analysisBy Abdullahi Olesin
With the demise of Oloye, the strongman of Kwara politics Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, last week, the heir apparent of the famous Saraki political dynasty, Dr. Bukola Saraki, is set to try his feet in his father's big shoes. ABDULLAHI OLESIN writes on life and times of the fallen icon and the closely-watched dynastic transition which Saraki Jnr. has remarkably demonstrated even before now that he is Kwara's new leader.
When in 2003, the late former Second Republic Senate leader, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki succumbed to pressures from his supporters to field his son, Bukola Saraki as a governorship candidate, little did he know that he was preparing the ground for the man who will eventually succeed him as the political leader of the state of harmony.
Bukola Saraki, eventually defeated the then sitting governor, Alh. Mohammed Lawal in the election and went ahead to rule the state for eight years after which he installed the incumbent governor of the state, Alh. AbdulFatah Ahmed as his successor.
Although, Saraki who died on Wednesday lost the first election he contested in 1964, he later emerged as the kingmaker of Kwara politics, installing governors at will and dishing out political appointments to others at the federal, state and local government levels.
Many factors aided the late Saraki's rulership of the state for about four decades. These factors include principle of consensus politics, poverty alleviation and above all his passion for assisting the needy and the womenfolk. It is an undisputable fact that the late Saraki would go at any length in meeting the need and requests of his people.
It is on record that Saraki made it a point of duty to distribute food stuff, money and cloth to his supporters whenever he was in Ilorin, the state capital. He would also create time to visit the homes of his supporters who were celebrating one thing or the other or even mourning.
Perhaps, Saraki's strongest point was his love for the women, who of course formed the bulk of his followership. He would stop at nothing to make the women relevant and comfortable. After his defeat in the 1964 House of Representatives election, he carefully made his inroads into Ilorin and Kwara politics, got himself introduced where it mattered and made friends with all and sundry.
Saraki at that time, it was gathered decided to make women an important factor in his politics. He gave them his full attention, lent them his ears and allowed them easy access to himself and wherever he was in Ilorin, Lagos and even abroad. In furtherance of his belief in the political empowerment of women, in 1980 Saraki organized a four-week enlightenment trip to the United Kingdom for 27 Ilorin womenfolk.
Though Saraki's leadership of the state was met with stiff opposition and resistance at different times he was able to defeat his opponents because he understood and provided the needs of his people.
He fought three major political wars and emerged victorious in all but one. He was able to dislodge both Adamu Attah and the late Mohammed Lawal from the government house in 1983 and 2003 respectively in fierce battles for the control of the state. Saraki had helped the duo into power but later fell out with them.
The third battle which he lost was between him and his son, Dr. Bukola Saraki in 2011. The elder Saraki had interest in his daughter, Gbemisola who was then a Senator in becoming the governor of the state after the exit of her brother, Bukola, who was then completing his second term in office.
But Bukola thought otherwise and a political disagreement ensued between father and son. When it dawned on the elder Saraki that Gbemisola would not secure the gubernatorial ticket of the PDP, he led his members to the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN).
Gbemisola, automatically became the flag bearer of ACPN and slugged it out with the incumbent governor of the state, Alh. AbdulFatah Ahmed who was being supported by Bukola Saraki.
AbdulFatah Ahmed later won the gubernatorial election. Not only that, the Bukola Saraki-led PDP won all the three senatorial seats, six House of Representatives seats, 22 out of the 24 state House of Assembly seats and 15 of the 16 local government chairmanship seats in the state.
The results of the 2011 general elections in the state left no one in doubt that Bukola had indeed emerged as the new political leader of the state. Perhaps, it was in recognition of this fact that made his father to reconcile with him and subsequently directed his supporters in ACPN to return to the PDP.
And like his father used to do, Bukola wasted no time in receiving the ACPN's supporters back to the ruling PDP. And to show the genuineness of his intention, he appointed a number of the former ACPN members into various political offices.
Notable among ACPN members that were given appointments are Alh. Saka Onimago, the incumbent commissioner for Education, Alh. Raheem Adedoyin, a media guru and presently Special Adviser, Communication and Strategy as well as Barr. Antony Towoju, the state Commissioner for Sports.
Since his foray into politics about a decade ago, Bukola Saraki does not hide his love for politics of consensus which he inherited from his father. Just like his father, the late Olusola Saraki, the younger Saraki throughout his tenure as two-term governor of the state of harmony encouraged the use of consensus in selecting candidates for elective offices within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.
Saraki's passion for consensus arrangement in selecting candidates for elective offices became more pronounced in the build up to the 2011 governorship election in Kwara state. As the leader of the party in the state and sitting governor at that time, he used his good offices to prevail on 12 gubernatorial aspirants under the banner of PDP to step down for the incumbent governor AbdulFatah Ahmed who was also an aspirant then.
The PDP leader's ability to prevail on the 12 aspirants to step down for Ahmed was one of the major factors that made it possible for his party to win the governorship election at the expense of the hard fighting Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
The last state congress of PDP was the first major intra-party election that was held in the state since the emergence of Saraki as the new political leader of the state. And in his characteristics manner, the senator still adopted the consensus arrangement in picking the new leadership of the ruling party in the state.
Another factor that will make it easy for Bukola to provide political leadership for the state for some years to come is the principle of rotation which he has adopted for the PDP, especially, in picking its gubernatorial candidate. It was this principle of rotation that paved the way for the emergence of governor Ahmed as PDP's flag bearer in the 2011 polls.
There was an internal arrangement within the PDP to rotate the position of the governor of the state among the three senatorial districts in the state. The arrangement started from Kwara South where Governor Ahmed hails from. By this arrangement, Kwara North is bracing up to produce the next governor of the state. And of course, they know that their dream is only realizable within the ambit of PDP.
Saraki, has by this rotational arrangement pinned down the people of Kwara North. Besides, the siting of the state University in Malete in the North senatorial district by Saraki before he left office is another factor that will make the people of the area to continue to be loyal to his leadership.
And the people of Ilorin Emirate will not have any choice than to support Bukola because of the age old supremacy battle between the Emirate and Kwara South. The launching of an endowment fund for the renovation of Ilorin Central Mosque, spearheaded by Bukola while in office as the governor of the state is another plus for him and reason why the people of the Emirate who account for the 48 percent of the state's population will be loyal to his leadership.
In the same vein the ability of Bukola Saraki to end the eleven-year old enmity between the Saraki and the late former governor Lawal political dynasties will also go a long way in stamping Bukola's political leadership of the state. The immortalization of the late governor Lawal by the state government through renaming of the Ilorin Golf Club after him, though came to many as a surprise, but it has no doubt healed some old wounds among the gladiators of the two political camps.
Since the crisis between Lawal and Saraki broke out in 2003, loyalists of the two political gladiators remained sworn enemies until Thursday, July 19 when in a rare act of magnanimity, the state government announced a post-humous award for the late governor Mohammed Lawal. The Secretary to the state government, Alh. Isiaka Gold had broken the surprise but cheering news at a post state executive council's meeting press briefing at the government house in Ilorin, the state capital.
Though, signs of an impending truce between the feuding political camps had emerged in the build up to the 2011 general elections in the state when the leader of Lawal's followers in the state and former commissioner for special duties in the state, Alh. Razaq Lawal led the large chunk of Lawal's supporters to the ruling PDP, it was the immortalization of the former governor that sealed the deal.
Before Razaq Lawal's defection to the PDP, Lawal's elements in the Kwara patriots (TKP) led by chief Wole Oke had also decamped to PDP, following the adoption of rotation formula by the leader of the PDP in the state, Dr. Bukola Saraki. The remnants of Lawal's followers in the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) under the leadership of Alh. AbdulRaheem Olesin later followed suit by joining the PDP few months after the 2011 gubernatorial election.
Keen observers of political events in the state of harmony have concluded that the above scenario spearheaded by Razaq Lawal had paved the way for the immortalization of Lawal, and resultant resolution of the over a decade enmity between the followers of Saraki and Lawal.
Announcing the renaming of the Ilorin Golf Club after Lawal, the state Commissioner for Sports, Anthony Towoju said, "The late Mohammed Lawal in his life's time contributed positively to the development of golf sports in the state. When he assumed office in 1999 the Ilorin golf club was in comatose and he did everything to rehabilitate it to international standard. By the time he left, Ilorin Golf Club was second to Ibrahim Babangida Golf Club in Abuja.
Also, another major opposition party in state, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) has fused into the ruling PDP. The leader of the party and its governorship candidate in the 2011 polls, Alh. Khaleel Bolaji had few weeks before the governorship poll stepped down for the PDP candidate on the ground that both of them are from the same Kwara South Senatorial District.
He thereafter led his party members en masse into the PDP. And today, some members of ANPP have been appointed into various political offices in the state. Notable among them is Saheed Sanda who is now the special assistance to Governor Ahmed on Energy.
The implication of the mass decamping of both the Lawal group in the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) and the ANPP is that the state is now bereft of a virile opposition. It will be recalled that the ANPP ruled the state between 1999 and 2003 and this feat automatically qualifies it to be a major opposition party and ditto for the DPP whose gubernatorial candidate in 2007 elections, Comrade Gbenga Olawepo was runner up in the election he contested alongside the then Governor Bukola Saraki.
It is important to note that the appreciable impact made by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the 2011 polls in the state was as a result of the misunderstanding that broke out in Saraki's political dynasty. But this has become history, as the Saraki political family - ACPN and PDP is now a one united family.
Although, the younger Saraki's political leadership of the state of harmony will be met with resistance by those who never see anything good in Saraki's politics, the fact remains that as at today there is no single person in the Kwara State political landscape that has the kind of political structure as well as resources that Bukola Saraki is endowed with.