KWARA: After Oloye, what?
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Demola Akinyemi
Senator Olusola Saraki who died of complications due to cancer built a strong political machine that was arguably unmatched in dexterity and delivery. But as with all things human, that machine had begun to choke before the death of the political titan last Wednesday. Nevertheless, the implications of the exit of the titan could throw the house on fire.
After Governor Bukola Saraki made history to become the first governor in the history of Kwara State to secure a second term, his father, Senator Olusola Saraki, who had until then stopped all other elected governors from a second term practically, withdrew from the political arena.
His withdrawal some of his associates now claim turned into a double edged sword. His son who he installed in no time emerged to take the father’s place in the political space.
Despite a last minute fight back last year, and a plea to his numerous supporters not to disappoint him one last time, his son, Bukola prevailed in the battle of political wits, triumphing over father and sister, Senator Gbemisola Saraki.
Many say that despite assurances to the contrary, that the elder Senator Saraki never recovered from that battle.
Saraki who reportedly died of complications due to cancer may have left a legacy that many say would be very difficult to fill. One legacy unmatched in Nigeria, is that his lineage is the only one in the country with three senators. Himself as second republic senate leader, his daughter Gbemisola who occupied the Kwara Central Senatorial seat for two terms and his son, Bukola, the immediate past governor who is now occupying the senate seat first occupied by father and sister.
His commanding control of the politics of Kwara could not be matched in any other part of Nigeria. No godfather, kingmaker, master or any of that sort, could match the command and control political apparatus that the late Saraki exerted in the political space.
That was until last year when his son grew up to formally dislodge his father. In the political battle, Bukola leading the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP stood against the desire of his father and his sister Gbemisola who was the gubernatorial flag bearer of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN in the gubernatorial election.
Bukola prevailed gaining all three senate and House of Representatives seats from Kwara State and the governorship leaving his father and sister, Gbemisola biting the dust.
After the elections there was a semblance of reconciliation as Bukola and the new governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed made a show of appeasing the elder Saraki.
In a gesture of sportsmanship and family unity, the elder Saraki ordered his supporters to return from the ACNP to the PDP.
However, political hurts in Nigeria go deep. So, given the exit of the elder Saraki, observers would be looking to see how the new political leader of the state, Bukola is able to cohabit with his former adversaries that went with his father.
Remarkably, the symbol of that quarrel, Gbemisola has not be known to visit Government House since the inauguration of Ahmed as governor and neither has she been seen around officials of the administration.
If the father could not make Gbemisola to walk with Bukola’s men in government while he was alive, many doubt the ability of any other person to bring her to do so after Oloye’s death.
At the burial yesterday most members of the family put up a show of unity and there is no doubt that it was all in reverence of Oloye. What happens after that remains an issue that many would be waiting to see play itself out.
In less than three years when the next round of elections in the state is due eyes would be looking towards the new political leader of the state to see how he would manage the political assets he now controls.
Would he like his father follow the practice of allowing his protégées to serve only one term in office?
Suggestions to this effect have been the tale in Illorin for sometime now with some alluding to the fact that Governor Ahmed would be replaced with another candidate. Even if that is being planned, there is every possibility that Governor Ahmed could decide to fight back and in doing so he could win the sympathy of many and possibly, Gbemisola and her followers.
However, Bukola’s mastery of the political arena and with that, an ability to fight and triumph over an incumbent can not be compared with that of his father. His father’s ability flowed from his wide and extensive contact with the ordinary folks built over several years. The elder Saraki had a canny ability to relate with all classes, rich and poor, literate and illiterate. It is an advantage that the father has over the more elitist son.
Speaking on the direction of politics in the state without Oloye, Alhaji Shehu Usman Mustapha said Bukola had before the father’s death taken over the political leadership role of the elder statesman as he was being publicly addressed the leader by his admirers including himself.
Renowned legal icon, Alh Yusuf Ali SAN on his part said the people of Kwara will always decide their leader.
“The issue of what happens to Kwara after the death of Dr Olusola Saraki cannot be a problem, people have been choosing their political leaders based on certain indices, so they will always decide, Kwara is moving, it was not like this”.
Engr Sunday Adebayo Babalola, a former gubernatorial aspirant of PDP in Kwara State in the last election believe that people will always chose their leaders as long as their hopes and aspirations are met whenever the time presents itself.
With Bukola turning 50 next month and matured in every respect and his father no more around, perhaps Oloye’s absence may not be totally felt. After all, the leader’s name remains Saraki.