Kawu Modibo’s usual attacks on the Saraki family, particularly Bukola Saraki, the enigmatic Nigerian Senate President, is not just a past time but actually, an occupation pursued with uncanny passion. A media man of repute, Lanre Kawu ( as he then was) often leverages on the abundant press space available to him in his harangue of the person of the former Kwara governor and all he stands for. This Kawu often does, unmindful of his own reputation, in repeating worn-out allegations which have seen the best of their days, but unsuccessfully, with both the EFCC and the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
One could easily have dismissed his latest tirades titled *”Final meltdown for the Saraki hegemony*” as one of such envy inspired diatribe for which he seeks relevance in his local Kwara politics, even with unverified outlandish figures of releases from the federation account, as if the parameters for revenue allocation to Kwara is different from the rest of the federating states. This time around, he ventured into national politics, perhaps oblivious of the current political status and stature of his object of attacks, beyond local Kwara political squabbles.
How could Kawu expect Nigerians to take him seriously when he claimed that Saraki’s return to Senate in 2015 was a benefit from Buhari. The question is when did Buhari ever win any election in Kwara state, particularly in his previous three consecutive presidential contests in 2003, 2007 and 2011, until his political partnership with the Sarakis in 2015.
Besides, Kawu should have sought other means of ingratiating himself to President Buhari rather than claiming that Saraki’s acts, as the head of the Nigerian parliament, were responsible for the president’s lacklustre performance. For the information and education of Kawu and his cohorts, if anything qualifies Bukola Saraki as the hero of Nigerian democracy, since Buhari’s presidency, it is his unmatched capacity to steer the ship of the National Assembly, in a way that he and his colleagues wittingly weaned our democracy from the dictatorship of the president. Not only can these salutary endeavours be diminished by the whims of anyone, they have certainly taken Bukola Saraki far away from the local Kwara boy of Kawu’s fixated perception.
The much fuss by Kawu about the loss at an election could only diminish his learning and understanding of democracy, its precepts and workings. While he admitted that the Saraki political group, which has become an institution or hegemony, as he would love it referenced, has dominated Kwara politics for upwards of four decades, one begins to wonder the big deal in the group’s performance, however low, in the current elections.
Certainly, the problem is not of he who lost an election but of a so-called political or educated elite, so psychologically transfixed, in the assumptions that Saraki family or Bukola or anyone for that matter, could never have lost an election. The reality of the electoral process, even in advanced democracies is that, no matter the performance of politicians or political parties, the people often want to try other hands. That is the philosophy behind fixing terminal or tenure ends, with no respect for performance ratings which are often based on subjective political indices.
This is the rationale behind the O TO GE (Enough is Enough) message as the dominant campaign mantra in the current electioneering process in Kwara. It is not a political death sentence, but of the need to try other hands in the process of development. This is the inalienable right of the people in any democracy. It is instructive that Saraki has demonstrated statesmanship in his reaction to the electoral events, while those who should devote their time and energy to their vision in the daunting task of governance, are rather preoccupied with obsequious analysis.
In trying to impress some powers and justify his new self-discovery, even beyond his petty political squabbles with his imaginary Saraki foes, Modibo’s piece is, clandestinely, laced with ethnic cards. It is evident in his patronizing references to “our people” and “our state” which pervades his diatribe, that he reckoned not with some ethnic groups in the state, particularly the Yoruba majority. This observation is strengthened by my personal interaction with Kawu with relation to his perceptions of Kwara politics and its complex ethnic relationships, which the Saraki group has long managed with almost magical dexterity.
For instance, Kawu’s reference to traditional rulers was only to emirs and never a mention of Obas, whose Yoruba people are the indisputable majority, or the rulers of other tribes like Nupe and Baruba, as if Kwara is a typical northwestern state. In the same vein, he would have wished that the constitution of Nigeria be amended so that Kwara Central Senatorial District be reflected as Ilorin Emirate. No wonder, part of Saraki’s offences, according to Kawu, was also that one or two of his aides or a personal assistant of a minister from his camp are allegedly persons from a neighbouring Yoruba state. It would have been permissible if such persons have been from some foreign land even if Mali or Chad.
While revelling in what he saw as political revolution in Kwara, he mischievously and deliberately avoided the O TO GE message of the revolution because of his repulsion for the language and angst for its Yoruba ethnic nationality. I had engaged Modibo during the 2014 National Conference, of which we were both delegates, on why he changed his name from Olanrewaju, with which he was known back in school and later as a broadcaster. His reply was that he then recently discovered that his parents were Malians or Futa D’jallon migrants to Ilorin. His other weird comments on the history of Ilorin and its ethnic settings are also in tandem with his disdain for the Yoruba and which has since dictated his views. He has forgotten that in Ilorin, the location of one’s father’s house in the family compound also say a lot in how his father came to be a claimant to being a part of the compound. We live the interpretation of this symbolism for Kawu to decide his own place in his family compound. Kawu may only take notice that, in its fullest essence, the ignited O TO GE revolutionary fire will not be limited to democratic politics but will sweep through the land initially created as West Central State, uprooting every hegemony, even those perpetuated by centuries of falsehood.
Neither the Saraki family nor Bukola is infallible as humans, in the same way there will never be a public administrator immune to criticism. I have only viewed the Sarakis from the distance and only more closely observed Bukola recently with my involvement in the Atiku campaigns. All over the country, he not only added value to the campaigns, which he led as Director General, he also came up as the hero of the people.
In the South West states, for instance, the crowd would teasingly insist on his addressing them in the Yoruba language, which he did admirably. In other parts of the country as well, he was applauded. He exudes humility and was warmly received, contrary to the image of a man seeking obeisance from people as he is being mischievously presented by Kawu. Yet in his mutually contradictory opinion, which smacks of untold vendetta, part of Sarakis’ offences, according to Kawu, was the success of the family even when they have no royal blood in their veins.
The Saraki family and its political machine are a case study, not only in Kwara but, in the politics of Nigeria. Abubakar Olusola Saraki was Senate Majority Leader during Shagari’s presidency of the Second Republic. Not much was known of him in the First Republic and the military politics thereafter but during Babangida’s Third Republic, he contested in the presidential primary of the SDP before he and the likes of Shehu Ya’ardua, Olu Falae etc were by banned by Babangida. I was then the Chairman of the old Ilaje-Ese Odo Local Government of Ondo State, having been elected also on the platform of the SDP, after just barely leaving the NYSC.
Notwithstanding his fortunes at the national level, Dr. Olusola Saraki, from his entry in the Second Republic, has enacted a regime as king maker in Kwara, from Adamu Attah of the same NPN, Cornelius Adebayo of the rival UPN and every elected governor up to his son, Bukola, who not only became governor of Kwara State and successfully took over as kingmaker, but has surpassed his father to occupy the constitutional number three position but, de facto, the second most powerful position in Nigeria, after the president. Without prejudice to the achievements of his predecessors, Bukola Saraki’s Senate Presidency has been the most eventful but challenging in the face of the gang-up of the President and his party against him. Where others, older and apparently more politically suave, have bitten the dust, slipping by stepping on the proverbial banana peels on the red rug of the Senate chamber, Bukola has taken the challenges in his strides, giving stunning leadership for his colleagues who, across party divides, have shielded and made him impregnable by the Aso Rock hawks.
In the final analysis, it seems rather gullible to pronounce a man, still in his middle age, politically dead and embark on singing his nunc dimitis over a momentary electoral hiccups, at a time his star is just illuminating the national political firmament. Their beclouding venom could not allow realistic reasoning that Saraki’s commitment to his PDP nationwide campaigns assignments could have taken its toil on his concentration on the home front political activities.
For Kawu and his ilks, it is far very easy to write and denounce political actors, from a comfort corner, especially by those who have never tested and indeed afraid to try their own popularity in elections. One can therefore only advise those who presently feel invested with the people’s mandate to be focused on making a difference and shun the distractions from unhelpful vengeance seekers.
Those who deceived the people with the change slogan at the federal level in 2015, have soon now resorted to different shenanigans and trying to twist the verdict of the people just delivered against their patriarch. Let them not sing uhuru too early.
Ebiseni, lawyer and former Commissioner in Ondo State, is a member of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council.