Monday comment1

Olatunde Ajikobi writes that Governor Abdulrazaq should do things that will unite the state

Since the controversy over the revocation of the title on Ile Arugbo commenced in the evening of December 27, 2019 and the subsequent demolition of the structures on it in the early hours of January 2, 2020, I have been thinking seriously about whether Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq had options other than to send demolition squad around 3am that resorted to shooting guns and firing tear gas canisters on defenceless old women and youths.

My thinking sessions led me to deduce some facts from the claims and counter-claims by the pro-government and pro-Saraki people. First, both parties agreed that the late Oloye Olusola Saraki whose company, Asa Investment Limited, is said to have been allocated the land did not use the land for commercial purpose. Neither him nor his family had derived any pecuniary or personal benefit from the use of the land. Rather, the land was used for the purpose of catering for the aged, the needy and the less privileged. The place, in fact, was used to execute the social welfare programme of the Saraki family.

Second, it is a correct assumption that not all land in Kwara State has the necessary documents or was properly allocated by government. Third, the governor who in his statement of December 27, 2019 claimed that there was no document on Plots 1, 3 and 5, Ilofa Road, Ilorin, which is the correct address of Ile Arugbo is the one who told editors at the meeting he had with them last Tuesday that his officials only saw a letter of allocation and nothing more.

 A follow up to this claim by the governor would have been that since it is clear that the land is being used to serve public, humanitarian and social purpose, one would have thought that when the Abdulrazaq government realized that there was no record of payment of the land, it could have written to the Saraki family to inform them of its discovery. He could then invite the family to provide any receipt of payment or present it with the option to make fresh payment in order to perfect the document.

 While nobody is above the law, the law itself is made for the purpose of achieving peace, good governance and social welfare of the general populace. This is where the law needs to be used to achieve public peace, order and good health. And to serve that larger end of law, the Saraki family could have been given the opportunity to pay for the land with the condition that it is not to be used for anything other than social welfare purpose.

 This alternative move could have been used to achieve peace and to commit the family to the humanitarian goal of their late patriarch. The move would have seen the governor as a trouble shooter not a trouble maker. The governor would have been seen as somebody ready to honour a late hero of the state, a man who in life devoted his existence, wealth and ambition to the service of Kwarans. That would have set the pace for prospective governors in the state of the need to honour the heroes, past and present, in the state.

 By the option Abdulrazaq has taken on the Ile Arugbo issue, he has laid a very dangerous precedent. Imagine that now that the government has made it its priority to be investigating title of lands, it finds out that a particular property owned by the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, or the Olola of Offa, Oba Muftau Gbadamosi Esugbayi, or Alhaji Abdul-Ganiyu Folorunso Abdulrazaq, the governor’s aged father, has no correct title or that the title is inchoate or that the allocation was improper or the land is being used for a purpose other than what it was allocated for, would the response also be immediate revocation and quick demolition as he did on Ile Arugbo?

 Meanwhile, with his position on Ile Arugbo, the governor has set out a state policy to which it must now adhere. Otherwise, he will be accused of bias, favouritism, inconsistency and nepotism. This is the cul-de-sac this governor has driven his administration. Invariably, he is also laying a wrong example which future governors of the state may have to follow. Only the bold, wise and God-fearing ones among them will seek to differ.

 My argument above can therefore be summarized into a stand-point: The Ile Arugbo issue is not a strictly legal issue. That is why the posturing of the state Attorney-General, Mr. Salmon Jawando, on this issue across the media represents nothing but mere grandstanding. Where the AG is needed is not in pursuing an issue that we all know is more political than it is legal. The AG should get busy on initiating laws that can lead to development of the state, updating the laws to make them cope with contemporary challenges and expunging archaic and outdated laws from the Kwara State law book.

 The Ile Arugbo issue requires political solution. The governor should understand that Dr. Olusola Saraki has grown to become an institution in the state. Unfortunately, he is also no more. As Africans, we do not talk ill of the dead. In other worlds, we tend to forgive the excesses or short-coming of the dead, particularly the ones who are largely perceived in the manner that people see Baba Oloye.

 Therefore, the option that the Kwara State Governor chose to ignore is the path that would have given him political leverage, present him as a statesman, and mobilize Saraki’s supporters behind him. It is not too late. The governor knows that Kwara State needs no third secretariat after the existing one and the one that Abdulfatai Ahmed constructed which is just about to be completed. He should just give the opportunity to the Sarakis to look for the relevant documents or even perfect the documents and pay necessary fees.

 The governor is a politician. A politician does not seem to create enemies. He seeks friends and does what is right to all. The governor therefore should initiate reconciliation and seek to do things that will unite the state, not divide it.

 Ajikobi, a political economist, wrote from Ilorin