Tunde Salman, Executive Director, Grassroots Development and Advocacy Centre, Asa Dam Road, Ilorin, Kwara State: Senate President Bukola Saraki’s Skill Acquisition, Training and Empowerment Programme launched recently in Ilorin, Kwara State as part of the fourth year remembrance of Oloye Abubakar Olusola Saraki is a welcome intervention at this critical moment of national economic challenge. The STEP programme, which is aimed at empowering the youths in the state, is better late than never. It is billed to develop successful entrepreneurs among the teeming youths in the state.
Although one had expected this structured grassroots empowerment and capacity building scheme particularly from 2011 when Saraki went to National Assembly, nevertheless, given the calibre of people assembled to pilot the programme like Dr. Fatai Areme Ayinde, an associate professor at the University of Ilorin, it is more promising than the yearly distribution of bags of rice that always comes up with fatalities.
However, after almost 50 years of political administrative existence, Kwara State has remained one of the poorest states in the country. Arguably, the Saraki dynasty has come to be associated with that as most intellectuals within and outside the state often believe they have not really empowered the people.
After 50 years, the state deserves better in terms of extant material realities on the ground! To be sure, Kwara State can rightly be described as a backwater state with almost complete blackout either in terms of presence of developmental projects or active civil society organisations pushing for open governance. Even the much needed technical assistance from development partners and or donor agencies hardly consider the state for interventions as support often bypasses it for other states. Notwithstanding its strategic location in the North-Central zone linking the North and South-West of the country, the state has not benefitted much from development programmes and donor support interventions. Undoubtedly, the situation could be partly responsible for the level of abject poverty evident in the state.
Going forward, there is much which the Senate President can do to bring Kwara State into the mainstay of national economic development so as to allow the people to help themselves. That’s what the grassroots actually wanted from him.
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