Ending Saraki`s Grip of Kwara: Rhetoric's Apart
Since news filtered into the Nigeria's political space that the undisputable czar of Kwara politics, Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki, has endorsed his daughter, Rukayyat Gbemisola, a serving Senator, to take over from his son, Abubakar Bukola, himself vying for presidency, as the governor of Kwara state come 2011, analysts and commentators have been having a field day discussing the topic. Respectable columnists like Simon Kolawole and Eddy Odivwri of Thisday; Olatunji Dare, Mobolaji Sanusi and Gbenga Omotosho of The Nation, have all commented, even if passing, on the development. And I expect virtually all Nigerian columnists and public affairs commentators to lend their voice to the issue in the coming days or weeks.
Beyond discussing the topic with friends and colleagues, I have uncharacteristically decided to refrain from writing on it. But reading in BusinessDay newspaper of September 29, 2010 , the contribution of Mr Ademola Adedoyin, a visiting member of the paper's editorial board, to the subject, I decided to jettison my siddon look disposition to the issue.
Adedoyin, a Kwaran like me and Simon Kolawole, subtly expressed his reservation over Eddy's dismissal of Kwarans as people that have 'submitted their brains and beings to a political dynasty'. Adedoyin went on to lament the current situation and seemed to believe in the mounting opposition of Kwara as capable of wrestling power from the ile-l'oke landlord.
As a Kwaran, I have also suffered the ignominy of being called all sorts of unprintable names. In discussions on other topics, especially as they pertain to national politics, I have been asked to shut up my mouth and go fix my 'house' first, as if my vote is enough to dislodge Saraki's hold of Kwara that pre-dated my birth. Such is the level people descend to in discussing Kwara politics.
With Saraki's oracular pronouncement of her daughter as the next occupant of the Ahmadu Bello government house in Ilorin , opposition has been kicking. This time around, the opposition is coming from four directions. One, other parties. Two, opposition within PDP, backed, interestingly, by Saraki's governor son himself. Three, the many anti-Saraki political groups under various nomenclatures. Four, the council of ulamma who believe that it is against Islamic injunction to have a female as the number one citizen of a state that has Muslims as the majority.
Various permutations and strategies are being evolved to put end to the man called Olooye 's grip of Kwara politics, specifically to prevent his latest, and indeed the most daring, attempt to install his daughter as the next governor of Kwara state, failure to achieve which will be seen as the end of his legendary reign as the kingmaker of the state's politics.
With all sense of solidarity to the opposing groups, I honestly do not see Saraki not repeating his 1979, 1983, 1999 and 2003 feats in 2011. Defeating Saraki goes beyond those lunch-time analyses in our various offices and those beautifully analysed strategies in newspaper stands. Not even the various meetings by the almost countless number of anti-Saraki groups in the state appear to have the weight to upturn Saraki's wish. The greatest challenge Saraki may face is not even from the politicians, but from the Islamic clerics in the state. This is so because many of the politicians claiming to oppose Saraki are political featherweights. Muhammed Lawal, a retired admiral of the Nigerian Navy, with money and incumbency factors on his side, was far stronger than the whole opposition today put together, but the Idi-Ape man was not successful.
Religious leaders have some following in the state and some of them have been used as Saraki's tools in the past, but with their house also divided already, we may have to wait till another time - and I hope it's not going to be after the inevitable catches with him - before he can be unseated. Some of the clerics, after all, are issuing their own fatwa that there is nothing wrong, Islamically, in having a female leader.
We can continue to talk and write all the way from Lagos, but the reality remains, until the generation of those old, poor and highly vulnerable Kwarans, mostly women, at home leave the scene, defeating Saraki may continue to be a mirage. A few questions: To those of us in Lagos , when last did we go home? To those at home, how open are our doors to the poor masses? How many of us have voter's cards? How many of us can queue in the sun, like the Saraki women, for hours because of elections? How many of us do they know in our communities, or without asking for too much, in our wards? How respected are we among our folks?
This is by no means an endorsement(oh, that contentious word again) of Saraki's amala and N50 brand of poverty alleviation, which has turned into electoral magic wand for him in the last thirty years at least, but a reminder to our people that winning people's hearts should be practical, rather than some rhetorical lamentations that don't get to the Iya Kabirus of Ile-l'oke, who, unfortunately are the people that constitute the majority of the voters.
With such corrupting absolute power, one can easily situate Saraki's unabashed hand-picking of his daughter, a Senator with no outstanding records in the Senate, as the best person to rule the state in the next four years.
Surely, Saraki's current attempt, like one of the columnists puts it, will not come as a common gift from a loving father to a dear daughter, but if opposition as it is on ground in Kwara today is what is relied on to forestall a Gbemisola governorship, then I'm afraid we may be in for the same old story of 'nearly happened'.
Olusola Saraki has built a deeply rooted, cult-like followership over years. Disentangling the state from his stranglehold will also take years of conscious, calculated political strategy, with reorientation of the poor masses as a basic ingredient. Convincing the present, though ageing generation of Saraki followers, may be an utopian dream, but working on the psyche of the new generation Kwarans, is at least thinkable. Lawal may have failed in 2003, he was already building the kind of structure that would have been useful in the future to demystify the Saraki myth, but with the structure appearing to have died with him, I have yet to see another giant in Kwara that can lead the 'revolution'.
Extricating Kwara from Saraki's clutches, if possible at all, surely goes beyond all these talks and empty rhetorics from opposition and even non-partisan concerned Kwarans. This is no defeatism, but a blunt statement fact. And I will like to be proved wrong.
By Suraj Oyewale Dideolu Estate, Victoria Island , Lagos