By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
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 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 a dubious, monstrous and 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!
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 that the Saraki Hegemony used to terrorise the state for the last sixteen years.
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 on projects deliberately cooked up to take away money from our state. 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, destroyed or sold. 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; dismantled and sold the entire 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 2003-2019; none more so, than the Zimbabwe Farm, which is a large scale heist. Huge sums of money were expended; and when he imported cows for the farm, Bukola Saraki even arrogantly ordered all our First Class traditional rulers to the Ilorin Airport, to await arrival of his cows! Not a single product of that controversial farm enters the markets or homes of Kwarans, in whose name billions of Naira were expended. The local people lost their land to so-called Zimbabwean farmers, who entered our state with only suitcases! Yet, the farm served the purpose of taking away our resources, and no one talks about them any longer.
Similarly, loans were taken in our name to build a SHOPRITE outlet on the land of the Kwara State Civil Service College. Today, it does not belong to our state. Another side of the Hegemony, was bringing in people from other states to head vital insitutions; 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; the omnibus vehicle through which Kwara funds are done as they wished. And for years, whenever a minister was appointed from Kwara State, the SA was either Koye Sogbola or Kola Alagbada. These are sidekicks from Bukola’s days at the Societe Generale Bank! It is also part of the legacy of the Saraki Hegemony, it took down three banks: Societe Generale Bank; Trade Bank and Intercontinental Bank. This is a unique record in Nigeria’s political economy! The obsession was money that belonged to Kwara State and how much can be alienated as the personal resources of the Saraki Hegemony.
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 crefted for himself. He was built a house, half of a street in the GRA; and there are stories around the house. He was said to have rejected the house, preferring to be paid the huge sum it was built for. Then a few years later, the house was handed out to his family as a birthday present. 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. Similarly, there are the ALIMI LODGES, located behind the Government House in Ilorin. In 2010, Bukola Saraki was said to have “renovated” them at a princely sum of One Billion Naira; and a year later in 2011, they were “monetized” for him, so the story goes, at only one hundred million Naira. But, because, it was further alleged, that the state government owed him some money, the one hundred million was allegedly then deducted to cover the cost! And to rub salt unto injury, Bukola Saraki got his sidekicks in the State House of Assembly to move a motion that the State University, built by his father-in-law’s construction company, 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 taking out of the huge sums he made from Kwara, to build a private university in Ilorin, and named after his father. It would have been social responsibility of the highest order. This is because the Saraki Hegemony has NO ECONOMIC INVESTMENT worth the name, whatsoever in Kwara State. They only ever TAKE OUT of the state!
Kwarans actually wizened to the rapacious nature of the Saraki Hegemony since 2011. Walahi, Bukola Saraki had been defeated even in the 2011 senate elections by Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, but dubious numbers were added from the Asa Local Government. 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; they knew they were not deserving of those positions, so did only Bukola Saraki’s biddings, to the detriment of the best interests of the state. They sold houses and institutions; devalued whatever they could not sell and in sixteen years, instituted a culture of violence, drugs, cults killings, open and clandestine prostitution as their economic activities destroyed the fabric of family life in our 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; securing political prebends, and serving personal or family interest, in manners that made people think that he cared for them. 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 his self, and that insatiable appetite for power, as an end to alienating financial resources for himself. Ruthlessness was and is first nature, and even a smile that the Prophet once described as charity, was and always is for him, a political weapon. He disrespects everybody and respects none; not our elders; not our Emirs; not our values and not our institutions. He calls people as old as his father by first name; and people in his presence, were expected to kneel down. He would fiddle with his phone or pretend to be sleeping, when people talked to him. These for a chap who has no royal lineage of any sort, and is just a second generation nouveau riche! Riches, which unfortunately have not come from hard work, but from being at the controlling levers of governance!
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 that Bukola Saraki and his successor allowed to run down; they increasingly had access to modern communication gadgets and were no longer content to be children of the 21st Century form of slavery that Bukola Saraki was presiding over. They also had the advantage of access to information about strides in development in neighbouring and distant states in the country, which social media platforms allowed them to share around. 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 Saraki 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 first show of strength was in the November 2017 Local Government elections. The then opposition PDP defeated the ruling APC all over the state. Bukola Saraki and his hangers-on panicked; they forcibly changed results in a most untidy manner, but that emboldened people that change was indeed possible and achievable! A new set of unlikely heroes emerged, the standard bearer of which was Musbau Eshinrogunjo. He won the chairmanship of Ilorin West local council, which the Saraki clan claims as home. Refusal to allow him take the chairmaship seat deepened resentment and spiked the radical resolve to end the Saraki Hegemony!
The final piece in the elaborate jigsaw was Bukola Saraki’s decision to leave the ruling APC, for the PDP. He arrogantly sealed his own fate. He forgot the lesson of his family’s longevity in politics: never abandon the party of power in the center. It is that crucial control of state power, and ability to influence the electoral body as well as security men deployed during elections, supplemented with their own thugs, that has been central to the Saraki mythology of political control in Kwara state. So when his fight against the center led to the arrest of a lot of his thugs and cultists, the space opened for the opposition to organize with little molestation. And by the time he abandoned the APC, the old opposition moved in. The death knell of the Saraki Hegemony was just a matter of time. Last year, his PDP lost a by-election in Kwara South, and the state knew that we had him where we wanted him, trapped! The results of the Presidential, National Assembly, Governorship and State House of Assembly elections underlined just how totally the Saraki Hegemony has been routed by our people. I spent the past twelve years exposing the rapacity of the Saraki Hegemony, at points when they seemed at the zenith of their power. It was a lonely effort, which was misunderstood even by the victims of the underdevelopment that the Saraki Hegemony was foisting on our state. Today our people have buried forever the Saraki Hegemony! It is absolutely unacceptable that a single family should ever be allowed to determine the fate of millions of people. It can only be a recipe for disaster. Democracy must remain the right to dissent as well as the power of the people to dismantle the likes of the Saraki Hegemony, as the people of Kwara state did so heroically! Nothing lasts forever; not oppressive use of power, not a hegemony!
- Kawu is D-G, National Broadcasting Commission (Nbc).