Abdulfatah Ahmed, His Media Chat and the Tragedy of a Lying Governor By Rotimi Atere
It was Aeschylus, the ancient Greek dramatist who said, “In war, truth is the first casualty”.
Under normal circumstance, the word of a Chief Executive Officer of a state like Mr. Abdulfatah Ahmed, should flow with so much integrity that people would not ordinarily be tempted to cross-check as any holder of such office would not be expected to speak untruth to his citizens. However, I have learnt to double check whatever Mr. Ahmed says ever since he granted what was supposed to be a call in radio program, The Governor Explains, on Friday, 2nd May, 2013. It would seem that the Governor quite deliberately set out to manipulate figures, events and situations during his less than impressive media chat and tortured our memories with lies, (barefaced lies!), and still kept a straight face.
I was saddened the more that Mr. Ahmad provided nothing refreshing on the menu. It was a disappointing episode of self-confession of incompetence and helplessness. He only successfully waffled through the interview, throwing big grammar around the microphone and confusing an already befuddled audience the more.
In the almost an hour interview session, Mr. Ahmad touched on the following; Environment, N23billion bond, YouWin, party congresses, infrastructure, Ilorin Water Reticulation project, etc.
To make the points clearer therefore, let’s analyze some of his major discussion points:
N23billion Capital Market Bond:
Mr. Ahmad belaboured so hard to justify why his government had to approach the capital market to float a whopping N23billion bond. In a manner that clearly depicts the quality of minds that rule over us, Mr. Fatai said that he was taking a cue from the equally unimpressive President Goodluck Jonathan-led Federal Government, which he said also invests in treasury bills (another name for loans) in order to fill ‘infrastructural gap’. He said for the state to be taken to infrastructural Eldorado, he would require a staggering N300billion!
Making the FGN the basis for Kwara State to take loan is downright unacceptable. Mr. Fatai Ahmed’s illogical bid to make the FGN’s investment in treasury bills and bond floatation as the reason why we have to also go cap in hand to the capital market is as feckless as it is reckless. This is because the last time I checked, there was still a huge gap in the repayment capacity of the FGN compared to Kwara’s. Because of the size of its purse, the FGN is a far better borrower than Kwara; in terms of revenue generation and allocation, the FGN is a better secured debtor. And this is evident in the repayment capabilities of both tiers of government. Concrete examples might suffice here:
From the records made available to me by a friend that works in the Debt Management Office (DMO), I discovered that the FGN actually floated a ‘Special Purpose’ bond to the tune N75 billion in 2006 to fund sundry capital projects. Five deposit money banks participated in the private placement arrangement. Also in the same year, the FGN floated bonds for the payment of debt owed to local contractors worth N91.7 billion. This makes up to N166.7 billion loan. And in the two cases, the FGN had washed its hands clean off the debt by redeeming same in less than three years of their floatation. That is well ahead of the redemption period of 2011!
This credit-worthiness has emboldened both the FGN and its international creditors the more, with the latter recently indicating interest to raise fresh funds through bonds for funding specific projects such as Methanol plant, revival of textile industry, terminal wages of workers, building of infrastructural facilities, etc. Such a government can be forgiven for taking loans to advance the cause of the public.
But it’s a different ball game for Kwara, as the following scenario would show.
Recall that the Kwara State Government under Sen. Bukola Saraki and Mr. Fatai Ahmad (as the then Finance Commissioner), took a loan of N17billion from the capital market? The former Governor was actually out to secure a staggering N30billion until the SEC cautioned that such a huge sum, in a single tranche, would result to a fiscal disaster for the state. So, he was allegedly advised to thread softly and go for lesser sum of N17billion. The loan was taken in August, 2009 and has a tenure of 5 years. As it stands, the loan is expected to be fully repaid on the 14th August, 2014. That’s in less than five months from now! But that is not actually the harrowing thing.
The harrowing thing is that, the Kwara State Government has been unable to pay back the loan it took five years ago! As at the time of writing this piece, the state has only paid N10billion, out of the N17billion it took! Less than five months to go, and the government is yet to pay almost 45% of the loaned sum and the interest!
From the statements credited to the Kwara State Commissioner for Finance, the government, in a last minute face-saving ploy, has proposed to use parts of the fresh N23billion loan to repay the pending loans! This is what the Yorubas call, ‘fi gbese san gbese! And yet Mr. Abdulfatah Ahmad considered it convenient to compare Kwara with the Federal Government? A Federal Government that paid back well ahead of the redemption period? He wants us to believe that Kwara is in the same solvent category with the FGN? Someone must be out to fool the multitude!
But the worst is yet to come; can the Governor explain what has happened to the N10billion he took in the first quarter of his administration? The N10bllion he borrowed from the Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB) in March, 2012? What about other sundry loans, like the N1billion sourced allegedly to fund MDGs and SUBEB projects? What about the $45,871,785.31 being owed in external debt (someone should please help convert this to its Naira equivalent!)? This is what the DMO said Kwara owes as at December, 31st, 2013. In millions of Dollars! What about them? What has happened to them? Has the state been able to redeem them? Logic dictates that if the government could not pay back the N17billion which was earlier in time, the rest definitely are still in limbo! I stand to be corrected on this. And yet Mr. Abdulfatah felt it was ok to go aborrowing again?
As for me, I have always believed that two people cannot be suckers in the social exchange of lies. If an unsuspecting, innocent victim has no way of knowing that he has been lied to, the author of the lie knows that he has told a lie. Thus, I know that Mr. Abdulfatai Ahmad and his Finance Commissioner, Mr. Ademola Banu, his palace aides, and in-too-deep social media hangers-on are not unaware of the lies they are generating over this issue of bonds. That is why Kwarans must continue to ignore the silly exhortations of government’s mouthpieces to respect an office that the incumbent dishonors and disrespects. WE MUST DEMAND THE TRUTH BEHIND KWARA INDEBTNESS!
Kwara Water Reticulation Projects
In the course of the interview, one of the moderators had asked Mr. Abdulfatah Ahmed if he was satisfied with the pace of work on the notorious Ilorin Water Reticulation Project. He reminded the Governor that despite billions in perennial allocations to the project, there has been nothing to show for it. He equally said that this had been the sour point of Kwara’s latest loan acquisition bid, because concerned citizens and the opposition have continued to be skeptical over the government’s altruism on the bonds, arising from the shoddy work done so far on the Ilorin Water Works.
In his response, the Governor said the reason why the water project had remained comatose despite the huge allocations to it, is because it was being executed in ‘phases’. That the state could not afford to expend a huge chunk of the loan proceeds on the water project alone. So, what he had done so far was to ‘jump start’ the project and abandon the rest until another loan is taken by another government to complete it! Please hear the Governor speaks:
When you have capital projects, you cost them. The costing will give you a specific figure. For instance, Ilorin metropolis water project was costed at N7billion. There is no way we will be able to raise N7billion in one single bond, except we want to do only water and we don’t do nothing else….When we raise monies it does not mean that the money will take the project from A to Z. Projects will be jump started, then they will be completed as we are moving on. If you have big projects, you need to phase them, they will go beyond one to two bonds.
The thing is, with the above quoted statements, the Governor just told another lie and no one seemed to have noticed.
First, in the world of bond floatation, the bondholders (in this case, the Kwara State Government) do not have the luxury to pick and choose what project to do and what not to, after such a bondholder might have filed its prospectus and proposal to the SEC. Second, S. 565 of Part K of the Securities and Exchange Commission Rules and Regulations guiding bonds, an application to float a bond in the capital market must necessarily be accompanied with the Feasibility Report of the projects the bond proceeds are to be funded with. The report also always contains the quotation for the project, the COMPLETION period (emphasis is mine), and the viability of the project. In all cases, the rules do not permit a bondholder to execute the project piecemeal; it does not afford the bondholder the strange luxury of ‘jump-starting’ a project only to abandon it midway until another bond is taken, according to the Governor’s logic!
But assuming without slightly conceding that the law permits such an aberration, the moral question for Mr. Abdulfatah Ahmed is, why would any sane government embark on a project it knows from the onset it would not be able to complete? How would the Governor know that a successor government, say from another party, would be interested in completing the abandoned project? Wouldn’t it be to the detriment of the poor public if such an uncompleted project is abandoned by the new administration? For sure, the blame would be more on the originator of the project which failed to complete it as a result of policy summersault, than the subsequent one that lost interest in same.
In all these, the most unfortunate thing is that we are ‘blessed’ with a SEC that is visible more for its paparazzi than its statutory oversight function. That is why Governors like Mr. Fatai and his predecessor have gone away with their inequities unchecked. The SEC that should help us ask critical questions about the utilization of the bond proceeds have gone to sleep. That is why we may never know what has actually happened to the International Truck Plaza, the cement factory, the Commercial Agriculture Phase II, Asa Dam Mixed Up and construction of a BRAND NEW (not renovated) state secretariat which were all originally contained in the prospectus submitted to SEC by Dr. Bukola Saraki as the projects he proposed to fund the N17billion bond with.
QUICKWIN as a Political Tool
Despite all the afore-explained, I was still willing to grant Mr. Ahmad some indulgence. At least, he is Nigerian, and like the greatest number of Nigerians, he might not have been insulated from the legendary amnesia that ravages the land and make us forget so easily. But my bag of indulgence for the Governor became empty immediately he gave his answers to the question that his government was politicizing the QuickWin Youth Employment Scheme.
Instead of owing up to the overzealousness of his aides who have turned the scheme to a political tool aimed at consolidating loyalty and patronage, the Governor claimed that the scheme is anything but political! And without a single iota of unease, he kept a straight face, expecting us to believe his white lies.
The truth is, the QuickWin thing is everything POLITICAL! How more political can it get, when you conceived a scheme and you ask executives of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in each of the 193 wards of the state to submit 49 names of potential beneficiaries of the scheme? If you multiply the 49 in 193, what you get is in the region of 9500! With such a selective recruitment method, how better can the rest of the public be shut out from benefiting? How many PDP, LP or ACPN executives can hand-out his own list to APC ward chairman for consideration? What about those that do not even profess partisanship? What is their fate in the hand of a government that conceives and implements all its policies from the narrow prism of politics and patronage?
The Governor’s response to the ethically tainted and illegal recruitment method no doubt raises a number of issues, including trust, integrity and the rule of law. The thing is, Mr. Abdulfatah Ahmed won’t be the first Governor or the last to lie. The truth is that sometimes we all inadvertently lie to save certain situations. I always say “show me the man who says he has never lied and I will show you a liar.” That is why I won’t blame the Governor for his misstatements and whoopers. The story of governance and governments in Nigeria is replete with rulers who continuously and unrepentantly lie to the people. The trouble is actually not lying, the trouble is becoming a habitual or serial liar. This sadly is the case of our dear Governor. The unfortunate thing about this macabre dance of lies is that the Governor is also surrounded by chronic liars too. People who lie to the Governor, people who lie to the populace, people who lie to themselves and people who have become so used to lying they now believe their own lies.
It is painful that the media chat has only but suggested that Mr. Abdulfatah Ahmed does not recognize that character is the official chair on which he sits, and credibility the first item in his job description. It has only succeeded in showing that leadership as we know it, has taken a permanent sabbatical with Maigida in the saddle.
But this is not entirely surprising; this is what you get when you are governed by a personality who has leadership thrust on his lap on a platter of goal. As a writer once succinctly put it, the burden of leadership cannot be borne by those who never prepared for the opportunity. Since coming to power as Kwara’s first in command, Governor Ahmed has continued to slip further into confusion, controversies, visionless and leadership inept with his speeches, comments and interviews. Until he re-creates himself, he shall remain insipid, boring, and of no positive effect whatsoever to the exigencies of the time.
Air Controller, FAAN
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