Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Olusola Saraki Playing God

opinion

MORE than any other Nigerian first generation state, Kwara State has demonstrated higher capacity for political theatrics. Time there was that two incumbent governors - Alhaji Adamu Atta in 1983 and the late retired Rear Admiral Muhammed Alabi Lawal in 2003 - kissed the dust after fierce electoral battles with the septuagenarian "god father" of Kwara politics, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki. They were both epic battles that will not be forgotten in a hurry by chroniclers and watchers of political events in the Middle Belt state and Nigeria as a whole.

The feat performed by Oloye, as Dr. Saraki is better known in the Kwara political firmament, in those two elections really stood him out as a formidable grass-roots politician who actually knows his onion. That he succeeded in sending Lawal packing with his gunboat, and replacing him with his own heir, Bukola, further underscored his political sagacity in contemporary Nigeria.

Not many in the larger Nigerian society, however, succinctly knew why Lawal fell prey to the Trojan horse. The navy general's many tactless battles with civil servants, pensioners and the emirate provided enough banana peels for his fatal fall.

There is no doubt that Dr. Olusola Saraki, the Waziri of Ilorin, has come a long way in the demonstration of political wizardry, given his antecedents after his 1964 parliamentary electoral debacle in Ilorin, for which he was perpetually taunted by the late Babatunde Alamu, an unrepentant anti-Saraki element in Ilorin. The Alamu past-time was to debunk Saraki's well-orchestrated invincibility.

In addition to installing Bukola as Lawal's successor, Oloye literally moved up his daughter, Gbemisola, from the House of Representatives where she served a term from 1999 to the Senate in the 2003 elections to boot. Very few Nigerian politicians, dead or living, ever recorded such feat.

It is improbable that those electoral "victories" of 2003 and 2007 were the factors that combined to buoy up Oloye Saraki to recently, with the gait of a peacock, promise to announce Bukola's successor as governor of Kwara State in December this year after he might have returned from Umrah (the lesser hajj). It is a common knowledge that no political party in the land has yet announced a time-table for primaries for 2001.

Olusola Saraki reportedly said in Abuja that "the bond between him and the people of Kwara State could be likened to that between the Shakespearean Romeo and Juliet, such that if he presented any capable person as governorship candidate under the banner of any political party, the person will win."

When asked to comment on the wide-spreading rumour that he was planning to present Senator Gbemisola Saraki-Fowora as Bukola's successor in 2011, Oloye only went lyrical. He could neither deny nor confirm the rumour, saying: "I love Senator Gbemisola Saraki-Fowora very dearly too as she is the girl after my heart."

In apparent appreciation of the place of religion in the gullible hearts of his highly impoverished army of followers (especially the womenfolk), Saraki cunningly added that he would wait till December, after communing with Allah in Saudi Arabia, before making his new year 2011 Kwara governorship declaration.

Only the fool will be incapable of reading between the lines, even from the little that the press could extract from the foxy political gadfly. No respecter of Allah will discountenance the place of equity and justice in the appropriation of a common patrimony. As fairness to others remains the major plank of both Islam and Christianity as religions, Saraki cannot be sincerely dependent on Allah to be scheming the succession of his son by his daughter in a state of about two million people of enviable political heritage and academic attainments.

Oloye is only trying to play God. And he had better watch it as no known empire, in history, has ever risen without falling. He should guard against a fatal fall. He should borrow a word from the legendry Chinua Achebe that those who had their own palm kernels cracked for them by the benevolent gods must not fail to be humble.

Political calculation

Politically, morally and constitutionally, it is nauseating for anybody to tinker with the idea of retaining the Kwara governorship in Ilorin in 2011, which would then be twelve years after the state power had squarely resided in the city and Kwara Central senatorial district. Nowhere in Nigeria is such impunity being contemplated by any political group or individual.

If the people of Kwara South and North senatorial districts supported the re-election of Governor Bukola Saraki in 2007, it was not because they lacked sense of political calculation. Rather, it was basically because of the people's belief that he had a legitimate right to a second term given his modest record of performance. Oloye will definitely be stretching his luck too far by this growing rumour of planning a Gbemisola succession of Bukola Saraki. Some even say that both (Gbemi and Bukola) are planning to swap positions. Haba Saraki! Oloye has to bury this thought.

The Kwara South Senatorial district, comprising Irepodun, Ifelodun, Offa, Oyun, Isin, Ekiti and Oke-Ero local governments, has waited long enough after the military termination of the three-month administration of Cornelius Olatunji Adebayo on December 31, 1983, to take their turn at the Kwara governorship.

On the political arena from the area are many quality materials like Lai Mohammed, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, Ambassador Tunji Olagunju, Arc. Lola Ashiru, Yekinni Alabi, Ayo Opadokun, Gbenga Makanjuola, Fatai Ahmed and Gbenga Olawepo. Indeed, the list is inexhaustible. Oloye cannot feign ignorance of the rich human capital base of this district which produced the bulk of the state's manpower at inception in May 1967.

It will be the height of effrontery and brigandage for the Waziri of Ilorin to rub insult into the already wounded psyche of the usually easy-going people of Kwara State whose jugular has been under his suffocating grips in the past three decades. The state surely needs a new breath after the current tenure of Bukola Saraki. Nothing less is expected by the people of Kwara.

Adepoju is of Peace Park Plaza, Utako, Abuja

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