On October 26, 2021, former Senate President Bukola Saraki was on a national television to attempt a rebrand of himself ahead of the 2023 election. In what many have called his signature conceit and the groupthink into which his beleaguered camp has sunk, the politician said the people of Kwara had misjudged his dynasty.
He feels Kwara was better off in 2019 – the same truthiness his henchmen and social media kamikazes have latched onto. American satirist Stephen Colbert defined truthiness as a situation whereby people make claims they desired to be true even when there is no evidence to support that.
For the former senator and his followers, what unseated the dynasty was propaganda.
This claim, in itself, is an unforgivable crime against the people who lived the grim realities and indignities of his ironfisted rule. Nobody got anything in Kwara except through and from them.
But there is a group feeling among the Sarakites – with perhaps a few exceptions – that they were never wrong and that they cannot be wrong. It is what pushes them to deny what everyone knew about the Kwara story.
This year will see a ridiculous spike in how Sarakites ‘create their own realities’, apologies to Karl Rove. Before that happens, it is important to remind them, and anyone who may be listening to or echoing them, where Kwara was in 2019 and where it is now.
As Sarakites bade public office farewell in 2019, data from the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) DHIS2 platform showed that maternal mortality ratio in Kwara was 1,404.4 per 100,000 deaths.
That was the second highest in Nigeria after the insurgence-wracked Borno State. Given the situation of Borno, it is only fair to say Kwara actually wore the ignoble crown. At the end of 2020, maternal mortality ratio for Kwara came down to 20.7 per 100,000 live births, the second lowest in the country after Ekiti.
The difference between pre-May 2019 and 2020 is leadership, its priorities, and understanding of what constitutes development. For years, UNICEF and other development agencies left Kwara. Supplemental immunisation dropped drastically due to non-payment of counterpart funds by the state. Basic healthcare facilities collapsed statewide.
As of 2019, the Kwara Primary Health Care Development Agency had just a nurse to itself.
You read that well. Consequently, attendance in public primary hospitals hit a record low of just 43,936. Between 2019 and now, Kwara has attained the status of a ‘State with High Political Will and Commitment’ in public health sector spending for obvious reasons. At 81.3 per cent, 83.4 per cent and 75.3 per cent respectively, the capital expenditure in the health sector for 2019, 2020, and 2021 have obviously been staggering.
The results are glaring in the quality and quantum of facilities. From one nurse in 2019, the Primary Health Care Development Agency now has 44 nurses, a 4,300 per cent raise. Supplemental immunisation is back. Rollback Malaria Programme is active. At least 27 primary healthcare facilities have been fixed across the state. The results are rewarding.
To date, attendance in primary healthcare has risen to 306,328, representing 597.2 per cent increase in public confidence in the system. Infant mortality is down from 2.6 in 2019 to 0.4 per 1000 live births at the close of 2020, while underfive deaths slowed to 0.4, down from 4.8 per 1000 births in 2019.
In 2019, Kwara came a woeful 36th – second only to Oyo – in the National Lot Quality Assurance Survey (LQAS), which determines the level of coverage for immunisation in each state. All of its 16 local government areas failed the survey.
Kwara had not a single life-saving modern gadget like ventilator and defibrillators, among others, until Otoge happened. Basic things were not available and that naturally drained the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital which is ordinarily a tertiary facility.
Things have changed. General Hospital Ilorin is ‘lit’ now: fixed with modern lifesaving medical gadgets and a detached intensive care unit that is the largest and best of its kind in the region.
On top of that are the new accreditations that are a first for the hospital. From the abysmal 79,408 attendance in public secondary facilities in 2019, the state recorded 1,181,776, or 1,388.23 per cent increase, attendance by the end of 2020. To date, no fewer than 14 secondary facilities have been worked on across the state.
More than four decades later, the Otoge administration is fixing the Oro General Hospital, easing the decades of suffering in that corridor. Lafiagi General Hospital is seeing a historic transformation. Number of doctors rose 28.6 per cent between 2019 and 2021, owing to new recruitments.
Efforts have now been activated to stop the attrition in the sector with significant pay raise for doctors and other health workers, and a commitment to do a lot more.
Senator Saraki and his men are entitled to their opinions as democracy permits but they are not entitled to their ‘alternative’ facts. Kwara has not reached the Canaan Land but it has since left Egypt. The penury, the depth of deprivation, and the horrid infrastructural deficits that the Otoge administration is fixing are their legacies.
They struggle to manufacture their own facts to create a false equivalence with the new administration. While the present administration lays no claim to perfection, there is simply no meeting point with the sordid past, which, like most dynasties in world history, had simply reached the height of its infamy – having, in the words of Ibn Khaldun, been ‘seized by senility and the chronic disease from which it could hardly ever rid itself and for which it could find no cure’.
• Rafiu Ajakaye is CPS to Governor of Kwara State