Even though she is not a candidate in any of the elections holding this year, Senator Gbemisola Saraki is about the most keenly watched politicians in Kwara State at the moment.
By Emmanuel Aziken and Demola Akinyemi
SEnator Bukola Saraki, the new king on the bloc in Kwara State is reported to have done almost everything to appease his immediate younger sister for his action in passing over her to support Abdulfatah Ahmed for the governorship four years ago.
Visits, emissaries, childhood reminisces were said to have been of no effect in assuaging the hurt of Gbemisola who lost the 2011 governorship election to Ahmed upon the support thrown to the later by her brother.
When the opportunity opened for her to spite her brother a year ago, she wasted no time when the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP opened its doors to her after the brother left the party for the newly emerged All Progressives Congress, APC.
However, the elders in the PDP only took her in only to widen the gulf with her brother it apparently dawned on the former senator.
Gbemi and her brother Bukola and their late influential father, Olusola form a unique partnership in the country’s political firmament in being the only family to have produced three senators.
That image is, however, said to be the envy of many political stakeholders in Kwara who allege that they cannot serve father, brother and daughter.
So, when she returned to the party and Abuja sought a heavy weight politician in Kwara to serve as minister to counter the influence of Bukola, Gbemi was a top name that came for consideration, but the anti-Saraki feeling helped to ensure that she was eased out of consideration.
Gbemi it seemed took it in quietly and pushed forward the process of seeking the PDP’s governorship ticket. Again she lost out, but her associates and several other independent observers allege that the process was skewed.
Even more embarrassingly for her was the fact that Senator Simon Ajibola who emerged as the governorship candidate was one her supporters claim answered to Gbemi while they were all in the Senate together. Besides, insiders in the Gbemi camp alleged a systematic attack on her structures within the party. It was as such no surprise that throughout the presidential campaigns that Gbemi stayed away, a development that inevitably worried party chieftains.
Over time it again increasingly emerged that Gbemi was about to make a statement.
A signpost to her exit from the PDP came to the fore in mid February when she visited Ilorin and was received by a mammoth crowd who were conveyed in a long entourage of buses. Conspicuous in the convoy were beautiful posters of the radiant Gbemi noticeable by the absence of the logo of any political party.
It was not surprising that top party chieftains in the state immediately sought to woo her. Initially, she was given the slot of the deputy governor but taking it as an insult she reportedly immediately turned her back on it.
In apparent move to stave off her exit from the party the PDP state chairman, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo and the secretary Barrister Abdurazaq Hassan in separate press statements pleaded with her to consider her efforts and investments in the party and reconsider her alleged plan to dump the party.
Gbemi tactically kept her distance from them and from the speculations about her political trajectory.
That was until the eve of the presidential and National Assembly election when she arrived Ilorin to a mammoth reception organised by her supporters.
From the airport, the convoy moved to the Saraki family home where she symbolically told her supporters to vote for the broom party.
An eye witness account disclosed that Gbemi told her supporters to take into consideration that the presidential election fell on the same day as the Environmental Sanitation Day. She was as such reported to have told them to sweep their environments thoroughly with their brooms.
Defection of women leader
“All of you know that tomorrow March 28 is the last Saturday of the month and also the day for the presidential elections, I urge you to sweep your environment very well with your brooms,” a source present at the occasion reported her as saying.
She was quoted as having directed her supporters to vote for the APC at all levels.
An indication to her imminent defection from the PDP was given by the defection of the women leader of the PDP in the state, Mrs. Nimota Suleiman penultimate Sunday. Mrs. Suleiman is a well-known associate of Gbemi.
Sources close to the former senator confided that, the national leadership of the APC may storm Ilorin, the state capital anytime soon to receive her into the APC fold.
The return of Gbemi to the fold would only harden the already difficult grounds in Kwara for the PDP. But for the Saraki family compound Gbemi’s return would only soften the grounds with tears of joy.