By NBF News

Ripples and puzzles of Gbemi Saraki's bid
Wednesday, March 3 , 2010


Political scheming, intrigues and maneuvers that have characterized the succession bid among major governorship contenders in Kwara State witnessed an upsurge in recent times. What makes the posturing more intriguing is the scheming among the political associates of Governor Bukola Saraki and those of his father, the godfather of Kwara politics, Dr. Olusola Saraki. For long, the elder Saraki has been a force to reckon with in the political happenings of not only the state, but the nation at large.

Now, it is no longer news in the state that the alleged ambition of daughter of Dr. Olusola Saraki, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, as one of the contenders to the Ahmadu Bello Way seat of government come 2011, is now tearing apart the various interest groups in the state, especially the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration in the state. Even, the struggle for that office, according to sources within the various political circles in the state is causing ripples among the loyalists of the strongman of Kwara politics as they have split into two groups.

Sources said that one of the camps, said to be in favour of the political aspiration of Senator Gbemisola has taken over the control of the 'Great-Hall' of the elder Saraki (also known as Baba Oloye), and the party association house located at Olorunsogo area of the state capital, Ilorin with an erstwhile Chairman of a local government council in the state coordinating the group for the realization of the ambition of the Senator.

As Gbemisola presses forward her ambition, loyalists the governor are said to be pursuing a different agenda. They are now radiating at the Government House Ilorin and strategic points including a privately owned newspaper house with the hope of presenting another candidate that would serve the governor's interest.

The cold war according to sources in the two political camps in the state revealed that it is now forbidden for those said to be sympathetic to the ambition of Senator Gbemisola to get close to any of the government's functions or else they would be embarrassed while those that in control of the Great-Hall and Olorunsogo would not like to be seen in the hall.

Daily Sun investigation revealed that some people within the Senator Gbemisola's camp have resorted to keeping close to the 'Great Hall' where they manage the affairs of the gubernatorial ambition of the senator come 2011 in the state.

Political pundits in the state are of the opinion that it will be improper for Senator Gbemisola Saraki to succeed his brother as the next governor of the state as the family ought to allow other persons also of proven integrity to lead the state come 2011. They say that is the best way to consolidate the dividends of democracy that are already in existence in the state and to enhance the socio-economic growth of the state after the successful completion of the second term of eight years of Governor Saraki in 2011.

Although, there are other contenders in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that have been working underground in order to realize their desired ambition but their political ambition is not as pronounced as that of Senator Gbemisola. She insists she never nursed the idea until some stakeholders came to prevail on her to run.

All said and done, the ambition of many politicians in the state revolves around the supremacy of Gbemisola's father and the godfather of the state politics, Dr. Olusola Saraki. Among such contenders is said to be the current commissioner for Economic Development, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, the Senator representing Kwara North Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Senator Ahmed Ahmed, the member representing, Edu/Pategi/ Moro Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Hamman Pategi, the current Minister of Transport, Alhaji Issa Bio Ibrahim. Another contender who was said to have been encouraged by Governor Saraki after dropping Abdulfatah is the present Commissioner for Finance, Alhaji Abdulrasaq Atunwa as well as a serving Chairman from one of the Local Councils in the Emirate.

Some political observers have noted that 'the choice of candidate that would succeed Governor Saraki would depend on the zoning system, as the Kwara Central Senatorial District in the state has produced two executive governors consecutively, namely, the incumbent, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his predecessor, late Governor Muhammed Alabi Lawal. Late Lawal ruled the state between 1999 and 2003 while the incumbent governor; Dr. Saraki took over the state from him since 2003 till date. And by the time he completes his term in year 2011, he would have spent eight years as governor of the state.

Other senatorial districts in the state have yet to test the plumb position in the state and this has continued to give the people of the two districts concerned. They believe that giving them the chance to produce the governor in the next political dispensation would reduce the perceived marginalization of the two zones in the state.

Reading the lips of Oloye
It would be recalled that, last year when the struggle for the succession bid ahead of 2011 began in the state, the strongman of Kwara politics, Dr. Olusola Saraki told newsmen in an interview that 'God will guide him to pick the person that would continue with the good work of his son, Dr. Bukola Saraki in 2011'.

At a political gathering then, he said that the person would be named after his return from the lesser hajj – Umrah. During the said period, various contenders and other political leaders in the state migrated with the strongman of the state politics to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where they jointly organized special prayers for God to give their leader, Dr. Saraki wisdom to pick the person of proven integrity that would take over as the next governor of the state in 2011.

However, after his return from that journey, there was disquiet in the state as there was no announcement of any candidate until the Ileya period, when the Wazirin Garin told newsmen that the governor would have serious input on the candidate that would emerge for the governorship position of the state. He said he has given the governor till April 2010 to give him the candidate that would succeed him come 2011.

As the people of the state awaited the announcement of the choice candidate from Baba Oloye, the 47th birthday of Governor Saraki in December last year appeared to have offered the best opportunity to zero in on a successor. But then, the ambition of Senator Gbemisola Saraki as Sani Sheu, the cleric at the birthday ceremony advised against the emergence of any of the Saraki family as next governor of the state, come 2011 in the state.

The mammoth crowd that had who is who in the state in attendance, including the Chief Imam of Ilorin, Sheikh Muhammad Bashir, the state Deputy Governor, Chief Joel Ogundeji, state chairman of PDP, Alhaji Yusuf Aiyedun, members of the National Assembly, state executives and PDP supporters among others, the sermoner, Alhaji  Sanu  Sheu said that it will be immoral for the Saraki family to present another member of the family for the governorship position of the state in the next political dispensation.

He added that the governor and the former Senate leader should look towards other parts of the state and pick the candidate that is of proven integrity to lead the state in order to continue with the good work of the present administration.

Sheikh Sheu explained that by 2011, 'Governor Saraki should have spent eight years as the governor of the state while her sister, Senator Gbemisola Saraki is spending third term in the National Assembly as she has spent two terms of eight years in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, a term'.

Apart from this, members of the Kwara state branch of the Supreme Council for Shariah recently in Ilorin also warned against allowing woman governor in the state in 2011.

A statement issued by the group signed by its state coordinator, Alhaji Tijani Edun said that such attempt was against the principle of Islamic law as it forbids female leadership in Islam because Ilorin is a Muslim state.

According to the statement, 'we as the members of the Supreme Council for Shariah are not politicians and are not working for the female rivals but making efforts to guide Muslims, including politicians and check what is against the wish of Allah and this remains our priority'

They added that an attempt for the power that be in the state to install woman governor come 2011 would serve a bad precedent because allowing woman governor where more than 80 per cent are Muslims would spell a doom for the state and is even not good for the Alimi dynasty.

They also planned for a prayer session that would prevent a woman governor from emerging.

As this counter move against Senator Gbemisola to vie for the governorship position rages on in the state, the woman was said not to be disturbed as sources close to her political camp in the state confided in Daily Sun that the woman was said to have formed campaign committees in the state towards realizing her ambition.

Before now, the Senator was said to have paid a visit to those that matter in the state before embarking on holy pilgrimage to Mecca last year where she solicited the support of these people for her ambition. Sources revealed that her perceived loyalists were usually dealt with or removed from positions.

Also, during the just concluded holy pilgrimage to Mecca, the Senator was alleged to have sponsored over 1000 people to the holy land in order to pray for her while her empowerment programme was not left out as many people have benefited from different schemes as part of her political strategy to woo more people to her side while intensifying her empowerment programme more than ever before towards achieving her political ambition come 2011 in the state.

Apart from this, one of the political backers of Senator Gbemisola Saraki, Alhaji Amosa Jida recently called for the support of the people of the state for the aspiration of the female Senator come 2011 in the state.

Jida, who is a PDP leader in Baboko Ward in Ilorin West Local Government Council in the state, added that the choice of Senator Gbemisola Saraki was divine and advised the people of the state to support 'God's project' in order to move the state forward.

But, his view was countered by other leaders of the PDP in the local government who dissociated themselves from Jida's view as they claimed that there was never a time the people of Baboko ward discussed that they have adopted the Senator as the candidate of the PDP in the next governorship elections in the state.

Nonetheless, the recent visit of the Senator to the state caused a lot of ripples among the leadership of the PDP as her return met a rousing welcome at the Ilorin International Airport. From the airport, she proceeded to the popular Ile-Loke, GRA residence of the Waziri of Ilorin.

The development, Daily Sun investigation revealed, jolted the leadership of PDP in the state as the rumour had it that Senator Gbemisola has been picked by the Strongman of Kwara politics. the speculations led to a lot of crises in the political circles in the state.

The rumours had it that the senator was allegedly adopted by the Waziri of Ilorin as the candidate of the ruling PDP in the state come 2011 elections. The development however appeared to have thrown a spanner into the wheel of the earlier mandate that the Second Republic Senate leader gave to Governor Saraki to give him the person that would succeed him, come 2011 in the state.

It was at this point that an emergency state working committee meeting of the PDP was convened with the state governor, Dr. Saraki and other top leaders of the party in attendance.

The meeting, which was held behind closed door at the State Secretariat of the PDP along Nupe road, GRA, Ilorin deliberated extensively, according to the sources close to the party, on the alleged adoption of Senator Gbemisola as the candidate of the party come 2011 in the state.

The state chairman of the party, Alhaji Yusuf Aiyedun, who briefed newsmen after the meeting said 'the leadership of the party in the state was yet to adopt any candidate for the 2011 elections in the state and therefore nobody should stop parading himself or herself as the candidate of the party in the state'.

He said that the order of ban on political campaigns across the state was still in force and warned that the leadership of the party would not hesitate to sanction any erring members of the party that violates the order.

Aiyedun added that it was high time members of the party stopped carrying rumours across the state to the effect that the party has adopted its governorship candidate for the 2011 elections in the state. He warned the rumour mongers to watch their utterances and stop spreading false rumours as the consequences of such would be total dismissal from the party.

The chairman stated further that what was important was how the present administration would continue to provide dividends of democracy to the doorsteps of the populace and not to embark on anything that would distract its attention. He therefore called on members of the party to go back to their various wards in the state and mobilize for the next elections in order for the party to continue to lead the state.

However, Daily Sun gathered from a source close to the Constituency office of Senator Gbemisola that she has written a letter to the powers that be in the state including the state governor of dissociating herself from the said political ambition. Part of the letter read thus: 'The Constituency office of Senator Gbemi Saraki wishes to categorically state that the Distinguished Senator has never, be it in public or private, declared her interest in the 2011 gubernatorial race, even though it is her constitutional right.

'All we know and were told is that she currently has a mandate, which is to represent the good people of Kwara Central, and the essence of representation is being close to the grassroots and giving people the feedback of her effective representation of the Kwara central senatorial district.

'The  last Constituency visit, embarked upon was to meet her constituents,  which always  afforded her the opportunity to inspect and inaugurate projects she personally funded as a means of bringing democratic dividends  to her immediate constituents and further complement the good work of Governor Bukola Saraki towards the social and economic emancipation of Kwara State,' the letter further pointed out.

Despite such denials, pundits believe the current cold-war, intrigues, scheming and maneuvering among the political associates of the power that be in the state over the succession bid ahead of 2011 is something that should quickly be nipped in the bud in order to cement the current peace in the state as events of the dark days of 2003 in the state are still ringing in the memory of residents of the state. And whatever is the political situation in the state ahead of 2011 elections in the state, the emergence of a new governor for the state come 2011 will still revolve around the 'School of Politics' of Dr. Olusola Saraki hence, the imbroglio among the groups and associates over the succession bid would come to past in due course.