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How Saraki’s homecoming lit up Kwara politics

By Odun Edward, Ilorin
26 November 2020   |   3:05 am
It was much like a multi-coloured fluorescent bulb and the light it threw on Kwara State politics was soul-lifting. It was his first official homecoming to the state he governed and represented at eighth Nigeria’s Senate

{files] Gbemisola Saraki and senate president Bukola Saraki

It was much like a multi-coloured fluorescent bulb and the light it threw on Kwara State politics was soul-lifting. It was his first official homecoming to the state he governed and represented at eighth Nigeria’s Senate. So when the immediate past President of Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, touched base, the visit not only resuscitated his age-long political relevance in the 53-year old North Central State of Kwara, it brought about gaiety and razzmatazz.

Saraki’s entry into his country home and Ilorin, the state capital, coincided with the official engagement of the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, who had two days earlier held a town hall meeting with youths at the sprawling hall of Kwara Hotels, Ilorin.

Expectedly, the siblings hosted separately, motley crowds at their Iloffa Road residences in Ilorin. The two buildings adjoin each other.
Gaiety, glamour

The lull in political activities was smashed as old politicians danced to the beats of local musicians, ‘Pele Wura’ and ‘Igi Jegede’, just as the younger ones, probably those trying to assert their relevance intermittently twerked to the admiration of the host and hostess.

In the midst of the gaiety was the heavy presence of men of the nation’s security agencies. The fully armed soldiers, the mobile police, and Civil Defence corps all numbering over 50, took strategic positions at all the entry points into the two palatial residences, even as they screened guests to forestall any security breach.

Confidential sources disclosed how the former Senate President had on his arrival in Ilorin held secret meetings with some of his associates, the agendas of which were dominated by frank discussions and retrospection of how the political family suffered heavy defeats in the last general elections. 

It was supposed to be equally a day to pray for the repose of the soul of their late father, the gadfly of Kwara politics, Olusola Saraki, who died eight years ago. The former Senate President, now a chieftain of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was rumoured to have a frosty relationship with his sister, Gbemisola, a card-carrying member of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC).

As such, in the build-up to the eight-year ‘Fidau’, there were speculations that the two siblings might not stay under the same roof for the event. But, what followed ended the rumour as both openly embraced each other at the preferred venue of the programme. 

Politics aside
A chieftain of PDP in the state, who is also an ally of Saraki, Suleiman Yusuff, popularly known as ‘Maja’, told The Guardian that the two Sarakis are not in any crisis, but merely “had a temporary disagreement over political matters.”

It would be recalled that the former Senate President had overtly supported the candidature of the immediate past state Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, against Gbemisola. Dr. Saraki, who had himself served as governor for eight years, had decided that it would be morally wrong for her blood-related sister to be his successor in office.

The age-long ambition of Gbemisola was to be elected the first female governor of Kwara and her then aged father, Olusola, had given her maximum support for the position. But the people of Kwara had to shift their allegiance to Bukola’s candidate against her sister. And the rest became history.

Table turns
However, since the advent of the ‘O to ge’ political movement that ushered in the incumbent, Governor AbdulRahaman AbdulRazaq, the political landscape of the state has taken a different structure.

The movement led to landslide victories in all fronts against Saraki and his political associates across the state. The ‘O to ge’ slang had since become ‘Ise Ya’, (let’s start work).

But at the Fidau event, The Guardian observed some political insignias on the face caps and vests worn by some youths at the venue bearing ‘O sun wa’ (we are fed up, ‘with AbdulRazaq’s government’).  Already, some political analysts in the state have started reading different meanings to the homecoming and the Fidau programme.

According to Alhaji AbdulRahoof Bello, from Omupo, in Ifelodun Local Government Area of the state: “I think the two-events-in-one mission was embarked upon by the Sarakis to gauge the political feelings of the people of the state towards them. The outcome will surely serve as sensors to the politicians to know the next direction to take ahead of the 2023 general elections.”

Yet, for Chief Woke Oke, the Jagunmolu of Shao, in Moro LGA, “The two events staged by the Sarakis are normal in politics. But, what I saw was a rented crowd, equally seeking a glimpse of the faces of the Sarakis, whose political hegemony they had voted out of our dear state.”

Till date, the Sarakis still retain their charitable endeavours towards the aged women, mainly in Ilorin.
Incumbency pushback

Femi Yusuf, a Special Assistant to the Governor on Legislative Matters said, the government of AbdulRazaq had changed the alleged, “servitude style of exploitation of the less privileged under the guise of distribution of a thousand naira each to old women lining up in the sun under the full glare of cameras.”

Yusuf stated: “The governor without making much noise, had since his inauguration, identified some aged-women across the state and had been paying into their bank accounts, the sum of N10, 000 (ten thousand nairas) on monthly basis. Try and verify from some operators of Micro-Finance Banks and commercial banks. I think it is more humane, seeing these women smiling to the banks on monthly basis under the present government.”

Hope rising
Speaking on the significance of Saraki’s return, the Offa-born state PDP chairman, Engineer Kola Shittu, who recently marked his 70th birthday, described the programme as a successful return of politicians with the Midas touch just as he said the mammoth crowd that welcomed them have signposted that their return was close to the heart of the good people of the state.

Shittu stated: “The homecoming of the former Senate President and the supporters that trooped out in their large numbers to give him a rousing welcome was a very good development. Some people had felt otherwise that he would not be welcomed home.

“This is a glaring signal to all, that come the year 2023 in Kwara, the PDP will take over the driving seat of the state’s affairs. The state PDP surprisingly did not mobilise the supporters for the event, yet you could see the turnout. We have urged our people to remain calm but work harder to accommodate more people, especially those who are fed up with the leadership style of APC in the state. We can assure them of adequate provisions for internal democracy in our party.”

However, Shittu’s colleague in the APC, Bashiru Omolaja Bolarinwa, felt otherwise. Bolarinwa noted that the calibre of Bukola Saraki’s status as a former governor and Senate President would ordinarily attract some crowd, but doubted the allegiance of such to the politician.

Bolarinwa, an Ifelodun-born politician, who had also once represented a Lagos State constituency at the House of Representatives, noted: “There is nothing wrong in Saraki’s homecoming as far as we are concerned. He is free to come home. He was the governor for eight years, played Godfather roles for another eight years and was also at a time, the Nigerian number-three citizen. Therefore, if such a person comes around, we should expect some crowd that may not necessarily be his supporters.

“But, what you claimed you saw does not in any way translate to an electoral triumph. The people of Kwara State are not fools; they have not forgotten how he had used his political roles alongside his cronies to plunge the state into the mess we are trying to clean up right now.

“We should not in any way attach much importance to his homecoming. The people had since jettisoned the dictatorial way of politicking. That was their expression in the last general elections in the state. Kwarans are wiser. They know we are just two years old in the state political leadership.”

Whether or not the ‘Fidau’ of late pa Olusola Saraki, popularly called ‘Oloye’ was politically-motivated to revive the political careers of his children, one thing that will remain less controversial is the political sagacity he introduced into Kwara politics, beginning from the Second Republic till his demise some eight years ago.

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