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Saraki, allies move to regain relevance in Kwara

By Abiodun Fagbemi, Ilorin 
03 September 2019   |   4:20 am
The recent move by the people of Kwara State, which ousted former Senate President, Bukola Saraki from the National Assembly and broke his stranglehold on the soul of Kwara, may not have sounded the death knell on his political career.

FILE PHOTO: Former Senate President Bukola Saraki. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo

The recent move by the people of Kwara State, which ousted former Senate President, Bukola Saraki from the National Assembly and broke his stranglehold on the soul of Kwara, may not have sounded the death knell on his political career.

This is because amid the news making the rounds that Saraki may have secretly called it quit with active politics, sources told The Guardian in Ilorin, that the erstwhile governor was covertly planning a return to the political scene.

Observers, however, said that his attempt to regain political relevance in the State would not be a tea party. They noted that with the new governor, Abdulrahaman Abdulrasak, already running a pro-people government and endearing himself to residents with his style of governance, Saraki’s fight back from oblivion may be an uphill task.

Among other achievements in his short time in the saddle, Governor Abdulrasak has broken the age-long jinx of lack of pipe borne water within Ilorin metropolis, as water now freely runs through the pipes into many homes. Damaged road parts have been repaired while many moribund parastatals and state-owned corporations have been revived. He has also settled some salary arrears owed workers and those of employees of local councils without downsizing the workforce.

According to Jagunmolu of Shao in Moro Local Government Area of the State, Chief Stephen Oke, “It was a long time ago that we witnessed this type of governance in the state. The pace of work is not only steady but also faster than envisaged. We hope it will continue like that so that the amiable Governor can take the state to its political Eldorado.”

These and many other hurdles are what Saraki must cross to reawaken interest in the voters’ minds ahead of the next political dispensation.

Sources said, ‘The leader’ as Saraki is fondly called by his cronies, recently held a closed-door meeting at his ‘Ileloke’ White House Ilorin residence with representatives of his followers across the existing 16 councils in the state.

An Ilorin-based political aide of Saraki, who pleaded anonymity, said, “the meeting x-rayed our past relationships with the people of Kwara. We believed that where the people had been wronged by our policies should be urgently redressed. Besides, we told ourselves the plain truth that we should move around the state to beg the people for forgiveness if they must reconsider us for a return to power. But please all I am telling you now will not be carried out until the next six months. We are studying the political terrain to enable us know the best methods to adopt in this regard.”

He added that the meeting was down to earth as many political office holders as at the time of the fall from power were scolded. “Many of them failed to release the democratic dividends to the grassroots as instructed by the leader. These and many other issues came up. It was indeed a frank meeting,” he said.

Another source, who is close to Saraki, blamed the immediate past governor of the State, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, for allegedly running a frugal government for a period of eight years.

“The way he treated the issues of the Councils workers was also not too good. This does not mean that the ex-Governor did not try his best. I only brought this out as a typical example of what was discussed at the meeting,” the source said.

In the same vein, a crony of Ahmed, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian that any attempt to single out his boss would be unfair. He said, “We should all accept the failure as a collective one and not to narrow it down to the former Governor.”

For the aide, the problem of economic recession started in the year 2014, thereby making it difficult for the government in power, at the time, to meet up with many of the needs of the people.

Besides, he said the same economic meltdown made the state government to owe salaries’ arrears and subventions. He noted: “If we could not settle our own debts then due to insufficient funds, what could we have done to the needs of the councils’ workers who are not our primary staff?”

The source, who worked with the Governor for eight years, added, “people have forgotten that my boss fought with the Federal government twice. Firstly, against former President (Goodluck) Jonathan and the incumbent (Muhammadu) Buhari. It was purely on political issues. Therefore, the patronage from the Federal government to the state was zero.

“The fact we should all realise at this stage is that, no empire lasts forever. Instead of buck passing, we should live with that reality. Baba Lamidi Adedibu of Ibadan political school lost his own political empire. Besides, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu of Lagos, had to resort to Federal might to win the last general elections in Lagos.”

Saraki, who though has been living quietly since his defeat at the polls, may pull resources to launch back his career through wining the next ticket of Kwara Central Senatorial District. The ticket, occupied by Dr Yahaya Oloriegbe, may be easier for the former Senate President to wrestle.

He is not resting and has put machinery in motion. Some team of conciliators constituted by the former Senate President now move under cover to assuage the feelings of the people.

Speaking on the development, the state Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bashiru Omolaja Bolarinwa said, “The era of any political resurgence is over. Are we going to sleep to allow them back? All our members are up, working. There will not be any need to jettison them for another.”

His counterpart, the state chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Marouf Kola Shittu, expressed optimism that the party was poised for a return to power and was working hard to achieve it.

At 56, Saraki has some age advantages in his favour and according to his aide, Suleiman Yusuf, “nobody can send him on any early retirement. He was born into politics and what do you want him to do outside politics?”

Like a proverbial cat with nine lives, can Saraki rebuild the ruined empire? The attitude of the people to ‘forgiveness’ and his ability to sustain the tempo of his welfare programmes will be key determining factors.