Ilorin Elite and the Sarakis

06 Jun 2013

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Bolaji Arowolo writes that the attempt by Ilorin elite to take over the political structure from the Saraki family is an effort in futility

I have had the privilege of a near-consistent followership with the political trend in Kwara State for over 23 years. I had all my education in the state. I graduated from the University of Ilorin in 1999. I left for my National Youth Service Scheme between 2000 and 2001 and in search for further education, I moved to the US in 2002. Even at that, I have followed happenings in the state with keen interest ever since.

When I was younger, I was one of the young boys who used to waylay along the road of the old women, young guys and girls who trooped to Ile-Loke, as Saraki's abode on Iloffa road, GRA, Ilorin is called whenever oloye was in town. He gave out money, foodstuff and cloth to the people who trooped to his house, irrespective of religion or native town. He gave equally. And during any festive period, especially the Ramadan period, the largess doubled.

I hated to see those old women and young able-body trekking from native Ilorin area to GRA for money, food and cloth whenever he was in town. I and my crew even sometime molested these people, either on their way going or coming. We threw water and pebbles at them to discourage them from going to Ile-Loke. But as much as we tried to stop them from going to see Oloye, the more they increased in number the next day.

What however baffled me then was that, it was not only the political period that he gave out. When the military took over, I was so happy that this rubbish of trooping to Ile-Loke would stop. Alas, it continued. We used to taunt them with words like abi o de? They too would respond with o de se ile baba re. This continued till I graduated from the University of Ilorin.

There were spirited accounts of well orchestrated attempts at disparaging him. Some went to the extent of saying he was not from Kwara State. The gang-up fell freely and he soared far above all that. The reason was not far-fetched. He was just there for them as the ‘husband of the widow’. The most recent was during the last election which I did not witness. I heard of the strides put up by Mr. Dele Belgore of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). But since I returned home, I have not heard much about him.

He has refused to build on his popularity like those who came before him- the likes of Attah, Oniyangi and Mohammed Lawal. He came using the platform built by his grandfather, Alfa Agba and that of his father, but rather than do what Senator Bukola Saraki, has begun to do in the area of welfarism for his people like his father did, Dele is found wanting and I hope he won't come close to election with project and empowerment that won't work.

After I found myself in the US, I had a change of heart because I saw the way government takes care of the jobless and the aged in America. What quickly came to my mind were the efforts of the late Saraki. I regretted my feelings about him. I understood that he was true a philanthropist per excellence. He understood the needs of his people and had so much that was needed to take care of himself and his family and so, he persistently assisted the needy.
With this, his acceptance grew. He got political power. As far as I see it, he attained the trust of the large majority because he created a platform to sincerely show that he was not just keen about taking from them since he willingly gave. He simply won the trust of the people. History has shown that relationships built on trust last longer, mostly.

Late Dr. Olusola Saraki secured massive support among the people at the grassroots. He won the trust of politicians even.
While he was alive, he created a dynasty. Politics is based on trust. If you lose trust in politics, you lose everything. He supported his son to become governor. When the younger Saraki showed interest, there were attempts to castigate him. They said he was not capable but his eight years at the helm of affairs in the state has brought about a new Kwara. When I came to the state about 16 month ago, I felt good. I want to believe he took after his father.

If we had been growing at that rate, states would have been greater. Even a cursory look at the trend of things now shows that many of those who fled the state now have their children gradually returning to the state due to strains in the states where they sojourned to and the new opportunity created by the Saraki government that grew the state’s economy. They are back to partake and enjoy the new lease of life.

At the demise of Saraki, obviously a lacuna was created. Many had feared that there would be political crisis in the state when he died. Ironically, things stabilised. The truth is that being a governor when his father was alive, former governor Saraki had shown that he was able to handle the structure left behind by his father. He cultivated bigger trust. It has always been about trust, so it was seemingly easy for him to show that as the scion of the Saraki family, he could paddle the political canoe left behind by his father.

Now, there is an intriguing trend playing out in the state and it is that a group of very rich people are forming a front against the Saraki dynasty. Their intent is to hijack the political structure of the state. They are very rich. Some of them, richer than the late Saraki when he started assisting those in need in the state but were nonchalant about the need of the people when Saraki provided the people with their needs back then.

In my analysis of the untoward development in Kwara State as in other states, there is the growing quest for political change. Yes, change is good and inevitable but there must be a sincere reflection on the paradigm factors. In this case, the issue of trust comes in again. Yes, Saraki may be dead. He could be gone for good. But then, we must reflect on the past. Are those spurring to take over the Saraki dynasty really lovers of the people?
We must also ask if Bukola was not groomed enough to take over the relationship created by his father between him and the people?
These elite are revolting; they presume that by the factor of how magnificently rich they are, they can take over Kwara State.

Vehemently, in my spirit, I protest. My opinion is that these individuals did not give as much scholarship to indigenes and non-indigenes as the late Saraki and his son, Bukola did. None of them, either covertly or overtly, did as much as the Saraki family. It's only the Saraki that constructed road in Ilorin emirate, gave out water freely when it was a major issue in Ilorin, when bread was out of reach of the common people, Saraki set up a bakery and sold bread at almost free to the people.

This act of the elder Saraki has been imbibed by his son, a former governor and distinguished senator of the federal republic. Recently, when I was in town, I witnessed that he bought grading machine to grade roads; he sunk borehole in all the wards of Kwara central and gave out cash to women folks to do business and also gave out free jamb forms all over Kwara and set up coaching centres in all the senatorial districts. He has got job at the federal establishment, state and private for the people of the state without giving special consideration to religion or ethnicity.

I, therefore, insist that the elite can never be trusted. They were totally absent when things were tough for the people. Now, like thieves in the night, they want to sneak in. Even if they present unprecedented democratic tendencies which I think didn't match or get close to that of Senator Saraki, I still feel they are not totally reliable.

In fact, some of us owe our primary, secondary, tertiary and eventual further learning abroad to the man some wickedly attempt to 'steal' his structure just because he is no longer alive. But history has made itself available for verification amidst distorting interplay.
In my view, even if the people of Kwara prefer that the state moves to another political platform, the likes of Bukola Saraki is still in better position to take them there. Bad though, Bukola, unlike his father, may think he has a bigger political space to drag in prosperity for the state from the federal government than what he can provide personally. He could also have seen the fact that he must hold on to his father's ideology.

Coincidentally, while the final decision on the political figures that must get the peoples' acceptance resides absolutely with the people, the vultures in political corridor, proverbially lurking around - without much attention, must not be accepted on the flimsy excuse of their glamour; they must be seen from the time they have been essentially helpless to a majority of the people they could help.  
- Arowolo wrote from Ilorin, Kwara State capital

Tags: Nigeria, Featured, Politics, Bukola-Saraki

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