For more than 40 years, the Saraki political dynasty controlled the political landscape of Kwara State, producing leaders who have governed ward, local and state governments. BIOLA AZEEZ writes on the likely political prospect of the dynasty after its candidates were all defeated in the last general election.
The Saraki political structure in Kwara State, which was started by the late iconic politician, Dr Olusola Saraki, has its strength in the ardent following and charismatic disposition of the late politician which attracted many people in the state and even from outside.
However, the entry of the late Saraki into the political arena of the state did not start on a rosy ride as he suffered early defeat. He later came back to the scene to ensure an effective delivery of his campaign programmes and eventual victory.
Stories were told of how Baba Oloye, as he was fondly called by his supporters and admirers, made astute and successful politicians out of many people that had never thought they could be that transformed in life, just as his philanthropic efforts galvanised the political structure to win many elections in the state for many years.
With the death of Dr Olusola Saraki in 2012, the baton of leadership fell on the scion of the Saraki political structure, Dr Bukola Saraki, who is currently the Senate President. Saraki, who had actually assumed leadership of the political structure, especially at the end of his two-term tenure as governor of Kwara State in 2011, successfully installed his former Commissioner for Finance, Abdulfatah Ahmed, from Kwara South Senatorial District, as his successor in office, while he moved up to become a senator, representing Kwara Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly.
With the expiration of the two-term tenure of Abdulfatah Ahmed come May 29, the race to sustain the hold on the political leadership in the state suffered a fatal blow as the Saraki political structure did not only lose the governorship election, the leader of the structure also lost in his bid to return to the Senate, while all other members of the structure in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who contested in the last general election were also defeated.
Though not the main thrust of this discourse, lessons from the total loss in the last elections have been discussed at many fora, while those that should learn from the experience have been able to chart way forward for future prospects. However, the raging question is, ‘What is next after Saraki?
The question became pertinent in view of the expectations after the defeat of the long-reigned political dynasty, likely events that would shape very near political future of the state, the likely or unlikely comeback of the Saraki political structure into political reckoning and the probable form that a return to power and dominance would take.
Political analysts believe that for the incoming government in the state to endear itself to the people, it has a duty and obligation to deliver dividends of democracy, even beyond the people’s expectations. Many also believe that the state would be better off if this was done.
The campaigns and elections are over and the people are eagerly looking up to the incoming administration to fulfill the promises it made during the electioneering. To a large extent, the incoming party is not oblivious of the people’s expectations, as the state chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bashir Bolarinwa, said the party is aware of the high expectations of the public.
Speaking at a recent get-together held in Ilorin to commemorate the party’s victory in the recent general election, the Kwara APC chairman said everything would be done to justify the people’s confidence in the party and all its elected representatives, including the governor-elect and other lawmakers-elect.
Surely, the outgoing Senate President and the leader of the Saraki political dynasty, Senator Saraki, remains the leader of the Saraki political structure. However, pundits are of the opinion that to bounce back, the dynasty and its leaders and followers should begin to address such issues that resulted in the purported protest votes against the structure in the last general election.
According to a social critic in the state who is also the president, Afonja Descendants Union, Alhaji Olola Kasumu, bad following was part of dark sides of the dynasty.
“Saraki is the leader, yes we know. However, these people just left Bukola Saraki to think for them all the time. To me, I think effective following is all about following tenets, rules and regulations of a group with responsible suggestions, ideas and pieces of advice. Unfortunately, I won’t know if this action was taken by the followers. I believe effective following involves thinking right and making your stand firm and convincing to your fellow followers and the leader,” he said.
The social critic said he deduced from voices of the people in the state that many lieutenants of Senator Saraki took deliverables from the political structure but failed to deliver to the people in the grassroots.
On his views on the future of the Saraki political structure, Alhaji Kasumu rhetorically asked: “Who said it is the end? The father of the incoming governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, who is the first lawyer from the northern region of the country contested in election before, he didn’t win. An older brother of the incoming governor also contested to be governor before, he couldn’t clinch victory. The father is now coming back to reckoning through his son. Who said it was the end then?
“The late Saraki contested and lost when he first entered Kwara politics. He had to comeback into politics, fully restrategised and started winning. So, I believe if Bukola Saraki has good plan for Kwara State and Nigeria, it’s not the end. He must replan and capture Kwara back,” he said.
In the views of a group of loyalists of Senator Saraki in the Ilorin Emirate, under the aegis of Concerned Stalwarts of Kwara PDP, the whole experience could be summed up as, ‘after the storm comes rain’.
The group, which prides itself on having such membership as PDP ward and local government chairmen and secretaries as well as youth leaders in all the five local government areas in the Ilorin Emirate, also has Alhaji Abdulkadir Oba Ajara, Alhaji Hassan Atanda Zoroh, Alhaji Nurudeen Gasali Alaaya, Alhaji Saadu Agaka, Alhaji Saad Ajelanwa, Alhaji Amasa Okolo, Engineer Obashola Alabi, Alhaji Musa Ayelabegan Hajia Nimota Oba Wankasi-Suleiman, and Alhaji Sule Maja, among others, as members.
According to the leader and secretary of the group, Alhaji Oba Ajara and Alhaji Nurudeen Alaaya, respectively, the party survived the storm it went through during the last electioneering campaign, and that the people are now experiencing rain of blessings in the fact that the state in particular and Nigeria as a whole still remain an indivisible corporate entity “because God did not allow evil machination of the latter-day desperate politicians whose stock-in-trade has been to forcefully grab power by all means in a manner reminiscent of a coup d’état.”
“Every disappointment, they say, is a blessing. The last election disappointment is also a blessing in disguise for Saraki and all of us PDP stalwarts in Kwara State. Sooner than later, we will bounce back. We have completed the circle of 2019 elections, barring court and tribunal litigations by aggrieved contestants in the polls. What we are left with now is appraising the whole exercise, appreciating the heroes of democracy who stood firmly against political oppression and daylight robbery, through demonstration of practical political maturity after the exercise.
“Among the heroes of our modem day democracy is no other than the outgoing Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki. But for his checkmating acumen of the militarised government from 2015, Nigeria would have wallowed in a quagmire of another full blown military government. He remains the hero of democracy because of his understanding of democratic tenets and norm, having come from a rich political family background, graduating to being a state chief executive for eight years, then to being a senator for eight years, attaining the Senate’s zenith height as the Senate President and custodian of the two National Assembly chambers, as well as installing many people in elective and appointive political positions and empowering many others. He remains unperturbed about the outcome of his senatorial and state election, seeing it as an act of God.
“Kwara State today remains a role model state in political maturity by the niche carved for it by the rare leadership qualities and virtues of this great politician and democrat that is peerless. After all, he (Saraki) is today the political mentor and benefactor of the sitting president with his Midas touch on the electoral success achieved in 2015 by the man who attempted the presidency four times before Providence, majorly from Saraki, smiled on him. Were any lesser and desperate politician to find himself in the political situation Saraki found himself, the state would have been set on fire,” the group said.
Speaking further on what’s next after the defeat of Saraki political dynasty in the last elections, Alhaji Oba Ajara said the next line of action would be to restrategize.
“We’ll go back to the drawing board and reorganise ourselves since we now know the true members of the fold. We’ll surely bounce back, very strongly,” he said.
Alhaji Ajara, who said the peaceful nature of PDP members after the elections did not mean that they are happy with the outcome, added that Senator Saraki actually directed them to be peaceful and take the matter as the wish of God.
“Dr Bukola Saraki is actually the architect of that action. That is his instruction to us. He abhors violence. So, we abide by his directive unlike happenings in some neighbouring states in the South-West, North and even South-South. There was nowhere that election results were peacefully accepted like here.
“We believe it’s a temporary setback. Those who are behind the deeds are now regretting. Majority of them are regretting their actions. They completely lost their sense of reasoning. Why? We don’t know. According to them, they don’t want to hear anything Saraki again, forgetting that he’s an institution; he can’t be uprooted. It’s like uprooting likes of Pa Awolowo, Dr Azikiwe, or Sardauna in the nation’s politics. It’s impossible. I know it’s a temporary setback which every human can be subjected to,” he said.
The state chairman of the African People’s Alliance (APA), Comrade Ibrahim Mabolaje, in his view about what is next after the defeat of Saraki in the last elections, he said the happening means a lot to all politicians, adding that the election was not the end of the game.
“We have seen Saraki and what God has made him to impact on the state and Nigeria. Same can’t be said of the incoming government yet, since we don’t know what they have in their kitty. Let’s see what will happen first and then we will determine the future of election in the state. It is not the end of election for Saraki. It is certainly not the end of the road. Let’s see what the incoming APC government will do,” he said.