April 12, 2007
4 mins read

The first that I met Bukola Saraki was in June or July 2003, not too long after his election as governor of Kwara State. A meeting had been organized by thr new administration with indigenes of Kwara working within the media in the country to discuss the programme of work of the new government. As part of thet interactive meeting,which went well, because wecaught a glimpse of the working of te mind of the governor, we also travelled in a convoy to a viilage on the outskirts of Illorin to see the launch of the “Back to Land,” agricultural programme of the government.

In November 2003, DAILY TRUST published a front page editorial on the state of the nation,which had been mischievously misinterpreted as a call for a coup d’ etat by some elements in the media in a well orchestrated campaign against our newspaper.At the height of the hysteria, Doctor Bukola Saraki visited Abuja and chose to pay his only visit so far to the houses of Media Trust Limited. He commented about the allegations bundled up against us, and reminded that I was the Editor of the paper and an indigene of the State he governs, he invited me to see him at his logde at Asokoro.

I saw him that night, and against the backdrop of the political crisis that engulfed Kwara State in the last months of the previous Muhammed Lawal Administration, which eventually led to his own entry into politics, I asked Governor Saraki whether he accepted the vicarious responsibility for the emergence of former Governor Muhammed Lawal as candidate of the then APP in 1999, and by extension, if he got to a point in his life when the gloves needed to be off and he obliged to throw the hat into the ring in order to be able to end the nightmare which the state faced especially between 2002 and 2003.

Let me state that I was honestly impressed by the way that he answered all my questions and I noticed also that he had quite an interesting perspective about what he wanted to achieve as governor of Kwara State. He could not talk enough about why he felt that the main route of poverty for Kwara State was to develop its agricultural potentials. Governor Saraki told me that the peasantry –based agriculture must be transformed and a new generation of young farmers needed to be trained in modern methods and agriculture must become a modern economic activity. That was the note on which I left him that night.

Over the years , we have maintained contacts and on anumber of occasions, he  invited me to visit him in Illorin to discuss issues of Nigerian politics, especially as they affected the effort being made to achieve a shift of power to Northern Nigeria.He asked me very frank questions about what I felt were the chances of various individuals in the run up to the heightening of the political stakes over the past one year, Bukola Saraki had gradually made a transition from the tentativeness  that characterized his first political steps under the large shadow cast upon the terrain of politics by his father to become more confident and sure-footed , and already becoming the centrally placed within the dark recesses of the nation’s political intrigues. It seemed to me that Bukola Saraki was confirming to me how the green field of practice teaches people lessons in a very short time than theory could.

Over the past few years, I  have travelled back and forth to Illorin , and noted that he told me over the period that I have had the opportunity to speak with him, he has endeavoured to impact upon the state in his commitment to agriculture, improving the network of roads, attempting to be a catalyst for a private-sector led economic investment climate, putting money in education and health care, amongst others. He instituted a programme of urban cleanliness in the state capital which is a welcome departure from the past. Of course, I have also heard quite a number of complaints about things he did not do; and people have especially complained that majority of jobs that could empower people economically have been given to people from Lagos; those who did not participate in helping to bring Saraki to power but who are his old friends in Lagos and  who do not have any allegiance to Kwara State. It is fair to add that he is perceived to have the violence that characterized the period before he came to power.

There is  gratitude that some notable achievements of a concrete nature were recorded on various fronts, while there is also disappointment that evn more was not achieved given the groundswell of expectations. But we can add that the past four years have proved a very sharp learning curve for the young man who came to power in 2003 and who had to learn very fast that the state that he was elected to govern has a complexity which needed to be navigated with a great amount of wisdom, tact, diplomacy and honesty. How well he has learnt in the school of life that Kwara State is well revealed over this weekend. This is the background which makes the race in Kwara State an intriguing one in manydirections. I also want to point out that the race for Kwara State’s  governorship candidate of the Action Congress, Makanjuola Ajadi, the three main contenders and even some of their running mates have been my friends over the years in the same manner that Governor Bukola Saraki has not spoken with me since Ramadan last year.

Let us begin with Gbenga Olawepo of the DPP; he has been a very close friend  and an ideological soul mate.  I think that he is very passionately committed to his hope that he can be a very good governor of Kwara State. Because he has roots in the radical tradition, his understanding of politics is very profressive.  His running mate, Bashir Muhammed Lawal was my Head of  Administration when I worked as the General Manager of the Kwara State Television Service. He is a deeply religious man and an example of loyalty who never allowed the deterioration of my relationship with his brother, the former Governor Muhammed Lawal , to affect the way that we worked together.

Then ther is Colonel Theophilus Bamigboye of Accord Party; as the military administrator of Bauchi and later of Osun State, we became friends largely because he used to KWTV to show the work he was doing away from home and the official relationship evolved into friendship.  I have not seen or heard from him in the past five years or so, and I was surprised that he chose Engineer Idris Gana Umar, former SSG as his running mate; this is because Gana was my Director of Engineering Services when I headed KWTV. The last but not least is Khalil Bolaji nof the ANPP, who was a commissioner for water resources in the state when I was also working in government. We also became friends.  This is the reason why I am caught in a sense, given that from Governor Bukola Saraki to his main challengers, I have built friendship over the years.

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