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The ‘O to ge’ mantra and the collapse of Saraki’s political dynasty

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Wole Adedeji

The term ‘O to ge e’ (enough is enough) was first used by Alhaji Latifu Jimoh, popularly called ‘LAK’ of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, against Dr. Bukola Saraki in his days in the All Progressives Congress, APC. The occasion was when PDP, under the chairmanship of Chief Iyiola Oyedepo, gathered party members together in his office at Flower Garden area, GRA, Ilorin to sensitise them on the need to strengthen the age long agitation against the continuous domination of the state by the Saraki family.

On the occasion, LAK, an old politician, who was one of the allies of the Sarakis since 1964 and the one used by the old Saraki, as the spoiler to checkmate Governor Adamu Atta in the Second Republic, went down memory lane. He chronicled every stage of how the late Dr. Olusola Saraki, the Turakin Ilorin and later Wazirin Ilorin, turned Kwara to his personal political estate. Jimoh, who is from the popular Gambari Ward of Ilorin, was punctuating his submissions with the phrase ‘O to ge e’. He reminisced on the position and developmental strides of old Ilorin Province, now Kwara State in the Northern Region.

According to him, things started degenerating in 1979, when Saraki with his wealth took over the political leadership of the old Kwara State, consisting of some parts of the present Kogi and Niger states. At this time, he won a seat in the Senate and became the Senate Leader. He was also one of the leaders of the then ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN.

Saraki will forever be remembered for his heart of kindness and generosity, which endeared him to a people, who have a culture of receiving. It would, therefore, be difficult for anybody to want to point to his bad side to the people. With this, Saraki administered the political fortunes of the state for more than four decades before passing the baton to his son and heir, Bukola Saraki. Before his death, the senior Saraki was once quoted to have said that his only industry was the state of Kwara. The son was also rumoured to have said Kwara State was his inheritance.

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Dr. Olusola Saraki, as the godfather of Kwara politics, had a record of dishing out political offices to cronies and supporters, ranging from councillorship to council chairmen, commissioners, ministers and governors. He also made board chairmen and board members both at the federal and state levels.

However, one thing was certain all through his adventure in the business; he and his godsons would always fall apart and most of the time, after a very bitter fight. The list included the late Governor Adamu Attah, Shaaba Lafiagi (though the two later reconciled) and the late Governor Mohammed Lawal. The story of the feud Saraki had with Attah and Lawal could not be easily forgotten. The slang ‘Mi fun e ni’ (I give you) in the camp of the Sarakis was meant to remind anyone, who got government appointment that such gesture was given to them and can be retrieved anytime.

But, overtime, it became an insult to the people. The rebellion began to increase over the years and the likes of Iyiola Oyedepo and LAK Jimoh were at the head of the rebellion. Oyedepo, for instance, had published three different books, chronicling the Sarakis’ alleged crude styles to force themselves on the people and tampering with public funds directly or indirectly in the name of governance and phony projects.

Becoming the chairman of PDP consecutively in 2014, 2015 and 2017 provided Oyedepo a good platform to champion a fight for the emancipation of the people and in no time, he was winning followership in large number, irrespective of religion and political affiliations. Oyedepo also engaged in regular radio programmes on many FM channels in the state, where he highlighted the wrongs and evils in the art of governance in the state. With time, people bought into his programmes and many Kwarans were contributing to sponsor the airtime. He had good co-presenters in the persons of Chief Rex Oyawoye, Femi Yusuf, Alhaji Yekeen Alajagusi, Mr. Shaaba Lafiagi and Comrade Musbau Esinrogunjo.

Each time the one-hour programme was on air, the listening audience remained hooked in their thousands. Their programmes turned out to be the strongest weapon used to pull down the political stronghold of Saraki, particularly the Senate President, who was reputed to be too daring and desperately forcing himself on the populace. Oyedepo was also making use of ‘O to ge e’ to emphasise his calls to put an end to what he called a misrule. He was not sparing the governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed.

The ‘O to ge e’ mantra got popular when the state House of Assembly decided to move against any radio station, airing such comment. The state lawmakers, in a manner said to be outside their purview, made a law, mandating the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, NBC, to ban radio stations where the ‘O to ge e’ team was doing its thing. Spokespersons of both the government and the PDP did not help matter. Instead of addressing issues raised by the Oyedepo group, they resorted to attacking personalities and talking out of contexts. Besides, the government was accused of embarking on multi-billion Naira projects that are found to have no bearing on the citizens’ needs. Such projects started from the days of Dr. Saraki, which were transferred to his godson and successor; Abdulfatah Ahmed. The projects never got down well with the people.

Topmost of these projects is the Shonga Farms as well as the International Aviation College, the nine-year-old uncompleted Cargo Terminal building at the Ilorin Airport and several cottage and agro-allied factories, which people said had never come up with any production.

Also, at the time Governor Ahmed began to initiate his own programmes, they were found to be at variance with the need of the people. His programmes simply were following the same pattern of spending huge public funds on what the people described as white elephant projects. The governor came up with projects like the International Vocational Centre, Ajase Ipo in Irepodun Local Government, as against repairing the several old technical colleges scattered all over the state. The schools had for years been in very bad shapes. The vocational college project, which is not better than model secondary schools in some other states with standard building and facilities, took Governor Ahmed almost eight years to complete. Observers say the school lacks well designed curriculum, no clear-cut admission policy, no stable programme to catch up with modern standard and has no staff of repute in particular disciplines. Above all, the fee is astronomical that makes it go beyond the affordability of the ordinary Kwaran. It is about thrice the fee of an average private university.

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If Bukola Saraki was said to have performed below expectation as the state governor, Ahmed, as the current occupier, is believed to have done worse. For seven and a half years, people said he had not commissioned any reasonable project that he started and completed. Rather, the ones he inherited are at various stages of disrepair and collapse. Ahmed is reputed for not paying workers’ salaries, particularly the in the local governments. In one breath, he has the knack for saying council workers were not his responsibility, while at other time, he said he could only pay certain percentages of salaries to them. In just about four months to the end of his eight years tenure, the governor will be remembered for paying between 15 to 70 per cent to workers at will. But, the most unfortunate ones are local government workers and pensioners. In 2017, the National Union of Pensioners, NUP, Kwara State, came up with a data that 1,125 of their members had died in 15 months for lack of money to eat and buy drugs to cater for their medical needs in old age. Some collapsed while waiting for incessant screenings that never produced payment of their entitlements.

When the governor took over, his slogan was ‘zero-pothole’. But, potholes now dotted the state’s landscape. Water supply and medical facilities have gone terribly bad. In 2016, when Governor Ahmed celebrated his fifth year in office, he reportedly bought cars with cash gifts for theatre practitioners, whom he assembled from across the country for the celebration. When asked at a press interaction by journalists why he embarked on such a jamboree, the governor simply said he did so because theatre practitioners were the ones complementing the work of his publicists.

With Governor Ahmed on the saddle, the term ‘O to ge e’ became very apt, as he could largely be blamed for the collapse of the Saraki political dynasty. He was the finance commissioner for Bukola’s government for six years and moved on to man the ministry of economic planning for two years before he took over as governor.

He, in a nutshell, was active in government for sixteen years, and so, cannot excuse himself from any blame of poor governance. He will be adjudged a partaker in all that is good or bad in the process that led to the actualisation of ‘O to ge e’ and the end to Saraki’s dynasty.

The real end

Shooting at the convoy of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, barely 48 hours before last Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly polls was the climax of a renewed violence that suddenly rocked the state in the events that preceded the elections.

The vice president had come to Ilorin for his door-to-door campaign strategy, which he adopted as a campaign strategy for his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari. His plane was planned to land by 10am, but instead, that of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki landed. Prof. Osinbajo’s arrival was delayed by another two hours after Saraki had already mounted his own last minute rally at the Metropolitan Square in the city. It became strange, however, that the vice president’s door-to-door campaigns, which were done in separate strongholds of key politicians and members of the APC could be attacked by gunmen, even with the web of security woven around the number two citizen.

About six people, who sustained gun wounds from Isale Aluko area of Ilorin where the gun attack took place, were being treated in the hospital as at last Friday.

Earlier, when Bukola arrived at the airport, he had shunned compliments paid him by the state Police Commissioner, Kayode Egbetokun, and other security chiefs, who, although they came to await the arrival of the vice president, still felt the senate president, as the number three citizen, deserved honour. The airport drama was the beginning of things to happen.

First, it was the shooting at the vice president’s convoy the very day the Senate President snubbed security chiefs. Secondly, in Ojoku, Oyun Local Government, Lola Ashiru, the APC senatorial candidate was paying homage to the traditional ruler along with his campaign team, when gunmen, who had positioned themselves in a house close to the palace opened fire, killing one person instantly, while seven others received gunshot wounds and are still receiving treatment in a traditional hospital at Erin Ile. Ojoku is the hometown of Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, the candidate of the PDP.

The victim of the shooting has been identified as Samson Adeosun, who came all the way from Ogun State to seek admission into the Federal Polytechnic Offa, for his Higher National Diploma, HND. He was hit by stray bullets and died instantly. According to a source, he was the only child of his parents.

Rafiu Ibrahim is a protégé of Dr. Bukola Saraki. He was anointed by the senate president to run for second term. Since the attack took place in his hometown, he was identified as a prime suspect. He was subsequently arrested along with others and whisked away to the police command headquarters, Ilorin where they were being kept. Senator Ibrahim remained in custody while Saturday’s election took place.

The ugly incident that claimed human life, sources told The Nigerian Xpress, angered Oba Abdulazeez Afolabi and his chiefs, especially realising the repercussion of shooting at, killing and maiming the king’s guests in the palace. A woman in Ojoku, who did not want to be named, said the house where the gunmen operated from was owned by the woman leader of the same party that the Senator belongs.

Egbetokun, who later briefed the press on the incident, lamented the sudden outbreak of deadly attacks in the state, using guns allegedly provided by politicians on innocent citizens barely two days into the election. The commissioner was still battling with the Ojoku attack when gunmen opened fire on the convoy of the vice president.

If the people of Kwara State had cause to be angry with the Senate President, his followers and party before, the shootings and killing on the eve of the election heightened their anger. Indeed, on the day of Osinbajo’s visit, he was booed at the airport by the large crowd that had come to await the vice president’s arrival, with shouts of ‘O to ge e’ and other uncomplimentary remarks.

The worst, however, happened on the day of election when Bukola Saraki, the renowned leader, heir of a political icon, and a national leader of the Peoples Democratic Party was dusted at the poll with a disgraceful result of 60,012 votes, as against Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe’s 123,809 votes. He polled less than 50 per cent of his opponent’s votes.

In addition, all the candidates of his party, who are his political godsons lost woefully. Not a single one was close to making it. The end had really come, the mighty had fallen and an agitation of over 40 years appeared to have come to be.

Meanwhile, the governorship election of March 9, 2019 will finally tell whether it is ‘O to ge e’ or ‘O tun ya’ in Kwara State.