Emerging political unrest in the 45-year old Kwara State in North Central Nigeria, analysts argue, indicates that it is morning yet on creation day. What started as mere beer parlour gossip has snowballed into a foremost political showdown in Nigeria’s 21st Century.
Coming shortly after successfully dislodging erstwhile formidable political machinery of the Sarakis through a well crafted and clinically implemented O‘to‘ge political upset in the 2019 general elections, the arrow heads of that syndicate, surprisingly, are at dagger drawn.
At the trenches with sophisticated arsenal for deadly assaults are the Abuja APC stakeholders led by Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture with a supervisor at the local scene, AbdulRahman Abdulrazaq, the executive governor of the State and the Saraki political dynasty led by immediate past Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
The first sign of full commencement of a political jihad aimed at total elimination of the remnant of the Sarakis footprints in Kwara was the demolition of Ile Arugbo, located at Iloffa Road, Ilorin, in the early hours of Thursday, January 2, 2020, with bulldozer accompanied by security operatives.
Historically, the struggle for the soul of Kwara politics has been a fierce battle between the Saraki family led by the late Oloye, Olusola Saraki, Senate Leader in the 2nd Republic and the family of the current governor, Abudulrazaq.
Governor AbdulRahman’s father was the first northern Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN; his sister was the first female Senator from Northern Nigeria, and another brother was until recently, the chief financial officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. Remarkably, the family has not been a bench warmer in Kwara affairs except that they had been shadowed by another political family—the Sarakis. In 1979, the governor’s father was the governorship candidate of the Great Nigeria Peoples Party, GNPP, in the old Kwara State. His bid failed against the candidature of Adamu Attah, sponsored by the late Senator Olusola Saraki.
In 1999, the bid by a son of the family, Dr. Alimi Abdulrazaq on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP failed against the candidature of Mohammed Lawal, sponsored by Senator Olusola Saraki. Even more, the Sarakis have unarguably dominated in the cultural setting. Though Alhaji Abdulrazaq was senior to Oloye, it apparently did not go down well that Saraki was made Waziri by the Emir of Ilorin. The same title has also been bestowed on the Oloye’s son, Bukola. Apparently, the Abdulrazaqs may not have openly expressed their objection to the dominance of the socio-political setting of Kwara. They technically planned their strategy, waiting for the right time to strike.
Evidence of this family rivalry partly manifested on the New Year demolition of the elder Saraki’s Ile Arugbo, property.
Justifying its action, Kwara State government said what it did was “to reclaim the land in the spirit of what it was originally meant for.”
It explained: “The property being reclaimed by the Kwara State government is not Saraki’s ancestral home as is being portrayed in some section of the media. Saraki’s ancestral home is in Agbaji (Ilorin) while the property at issue is used for political meetings in the heart of the GRA, Ilorin.”
In a statement, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor Rafiu Ajakaye said: “The government’s position is that the land was (and still is) a public property originally meant for the construction of Government Secretariat, a civil service clinic, and a parking lot for the two. However, ownership of the property was spuriously transferred to a private firm – and for commercial purpose – without the firm paying a kobo to the government or obtaining the Certificate of Occupancy.”
Beside, Governor AbdulRazaq, in December, had announced the decision to revoke the late Olusola Saraki’s property owing to alleged illegality in its acquisition.
He said the land was originally designated for the construction of a secretariat and parking lot of the civil service clinic, “but that it was unlawfully allocated to a private firm — Asa Investments Limited — without any record of payment to the state government.”
But former governor of the State and first son of late Oloye, Bukola had earlier countered the statement, saying his late father lawfully acquired the land from the state government.
He also accused the state governor of opposing the legacies of his father.
Bukola stated “Following the development this morning in Ile Arugbo, I want to commend the women and men, old and young, who displayed their affection, love and staunch support for my late father and the family. I appreciate the genuine support of the women and youths who stood firmly in the face of aggression and naked show of force.
“Your action throughout the night gave full expression to my belief that what Ile Arugbo represents to all of us is etched in our hearts. It goes beyond the physical structure. I am happy that you were not intimidated as you stood your ground. This day will go down as the day you reciprocated the love and affection my father and family have for you.
“You have displayed a gesture of goodwill and passionate love. We assure you that justice shall prevail in a not too distant future,” he said.
Reacting, Saraki’s party, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) condemned what it described as the “unwarranted and vindictive demolition” of a property linked to former Senate President Bukola Saraki.
The development is the latest twist in the political tussle between the Saraki dynasty, which once held sway in the state and the administration of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq.
In a statement by Kola Ologbondiyan, National Publicity Secretary of PDP: “The demolition is a complete subversion of the rule of law as the matter is already in court. The APC-led Kwara State government could not wait for the outcome of the court process apparently because it knows that it is pursuing an illegal agenda.
“The timing of the invasion and demolition, in the wee hours and under the cover of darkness, is a direct indication that the state government was carrying out an unwholesome and condemnable operation during which defenceless women were fired with gunshots.”
The PDP warned the APC and the Kwara State government against crossing boundaries that could trigger unrest in the country and called on them to steer clear of the property.
It stressed: “In the years the PDP governed Kwara State, there was no case of government demolishing the property of opposition members or supporters under any guise whatsoever.”
Meanwhile, the relative quietness of Alhaji Lai Mohammed in the face of raging political agitations within and outside his native Kwara State is not for nothing. Lai, who led the O‘to‘ge revolution, apparently has gulped a Tilapia bone that is now stuck in his throat!
when Lai led the popular O‘to‘ge revolution to oust the Saraki, he apparently
did not bargain foisting another family hegemony in the place of another. But
that is apparently what has happened, and Alhaji Lai whose life story was from
grass to grace, is now wedged in a war between scions of two of the most
prominent families in Kwara State. Before descending on the Sarakis with a
vengeance just before dawn on New Year, the governor’s position in the APC
hierarchy had been consolidated with the reduction of his perceived rivals. The
first was apparently Lai. When last August, the governor honoured a reception
in Abuja after Lai was again nominated as minister on merit, associates of the
governor were pissed off after the chairman of the state chapter of the APC,
Bashir Bolarinwa referred to the minister as leader of the party in the state.
Bolarinwa’s reference was apparently due to Lai’s yeoman role in dethroning
Bukola Saraki as the political leader of the state. Hours after the reception,
groups inclined to the governor initiated a tumult with a campaign to force the
chairman out of office. The chairman has since learnt to bridle his tongue. At
another time, allies of the government initiated a campaign to enthrone the
deputy governor of the state, Kayode Alabi as the political leader of Kwara
South as a way of diminishing the profile of the Honourable Minister. In all
these direct and indirect attacks, Lai has kept a dignified silence. The
honourable minister has seemingly retreated, but certainly not out of sight.
That is because the governor seemed to have overlooked the fact that the second
minister from the state, Senator Gbemi Saraki who also belongs to the APC would
not be unamused by the development. After all, her father’s last political
outing was his failed attempt to project her as governor against the will of
her brother, Bukola. The bitterness from that 2010/11 fight has kept them away
from one another and in opposite political camps. Abdulrazaq may now have
inadvertently brought them closer to reconciliation. Governor Abdulrazaq’s move
against the Sarakis is bound to upset the political permutations in the state
in several ways. One, Gbemi is aligned to the Lai camp that has been severally
deprecated by the governor’s camp. Lai and his followers are again bound to see
the governor’s action as unnecessary. Bukola has, despite his political losses,
sustained the stomach infrastructure and empowerment programmes carried out at
the demolished complex. So when the governor’s bulldozers came around the
complex in the wee hours of Thursday, they were stoutly resisted by several
women who had benefited from the empowerment packages of the Sarakis. Those
women like several others do not just have a voice; they have votes which the
governor had better court than crush