Nigerians seem to have taken their eyes off the North-central state of Kwara after the ‘demolition’ of the political structure of Bukola Saraki, former governor of the state and until last year, Nigeria’s number 3 citizen as the President of the Senate. But that was until last week thanks to the Ile Arugbo (Old Peoples Home) hoopla.
Suddenly, the gladiators in that state have compelled our attentions back to Kwara in what appears a renewed political war this time around not around Independent National Electoral Commission’s ballot boxes but on the grounds of an old property whose real ownership is at the heart of the matter.
O To Gee, undoubtedly the most catchy, effective political messaging of the 2019 general elections drew us all to Kwara as we witnessed a political tsunami that ended the age-long domination of the Kwarans in what some extremist political analysts and commentators would call the fiefdom of the Sarakis.
If the Sarakis got bruised and sent to political oblivion in 2019, does it not look like the Ile Arugbo conundrum has given a new tonic for a resurrection with dead bones rising again?
This is the crux of the matter. The land in Ilorin, the state capital, described in “Survey No KWSH927 and Land/G1071 situated and lying beside Civil Service Clinic along Ilofa Road, Ilorin Kwara” is said to belong to the Government. That is what the government of Alhaji Abdulrazaq AbdulRahman tells us.
Contrary to that however, the Sarakis, now headed by Bukola, say that parcel of land belongs to their family.
Had the land in question just been there, perhaps, the hullaballoo would have been minimal. However, emotion is running riot with the fact that here is a land that had provided gathering of a sort for the less privileged, the vulnerable and aged ones especially in Ilorin for decades. Put succinctly, it has been a ground to hold together the hordes of voting assets of the Sarakis right from the time of Oloye, the late Senate Leader and father of Bukola, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki.
Those familiar with socio-economic and political life of the North-Central Nigerian ancient city would regal you with stories of how the late Olusola Saraki held the downtrodden in a firm grip. There were some kinds of ambivalent interpretations of this firm grip depending on where you stand. To those who saw through the lense of opposition, this was no more than an enslavement of the bodies and souls of poor Kwarans with the conviction that tokenism was elevated to philanthropy given the perception that the huge resources used to procure rice, vegetable oil, grains and other consumables were no more than what indeed rightly belonged to the people in one way or the other but cornered for private use by political lords who enjoy the privilege to claim to be the representatives of the people.
On the other hand, the Sarakis and their followers see their positions as philathropic gestures needed by the mass of uneducated, unemployed, sick, vulnerable, disadvantaged lots. To them as well, this is one of those channels for mandatory redistribution of wealth in order to maintain a social equilibrium and stability. Where does an impartial observer stand in all of these? Such dilemma would persist until the Kingdom comes.
However, there are matters of the law here. And the law is no respecter of emotions. If the older Saraki had used his influence to procure the controversial land way back in the 70s, especially at a time when he bestrode the political space of Kwara like the mythical Collosus, it should be expected that the day the law wakes up to its responsibility is the day that ownership comes to an end.
From both sides, what seems more important is the ability to show in who does the law vests the ownership of the land. This can only be ascertained with relevant documents from both the government and the Sarakis.
Interestingly, there appears to be less of efforts being directed to what the law says on all these. What has filled the airwaves in the last one week is a game of wits between the government and the Sarakis. That is the game that has brought all of the Kwarans and indeed watchers from outside back to the political warfare that saw the Governor leading an assault against the Saraki hegemony in Kwara. AbdulRazaq won the O To Ge e war. Can he win the Ile Arugbo challenge in the court of public opinion?
Benjamin Franklin once said that “a new truth is a truth and an old error is an error.” The new truth in Kwara today is that a new political order is in place and dogged at reversing the alleged dogmatism believed to have held the people down. In a society where the bulk of the populace is illiterate, sick, dependent, the Governor and his team would require serious tact to navigate this booby trap.
As a matter of fact, not many have paid much attention to statements credited to the former Senate President on this matter. And I doubt if that is even their strategy. The strategy that is so rife now is to unleash the emotions as expressed by those pitiable old women who have faced television cameras to make AbdulRazaq look like the new demon in the state. The narrative is that here comes a wicked soul who has come to remove food from the mouths of the hungry; snatched away the walking stick of a frail dying old man and practically pushing the poor to their graves.
For a politician and his party, there can be no doubt that even within the All Progressive Congress in Kwara and beyond, there might be some who would be telling the Governor “Softly, Softly.” The Yoruba captures this kind of dilemma in the saying that “when a mosquito chooses no other place for its stupid perching other than your scrotum, you require a great deal of caution to kill it lest you inflict an irredeemable harm on yourself.
With the O To Ge e magic, and if the outcome of the last general elections were anything to go by, it would seem the bulk of Kwarans have freed themselves from what was perceived as political bondage. Can the beat go on without going back?
The Ile Arugbo campaign has the capacity to re-launch the Sarakis back to political reckoning. But that is only if the governor and his team fail to sustain the energy and the potency in the slogan that bulldozed them into power.