able to overcome the limitations. We warned them earlier of the danger of not threading the path of unity. But before the election, it was good that they came together.
One of the good things that stood out for Governor Abdur-Razaq is not provision of good governance alone, it is also about the peace he was able to bring on board. When we want to talk about legacy, one of the lasting legacies is not essentially about building roads and bridges; it is not essentially about institutions that you have built. It is also about the security of lives and properties. The first responsibility of each and every governor is to secure the lives of the people. All other things come after it.
And the political history of Kwara State before has had a major shift when Abdur-Razaq came on board. And that is why I see him as a man of legacy. And that legacy is called the Legacy of Peace. He has done roads, he has done so many other things. But what stands him out is how he has been able to bring peace back to Kwara. In the last ten to 15 years, the state has witnessed unprecedented crises and it almost changed the honour of calling Kwara the State of Harmony. And when he came on board, he brought back that honour of being the State of Harmony. Therefore, it is our responsibility as a people to support him to sustain that laudable legacy. I know he has done a lot of environmental development projects; he has also put in place all other machinery necessary for smooth running of government and other essentials are also taken care of.
This is important because when you are traumatized by the thought of when are you going to get your next salary, such a state cannot prosper. And that was the situation before Abdur-Razaq came on board which he has changed for good. Such a legacy always remains unforgettable in the life of a state. And because the public might have a short memory, it is our responsibility to remind the people of where we are coming from as members of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). Such laudable achievements should not go unnoticed and undocumented. It is our duty and responsibility also to express our caution to the opposition and the ruling party and the people of the state.
(Cuts in) Yes, the opposition parties. They should educate their members on how to handle loss in any electoral exercise. The main focus of winning an election is to take care of the people. So, once there is a decision by the people that they prefer the other party to you, the peculiar nature of Nigeria’s political class is to aspire for the failure of the government in power. That is uncivilised! So, it is high time Nigeria’s political class realised the importance of nation building such that when you lose an election, you should refrain from setting up land mines, road blocks, sabotage and any other exercises that would make the government of the day fail. The last opposition that just left Kwara State lasted for over four decades. To write history of a state and ascribe four decades to a political hegemony, is enough an achievement to remember you for. So, the opposition now should re-strategize if they aspire to come back and not re-strategize for the government in power to fail. What you need do is to make researches into what you can do to endear the people back to you.
To the political party of the government in power today, its members should conduct themselves in such a way to realise that the last three and a half years governance that became so turbulent was very disappointing. And it is important they learn from those mistakes of the past. A lot of factors worked for Abdur-Razaq. You talk about good governance, you talk about legacy and you also talk about overwhelming national political influence. The direction of our country’s political affairs also influenced his victory. So, if you are the party in government today, what we need from you as a people is just to make us happy. Just give us good governance.
But if we begin to witness intra-party crisis, where APC becomes major opponent of the APC in the state won by the APC, it is uncivilized and very disappointing! Whatever it would take to ensure that peace continues to reign in Kwara, APC Kwara chapter must toe that path. As I earlier said, Governor Abdur-Razaq is a very big blessing to the people of the state. But we have to assist him to overcome his own limitations too. He is a good governor that has done tremendously well.
What has been your organization’s contribution to the governor’s success in the last March 18 governorship poll?
A year before the election, we sustained our advocacy that there was the need for the governor to talk to the people. And the governor started talking to the people. And I am convinced he has seen the positive result of talking to the people. I know and I am convinced that he is happy with the result of talking to the people. And he should not stop talking to the people. The government and administration of Kwara is not a private sector. The governor is a public asset that people should be able to access, that must be visible, that must be talking and that people must see at all time. That was the reason we have voted for you.
I have a political institution in Kwara. I did not vote in Kwara but I ensured I activated that political institution to mobilise to vote for the governor and to that extent; certain things are required from him. One of them is being done very well and the second one is the need to be talking to the people.
And lastly, where the governor would get that charisma he should go and look for it. He should be able to exhibit the charisma that all those he inherited before he became the governor in the party must not fritter away again. There were people he inherited in 2019 in the name of that party that today one finds it difficult to say whether they are still in the APC or not. Some are one leg in, one leg out. Some people have completely moved out of the party! When a governor is faced with that type of distraction, he cannot face governance squarely. So, he must begin to look for that charisma to be able to carry everybody along. That is the price he must pay, it is not a personal opinion. It is not a matter of that is my lifestyle. Your lifestyle is no longer your lifestyle when you become governor of a state. Your lifestyle has become the lifestyle of a governor of a state who must promote peace, who must promote harmony, who must bring about good governance and who must rally the people particularly members of your political party.
Current expectation now is for the governor to bring everybody on board. Whether he was responsible for their leaving the party or whether those people were responsible for it, what is imperative now is that the governor must go and look for that formula to bring everybody on board. He must learn from what other states do to achieve it. I do not believe that those who left the party are solely responsible for their leaving and I don’t believe they also did not do something wrong. And I don’t want to believe that the governor lacks proper character. No, I don’t want to judge. But where peace is absent, it is always the beginning of disharmony and it will essentially affect the President or the governor of the state. So, the governor owes the people that responsibility that the state returns to the State of Harmony, where peace continues to reign supreme.
We are talking about peace in peculiar area of stakeholders in Kwara, we are not talking about peace generally because he has done wonderfully well in ensuring that those people who are likely to cause disharmony in the state have been checkmated. He has done that successfully. If he has done that successfully, he should therefore utilize that window to ensure that the people are with him. That is the minimum demand from him.
And lastly, the people must also realise that the government also has its capacity. Within the first four years of any administration in Nigeria, there are numbers of roads the government can construct. It can’t go beyond that. There are numbers of houses it can build, it can’t go beyond that. Your welfare package will be based on the money you make and the one being collected from Abuja. So, if that is the capacity, it cannot go to pay beyond that. In that case, the people should not put demands that can traumatise the government before the government. They must not be consistently be asking for things that would create crisis of perspective for the governor such that even if the government is doing the right thing, when there is humongous demands from the people, the government may abandon the right thing and would want to go for the demands of the people! And before you know it, the government is heading for the wrong direction.
So, since this state is our state, we have to be careful, we have to apply wisdom; we have to understand what is the role of the government before we insist on certain demands. We need a lot of public education and enlightenment education in this country for our people. The limitations we are talking about is not solely for Kwara. It is a universal thing in Nigeria.