Insights into Saraki’s waning political influence in Kwara politics
The political influence of Bukola Saraki and his structures, strategies and collaborations, for the first time in 16 years that he had been in the limelight flying on the wings of his father’s name, stand deflated and battered through the ballot.
From Kwara Central Senatorial District to Kwara South and North, the O to ge slogan cacophonously reverberated to the polling point on February 23.
The reactionary and hurriedly invented, neutralising mantra of O tun ya came late and really proved ineffective, as the defeat for Saraki’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was absolute.
Of the 10 contests for the six House of Representatives’ seats, three Senatorial seats and the presidential election, Saraki’s PDP lost everything to All Progressives Congress (APC) with wide margins. In Kwara Central Senatorial contest, APC’s Yahaya Oloriegbe defeated Saraki with a margin of 54,814 votes.
The constituents include Ilorin West, East, South and Asa Local Government Areas, and surprisingly, the voice of rejection of Saraki’s leadership was in all the local government areas, as Oloriegbe won everywhere, including Saraki’s Ilorin West.
Similarly, APC’s Umar Suleiman Sadiq defeated PDP’s Zakari Mohammed with a margin of 64,806 votes in the Kwara North Senatorial District, while in Kwara South, APC’s Ashiru Oyelola Yisa defeated PDP’s Rafiu Ibrahim with a margin of 44,528 votes.
For the Federal Sonstituencies of Ilorin West/Asa, Ilorin East/South, Ifelodun/Offa/Oyun, Baruten/Kaima, Patigi/Edu/Moro, and Ekiti/Irepodun/Isin/Oke-Ero, APC defeated PDP with margins of 26,517, 28,759, 34,961, 23,438, 38,901, and 10,432 votes respectively.
The APC presidential candidate also won in the state, making the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to sarcastically say, “As you must be aware by now, the official results of last Saturday’s National Assembly elections in Kwara have been announced. It is a clean sweep for our party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
All three seats in the Senate and all six in the House of Representatives were won by our party. The match between our party and PDP ended 10-0 (1 President, 3-0 Senatorial, 6-0 House of Reps).
“With the outcome of last Saturday’s elections, I can now conveniently say that Kwara Is Free! Free from a choking and pauperizing political hegemony of a self-imposed dynasty! Never again will Kwarans be treated like slaves in their own land. Enough is enough. O to ge!”
Citizens, analysts and Saraki’s political opponents have adduced several factors and given some revealing insights into the dramatically waning political hegemony and influence of the outgoing Senate President, Saraki.
High poverty level, demoralized workforce
KWARA is one of the old generation states, created alongside Rivers, Kano and Lagos on May 1967 by the Federal Military Government, and 10 years after its creation in 1977, it was one of the leading three states in terms of employment generation, industrial development and agricultural productivity.
However, contrary to the good beginning, the state now ranks 28th on the list of states by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) indicator, behind newer states like Edo, Imo, Oyo and Osun states, as explained by Labour Party’s (LP) gubernatorial aspirant in the state, Comrade Issa Aremu.
As a result, poverty is prevalent in the state, and this is aggravated by high rate of unemployment. In addition, Kwara State’s civil servants receive one of the poorest wages in the country, and it boasts of arguably the most demoralised workforce in the federation. Hence, it was ventilation time for the built-up anger and frustration on the part of civil servants.
On this, Aremu said, “As many as 75 per cent of our three million people live in poverty…. Hitherto proud and dignified Krwarans have been turned to working beggars. Salaries of workers are being treated as a belated charity than prompt legitimate earnings for work done.”
In fact, civil servants have been in the forefront of the move to dislodge Saraki, but the atmosphere had never been conducive.
A few infrastructural development projects that the state can boast of are concentrated in the Ilorin metropolis, covering only about Kwara Central Senatorial District, leaving other districts, especially Kwara North, which is the food basket of the state, grossly underdeveloped since the Saraki dynasty came into being.
Network of roads in Ilorin metropolis from Eyenkorin to University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, to Offa Road and other places are all federal roads directly or indirectly funded by the Federal Government.
Compared with neighbouring Oyo and Osun States, analysts say with resources available at the disposal of government under the Saraki dynasty, the state should have witnessed more transformation in infrastructure.
The suburban roads are mostly undeveloped and deplorable. Water projects built by former Governor Mohammed Lawal, Bukola Saraki’s predecessor, are moribund and potable water is unavailable, making the essential commodity a privilege not a right in Kwara State.
Over-taxation, poor economic base
OVER the last four years, the impoverished self-employed armies of youths, women and settlers who operate in the informal sector of Kwara economy have been burdened with a load of taxes introduced by Kwara State Revenue Service.
The introduction of taxes was a campaign factor used against Lai Mohammed when he contested for the governorship seat under Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN), but ironically Saraki’s leadership, under the governorship of Abdulfatah Ahmed, created the service but allegedly uses it to milk the poor.
The modi operandi of the service are odds, citizens complain, in that business premises are being sealed off at midnights without prior notice. According to citizens, this has aggravated the plight of the economically poor.
For instance, a popular soft drink company stopped production and disengaged most of its workforce in the state a couple of years ago partly because of taxation, and complications by the poor purchasing powers of residents of the state. Other manufacturing companies are said to be struggling to survive.
Under-performance of the outgoing governor
IN the first term of the incumbent Governor Ahmed, he was said to have grossly underperformed, allegedly using available resources to repay loans incurred by his godfather. This left very scanty resources available; it was not enough to pay civil servants decent wages.
The situation was said to have incapacitated the state from embarking on any meaningful capital project. And in the second term, preparation for the elections, coupled with dwindling federal allocations, made the performance of the governor a complete failure. This would eventually fuel the rage of the unusually politically vibrant people against the strong man of the state.
Some views that have persisted are that Saraki had political power placed on his lap, when he inherited the structures and governance style from his father. Sadly, he did not prove himself a better man than his father in resource management, which is baffling for a man who trained as a medical doctor abroad and who saw firsthand how societies are better organised.
The final straw that broke the Saraki’s camel’s back politically was the miscalculated defection from the ruling party at the federal level. His father, Dr. Olusola, observers said, apart from being humble and politically generous, did not make the mistake of separating his structure from the federal level.
The tragic flaw for the younger Saraki was the error of leaving APC, the party that had gathered enough intelligence of how the people had always voted in certain patterns, but allegedly incapacitated by the complicity of bad eggs within the police and the electoral umpire.
The deployment of 10,000 policemen, apart from other personnel from sister security agencies and the armed forces, as well as the deployment of a military surveillance chopper in the state during the election on February 23, made the election violence-free.
Also, some argue that sending a former ADC to Bola Ahmed Tinubu as new Commissioner of Police to Kwara State on the even of the election was designed to neutralise whatever underhand dealings usually happened in the state during election.
It was therefore instructive that there was no case of ballot box snatching or any form of violence, and observers claimed the voting pattern reflected the yearnings of the people for a change, which originally aligned with the O to ge – enough is enough of the Sarakis’ mantra!”
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