By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
I was in Ilorin last weekend, to present a paper at a retreat organised by the Kwara State branch of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Most of my readers might recall that I have been a most scathing critic of Nigeria’s ruling party,over the past fifteen years.
I have always quoted the late Chief Sunday Awoniyi, one of the party’s founders, who on seeing what the party morphed into, in the hands of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, said PDP was a basket of scorpions, with the scorpions stinging themselves to death. Under the PDP’s watch, Nigeria has witnessed some of its worst indices of development and the enthronement of an ethos criminal impunity in political and economic life. So accepting to present the paper would have surprised a lot of my readers.
But all politics is local. In Kwara state today, the greatest threat to our people and state, is Bukola Saraki’s continued hegemony. If we do not vote out Bukola Saraki’s elaborate charade, pretending to be governance, then Kwara is doomed. It is that simple.
So when Bukola left the PDP for the APC, all those in the opposition and genuinely committed to the struggle to liberate our state, moved into the PDP. We can interrogate the content of Nigerian politics and ask the difference between the six of the PDP and the APC’s half a dozen. There is no defining ideological ethos in the nation’s party system.
That was why Bukola Saraki a very reactionary rightwing politician, with consistent anti-people politics and policies, suddenly became beatified as “progressive”, by the APC and its media! The PDP in Kwara, has become a formidable platform to uproot the Bukola Saraki hegemony in 2015.
Most of the Kwara PDP leadership are my friends anyway, so I felt obliged to assist their platform, in order to help create the momentum to sweep away the regime of deceit, heist and mass poverty instituted in Kwara since 2003. Today’s piece, is an edited version of the paper presented last Saturday, in Ilorin.
Let me thank the leadership and members of the Kwara State Branch of the PDP for the invitation to talk at your seminar. Everyone knows the depth of my passion for this remarkable city and our beautiful Kwara state. Here I was born; here I attended primary and secondary schools and it was here, that I cut my teeth as a broadcaster, with Radio Nigeria.
My growth into adulthood; the development of my social and political consciousness are directly related to this city and our state. I grew up in those years we look back upon fondly today, as some of the happiest in the history of our country.
Certainly, the Kwara State of my youth was making a steady transition to modernity, in all spheres of development. It was a state of genuinely talented people, being woven into a multi-ethnic tapestry, that gave us an identity and pride in the possibilities available to us as a state, in a Nigeria, that was also looking forward with optimism, about its potentials.
That was a period of duty to community and pride in intellectual and physical labour for the welfare of our people. This contrasts sharply with what exists today, where state power has systematically been used to transfer public wealth into private pockets, especially since 2003.
The theme of your stakeholders’ summit is: “ A NEW DAWN FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF KWARA”. You asked me to speak on “KWARA’S COMMONWEALTH: THE IMPERATIVE FOR COLLECTIVE LEADERSHIP”. Our people yearn for a new dawn.
They want a new lease of life, away from governance by deceit. They are fed up with Bukola Saraki’s personality cult. He ruled from 2003 to 2011, but continues to dominate political life, deluding himself as ‘political leader’ of Kwara State.
Fundamentally, a new dawn represents the conscious achievement of liberation from a process where state resources feed a personal economic, political and social agenda. Since 2003, practically every project here instituted by public finances, in a most dubious sleight of hand, is said to belong to a “private sector”, not the people of Kwara State!
They range from such utterly irrelevant “flagship” projects like the Tshonga Farm Project; the white elephant Aviation College; Diagnostic Centre; Football Academy and SHOPRITE. WHO IS THE PRIVATE SECTOR OWNING projects built using loans taken in Kwara’s name? A new dawn must lead to RECLAMATION OF OWNERSHIP of EVERY SINGLE project; EVERY government house sold to individuals and cronies in the past eleven years! But does your party possess the vision, the commitment and determination to effect a radical new dawn? Are you ready for the hard work and organisational discipline to mass mobilise the people of Kwara State, to end the elaborate fraud that has masqueraded as governance since 2003?
Tapestry of brotherhood and love
Those who defined Kwara as the STATE OF HARMONY had a very good vision of a state where its various peoples are woven into a tapestry of brotherhood and love. The idea was simple and profound. We are a state of interesting historical and social currents.
The idea offers our peoples opportunity to flower in the interest of our families, communities, state and Nigeria at large. We were lucky, because in the old Northern Region, we had been relatively better educated. Kwara state had one of the best civil services in Nigeria.
Educational opportunities were opened for children from all backgrounds; and because we are multi-ethnic, the elites learnt skills of consensus building, which allowed different communities a place in building the state. Our commonwealth was then genuinely commonly owned.
For as long as no single individual dominated the political process, things could work. This was not possible up to the creation of Kogi and the removal of Borgu. Yes, the late Dr. Olusola Saraki was probably the leading individual amongst an array of political giants of the period: Chief J.S. Olawoyin; Alhaji AGF Abdulrazq; Alhaji Akanbi Oniyangi; Chief Sunday Awoniyi; Chief SB Daniyan; Alhaji Haliru Dantoro; Alhaji AbdulRahman Okene, Dr. Amuda Aluko; Alhaji Ado Ibrahim; Alhaji Shehu Usman, to mention a few. This talented array of individuals was a match for Olusola Saraki.
The creation of Kogi and excision of Borgu, reduced Kwara State’s size and it made it easier for Saraki’s hegemony to become almost completely instituted by 1999. The big fish completely dominated the small pond that Kwara State became.
A street wise and wily politician, Olusola Saraki crushed all that opposed him and using federal might and with the active backing of then Vice President Atiku Abubakar, he placed his son, Bukola in power. That is the point, from 2003, when Kwara’s commonwealth, became completely, the personal fiefdom of a single family. And by the end of his eight-year administration, even the family’s fief morphed into Bukola Saraki’s PERSONAL ESTATE. He even routed his father’s choice for governor,Gbemi, his sister; rammed his long-term sidekick into power and in one of the most elaborate charades that Nigeria has ever known, Bukola, the senator, actually has more power than the state governor. He really “owns” the state; sits atop the state’s resources; controls sinecures; he appoints or fires government officials and the most important criterion is not competence but loyalty to the TINGOD, Bukola Saraki.
The state exists to cater to his creature comfort, thanks to the pension scheme he pushed through a compromised, complicit and supine Kwara State House of Assembly in the twilight of his administration. The way things are today, we don’t exaggerate by saying that Kwara state exists only for Bukola Saraki’s personal comfort and by extension his cronies, who have been appointed, sacked, re-appointed, disgraced and rehabilitated since 2003, in a most incestuous and peculiar form of political inbreeding! The same individuals have largely been in government positions since 2003; and many of these never made significant professional successes before 2003, but they now own choice properties all over the state capital. In the meantime, the poverty of the majority of our people has deepened. This is the situation of our dear state, Kwara state, today.
Danger to democracy
In my view, one of the greatest dangers to democracy,and the well being of Kwara state, as a STATE OF HARMONY, is the hegemony of an individual. When one person dominates the political process and that individual has complete control of the financial and economic resources available to the state, the state is in trouble. To oil the hegemony, a regime of divide and rule, is then perfected against all the people of the state. The false consciousness of divisive rule makes it difficult for people to unite to for the collective organizational work to end the condition they all suffer from.
This inability to work together; the placement of individual ambitions above the collective interest of the people have been some of the reasons why Kwara’s commonwealth has for long remained inside Bukola Saraki’s pocket. If the people of Kwara state, especially the elite groups, do not work together, you will inadvertently ensure that Kwarans remain Bukola Saraki’s slaves and the reactionary, and anti-people politics that he represents. A state of talented and hardworking people has been reduced to one where people grovel like slaves and serfs in the presence of an individual who NEVER contributed ANYTHING to our state’s development! He became governor in 2003, creamed opportunities to become a billionaire and continues to hold Kwara by the jugular!
This is the situation of Kwara state today. The imperative is to END the situation. We must END the condition that impoverishes our people while Bukola Saraki, his family and cronies live in luxury. Kwara’s Commonwealth must be restored to our beautiful people. Bukola Saraki did not grow up here; he is not one of us; he does not share our values or our traditions. Kwara is an investment and when they invest, they take away the returns. That is why he is desperate to continue the process of enslavement of Kwara State in place since 2003.
That is why his posters are still all over Ilorin, as an expression of control, he hopes never ends! But if Kwarans work with creativity and collective resolve, the end is in sight for the regime of deceit. There is an interesting ray of hope on the horizon.
Bukola Saraki made a strategic mistake when he left the PDP. The Saraki hegemony has lasted largely because they have always used federal might, to “win” elections. But by leaving PDP for APC, Bukola Saraki has to pitch his waning popularity against the PDP and the President Goodluck Jonathan he has been serially rude to. Bukola Saraki’s political empire, like Humpty-Dumpty, is about to crumble! That is the window of opportunity in Kwara state. You have your work cut out!.