Gbemi Saraki: Demolition of Ile Arugbo, Unjustified Attack on My Father

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Gbemisola Saraki
  • His good work can’t be erased by the destruction
  • Condemns ‘level of force, violence’ by Governor Abdulrazaq

Bennett Oghifo in Lagos and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin

Daughter of the late former Senate leader, Dr. Olusola Saraki, Gbemisola, who is also Minister of State, Transportation, has condemned Thursday’s demolition of a bungalow in Ilorin, Kwara State, known as Ile Arugbo, used by her father to cater to the needs of old women.

Last week, the Kwara State Government revoked the Certificate of Occupancy and acquired rights to the large piece of land where the bungalow stood and at about 3:00 AM on January 2, it sent a detachment of policemen to dislodge the old women, alledgedly using tear gas and shooting sporadically with live bullets, before demolishing the building.

Gbemisola, who issued a statement yesterday on the development, said she was compelled to break her silence for the first time since she received the disturbing news of the invasion and wreck caused by armed policemen sent by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq.

She said the dastard act would not erase the unprecedented humanitarian work done by her late father, the Waziri of Ilorin, and urged the Inspector General of Police to call the Commissioner of Police in Kwara State to order “and not to be a willing tool in the hand of people out on personal vendetta.”

In the statement, Gbemisola, who is also an APC chieftain in Kwara State, said, “I condemn in totality the actions taken on Thursday 2nd January 2020 by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq, especially unleashing terror and mayhem on innocent defenseless aged women simply exercising their right to peacefully protest.

“I call upon the Inspector General of Police to call the State Commissioner of Police to order – using security agencies and live ammunition to settle political and personal scores is not what the Buhari Administration is about.”

She narrated the ordeal in the statement, saying “At 3:00am Thursday 2nd of January 2020, the Governor of Kwara State, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, gave orders to the Police to open fire on aged women, at the contested welfare home, popularly known as “Ile Arugbo” (Home for Aged), owned by my father, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki.

“As a staunch and loyal member of APC, I have kept quiet to date on the happenings in my state, Kwara State. I had done this for a number of reasons, including trying to keep my head when all about me are losing theirs. But all in all, I had kept quiet, as being a loyal member and supporter of the party. I did not want to get into any squabble with the Governor despite so many provocations.

“Again, as a loyal and dedicated daughter of my father, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, whom I hold in very high esteem, I did not want to express my opinion on the propriety of the Governor’s recent political actions as it would be seen as biased because the late Waziri was my father.”
Gbemi Saraki said she had to speak now, given the turn of events and the violent nature of the Governor’s position, adding, “There might have been some elements within my party, APC, who wanted to change the ‘Otoge’ narrative of the 2019 elections to be about the Sarakis, and not about what it was – the removal of a failing PDP Administration.

“But clearly by some recent steps taken, especially with Thursday’s actions, Kwara State APC must be careful not to allow a few elements with their own agenda, other than governance, to turn their personal vendetta into the official position of APC in the state. They must not be allowed to hijack the narrative of what our party stands for.”

The APC, she said had, since its inception, preached and worked earnestly for genuine good governance, security, increased welfare, progress and development of the people, as exemplified by President Muhammadu Buhari, who in the face of direct provocation and deep personal attacks remains true to the oath he took to govern all Nigerians, in spite of allegiances.

“That is why it is important that my silence is not misconstrued as tacit approval or support for the actions taken by the Governor,” she said, adding that she “chose to refrain from commenting on the onset of this land saga and did so for three reasons: I believed that this was a matter that would go through the rightful forum and due process to ascertain and establish my father’s legal rights or otherwise.

“My family, individually and/or collectively, have never derived and continue not to derive any commercial benefit from that piece of land. At the end of the day, what is on that land is nothing – no block of flats that the family is getting rent from; no office building, no factory, or any other commercial venture. Just a bungalow where the old women gather and get their basic needs attended to.

“Nonetheless, were my father alive today, surely, he would have been saddened to see bulldozers in Ile Arugbo. However, I am comforted by the knowledge that my father’s good work and his respect, support and love for the aged, which was sadly lacking in the Governor’s activities of Thursday, simply cannot be erased by demolishing a bungalow. When it comes down to it, Ile Arugbo is a piece of bare land that holds symbolic value of what my father stood for – humanitarianism, and that doesn’t start nor end with a building.”

Gbemi said she had to speak up because “I do not want my silence to be misconstrued, as mischief makers have used that silence to attribute false statements allegedly made by me.

“The level of force and violence that the Governor chose to adopt was totally unwarranted. What resistance to protest justifies firing live ammunition and tear gassing old women? Even my own personal home was not left out of the attack as numerous empty bullet shell casings and dispersed tear gas cannisters were found inside my home.

“I feel that at this point not only as a child of the late Waziri but as a member of the APC, I need to speak. I do so not only as a daughter but as a member of the party, to ensure that those thousands of members of APC who are Sarakites that supported the Otoge Movement are not alienated. In addition, I do so to ensure that the resounding victory that APC enjoyed in Kwara is not short-lived or diminished.”

Governments, she said acquire properties, even compulsorily without necessarily resorting to unprovoked violent attacks in the dead of night. “It is especially disrespectful to me personally, as a member of the APC since 2015, who welcomed and supported those who only joined us a couple of months to the elections, which includes the Governor himself, that my position as a member of the party was not given any consideration and/or regard when approaching this issue.

“Furthermore, given how well and how long I have personally known the Governor beyond Kwara State, so much so that I have always regarded him as one of my older brothers. Even in the political arena, over the years, we have known each other as political opponents and allies and I have always accorded him respect which he has not accorded me.

“As one of the APC leaders in the State, I have consulted broadly and have also sent messages appealing to party members not to be provoked by this unwarranted assault on my late father. I do this with all sense of responsibility so that party cohesion and unity is not undermined by arbitrariness to rush into an attempt to settle perceived old generational family political scores. Revenge cannot be a policy thrust of governance.

“I am also using this opportunity to appeal to our teeming supporters to remain calm and poised and maintain peace in the face of unwarranted provocation. ‘Allah Bring about ease after difficulty’Q 65 vrs 7.

“We must stand up against vindictive politics, driven by envy, motivated by jealousy and practiced without integrity. Honour should be our code.”

Meanwhile, former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has said justice would prevail on the demolition of ‘Ile Arugbo’ by the Kwara State Government.

Saraki’s reaction made public on his Twitter handle on Thursday reads: “Following the development this morning in Ile Arugbo, I want to commend the women and men, old and young, who displayed their affection, love and staunch support for my late father and the family.
“I appreciate the genuine support of the women and youths who stood firmly in the face of aggression and naked show of force.
“Your action throughout the night gave full expression to my belief that what Ile Arugbo represents to all of us is etched in our hearts. It goes beyond the physical structure. I am happy that you were not intimidated as you stood your ground.
“This day will go down as the day you reciprocated the love and affection my father and family have for you. You have displayed a gesture of goodwill and passionate love.
“We assure you that justice shall prevail in a not too distant future.”

Old Women Besiege Late Olusola Saraki’s Home

Hundreds of old women in Kwara State have continued to throng to the country home of late Olusola Saraki located at Ilofa Road, GRA, Ilorin despite the last Thursday’s demolition of Ile Arugbo by agents of the state government,

0The women have also continued their show of solidarity with the immediate past senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki, praising and pouring accolades on him.
0A visit by our correspondent to the area yesterday showed the women being given food stuff, clothes and money.

The man who supervised the distribution of the largesse to the women, Alhaji Rasaq Aladie said Bukola Saraki had always made enough provision for the women whether or not he is in Ilorin.
The women had on Thursday marched from the Ilofa Road, GRA residence of the Sarakis to the place of the Emir of Ilorin in the downtown area of the metropolis, protesting the demolition of Ile Arugbo.

The aggrieved women who condemned the government’s action, were led by the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) women leader in the state, Alhaja Ramata Oganija.

One of the women who simply identified herself as Alhaja Sifawu appealed to Governor AbdulRazaq to rescind his decision on the revocation of the late Olusola Saraki’s land.

She said Saraki had for about 30 years been using the place to distribute gifts to the aged women, even during the military rule without any hindrance.

“The late Olusola Saraki was our benefactor who took good care of us during his life time. His son, Dr. Bukola Saraki is also following the footsteps of his late father in this regard,” she stated.