Saraki Dynasty And Ideological Vacuum In Kwara Politics
THE Saraki factor remains strong in Kwara State politics even after the death of the grandmaster of Kwara politics, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki. It would be recalled that Saraki after his training as a medical doctor, made his foray into politics in Ilorin, the state capital when he contested the House of Representatives seat against Alhaji Babatunde Alanamu. Alanamu won. Saraki lost. By 1978, Saraki was one of the nominees of the government of General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) to the Constituent Assembly.
It was at the Constitutional Assembly that Saraki met others that constituted the bulk of the leadership of the then National Party of Nigeria (NPN). He later contested for the presidency at the primary level because the NPN zoned the presidency to the North. He contested along with Maitama Sule, Shehu Shagari and Malam Adamu Ciroma. Again, Saraki lost.
But he took charge of the politics of Kwara State because he was the national vice-chairman and state chairman of the party. He was elected a senator from Kwara Central senatorial district and later became the senate leader.
It was his support for a governorship candidate in 1978 in the state that clearly showed his political sagacity and shrewdness. The initial candidate of the NPN at the time was the incumbent Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, Alhaji Ado Ibrahim. But Saraki noticed that Ibrahim was independent minded when he told Saraki pointblank that he could not be under his control as the governorship candidate.
Saraki summoned the state congress and Adamu Attah who originally aspired to be a senator emerged as the candidate of the party. It resulted in internal wranglings within the Ebira royal house because both Attah and Ibrahim are from the same family. Saraki raised the hand of Attah and told the people of Kwara that, “this is your governor.’
Unfortunately, Attah was not given the nod by Saraki for him to serve a second term. After Attah in 1979, the south senatorial zone as represented by Cornelius Adebayo won the governorship seat in 1983 on the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) but with strong Saraki backing. In the same vein, after Adebayo came Sha’Aba Lafiaji from Kwara East in 1992. Mohammed Lawal from Ilorin town, Kwara Central also later emerged as governor with the backing of Saraki.
When Saraki’s son, Bukola met the constitutional age required for governor, it was obvious that Lawal was on the way out. He had to go. The war that raged in Kwara before the emergence of Bukola as governor is history.
The senior Saraki had at a time said the governor would have input in who succeeds him and that he would name the successor to his son after the lesser hajj in 2010. At another time, he gave Bukola up till April to name a successor. But that was not to be. When Bukola learnt of his father’s intention to make his sister, Gbemisola to be governor, he was said to have argued against it without success.
He could not convince his father or his sister to drop the idea. The main argument against it is that it is morally wrong for another Saraki to rule the state when the brother had just finished an eight-year term. Besides, Lawal who ruled for four years is also from Kwara Central. In all, Kwara Central has ruled for 12 uninterrupted years. Natural justice demands that another senatorial zone should produce the next governor. Nobody believed the story that there is no good material comparable to Gbemisola in other senatorial zones of the state.
But the development was not new to the older Saraki. He was on a familiar turf. He once teamed up with other political leaders to form the then All Peoples Party (APP) that later metamorphosed to All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and he had a powerful voice which made his candidate, Lawal to win with ease.
But when Lawal shut the door of ANPP against him, he moved to the PDP and his son, Bukola won convincingly. As soon as the rumour made the rounds that Gbemisola was the favoured candidate, the powerful Council of Ulamas and Imams in Kwara in a press statement said they don’t subscribe to the idea that a woman should be governor because it is against Islamic injunction. But the senior Saraki reportedly told them that his daughter was not going to contest to be an Imam.
Bukola, at that stage did not pretend not to be against his sister. He was quoted in the newspapers, as saying that there is no way another Saraki can become governor of the state. When Bukola marked his birthday on December 19, 2009, an Islamic cleric, Malam Shaanum ehu reportedly made a rousing speech that shook the hall, which made those in attendance to shout in ecstasy.
The Malam was quoted as saying that the older Saraki is a lucky man because his son ruled for eight uninterrupted years and his daughter at the same time ruled for eight years. “It is time to support somebody from another part of the state.”
His speech, according to those who were present attracted a thunderous applause and several nods of approval from Bukola and the Chief Imam of Ilorin who was in attendance. It was regarded as an open antagonism to Gbemisola’s candidature.
But, on September 18, 2010, at his Great Hall in Olorunsogo area of Ilorin, the older Saraki endorsed the candidature of Gbemisola saying that other aspirants should feel free to vie for the office.
Commissioner for Finance in Bukola’s administration, Abdulfatah Ahmed emerged as the candidate of the PDP. There were speculations that Bukola was actually working for his sister. Bukola had informed the PDP candidate to raise the necessary fund for his campaign and also informed the House of Assembly that he was going on leave. He would be away for two months. The meaning was that Bukola would not campaign for the PDP candidate.
However, the speculations were not to be taken serious because Bukola had then emerged as the Kwara Central Senatorial candidate. If he would not campaign for the party candidate, won’t he campaign for himself? Since he had openly refused to join his father’s party, the battle line was drawn. Perhaps, the people of Kwara did not know Bukola and his politics. It was believed that he did not inform his father or seek his father’s support before he plunged into the presidential primaries of the PDP.
To raise the stakes further and heighten the tussle, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) picked a candidate from the same Ilorin to challenge the Saraki dominance. The candidate came from another formidable family in the state. He was Dele Belgore (SAN), son of retired Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Modibbo Alfa Belgore and nephew to former chief judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Babatunde Belgore. The family may not be into politics like the Saraki clan, but sure had clout. The reason ACN chose Dele was to balance the force and dilute the dominance of the Sarakis.
Saraki lamented that the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) was robbed of well-deserved victories during the gubernatorial elections in Kwara State. Considering the role Bukola played in installing Governor Ahmed against his father’s wish, some analysts see the former governor as the likely successor to his father. Political analysts are of the view that Bukola Saraki, during his eight years in office as governor, underwent the required tutelage under ‘Oloye’ for him to become a voice to be reckoned with in Kwara politics.
No doubt, Bukola had learnt the rope fast such that many believe that the cap of the next political leader in Kwara State would just fit him very appropriately.
Some people are of the view that those who are dissatisfied with the late Saraki’s great influence on Kwara politics may gather and build a formidable force to end the reign of Saraki’s dynasty in Kwara State in future elections.
Head or tail, Saraki’s death created a big vacuum, not only in Kwara State, but in the entire country, considering the popularity of the former Senate Leader in many parts of the country.
Speaking to journalists in Lagos shortly after his father’s death, Bukola said that all his children are very proud of the legacy left behind by the Waziri of Ilorin. He, therefore, tasked people to look at what the former Senate Leader fulfilled rather than what he didn’t fulfill. His words: “We give praise to Almighty Allah who has life.”
Secretary of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Mr. Ayo Opadokun, said the death of Saraki would create an uncertain scenario for a short time because of the roles he played in Nigerian politics, especially in Kwara State. He therefore called on people of the state to organise themselves tactically and ideologically to reconfigure the political process in Kwara.
“Saraki’s death will certainly create uncertain scenario for a short time because the old man was a multi-state politician throughout his time.”
He was a multi-state politician to the extent that during his presidential aspiration, he will bear Olusola Saraki in Yorubaland with Yoruba gown; he will bear Sola Saraki in the East with his suit and English dress and in the North, he would bear Abubakar Saraki with Northern gown to match. The bane of master-servant politicking; that is the politics of stomach he established, will be difficult to sustain.
“Those who were interested in total transformation of Kwara State now have greater opportunities to organise themselves tactically and ideologically to reconfigure the political process in Kwara. The challenge is now on people of goodwill to rally round themselves to establish a totally ideological political platform to undo what Saraki has done in Kwara politics.”
Former Minister of Transportation and PDP chieftain, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said the death of Saraki would not create so much vacuum because of the remarkable impact he made during his life time.
“The death of Saraki will not create any vacuum at all. He was a very charismatic person and many people love him. I also respect him and even though we shared different political views, in 2005 we worked together during the 2005 National Political Reform Conference organised by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and it was then that I knew the qualities of Saraki.”
No doubt, people will surely see his death as a big challenge,” Babatope said. Will Kwara State politics be the same after the exit of Dr. Olusola Saraki? Will there be a change in the state? Can the death of Saraki free Kwarans from the grip of the Saraki dynasty? Will the Waziri of Ilorin’s death bring a new beginning in the area of social, mental, physical and political development? Who will be the next kingmaker and strongman of Kwara politics? These were questions begging for answers then.
Looking at the scenario that followed Saraki’s death, considering the mass movement of mostly aged and middle aged women and men including thugs that thronged his Ilorin GRA home, where they used to meet him for his philanthropic gestures, this time around, to mourn him, his death was a great blow to the people.
The coming of Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Bareje led aggrieved members of the PDP popularly known as the New PDP to All Progressive Congress (APC) ushered in a new vista in Kwara state. With Dr Bukola Saraki, the immediate past governor of Kwara State in the new APC, the impression is that the late Dr Olusola Saraki’s structure has now fussed with the progressive party.
Historically, the Late Saraki, had worked against ruling party in Kwara State but always maintained good political relationship with whoever is President at the national level.
The defected State Chairman of PDP in Kwara State, Hon Ishola Balogun-Fulani then assured that members of APC in the state would be carried along in the scheme of things in the state.
“As you might have heard, the new PDP has merged into APC. As you know, we in Kwara state have leaders. Our leader are Senator Bukola Saraki and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed. They are our leaders. According to tradition, we don’t have any other party that could be forced on us.
“It is where our leaders go that we are going, we are Sarakites and we have our structure. Anywhere he moves to, we move there en-masse. All the executives of the wards, local governments and the state would move en-masse to the party that our leader said they have merged with.”
Little wonder therefore that the Kwara State Governor, Ahmed, who is the candidate of APC was re-elected for a second time in office in the governorship election held last Saturday in the state.
He polled 295 832 votes to defeat the candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, Simeon Ajibola who scored 115 220 votes.
Professor Musbau Akanji, the Chief Returning Officer of gubernatorial election in the state, who announced the result on Sunday, also declared that the APC won all the twenty four house of assembly seats across the sixteen local governments in the state.
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