Hammed Shittu writes that Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq of Kwara State may have stirred up a hornet's nest by revoking ownership of properties belonging to the immediate past Senate President and former governor of the state, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his late father.
It is no more news that the stage is set for an epic battle of political titans between the Saraki dynasty and the Abdulrazaq family in Ilorin, Kwara State.
The development according to THISDAY checks might not be unconnected with the struggle for political control of the state ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The political plotting by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state as embodied in the 'O To Ge' campaign slogan catapulted the incumbent governor, Mr. Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq to power in the 2019 governorship election, replacing the Saraki dynasty that had been in existence for over 40 years.
The development led the APC to take over the political leadership of the state from Saraki dynasty. Since the emergence of the governor as the new leader in the state, he has been working round the clock to clip the political wings of the Saraki dynasty to put him ahead of the 2023 general polls in the state.
In the 2019 polls, the ruling APC in the state coordinated and led by the Information and Culture Minister, Mr. Lai Mohammed and other leaders of the party won all National Assembly seats and state house of assembly seats in the state, leaving the Peoples Democratic Party led by former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki with no political office.
The alleged political rivalry between the two families dates back to the late 60s when the late patriarch of the Saraki family, Dr. Olusola Saraki, a medical doctor, took over the political control of the area that later became Kwara, relegating the influence of the father of the incumbent governor, Abdulgafar Folorunso Abdulrasaq, who has the distinction of being the first lawyer from the North and the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) from Northern Nigeria.
This the unresolved jealousy between the two families has recently culminated into a full blown war of attrition in the community over all the alleged moves by one of the sons of Abdulgafar Folorunso Abdulrasaq who is also the incumbent governor of the state, Abdulrasaq to embark on a pay back mission against the Sarakis.
In doing this, the governor has allegedly moved to erase all the legacies of late Saraki who was former leader of the senate in the aborted Second Republic. Governor Abdulrasaq is said to be bent on taking his pound of flesh from immediate past senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki for how he stopped him from winning the governorship contest in 2007 when he contested as the governorship candidate of the defunct Congress for Positive Change (CPC), in 2011 when he contested as senatorial candidate for Kwara central senatorial district and in the 2015 election when he again contested the same Kwara central senatorial district on the platform of the PDP ticket and lost to former governor Saraki.
In an apparent move to widen the rivalry, the governor recently ordered the revocation of acquired the property of the late former Senate leader, Dr. Saraki located opposite his country home, at Ilorin GRA, claiming he wants to build a new state secretariat on the piece of land. He has also confiscated a four-bedroom chalet owned by former Governor Saraki located at Alimi quarters, Ilorin.
Also, political pundits in the state hold the views that, the Governor Abdulrasaq was behind the Court of Appeal ruling in Ilorin where the PDP candidate for Ilorin East state constituency was declared as the winner of the state house of assembly election for the constituency but was not sworn-in by the Speaker of the house, Rt. Hon.Yakubu Danladi, to ensure that no Saraki associate is allowed to thrive anymore in the state. Tongues are still wagging on the issue over the refusal of the speaker of the house of assembly, to comply with the court ruling.
The property which also houses the popular 'Ile Arugbo' serves as the major campaign office of the Saraki political dynasty where the late Saraki and the immediate past Senate President, Dr. Saraki used to address their followers on salient political issues and decisions.
Over the years, the Sarakis used the property as the headquarters for their charity to the aged, distributing gifts to them on the last Thursday of every month. This is where the name 'Ile Arugbo' emanated.
The property, it was gathered, passed due process during that time before it was acquired by the late politician.
According to the immediate past senate president, Dr. Saraki, "The property had been rightfully allocated to my late father under the name of one of his companies, Asa Investment Limited, since the 1980s and contrary to the claim of the Governor, the land was properly allocated and a Right of Occupancy title issued on it.
"It should be noted that the excuse given by Abdulrazaq in his revocation order holds no water since it is clear that this is the height of his vengeance against my father, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki and I.
"Till today, many Kwarans have been wondering what problem the Governor has with the late Oloye Abubakar Olusola Saraki or what the late politician did to offend him. It is surprising that of all vacant plots of land in strategic places across Ilorin Township, the one that Abdulrahman found useful for his vengeful plan is the one owned by late Dr. Saraki. It is beyond comprehension why a Governor would set as his main agenda the objective of undermining and waging a war of attrition against a man who is no longer around."
From reactions among many people in the town, the late Oloye used all this political influence to attract dividends from all levels of government as his political leadership was based on humanitarian postures.
The late Saraki according to the residents of the state was loved and cherished by his supporters and residents of the state as anyone who went to him for any assistance would not be attended to. This legacy of charity to all has continued to give his family an advantage, while other leading families are concerned that the Sarakis dictate the political pace in the state.
When he assumed office on May 29, 2019, the incumbent governor, Alhaji Abdulrasaq vowed that, he would be fair to all irrespective of political affiliation so as to move the state forward.
The vow was greeted with loud ovation and commendation among the teeming masses of the state. It was viewed as a pointer that the administration was poised to bringing peace, unity and progress to the doorsteps of the populace.
However recent events in the state have betrayed the mindset of Governor Abdulrasaq through his onslaught against Saraki dynasty by acquiring the four bedroom bungalow belonging to Dr. Saraki located along Alimi road, GRA, Ilorin. The mission was accomplished with the help of the state house of assembly through a resolution of the house.
The chalet was sold to former senate president, Dr. Saraki when he was the governor of the state. The sale of the property was said to have followed existing due process during the period.
The planned revocation followed the voiding of the acquisition, valuation and certification of Land title (Right of Occupancy) in respect of the chalet in the personal name of Dr. Bukola Saraki for non-compliance with the provisions of Pensions Law 2010.
These were part of the resolutions of the House, following the presentation of the report of the House Committee on Lands, Housing and Urban Development, by its Chairman, Hon. Omotayo Felix Awodiji on the floor of the House.
Reading the resolutions of the House, Speaker, Rt. Hon. Danladi said the revocation became expedient to ensure an enduring end to all forms of illegalities and abnormalities to pave way for meaningful development of the state.
The House then urged the state government to immediately explore every available legal process to recover the chalet from the former Governor.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Land, Housing and Urban Development while presenting his report observed among other things that the Alimi Chalet was purposely built by the state government as a Guest Chalet for sitting governors and not transferable as exit package to any outgoing governor. The chalet, according to him, did not fit into the recommendations of the Pension Law of 2010.
But a source close to Saraki said, "What is the big deal about this bungalow? At least, government has since broken into the house long before now and the Deputy Governor had been living inside the bungalow.
"Did their report state that the property was illegally acquired? No, it is just that the Governor and his people are interested in the house and they can have it, if it makes them feel better."
The second onslaught against the Saraki dynasty was the move to revoke ownership of the property of the late Dr. Olusola Saraki located at Ilofa GRA, Ilorin where they alleged that, the acquisition of the said property did not pass through due process at the time the property was released to former strongman of Kwara politics in 1992 by the former Governor Mohammed Sha'aba Lafiagi.
The state house of assembly in its characteristics manner through a resolution on the floor of the House asked Governor Abdulrasaq to acquire the land.
The call for a take over of the expansive land by the state government formed part of the resolutions of the House, following a consideration of a report titled 'Illegal Acquisition, Appropriation and Conversion of Government Property with Survey No. KWG.927 And LAN/G. 1071 situated at Iloffa Road by Civil Service Clinic, GRA Ilorin, by private individual presented by the committee's chairman, Hon. Felix Awodiji on the floor of the House.
The Speaker, Hon. Danladi while reading the resolutions of the House explained the need to take over the land to ensure that the land was used for the purpose for which it was originally meant.
The House also unanimously called on the state governor to declare the allocation of the property to Asa Investment Limited void for non-compliance with due process.
On December 27, 2019, the governor finally ordered the revocation of the property of late Dr. Olusola Saraki through a statement from his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye.
The governor said that, a new secretariat complex will now be erected on the land.
He added that, "The land was originally meant for Government Secretariat and parking space of the Civil Service Clinic but was unlawfully allocated to a private firm Asa Investments Limited believed to be firm of late Olusola Saraki is without any record of payment to the state government.
"No certificate of occupancy was ever issued in favour of the firm and Government itself had bought the land to house the civil service clinic, its parking space, and a secretariat."
The statement said the government has now made provisions for the secretariat in the 2020 budget, although its construction will spill over to 2021.
The statement read further, "Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has signed a constitutional instrument withdrawing the allocation of plots of land 1, 3 and 5 to the firm, asserting that the said land was unlawfully appropriated contrary to the purpose for which it was meant.
"The Governor's decision followed a resolution of the State House of Assembly urging him to reclaim the land because it was arbitrarily taken over in the 1990s without any evidence of payment by the Asa Investment Limited, even though the land was meant for public use.
"The Governor noted in the revocation order that the land was originally meant for the construction of another phase of the Kwara State Civil Service Secretariat and a parking space for both the civil service clinic and the Secretariat.
The revocation order read: "In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) 1999 and Section 1 and 28 of the Land Use Act Cap. L.5 of 2004 and all other powers enabling me in that behalf, I, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, Governor of Kwara State of Nigeria, give the following notice:
"The Notice may be cited as the Land Use (Revocation of Right of Occupancy and withdrawal of allocation) Notice, 2019'.
But, the scion of the Saraki dynasty who was also a former governor of the state and immediate past senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki has faulted the move by the governor, saying that, "Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq has crossed the line of decency with his recent efforts to erase the legacies of his (Saraki's) late father, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki."
Saraki, in a statement he personally issued and signed stated that, the war of attrition waged against the legacy of his father and everything that belongs to the late politician simply portrayed the Governor as a man who lacks the sense of history and set out only to fight the Saraki family but not to serve the interest of Kwarans.
"However, seven months down the line, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq has shown that its cardinal Programme is to wage war against my late father and I. He has demonstrated that his only competence and astuteness is in the area of viciously assailing the late Oloye Saraki and I. Definitely, he is a man with no sense of history. Enough is enough. Now, he has crossed the line.
"Perhaps, I should let it be known that if Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq thinks he is taking all these actions to get at me, he is only deceiving himself. There is no basis for competition between us. Our paths cannot cross because the status that he is struggling to attain, Almighty Allah has given it to me many years before now.
"I became Governor 16 years before him and served out my constitutional limit of eight years. Within the period, I was Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum. I have moved on to serve in the federal legislature and by the grace of God, I headed the National Assembly as the number three man in the country. No matter, how well he tried to rewrite history, it is on record that I left Kwara State a lot better than I met it. In fact, the university that he is struggling to rename was established by my administration as just one out of many legacies we left behind.
"This Governor needs a lot more efforts, years, intelligence and resources to attain the level Allah has taken me, not to talk of my late father, Dr. Olusola Abubakar Saraki, the Senate Leader in the Second Republic. As Governor, I used the position to serve the people and during the period I did not dishonour his own father or anybody's father for that matter.
Also, a non-government organisation in Ilorin, Kwara Legacy Network has faulted the acquisition of the property of the late former Senate Leader Dr. Olusola Saraki by the state governor, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq.
The group said that such action portends a serious danger to the peaceful co- existence of Ilorin community and the entire state.
The group in a statement issued in Ilorin on Sunday signed by its state coordinator, Isola Bello said that, the present administration should avoid anything that can create tension in the state.
According to the statement, 'the essence of governance is to see on how to make life bearable for the governed and not to indulge in any actions that would set the people against each other ".
The group said that, the expectations of the people that elected the present administration into office are enormous and not to be creating an issue that would not bring peace and development to the society.
Bello added that, "the administration should have looked elsewhere if it will construct a new state secretariat rather than acquiring the late Olusola Saraki's land at this time.
'There is no doubt that late Olusola Saraki had contributed his quota towards the development and growth of Ilorin and Kwara in general. The administration ought to have looked elsewhere in Ilorin to build its new state secretariat because looking into the circumstances that led to the acquisition of late Olusola Saraki's land at Ilofa GRA, Ilorin is not good for healthy political development but would create tension among the residents of Ilorin community and the entire state in general ".
The group however urged the governor to have a re-think on his action so as to move the state forward.
The PDP in the state in a swift reaction to the development said that, "the revocation of the land belonging to late icon of Kwara politics, Dr Abubakar Olushola Saraki by the State Government is a further demonstration of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq's vindictiveness and vendetta mission against the Saraki family."
In a statement issued by its State Chairman, Hon. Kola Shittu, the PDP noted that the action of the Governor does not in any way reflect the interest of Kwarans, adding that such move was capable of creating rivalry and crisis among people of Ilorin in particular and the State in general.
According to the statement, "The Kwara PDP maintains that there is no basis or justification for the Kwara State Government to revoke the land which was duly acquired many years ago by the late Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki.
"This is a great error on the part of Governor Abdulrazaq and greater disservice to the memory of Baba Oloye who during his lifetime made sacrifices and contributions to the development of not only Ilorin Emirate but Kwara as a whole and even beyond.
"The widespread condemnation that has greeted the revocation of the property is a clear indication that the Governor's move is not in tandem with the interest of people of Kwara. He is, therefore, advised to listen to voice of reason and have a rethink.
"Governor Abdulrazaq should stop beating the drums of war. He may sooner than later overreach himself. Kwarans are desirous of good governance and development; this should be the focus of any responsible, visionary and people-centric leader."
By and large, with this ugly development being taken by the governor in the state and the counter move by the scion of Saraki dynasty in the state, a stage is now set on who win the battle of supremacy as the residents of Ilorin have seen it as a battle between Saraki and Abdulrasaq family.
Kwarans have been wondering what problem the Governor has with the late Oloye Abubakar Olusola Saraki or what the late politician did to offend him. It is surprising that of all vacant plots of land in strategic places across Ilorin Township, the one that Abdulrahman found useful for his vengeful plan is the one owned by late Dr. Saraki. It is beyond comprehension why a Governor would set as his main agenda the objective of undermining and waging a war of attrition against a man who is no longer around