Rise of Gbemisola Saraki from Bukola’s rubble
Having been overshadowed by her brother and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in both Kwara State and national politics for a while, Gbemisola Saraki now has a chance to bounce back. She was recently cleared by the Senate for a ministerial role in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet.
She had made waves as a legislator, having once represented her constituency as a member of House of Representatives and a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The profile of the amazon will be incomplete if her foray in the governorship contests for the soul of Kwara is not listed.
Bold, fluent and intelligent, she nevertheless lost her quest to be the governor of the state because of her sex, as it was touted then that the aborigines of Ilorin, the most populous town in the state, who are mostly Muslims, did not want a woman as governor.
Many notable Islamic scholars had propounded countless theories in her favour just as the doyen of the state’s politics and her father, Dr. Olusola Saraki, had put up spirited efforts to convince the people, but to no avail. She lost out to her brother’s preferred candidate.
However, when her name appeared recently on the list of ministerial nominees of President Buhari, some people in the state received the news with mixed feelings. Saraki, a member of All Progressives Congress (APC), had for long stood in opposition to her brother, Bukola, as the duo rarely share the same political platform since their emergence on the political terrain.
The Senate ex-President lost grip of the state’s political hegemony to the Tsunami-like movement known as O tooge (enough is enough) revolution. Therefore, the re-emergence of Gbemisola on the political scene at this time and apparently under the executive arm of government is being viewed in some quarters as an avenue for her own political resurgence and as a way to steal the thunder from her ‘bullying’ brother.
Prior to her appointment, political permutations such as who would likely emerge as the ministerial nominee from the state had put it between former Chairman of Federal Character Commission, Professor Shuaib Oba AbdulRaheem and a former Senator, Makanjuola Suleiman Ajayi.
The new appointment of Saraki’s daughter no doubt caught many political pundits’ pants down. This is more so that her role during the o tooge revolution was not visibly noticed apart from the unfounded rumour of an existing rift between the two siblings, Gbemisola and Bukola.
Two schools of thought have therefore emerged within the local polity, especially among the APC faithful. There are those who believe that Gbemisola may constitute a parallel political authority to that of the state governor, on one side, and those who opine that her emergence is an added value to the dividends of democracy for the people of the state.
According to a chieftain of the party in the state, Chief Stephen Wole Oke, who spoke to The Guardian, “From my interactions so far with many of our members, they feel that the slot should not have gone to her, considering the role played during the political revolution by many notable members of the party in Kwara.
“Nevertheless, politics sometimes is a difficult game for correct prediction. What is most worrisome to many of them I spoke with is that the nominee may want to stage a comeback and enliven the political empire recently conquered by the wish of the majority.”
But the former spokesman of APC in Kwara, Dr. Rex Kola Olawoye, thinks differently. According to him, Saraki could not be a lone-ranger in resuscitating any political dynasty without the full support of the people of the state. He added that with the calibre and political pedigree of the incumbent governor, it would be hard for anyone to re-energise the decimated Saraki empire.
Olawoye said, “It is a welcome development for someone like me because she is a Kwaran and a member of APC in Kwara. She had proved this over time and I don’t see anything wrong in her nomination for the position.
“She should use this opportunity very well to further serve the people better. There is nothing wrong with her choice. She is coming to contribute her quota to the people’s government being run by Governor AbdulRahaman AbdulRasak. She will not deny her background as a daughter of Saraki. But she can’t build an empire without the people’s support.”
The state’s chairman of the party, Bashiru Bolarinwa Omolaja, described the nomination of Gbemisola as a reward for the great contributions of APC in Kwara to the overall victory of the party at the national level.
“It is a victory for us and a great sign of recognition of the role of the party during the last rounds of general elections across the nation,” Omolaja said. “Not many states of the federation have this kind of opportunity, producing two ministers at the same time. So it is a great advantage for us. This is my own view on it.”
A group, Kwara New Era Movement, a majority of who are APC members in Kwara, has declared support for the nomination of Senator Gbemisola Saraki as a minister in the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari. The group has also taken a swipe at those kicking against the nomination of the former lawmaker, alleging that they were acting the script of some elements, who were hell-bent on creating disaffection in the ruling party.
At a media briefing held at the secretariat of the group around Alore, Ilorin, its president, Mallam Tajudeen Abojumeji and a stakeholder of APC, Mr. Yusuf Obalowu, stated that they had followed the criticisms that had trailed the nomination of Gbemisola Saraki, which they described as “unnecessary.”
According to Abojumeji, “President Buhari had last week transmitted 43 names to the Senate for consideration and approval as ministerial nominees, including Senator Saraki and the former Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, both of whom hail from Kwara State.
“The president had committed no error in picking the erstwhile female member of the National Assembly for ministerial slot. It is deserving of her past records and antecedents were to be considered. It is an uncommon gesture in the history of the state.”
He pledged the support of the group to the choice of Saraki, pointing out that her achievements in the past had built confidence in the people that she would do better if given another opportunity. In a chat with reporters, Obalowu said the group had discovered “some elements” being sponsored by some forces, who are out to disparage and launch a campaign of calumny against the former female lawmaker.
Secretary of Kwara New Era Movement, Mr. Abdullateef Zakariyau Apo, commended President Buhari for nominating Senator Gbemisola, who he described as a bona fide daughter of Ajikobi ward in Ilorin Emirate.
A university don at Kwara State University (KWASU), who spoke under a condition of anonymity, told The Guardian in Ilorin that the nomination of Gbemisola could be an albatross that could in future balkanise the political party in the state, “if it has a sinister motive underneath.”
As the joy continues and fear rages on, Kwarans are anxiously awaiting their fate under this new political climate. It will, therefore, be a matter of time for the development to be appropriately interpreted. But there is no doubt that the journey to a new political era has begun in the ‘State of Harmony’ as Kwara is known.