The peculiar absurdities of Kwara politics

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THIS week the Kwara State House of Assembly held a public sitting on a proposal to re-name the four-year old Kwara State University, after late Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, the politician that bestrode the state’s political terrain like a colossus for over three decades.

By the end, Saraki (father) literally willed the state, almost like a feudal fief, to son Bukola, former governor and now senator representing Kwara Central. The decision to re-name the university was proposed by the governing Council, headed by Muhammed Sha’aba Lafiagi, former governor and Senator, and long-term Saraki acolyte.

But in that matter, Bukola had cast a long shadow, because he has perfected the use of sidekicks to introduce laws meant to satisfy his personal preferences.  He did that when he rammed through the supine Kwara House of Assembly, a pension package just for his own creature comfort, at the end of his eight-year tenure as governor.

The controversy generated by the re-naming proposal had been muted (because of the prevailing atmosphere of oppressive silence and fear in Kwara!), but it came to the fore at the public sitting in Ilorin.

Leading lights of the political opposition in Kwara, like Iyiola Oyedepo (himself a former legislator and lawyer) and state chairman of the CPC, Alhaji Suleiman Buhari, argued against the university re-naming.

Oyedepo for instance reminded that: “truly, the late Waziri was elected a senator and a senate leader from 1979-83, what landmark development did his leadership at the Senate bring to the state for that period?” From a neutral perspective, let me remind that the late Saraki gave significantly to educational causes around the state over the years of his hegemonic control; but can that be enough reason to name the state university after him?

Besides and unfortunately, those defending the name change did not even posit an edified line to defend their decision. The Tertiary Education Commissioner, Muhammed Lade, canvassed an argument that affronts the human dignityof Kwarans: “if it is possible to rename Kwara state as Olusola Saraki State, I think Baba Saraki deserves it.

All of us sitting here today and those of us not here, Baba has contributed one way or the other to what we are today (SIC)”. These are thoughts befitting of a modern slave not a decent, self-respecting citizen!

In truth, there is a frightening Saraki personality cult, but an even more virulent variant has been deliberately constructed around Bukola Saraki, since his father’s death.

Those who claim him as “leader” have become a mob running riot against whoever disagrees with their “sovereign”. None could dare to think that in eight years of power, Bukola made good in Kwara.

It would have been an expression of gratitude to plough some of his stupendous wealth back to our community by building a private university, named after his father, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki. However, in Bukola’s political nether world, the state must continue to give him and the university name change decision is merely another piece in the jigsaw of political conquest of Kwara by this overly ambitious young man.

The likely scenario is that the “Sarakite” mob will achieve the university re-naming, because Bukola must get whatever he desires from Kwara. That is the written and unwritten rule! But the future is also not too far away, because a re-naming can also be reversed, when freedom finally spreads its wings like a bird over Kwara state!

There has also opened a new front of conflict within the politics of Kwara state as presented in the undeclared war between Bukola Saraki and Prof. Oba Abdulrahim, Chairman of the Federal Character Commission. When Abdulrahim’s tenure came up for renewal, Bukola opposed it, as always, never wanting a citizen of the state, but especially an Ilorin indigene, to be in a prominent position for long. However, a new calculus entered the political equation.

The presidency has become completely exasperated with Bukola’s undisguised opposition. His preferred candidate, former Senator Ahmed Muhammed was rejected and Prof. Oba was re-apointed, to Bukola’s chagrin. He then mobilised the PDP machinery in the state to protest Oba’s re-appointment and he is poised to ambush Prof.Abdulrahim’s clearance in Senate.

But the presidency is also taking the battle to Bukola, with rumoured plans to seize the Kwara PDP machinery from him, while they also want to knock him off the perch of his controversial senate seat. There is disquiet in Bukola Saraki’s camp, even as his sidekicks continue releasing abusive texts and tendentious articles against Professor Oba.

But the most difficult problem that Bukola faces today is the deep anger of the Ilorin elite, organised in the Ilorin Emirate Descendants’ Progressive Union (IEDPU). Bukola had enacted very unpopular land laws, which alienated the rights of Ilorin people from their ancestral land. Not brought up in Ilorin, and never identifying with the community’s history and aspirations, Bukola imposed a blatantly capitalist regime on land, which the people resent and the anger has threatened to boil over, in the past two years.

Things were not helped when he allegedly challenged IEDPU to square up with him on the field if it was contemplating entering politics, during an Umrah pilgrimage. IEDPU’s anger mirrors the increasing frustration of people in Kwara with the arrogance of this young man who deludes himself as “leader”.

The build up of forces, local and national, is increasingly threatening to demystify Bukola Saraki. No longer able to strut the national space as he did under Umaru Yar’adua, when he and his partner, James Ibori, literally ruled the roost, the space of his suzerainty has narrowed to his hegemonic bear-hug on Kwara state. But people are becoming more conscious and the politics of manipulation of poverty to retain control, long his dynasty’s preferred style, is dissembling.

Our pretentious emperor is being found out to be naked! Bukola Saraki has a loyal mob around him that continues to shout to the roof top that he is “leader” and they are willing to forcefully coral others to join their hysteria, but deep down, the young man knows that he faces the political battle of his life in the coming months and years.

So when all is said and done, Bukola Saraki should take of his stupendous riches, show gratitude to a state he has taken so much from (and continues to take, with the juicy pension package), to build a private university, then express a son’s love for his father, by naming the university after the late Dr. Olusola Saraki; they should leave the state-owned university alone.

Northern teachers and the incubation of illiteracy

LAST week, the DG of the National Teachers Institute (NTI), Kaduna, Dr. AminuLadan Sharehu noted that less than 20 percent of teachers in the North are qualified to teach. He attributed this to a lack of motivation. “You need to train and re-train teachers because NCE is just a starting point”.

Similarly, Kaduna governor, Muktar Ramalan Yero, also pointed out that “only 50 percent of teachers on the government’s payroll are qualified to teach”. Dr. Sharehu argued that: “there is need for an increase in teachers’ salary, continuous increase in their remuneration to make them better”.

Beyond remuneration, which is absolutely vital, the basic qualification to impart knowledge is woefully inadequate. If 80 percent of our teachers are unqualified, then a lot is wrong!

The depressing statistics emerged when over 10 million children are out of school; the largest population of out-of-school kids on earth. And to underline the poignancy of the situation, the Boko Haram insurgency has increasingly targeted school infrastructure; killed students and teachers thus further threatening enrolment in societies where there is an extant problem with schooling. There is no alternative to opening up opportunities to enroll millions of children in schools all over Northern Nigeria.

This is simply because an illiterate people cannot be part of modernity; and as things stand today, we are generations removed from advancements made in the south of Nigeria. Our ruling elite must make a revolutionary leap for education and decisively defeat the pull of misplaced tradition.

Islam must no longer be excuse for refusal to go to school, because the religion valorises learning and knowledge; there is a well-known Hadith where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), said the ink of scholars is superior to the blood of martyrs!

That emphasises the superiority of knowledge and it is remarkable that in the Seventh Century, our Prophet encouraged Muslims to search for knowledge, even if it was in China!

There is an example closer to home. Growing up in the Nineteen Sixties, there was as much suspicion of Western education but  perhaps because of proximity to Western Nigeria, there was a spike in enrolment in schools in the Ilorin Emirate. We went to Western schools but at the same time, didn’t abandon Islamic learning. It was a combination that makes it almost impossible to find a person of my generation in Ilorin who has completed Western education and has also not mastered the Qur’an.

It worked well both ways for us and we have made the best of both worlds. We were also lucky that the Northern Regional government of the Sardauna, put in place a fabulous educational infrastructure as well as an incentive package: we had a school meal each day; were supplied milk and wheat meal to supplement the inadequate diets in poor families; were taught using the educational resources of Radio Nigeria through rediffusion boxes and had well-trained and motivated teachers who kept up a high standard and tickled our search for knowledge.

This is the tradition that has gradually eroded. School infrastructure has deteriorated and for example, only four schools were rehabilitated in Kwara between 2003 and 2011.

All over the North we continue to grapple with an education crisis; that young people who manage to go through the hardship associated with learning today, end up without decent jobs, has further dampened the enthusiasm for education. Yet, it is the basic prerequisite for advancement in the knowledge-driven world of the 21st Century. We need qualified teachers so as not to continue incubating illiteracy; ignorance; anger and the associated violence.


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