By Abdulwahab Oba
IN less than 17 months from now, His Excellency, Dr. Abdulfatah Ahmed would have finished his race and handed over the baton he received from his predecessor, Dr. Bukola Saraki, as the Executive Governor of Kwara State, to another worthy successor. He shall immediately relocate from the executive mansion at Ahmadu Bello Way, Ilorin, shed the toga of authority signified by the heavy security and protocol around him, and take up the life of an ordinary man once again. That is the nature of political office. This is the reality of life. My prayer is that the Almighty Allah, in His infinite mercy, provides another resourceful, pragmatic, cerebral and God-fearing person for us in the state.
But Governor Ahmed knows the ephemirality and transiency of life, not to talk of political office. He knows the end starts with the beginning of a journey. He never lived any imaginary life. Though he shall leave office like all mortals, his works shall not leave. They shall live after him. There exist today, landmark structures that shall continue to speak of the Ahmed years in office; being part and parcel of a phenomenal change that happened to Kwara in the Continuity Years that began with the emergence of Dr. Saraki as the executive governor of the state in 2003. In this series, I stand to place before posterity the modest efforts being made by the Ahmed administration to make Kwara a better place than he met it.
Seeing, science and politics dictate to us, is believing. And one of the legacies of the Ahmed years that can be seen and believed, is the International Vocational Training and Entrepreneurship College, IVTEC, built in Ajase-Ipo, among his people of Kwara South , for the benefit of all Kwarans in particular and Nigerians in general. As a governor, he has not abandoned his people as demonstrated by a number of projects. Unlike Senators, House of Representatives and State Assembly members, the entire state is the governor’s primary constituency. Pessimists may deride it for political exigency, as they dismissed the International Aviation College and the Harmony Diagnostic Centre built by Senate President Bukola Saraki as a Governor of the state, but those who benefit from it, know the difference it makes in their professional savoir-faire.
Yes, it took years to complete due to conceptualisation challenges and operational demands of its professional standard, but today, the edifice not only stands but has been commissioned and admitting students. The attention of the world must be on the vision behind the project. It was the vision that caught the attention of the erudite lawyer, scholar and Vice-President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo that made him pledge to recommend its replication in other states of the federation. Surely, the Senior Advocate is not a man given to vain words. He is not a noisemaker. Not even for political reasons.
Although, it offers vocational and technical training, the IVTEC is not the usual Technical College you see every where. It is not targeted at providing academic technical education, the likes of which many of our schools would offer which make their graduates unemployable. The vision is to provide hands-on training to students and equip them to be internationally relevant in their chosen areas of expertise. That is why the number of student enrolment per stream is limited. The school is also affiliated to the renowned City and Guild of London. That is why the school is not to be funded like the Technical Colleges of old which could not last even the tenure of their founding administrations but collapsed and have become history today across Nigeria. Potential graduates from IVTEC are market-ready anywhere in the world.
One fundamental thing about the school is its funding structure. This, Gov. Ahmed explained: “our plan to set IVTEC in the first place is as a result of the need to create a training ground for middle manpower need and development plan because we currently don’t have such institution in the country. Most importantly, if you look at the typical technical colleges introduced in the past, most of them have either gone moribund or largely being converted to regular secondary schools.
“If you look at where we require artisans to work, especially in the construction sector, we rely heavily on people coming from other West African countries. These are some of the reasons we set up the school. Now, how will the school run differently from what we used to have in the past? Where are the government technical colleges? Where are the government- owed institutions that are expected to drive entrepreneurship across the country? They are all dead.
“So, our desire to set up a vocational training institution that will not go the way of the past ones is responsible for the funding and managing models of the IVTEC. One great challenge of the dead ones was largely recurrent expenditure. Government spent money every time; set up institutions; equip them and, that is where it ends. How do they run from there? Who picks the bills?”
Obviously, capacities by states to drive institutions on a day- to- day basis is becoming herculean either at the basic, secondary or tertiary levels. We are all witnesses to what is happening between ASUU and the Federal Government and between state governments and their higher institutions. These are testimonies that capacity of government to continue to run institutions on recurrent levels is challenging. No wonder the state government conceptualised the issue of setting up an International Vocational Centre that would run as an NGO.
A non-governmental organisation model run institution will run itself by latching on international organisations and donor agencies that will give it enough funding to sustain and subsist. The institution, if properly administered, will get support from a lot of development partners. So, the whole idea of registering the IVTEC as an NGO is to create sustainability platform.
“It will continue to be owned by government, but it is going to be run as an NGO. That is the only way it will become attractive to international agencies who will then donate fund or endow chairs in those institutions,” the governor explained.
“If we rely on the state government to set up a school, run it normally the way it runs every other school, we will have challenges. Even the current boarding system we have in schools is not sustainable. We are struggling to sustain the Kwara State University. So, it will be fool hardly to assume that we will just set up any other institution under the same programme to be run under the same funding window. It may also die like the others.
So, the only way to make it sustainable is to create a way and a manner that is different; that would insulate it and make it attractive to funding agencies outside the country and other development partners”, Gov Ahmed said.
The World Bank has keyed in to the project. The global body has agreed to sponsor 17,000 students at the College over a period of years. The state government is also set to sponsor five students from each of its 16 local government areas every year. That is 80 students every year. They will not pay school fees, along with the select World Bank beneficiaries and end up adding value to our local and national economy. The beauty of it all is that the selection criteria would have nothing to do with politics or influence. This settles the concern of stakeholders who keep harping on the N400, 000 school fee at IVTEC as elitist. All what is needed is for a ward to meet the requirement laid down by the World Bank and the state for qualifications into their respective schemes.
If other states and organisations key-in into this approach, the school is assured of regular student enrolment for several years to come, payment of workers’ salaries and operational activities at IVTEC would not depend on cash flow from a regularly dwindling federation account, and most happily our youths would have been taught how to fish for themselves in the wide ocean of artisanal engagement, instead of waiting on dole out for the good boys. This, surely, will be a lasting legacy of the Ahmed years.
*Mr. Oba, is the CPS to Governor Ahmed of Kwara State.