WHO IS AFRAID OF SARAKI’S VISIT TO ILORIN?

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Tunde Oba Alabi urges the Kwara State government to focus on the serious business of providing good governance

Since the November 14 visit of immediate past Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki to his home town for the twin occasion of the eighth anniversary memorial prayer in honour of his late father, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki who was Senate Leader in the Second Republic, and the 25th anniversary of the ascension to the throne of the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu- Gambari, the Kwara State government and its agents have gone over-drive with propaganda, lies and fabrications targeted at downplaying the impact and success of the visit and its political implications.

In fact, for the past one week, governance has been relegated to the second position in the priority of the state officials led by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq. Their number one pre-occupation has been how to portray the Saraki visit to Ilorin as a non-event. Television programmes have been sponsored and targeted at Saraki. A sponsored article with the same intention was syndicated in many national newspapers on Sunday (Nov. 22). The article titled “Dissecting Senator Bukola Saraki’s Homecoming in Kwara” written by one Alabi Olayemi Abdulrazak was filled with a lot of inaccuracies, outright falsehood and misinterpretations. The aim was to give the impression that the massive turn-out and open display of love and affection by the people to Saraki does not translate to any political rejuvenation and reinvigoration.

The question is why are the Kwara State government and its agents so incensed about Saraki and his visit to Ilorin? The answers to this question will become apparent as I address in the following paragraphs the issues raised in the article under reference.

Abdulrazak, ‘the writer’ claimed that the expression of support by a crowd amounts to nothing in politics. It will be good to know from Mr. Abdulrazak which politician will like a situation that he comes out on the street and people ignore him. What will this same writer have written if during Saraki’s visit to Ilorin the former Senate President did not have appreciable crowd to welcome him? The same government and its agents would have been advertising the political demise of Saraki.

Abdulrazaq, the Governor, and his handlers should know that his non-performance is what is inspiring the crowd to cheer Saraki. The incumbent governor has continued to show that he is not a man of his words. He lacked compassion and care for the people. That is why the common chant during Saraki’s visit is “O su wa”, (we are tired), “Idera de” (Comfort has come). The governor should check himself and be sure he is truly serving the people.

Saraki who had served as Governor of Kwara State for eight years and Senator for another eight years representing Kwara Central decided to stay away from the state after he left office in June last year to avoid creating any distraction for the present administration. Saraki made it clear that it was good for the people of Kwara State to experience life under another political party. That was why he and his supporters decided not to challenge the results of the election in courts, despite knowing that more than half of the candidates fielded by the opposition party lack the required educational qualifications or submitted fraudulent certificates. The verdict delivered by the courts in the two cases filed by PDP members challenging the certificates submitted by their APC opponents which have resulted in the nullification of the election of the affected candidates showed why Saraki’s magnanimity should be appreciated.

How does a politician standing up from his vehicle to greet his supporters and well wishers translate to ‘sense of entitlement’ and being a godfather? Some political neophytes and ignorant analysts now feel that the best way to blackmail a popular politician and paint him black is to label such a politician ‘Godfather’. Every political structure has a hierarchy and certain people whose voice matter in the decision- making process. If you like call them Godfather or whatever. From the US, Britain to Israel and even, South Africa, there are influential decision makers in every political process. Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, Alexander Ocasio-Cortex, Tom Daschle, former Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and George W. Bush were all influential leaders of the Democratic and Republican Parties in the US. In the UK, Jeremy Corbin, Sadiq Khan, Tony Blair, Theresa May, Gordon Brown and the rest of them are key decision makers in the UK. In Israel, General Aviv Kochavi, Avichi Mendelblit, who is current Attorney General and Ehud Olmert, former Vice Prime Minister, continue to determine what happens in the politics of the country. So, what is this fixation with labelling people Godfather just to make them look bad?

It should be noted that while people like Alabi Olayemi Abdulrazak continued to fuel the narrative on Saraki dictating who got what in the state between 2003 and 2019, and raising the futile question of whether the Sarakis are the only ones in the state, they conveniently evade the more logical question of how many members of the Saraki family had been governor, senator, House of Representatives member, House of Assembly member, minister, commissioner, special adviser, special assistant, and the numerous other political positions that had been filled in the state in those years. Apart from Bukola who has served as governor and senator, and Gbemisola, who has served as senator —are the occupants of the numerous other positions not from some other Kwaran families not related remotely or directly with the Sarakis? Is it not an empty lie to claim that one man sitting in Ilorin determined and decided on the issue of who contested for various offices across the 16 LGAs on the platform of the party to which he belongs and yet those candidates won every elections for 16 years? The continuous attempt to make Saraki look bad sometimes inadvertently present him as a superman.

Abdulrazak, the writer, and Abdulrazaq the governor, should know that today Kwara State have two ministers because of Bukola Saraki. The nominators in Abuja gave Kwara two ministers because they wanted to settle scores with Saraki. In doing so, they appointed Gbemisola as minister to spite Bukola. They forgot that blood is thicker than water. Today, Mr. Abdulrazak should go and ask his sponsors why is it that when APC wanted to appoint two ministers, they ensured a Saraki was one of them.

If Saraki had left Kwara State for Abdulrahman since May 29, 2019 to govern without distraction, and after one and a half years, he paid one visit, only for the whole state to ignore the incumbent governor in other to welcome the former governor, does that not show that they have tasted another administration and experienced the ugly outcome?

Is it the fault of Saraki that Abdulrazaq assembled a cabinet of fourth-rate commissioners and inexperienced aides? Is it the fault of the former Senate President that those who conspired to deny him and his supporters electoral victory in 2019 failed to select competent people as replacements? If the Kwara governor feels that because of his own deficient educational qualification and inexperience in management, he decided to also choose people who are not better than him, who is to be blamed?

Throughout the article under reference, the writer struggled without success to play down what he continuously referred to as “internal schism within the ruling party”. Any reasonable watcher of politics in Kwara State who is also familiar with the antecedent of the incumbent governor as a lone introvert should know that he cannot efficiently operate in an organised system. The governor is the single destabilising force in his party, the APC. He keeps struggling to supplant the APC State Executive committee and plots to replace them with his AA Group. He is up in arms with the party chairman and all the party leaders who helped him to emerge victorious in the last election. He does not see eye to eye with the two ministers from the state. He and the state’s representatives in the National Assembly are having uneasy relationship. Are all these the faults of Bukola Saraki?

There is no doubt that Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq has continued to be a divisive force not only in Kwara APC but in the state in general. The writer of the article mentioned that the traditional rulers were under pressure when Saraki was in power. He should go and have honest talk with the traditional rulers now. They will tell him they prefer that period than that of the one who disrespects them, treats them with levity and where a first class traditional ruler was openly referred to as “Bobo yi”. Under Saraki, the Emir of Ilorin was never under the daily threat of being dethroned. Today, the eminent traditional ruler celebrated his 25th anniversary on the throne and the governor who is an Ilorin man ignored him and did not attend any of the occasions associated with the celebration.

The writer lied that the Jonathan administration appointed Prof. Oba Abdulrahman as Chairman of the Federal Character Commission (FCC) against Saraki’s wish. Prof Oba Abu as he is fondly called was nominated into the FCC position to replace the incumbent from Kebbi State who died before the end of his tenure. Kebbi State had lobbied to make then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua allow them nominate a replacement for the late chairman. With his closeness to Yar’Adua, then Governor Saraki moved to get the position zoned to Kwara State and he nominated Prof. Abdulrahman to the position.

In 2011, Prof. Abdulrahman resigned to go and contest for the PDP Governorship in Kwara State. After he lost, he indicated interest in returning to the FCC job and relied on Saraki to make it happen for him. While Saraki successfully appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to make the concession to him, the then Secretary to Government of the Federation, Mallam Yayale Ahmed insisted that the decision would set a wrong precedent. He noted that once a political appointee resigned to go and play politics, he must stick to the consequence of his decision. It took a special plea by Saraki to Jonathan before the rule was bent to get Prof. Oba re-appointed to that position.

It is obvious that there is a deliberate, dodgy tradition by Abdulrazaq to always heap all the problems bedeviling his administration on Saraki who left Kwara government nine and a half years ago. Saraki is said to be the only reason why the present Kwara administration under him could not embark on any tangible project but has only been content with patching roads. What a fallacy! At least, now the fake effect created by the governor carrying back packs, landing in chattered private jet in a company’s airstrip in Lafiagi instead of the airport in Ilorin, sneaking into the state capital or driving bullet-proof Hilux Van to deceive people that he is prudent has worn off.

People have now seen through the inefficiency of a government which promised the people heaven and earth and has been unable to deliver. For the purpose of space, let me use the education sector alone as one example of how Saraki administration brought tremendous progress to Kwara. When Saraki was governor, Kwarans remembered how the education sector underwent holistic reform and how the integrity of public schools were revamped. It was the period when school infrastructure, teachers’ recruitment and pupil/student enrollment present one of the best statistics available in any state in the country. For example, the gross enrollment in primary schools in Kwara State moved from 78 percent in 2006 to 115 percent in 2009, with a gender disparity of less than one percent. Also, Gross Completion Rate pushed up from 72 percent in 2006 to 95 percent in 2009 while the transition from junior to Senior Secondary School was raised from 78 percent in 2006 to 81 percent in 2009, with a disparity of five percent.

The same administration embarked on massive construction and renovation of classrooms which reduced pupil-class ratio in the state from 51: 1 to 34 : 1 in 2009 for primary schools and kept at 42 : 1 and 35 : 1 for junior and senior secondary schools respectively. The Book Revolving Initiative for Schools (BREINS) introduced in 2005 ensured access to textbooks for all junior and senior secondary school students and made sure that by 2009, textbook ratio to pupils in primary schools moved from 4 : 1 to 1 : 1. Also, teachers were not only trained with the formation of State Schools Improvement Team (SSIT), but qualified teacher to pupils ratio in primary schools had by 2009 become 13 : 1 for primary, 19 : 1 for junior secondary and 16 : 1 for senior secondary schools.

This same Saraki administration established the Kwara State University which is one of the defining landmark institutions of today’s Kwara State.

Compare this achievement in the education system under Saraki to the monumental fraud going on under the present administration. This is a government that renovated buildings in Government High School, Adeta, in Ilorin, for N362 million only for the fence of the renovated school to give way a few days after the completion of the work. About the same time, this prodigal government spent the huge amount to renovate existing school buildings, another more frugal administration in Borno State built a mega school from the scratch at N400 million. Still on school renovation, this government should tell the whole world what it renovated in Ilorin Grammar School where it spent N220 million and Patigi Secondary School where it wasted N150 million. That is how the so-called UBEC money which Mr. Abdulrazak is gloating about is being spent.

Meanwhile, for record purposes, between 2004, when UBEC was established, and 2011 that Saraki left office, there was no time the government did not access its UBEC Fund. In fact, the numerous revolutionary achievements recorded by the Saraki government in primary and secondary education was made possible with intervention funds from the commission.

Governor Abdulrazaq and his arch-writer, Abdulrazak, better realise that the civil servants know why the Kwara State government has, instead of paying minimum wage as it promised before elections, been engaging in forum shopping in the courts to frustrate the workers from getting their entitlement.

If Abdulrazaq and his hack writers like, let them continue to revel in their obsession and desperate bid to paint Saraki black instead of facing the serious business of providing good governance for the people. Very soon, 2023 will be here. At that time, the farmer who reaped only five tubers of yam from his farm but continued to lie to his neighbours that he got 500 tubers in his barn will eat both his real tubers of yam and the imaginary ones that he has been lying about.

Alabi wrote from Adewole Estate, Ilorin