By Suleiman Umaru
Bukola Saraki, a former governor of Kwara state and 8th National Assembly Senate President appears to have played into the hands of President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All progressive Congress, APC, for leading a rebellion against the party in his first term in office in 2015. The fallout of the rebellion was the loss of the National Assembly leadership to the Opposition People’s Democratic Party , PDP.
Note that the party had selected Ahmed Lawan, a elected Senator, from Borno state, north east geo-political region, to be the Senate President and other principal officers of the National Assembly but were outsmarted by Saraki and his loyalists who cut across the parties. The fallout was that the APC, which was majority in the Legislative Chamber became the minority which frustrated the Buhari administation as most of his policies and request and could not be approved.
One of such requests that was said to have been turned down by the Saraki led Senate was the $29.9 billion external borrowing loan from the Paris Club to fix the broken down infrastructural facilities in the country, particular power, roads, agriculture and the educational sector. The Katsina state born Nigerian President was said to have been unhappy with the Saraki, t for forming a strong Opposition against his government, thus frustrating his efforts to fufill his electioneering Campaign promises to the people.
Another request of the President which was said to have shut down by the Senate was the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu, a Commissioner of Police as the Chairman , Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. In spite of pressures from the Senate quarters on the President to sack Magu and present another Candidate to Head the anti-graft agency , he ignored them and retained him as the acting Chairman of the Commission till date .
The Presidency may have sent a message to Saraki and his loyalists that the battle line has been drawn as there were attempts to remove him with the alleged hiding of the Mace, the symbol of Authority in the National Assembly, which was said to have been master-minded by Omo Agege, the incumbent Deputy Senate President and Buhari loyalist.
There were also attempts to rope him in with the alleged Offa Bank robbery attack last April in Kwara state, as he was repeatedly invited for questioning at the Force Headquarters for questioning. Many believe that Saraki may have relaxed believing that the people of Kwara state will follow him enmass to the PDP and thus vote for the Opposition party Candidates from the President, governor, Senate, House of Representatives and the House of Assembly Candidates during the last general elections. He got it wrong.
Unknown to him the APC, Leadership in the state with the backing of the Adams Oshiomhole, a former governor of Edo state and National Chairman of the ruling APC, had penetrated the state that it will be very difficult for Saraki to make any appreciable impact in the election . The reality dawned on him when when Abdulfatah Ahmed , his godson , and governor of the state , who followed to the PDP, lost his re-election bid. The message was clear when he lost his Senatorial district election to an unknown APC Candidate: the era of Saraki faly domination of Kwara politics is over.
The APC leadership may have further taken advantage of the frosty relationship by between Senator Gbemisola Saraki, who was blocked by Bukola, his elder brother and who incidentally was a one-time governor of the state, from realizing her gubernatorial ambition, in 2015, as she was compensated in Buhari second term I office as the minister of State, Transportation in order to mock the former Senate president, described as a Usurper in APC circles.
Political watchers believe that APC’s plan to destroy the Saraki family dynasty in the state began with the defeat of Razak Atunwa, the PDP, governorship Candidate by Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, the APC Candidate and Buhari political ally who was said to have contested the governorship election under the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and then APC ,in 2015 in the state but lost.
The former Senate President may have known that the legacy of Abubakar Olusola Saraki, his late father and a one-time senate majority leader of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN controlled Senate , between 1979 and 194, will be thrown to the dust bin with the emergence of Abdulrazaq, as the governor of the state. The former Senate President may have read the handwriting well on the wall going by the actions of the governor since he assumed office against the long established political family last May.
One of such policies initiated by the governor against the family that is already generating controversy and crisis in the state was the revocation of the ownership of the piece of land allegedly acquired by the late old Saraki in Ilorin Government Reserved Area, GRA, the 1980s, but inherited by Saraki, the heir of the family and the former Senate President.
The governor may have been encouraged to revoke the Certificate of occupancy of the Sarakis family land at the Ilorin GRA because of the alleged report of Ibrahim Salman, Director General of the state Bureau of Land which revealed that there was no record to show that the late old Saraki paid for the land as at the time he took possession of it in ‘80s.
Salman had said that the’’ allocation of the land to the late Saraki, a political doyen , in the state was not based on’’ any formal application , nor application forms filled’’ an indication, that there was no evidence of payment. This is an indication that the letter of allocation may have been manipulated by past administrations as the late doyen of Kwara politics may have used his political weight to cover all loopholes to facilitate his take over the land and therefore could not ask for the right Certificate of Occupancy to be issued to him to avoid revocation by unfriendly in the state in future.
The state Bureau of Land Director General may have won the heart of the governor to revoke the Sarakis Land when he revealed based on records that the land was originally designed for the construction of a secretariat and a parking lot of the Civil Service Clinic. He noted that the entire land was acquired by the government in the ‘70s to host the phase II of the state secretariat.
According to him, the construction of the secretariat had actually commenced but it was at the superstructure level when it was discovered that part of the land slated for the parking lot was spuriously allocated in principle to Asa Investment , owned by the Late Saraki, for Commercial purposes. The Company was said to have taken over the piece of land, paving the way for the man , fondly called ‘’called Oloye’’ in Ilorin, to erect the popular ‘’ille Arugbo’’ for hosting political meetings and taking care of the old people and the less privileged in the state. The political strategy may have informed how he won the heart of the people of the state. Bukola, his son, was said to have sustained the legacy even after his father’s death.
Salman, the Bureau of Land Director General findings may have informed why Abdurazaq, the state governor requested the approval of the state state House of Assembly to revoke the Saraki’s family landat Ilorin GRA. He got it.
Perhaps, to prove to the younger Saraki, that Kwara state is no longer the exclusive political empire of the Saraki family, the governor was said to have mobilised bulldozers to the Asa Investment ltd landed property at Ilorin, the state capital on Tuesday , January, Thursday 4, 2020, to destroy the late old Saraki Ile Arugbo building. He was said to have sought the support of the state Commissioner of police who was said to have deployed over 50 policemen armed to the teeth to watch over the demolition of the property in order to reclaimit for government use.
In apparent reaction to the takeover of the Saraki’s family land at the Ilorin GRA, the former Senate President who could not hide his feelings had said that the governor had ‘’crossed the line of decency for taking over their family land’’. An aggrieved Saraki accused the APC governor of using his office to allegedly erase the legacies of the late old Saraki. He described the governor’s actions against the family, particular, the revocation of the ownership of the plots of land belong to the late father at Ilorin, as ‘’clearly a manifestation of vengeance’’, urging him to ensure he serves public purpose or and pursue a development agenda of the state.
Giving an insider information as a former governor of the state over the Asa Investment limited landed property at Ilorin GRA, he confirmed that the property was rightfully given to his father since the ‘80s, noting that a Certificate of Occupancy was issued on it.
He had lambasted Abdulrazaq, who was said to have made two attempt in the past to rule the state as a governorship Candidate of the defunct CPC,in 2011, a party sponsored and registered with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, by the Katsina state born Nigerian President and his political allies but lost out to Saraki strong political machinery .
Appealing to the governor not to see his victory at the polls in the 2019 general election as an opportunity for empowerment, settlement and enablement to settle scores, provoke or pursue inter-family rivalry with perceived political enemies but to work for the development of the state.
The Kwara state born former Senate President may have tried to win the heart of the people when he disclosed that prior to the takeover of the family land by the government , Abdulrazaq had invited the state Lawmakers to the government House where he was said to have directed them to commence the process of amending the Law to change the name of the state University which Abdulfatah Ahmed, a former governor of the state had named after the late old Saraki to immortalize his name because of their close working relationship. Perhaps, given the political dimension to the revocation of the Asa Investments ltd , a company belonging to the old Saraki, the Opposition PDP, appears, to have thrown their weight behind the former Senate President to fight the battle that will force the state government to rescind its decision on the revoked land.
The party had said in in a Statement that the revocation of the Asa Investments property at Ilorin was a further demonstration of Abdulrazaq’s ‘’ vindictiveness and vendata against the Saraki family’’ .Kola Shittu, an Engineer, and the state PDP Chairman averred that the actions of the governor did not reflect the general wish of the people of the state going by the resistance that was said to have been put up by some old women to stop the demolition exercise.
The PDP state Chairman fears that the actions of Abdulrazaq, the Kwara state governor, in antagonizing the Saraki ‘s family was capable of ‘’creating political rivalry and crisis among the people of Ilorin and the state in general that may be difficult to solve’’. In an emotional outburst, the PDP state Chairman, noted that the late old Saraki did not deserve such an unfair treatment from a governor of the state considering his contribution to the development of Ilorin Emirate Council during his life time. But whether Abdulrazaq will bow to pressure from both official and unofficial quarters both within and outside the state to return the revoked property to the Saraki’s family remain to be seen.