Dr Femi Muhideen Akorede is the Senior Special Assistant to Kwara State governor on Media and Communications. In this interview with Akinlolu Abayomi, the amiable dude speaks on the achievements of his principal, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, how he reacts to cyber bullying and other issues. Read on:
We recorded an innovation in Kwara State which is the IFK, what really does it entail and what have been its positive impacts on Kwarans?
IFK is the second most significant reform by the administration of His Excellency, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed. The first one being the reform in the IGR collection system which led to an increase in our IGR from 7 billion per year to 17 billion per annum within 6 months on an average basis and specifically IFK is an innovative means of ensuring the funding of infrastructure projects. IFK pull resources together to ensure that contractors are paid as agreed on a timeline without putting additional pressure on the state government finances. He does that through a certain fund which was put into infrastructure fund, IFK, initially it was 5 billion naira and a monthly contribution of 500 million naira from our IGR. So what that does is that a contractor can now take a job from the Kwara State Government and based on that he can go to the bank to raise loans because IFK is backed by laws. So, the moment you sign a contract with the kwara state government that you are going to do a road project for the state, the law setting up IFK automatically protects you. It’s like an insurance bond . So, what a contractor can do has been made easy in the past you have to produce 25% to 30% mobilization. That is no longer necessary. A contractor signs a project, when he get first milestone of 30% and it is examined and found to be so, the government releases the first payment. Now, remember that in the first three months we are still putting half a billion on a monthly basis in the scheme, which means that at every quarter there is up to 1.5 billion that the government can disburse to various contractors. So the scheme ensures that any project started by the government will be funded to completion and eventually eliminate the issue of abandoned project in Kwara State and shows concrete evidence to the tax payers what their taxes are used for because you can point to tangible infrastructure being handled by the government. So what you find is that unlike on other places where because of recession people are not implementing project. This government has been able to implement project through the ingenuity and the reforms implemented by the Kwara State governor.
The opposition party has alleged that the IFK is just a strategy of siphoning the public fund. What are the features that will make it clear to the doubting thomases that IFK is real and that there is no hanky-panky.?
In the first place, government is very transparent about it, for example like I have told you how it works and how it is funded. When funds are released for the projects, these funds are announced and what is going to each project is made very clear every time we make this announcement. So I don’t understand what they are talking about and what is the hanky-panky there because it is very clear. This is probably one of the most transparent governments in the country and everything the government does especially with finances is published and everybody will know how much is released. And also citizens can track the project to check that indeed if you spend 1 billion on this project, how far has it gone. So I don’t understand what they are saying. The government is ensuring that it continues to provide infrastructure for the people of Kwara State on a sustainable basis without borrowing and without putting pressure on the people and governor Ahmed has made oath to say on account of that every project he initiate will brought to completion before the end of his administration. It is not every governor that can make that commitment but the governor has given that commitment base on his faith in the effectiveness and the efficiency of the IFK scheme.
In spite of the efforts made by the media team of the government explaining that Harmony Holdings does not belong to private individuals. There is still the notion in town that it is not really government owned. What do you think is responsible for this?
The notion that Harmony Holdings is not owned by the government is a phantom that has been created by the opposition in a desperate bid to malign the government and also to underplay some of the successes recorded by the government. When the governor came in, he discovered that most government assets were in various states, some were performing while some were not performing and base on his private sector background he discovered that the best way to do it is to reduce inefficiency and ensure that the outfts yield in required revenue and to consolidate them under a holding company. The holding company is not new, we have Ibile holding, we have Gateway holding, we have one in Ogun State and there is one in Lagos, there is NDDC in the north. So it’s not new, and he decided to adopt best practices from other people that have done it and consolidated all of them under Harmony Holdings. If people think it is not owned by the government, it is very simple. Now you can even search for companies online go and check and see who owns the company so I don’t think there is any credibility to those claims. It’s a desperate claim to underplay one of the landmark successes of the Ahmed’s administration.
Another point has been raised several times that people in the opposition claim that the product of Tsonga farm is not really in the state. Is it really meeting the vision of the founders?
Look, if you are going to do farming at that level you have to be sure of your market. So what the farmers are doing is signing of off takers agreement with the companies So if I am producing milk, I will sign an agreement with Nuricima and say ok, the milk I am producing in a particular place I will be supplying you. So go and sell it to those who will take it from you and process it. If you are investing billions in a project, you have to be sure that it would give you returns.
In specific terms what are the achievements of Gov. Abdulfatah Ahmed?
One of the major ones you will find is that he has delivered on his promises to the people first he has taken all inherited projects to completion which has helped in restoring people’s confidence in government it cut wastages by making sure that money invested by the previous administration did not amount to waste secondly he has promoted human capital development significantly he started with the remodeling of the five general hospitals he has upscale the community health insurance scheme from the hitherto three local governments to ten he is currently set to take it to all parts of the state he has built new infrastructures such as the international school in Ajase-Ipo, the school of engineering at KWASU and he has done other major infrastructures across the state right now people call me that your place look like Dubai because while other people are worrying about salaries you people are not only paying salaries on time but also building new infrastructures that will benefit present and future generations like the Diamond Underpass three university campuses, new road projects so what the governor has done is not only taking up of inherited projects and bringing them to completion but also did a lot of new ones and he has promised to continue that till the end of his tenure. In the informal sector the governor has doled out more than three billion naira to the SMEs in the state in terms of youth empowerment there is the agric scheme a good number of youths have benefited so you will discover that the achievements covers all sectors, there is the light up Kwara project the solar powered streetlight project that has transformed the state capital, changed its night life and boosted the economic activities and also make diurnal and nocturnal activities possible. So the governor has performed creditably well.
He is described a perfect gentleman what has been the working relationship?
He is my boss and that has been the working relationship Iam part of the media team that he gives the necessary support and attention and access to ease our job all of us in the media team understand His Excellency very well we know his mindset, his vision his aspirations and his achievements we can anytime stand and say confidently what he thinks about an issue without him having to brief us and it is due to his openness and the access he has given us to be able to spend time with him be around him and listen to him . we learned from him, imbibe his ideas and also be able to project that it has been a privilege working with him at such close contacts it is what I cherish and on personal basis I have learned a lot from him regarding human relations, negotiation power how to get things done, project managements and how to manage the resource and human elements of projects effectively. I have learned humility from him I have learned styles and tenacity and a passion for excellence from him.
You lived for a good number of years in London, Democracy in UK and Nigeria any difference?
Of course there is a difference it is vast but the bottom-line is that all democracy stands for is to guarantee representatives government we are still building our institutions, they didn’t get to where they are overnight so we are making progress the government is being more transparent, responsive and accountable almost to the levels obtainable in the other places.. we are not where we should but I think Nigeria has developed a lot our democracy is becoming stronger by the day and it will continue to do so. I didn’t actually started in the analogue days I left Thisday at a time social media was taking strong footing precisely in the year 2000 we are not actually completely analogue however it has blossomed and it is and it is now a major source of news it has expanded access to news and it has also make it easy for journalists to investigate stories a strong platform to send messages most media houses cannot survive without the social media in terms of sourcing news and also promoting the outfits. The downside is the license to make wild allegations and claims to fan the embers of discoed and to malign people so the question as always been how do you check this trend without trampling on the right of the people to express themselves i believe we have the necessary laws that can check such .
How do you react when you experience cyber bullying?
I don’t know about cyber bullying but people say things I have just read on the whatsapp platform someone calling me a liar because he did not agree with what I said but in such a situation I just look at such and smile because there is no pint engaging them if you put figure 3 on the wall and people look at it from different positions somebody will see a figure 3 , someone will see a B and another one a roman figure my job is not to join them and be abusive but to educate them and state the facts of the issue.