Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the former governor of Kwara State, left an indelible mark on the state during his tenure. His administration’s unwavering commitment to development and progress propelled Kwara into a new era of growth and prosperity. One sector that witnessed significant transformation under his leadership was agriculture, where Saraki’s innovative initiatives and strategic investments addressed the issues of inadequate funding and poor infrastructure. Furthermore, the administration’s focus on housing and infrastructure development created a modern and vibrant Kwara. Let us delve into some of the notable achievements that demonstrate Dr. Bukola Saraki’s role as the architect of modern Kwara.
Recognizing the pivotal role of agriculture in economic growth and food security, the Saraki administration prioritized agricultural development. The government invested substantial funds to tackle funding challenges and improve agricultural infrastructure. For instance, the purchase of 22 tractors and 22 sets of Balkan implements enabled the cultivation of over 700 hectares of land for the production of key crops such as cassava, maize, rice, and soya beans. Additionally, the administration resurrected the neglected Duku Lake irrigation scheme, rejuvenating its potential for irrigation and agricultural productivity.
The establishment of a cashew processing industry in Ogbondoroko, Asa LGA, in collaboration with a private company, showcased the administration’s commitment to value addition and export promotion. This initiative attracted the Olam Cashew Processing factory, generating employment opportunities for over 1,500 workers. The provision of free accommodation and a subsidized transport system further underscored the administration’s dedication to the welfare of the workforce.
Furthermore, the Saraki government’s collaboration with Zimbabwean farmers resulted in the establishment of Shonga Farms, a large-scale commercial farming enterprise. This initiative aimed to introduce advanced farming techniques, modern technology, and efficient operational systems that could be replicated nationwide. Today, the Poultry section of Shonga Farms is a major supplier of poultry and dairy products in Nigeria.
Pioneering Initiatives and Data-Driven Decision Making:
The Saraki administration demonstrated a proactive approach to agricultural development by conducting the first comprehensive farmers’ census in Kwara State. Through the use of GPS technology, the census captured crucial data regarding farm capacity and the type of support required by each farmer. This comprehensive assessment revealed that farming directly employed approximately 42 percent of the population, a significant deviation from the previously assumed figure of 70 percent. The availability of accurate data paved the way for targeted interventions and informed policy decisions.
The Outgrowers Scheme for Rice Farmers, implemented as a public-private partnership, witnessed remarkable success under the Saraki administration. Through this scheme, farmers received training and support in the form of seeds, fertilizers, herbicides, and machinery. As a result, rice production in Kwara increased from 18,710 tonnes in 2003 to a staggering 400,431 tonnes in 2009, elevating the state to the position of the second-largest rice producer in Nigeria. The program’s success led to the establishment of two additional rice mills, while plans were underway to expand the initiative to cover soybeans and maize.
Transformation in Housing and Infrastructure:
Recognizing the significance of adequate housing for social development, the Saraki administration established the Kwara State Housing Corporation. This agency facilitated partnerships with private sector companies to deliver mass housing units throughout the state, thereby addressing the housing needs of civil servants and low-income earners. The construction of residential estates such as Mandate 1, Mandate 11, Harmony, and Omuaran Estate provided quality homes and improved the living conditions of many citizens.
Moreover, the administration’s focus on commercial property development resulted in the refurbishment of Kwara Hotel and the redevelopment of the old Satellite Motel into a three-star facility. Additionally, key markets like Ojo Oba and Kulende were redeveloped, providing partitioned stalls, demarcated walls, and reconstructed roads, thereby enhancing the business environment and creating opportunities for local traders.
Dr. Bukola Saraki’s tenure as the governor of Kwara State was marked by visionary leadership and remarkable achievements. His administration’s strategic investments in agriculture, housing, and infrastructure transformed Kwara into a modern and prosperous state. The initiatives undertaken, such as the revitalization of the agricultural sector, the establishment of Shonga Farms, the Outgrowers Scheme, and the housing and infrastructure development, laid the foundation for sustainable growth and socio-economic progress. Dr. Bukola Saraki’s legacy as the architect of modern Kwara will be remembered for generations to come, as his transformative initiatives continue to benefit the people and contribute to the overall development of the state.