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Final meltdown for the Saraki hegemony

Bukola Saraki

When the results of the senatorial elections began to appear, three weeks ago, and it became obvious that Bukola Saraki had been utterly defeated by his old nemesis, Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, many of his social media rats, as well as even editors of mainstream Nigerian media establishments, launched a pre-planned offensive. Their approach was a systematic dis-information project that was desperate, even at that late hour, to convince the Nigerian public, that their “walking-bank-balance”, was winning the elections. As usual with Bukola Saraki and his hangers-on, the situation of our people in Ilorin and Kwara state, was merely an inconvenient backdrop to his over-arching political ambitions. But this time, their plot had taken a dead-on-arrival trip to the morgue of Nigerian politics! Bukola Saraki had literally been skinned alive by the people of Ilorin Emirate (Kwara Central Senatorial District). Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe won by 123, 808 votes, to Bukola Saraki’s 68, 994!

The jubilation that followed the announcement of the results (and at a point everyone was apprehensive that it was not going to come, because the results for Ilorin West and Ilorin South took a frighteningly long time to be returned!), was as deafening as it was most liberating. Arguably, the most reviled, most unpopular individual in contemporary Nigerian politics, had finally gotten his comeuppance! Nigerians rejoiced all over our country and thanked the people of the Ilorin Emirate for exorcising the political monster, that had used a dubious Senate Presidency, to hamstring the programs of the Buhari Administration, from the time he constructed a coup in June 2015, which earned him the poisoned chalice that the eminent seat became, in his hands. Not only did Bukola Saraki lose the seat, the people of our state ensured that the other two senatorial seats in Kwara North and South respectively, were also won by the APC, as well as the six House of Representatives positions. Last weekend, the final nail was knocked into the casket of the Saraki Hegemony in Kwara State. Bukola Saraki’s PDP lost the governorship as well as the 24 seats in the Kwara State House of Assembly. It was a rout; a whitewash and the definitive end of an incredibly arrogant hegemony, that systematically underdeveloped Kwara State; which was built as an elaborate fraud and a platform of heist that had no parallel in Nigeria’s political history. The roots of the Saraki hegemony effectively went back to 1979, when their patriarch, Dr. Olushola Saraki entered Senate and was Senate leader (but we might even date the roots to a few years earlier, with the indirect elections into the Constituent Assembly, and his active participation in the National Movement that eventually transformed into the NPN in the Second Republic). The Saraki Hegemony was instrumental in the emergence and removal of six Kwara state governors: Adamu Attah, C.O. Adebayo, Sha’aba Lafiagi, Muhammed Lawal, Bukola Saraki and Abdulfatai Ahmed. They hamstrung each governor; imposed controls and generally made life difficult for each one of these governors, except for only one. And that one, was Bukola Saraki, who ran the state, at the height of the powers of the hegemony, with an uncommon arrogance; disrespect for people and the values of our people and state, and who eventually imposed a long-term sidekick, Fatai Ahmed as governor. Bukola Saraki had actually checkmated, for personal reasons of sibling rivalry and the need to protect his controversial 8-year tenure, the temerity to attempt to impose Gbemisola Saraki as governor, after serving for 12 years in the National Assembly as representative and then Senator, representing a people she literally knew nothing about. And for the eight years that Fatai Ahmed was governor, 2011-2019, Bukola Saraki was effectively the Governor-General of Kwara State!

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The period from 2003 to 2019, is arguably the WORST in the history of Kwara state. And central to these years was the arrogant presence of Bukola Saraki. It was the period that Kwara State received the highest levels of allocation in our history since it was created in 1967, yet, it was the period which witnessed the execution of projects that impacted very little in terms of value, on the lives of Kwarans. The sixteen local governments, between 2003 and 2018, got a total of N298, 434, 186, 870. 78. From the Federation Account. Yet, for the past few years, they have been unable to pay salaries of staff. The local administration is dead and most, if not all the local secretariats, exist only in name. When Bukola Saraki took over in 2003, he dissolved the elected councils from the previous Muhammed Lawal administration; and for the next two years, Bukola Saraki was effectively the Sole Administrator, till 2005. There is no account of their funds till today! The suffering of local government workers; the ruination of the administrative structures as well as the utter destruction of the ability of local government administration to impact upon the lives of people at the local level, was actually one of the greatest crimes of the Saraki hegemony in our state. That led to the massive drift of young rural folks into the main urban centers of the state, but especially Ilorin, the state capital. These survive as urban lumpens, who live marginally, as OKADA riders; recharge cards sellers, and are involved in sundry petty crimes, to make ends meet. Many are on drugs and a lot had been recruited into gangs, cults and political thugs.

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Any visitor to Ilorin, would see how dysfunctional the city has become. There is no development control and the hegemony has parcelled out every available piece of land and sold, in a lunatic and desperate search for funds, after the state and local government allocations have gone down the drain. As for the State Government, it has taken over N600 billion from the Federation Account, yet, there is no aspect of our lives that the Saraki Hegemony has not devalued or destroyed. An elder of the community, Alhaji LAK Jimoh, used the Agricultural Nursery by Oyun River Bridge, as an example, in a discussion last year. He reminded that it was one of the best nurseries in Nigeria. They created new species of fruits and plants and at a point, they even developed a hybrid mango that came from using stock from Burkina Faso. People came from all over Nigeria to buy these. Similarly, Military Adminstrator, Peter Ogar, encouraged development of a new variety of pineapples at the nursery. But what did the Saraki Hegemony do? They sold the nursery and dismantled the Ministry of Agriculture and related institutions, which dated back to colonial times and the Northern Regional Government, and a place where, under the late Governor David Bamgboye, Eagle Rice; Chicken and so many other food products were sold at reasonable prices. Alhaji LAK Jimoh said the years of the Bukola Saraki Hegemony, 2003-2019, resemble an invasions of a community by Barbarian hordes of Antiquity! Scam was practically central to every project conceived from 2003 to 2019; none more so, than the Zimbabwe Farm, which is a large scale heist. The local people lost their land to so-called Zimbabwean farmers, who entered our state with only suitcases!

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Another side of the Hegemony, was bringing in people from other states to head vital institutions; so Tope Daramola, who was said to be Bukola Saraki’s Account Officer at Intercontinental Bank, was compensated with the position of Director of Bureau of Land in Kwara State; but following an outcry, the Bukola Saraki hegemony appointed the Ondo State indigene MD of the cash cow called Harmony Holdings. And for years, whenever a minister was appointed from Kwara State, the SA was either Koye Sogbola or Kola Alagbada.

There is a well-known story, that Kwara state is the only inheritance that Dr. Olushola Saraki bequeathed to the family. Bukola Saraki therefore carried on with a sense of entitlement, which explained the indefensible pension scheme that he crafted for himself. A classic case of head I win, tail you lose! That is a well-known story in Kwara, but the truth will come to light only with the new administration. And to rub salt unto injury, Bukola Saraki got the State House of Assembly to move a motion that the State University be named after his father, Olushola Saraki! I had wondered at the height of that controversy, just why Bukola Saraki won’t show love for his father, by building a private university in Ilorin, and name it after his father. It would have been social responsibility of the highest order.

Kwarans actually wizened to the rapacious nature of the hegemony since 2011. In 2015, he benefitted from the President Muhammadu Buhari effect, to return to senate. That is obvious, because President Buhari got more votes in Ilorin than Bukola Saraki. It meant that President Buhari won in our community, in spite of Bukola, NOT because of him! So when he began to arrogantly claim that he was going to teach the president politics, he probably did not add up the numbers, even in the constituency that he was supposedly representing in senate! In the long run, he was the one that was taught the most bitter political lesson; not by President Muhammadu Buhari directly, but by the people of the Kwara Central Senatorial District, who saw through his arrogance; the 16-year systematic underdevelopment of the state, under his watch, and the manner he behaved, as if he was doing us a favour, sitting atop our resources. He imposed individuals, often from other states to run strategic institutions to the detriment of the best interests of the state.

It was clear to Kwarans, that Bukola Saraki was actually a paper tiger, and one that could and would be defeated, in a free and fair electoral process. People from other parts of Nigeria were often fixated in their assessment of our situation, seeing Bukola Saraki, and by extension, the Saraki Hegemony, as infallible. And who can blame them; they have seen the Saraki, PERE ET FILS, anoint and remove governors, senators, representatives, as well as local politicians and potentates, for over a generation, effectively from 1979 to 2019. But nothing lasts forever! The period from 2003 especially has seen a steady evolution of the demography of Nigeria in general, and Kwara State in particular. Dr. Olushola Saraki, had a common touch; he was the classic master of Nigerian prebendalist Nigerian politics. He was also generous with money, and had a sensitive nature that made people see kindness more than ruthlessness. Not for Bukola Saraki. His start and end points were himself.

As I said, demography was going to be his undoing. While his father could ensure a steady flow of old women to his residence, those who infamously ate EBA and were given WASO (Twenty Naira notes) regularly and would always vote for Saraki’s candidates. The trend from 2011, was that younger people were becoming the most important factor in our politics. They had been educated, often badly, in the schools; they increasingly had access to modern communication gadgets and were no longer content to be children of the 21st Century form of slavery that the hegemony was presiding over. The growth of private radio stations broke communication monopoly in the state, and the leading lights of the opposition, such as Iyiola Oyedepo, Rex Olaoye, Alhaji Alajagusi, as well courageous clerics like Dr Abubakar Aliagan and Dr Olohun Oyin, reached homes around the state, with analyses of how Kwara state was systematically ruined by the hegemony. The final, and I think most important factor, were the people themselves. They have lived through the indignities of the past 16 years and decided they have had enough.

The results of the Presidential, National Assembly, Governorship and State House of Assembly elections underlined just how totally the hegemony has been routed by our people. Nothing lasts forever; not oppressive use of power, not a hegemony!

Kawu is the Director General of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). He was an APC gubernatorial aspirant in the 2019 election.

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