For some time now, the media has been awash with reports of a schism between Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and his predecessor and mentor, Senator Bukola Saraki. The governor, former governor, their close associates and principal aides have all denied there is any rift between the duo of Ahmed and Saraki. They described talks of any division between them as a figment of the imagination of those peddling the rumour. They blamed the opposition within the state for the attempt to cause disaffection between them ahead of the 2015 election. Specifically, former governor Saraki, speaking through one of his media aides Akintoba Fatigun, called the rumoured rift a “beer parlour gossip” that should not be dignified with a response. But is there any cold war or a brewing conflict between the two? I am not sure.
But truth is former governor Saraki is more or less Ahmed’s political godfather. He installed Ahmed from Sare, Ifelodun local government in Kwara South as governor in 2011 in defiance of his father Dr. Olusola Saraki’s wish for a continuation of their political dynasty, by having his sister, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, to succeed the younger Saraki as governor. Having taken over the political leadership of the state from his father, former Senate Leader Saraki, the younger Saraki is now the self-acclaimed political godfather of the state – at least that is what he desires to be. He wants to be to Kwara what Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is to Lagos State, or perhaps the South-west.
But notwithstanding the reports of rift between Ahmed and Saraki, this is why Saraki and Ahmed would hardly part ways. The two are long standing friends and associates. They have come a long way from their days at the defunct Societe Generale Bank till present time. Truth is the former governor made Ahmed politically. The governor calls him (Saraki) the leader. Ahmed served in Saraki’s administration from 2003 to 2011 as commissioner in charge of Finance and later Economic Development. He was commissioner for finance for eight and a half years and commissioner for economic development for over one year from where he resigned to contest the governorship. At present as governor, Ahmed sees his administration as a continuation of the former regime of Saraki. Most of his programmes and policies are carry-overs from the earlier administration.
Addressing a news conference recently, Ahmed said the relationship between him and Saraki was cordial and strong as a result of their long association. He described Saraki as a stabilizing factor. “He (Saraki) has been a stabilizing factor for me especially in areas where I require to take certain decisions that I am not well informed about.” Indeed, while some may snigger at the former governor’s seemingly overbearing posture in matters of the administration of Kwara since he left in 2011, wondering why the senator would be hovering over the man he installed governor in 2011, Ahmed, the governor, seems unfazed. He hears no evil and sees no evil when the issue is about Saraki. He does not brook any unflattering insinuations. Ahmed does not seem to see anything wrong in the perceived dominance of Saraki in matters of the state. As a matter of fact, the Lagos arrangement whereby Governor Raji Fashola concentrates on governance leaving politics to Asiwaju Tinubu seems to be the model for Ahmed’s Kwara.
Saraki’s situation should also be understandable to the politically-savvy. Apart from being a senator, the only thing the former governor leverages on for relevance and importance in national politics is his control of the levers of power in the state, his firm grip on Kwara politics. But how enduring can that godfather-godson relationship between Saraki and Ahmed be? How durable will it be? For how long can Ahmed hold out given the story of testy relationships between godfathers and godson, which dots the entire landscape? If Ahmed seems not to be bothered, what about his associates, some of who would rather he stayed his own man? In fact some fear the reports of schism between the two leaders, though blamed on the opposition, may have actually been the handiwork of some disgruntled associates who think the governor should be allowed room to operate.