Opinions

Of Kwara and Saraki’s praise-singers By Rafiu Ajakaye

The last few weeks have seen a spike in efforts in the media to burnish the image of Nigeria’s senate president Bukola Saraki. This comes a few weeks before Saraki settles down for life after nearly two decades in various public offices as special assistant to the president, governor and senator.

Perhaps the image-laundering is needed more than ever before as the anti-graft agency seems set to again put Saraki to rigorous trial on his stewardship in public office. It is within the right of the politician — and that includes his media handlers and town criers across platforms — to say great things about himself to seek public sympathy. They are entitled to their views. But they are never entitled to their facts. They are also not entitled to insult the people of Kwara State in this enterprise. This appeal applies especially to Saraki’s PR machines whose only knowledge of Kwara is often restricted to their occasional visits to GRA in Ilorin, the state capital, where they are treated to the best hospitality Kwara money can afford, and are handed figures or narratives not supported by any street realities.

On Tuesday May 14, a certain Mr Segun Sowunmi wrote an article in the Guardian in which he suggested that the people of Kwara were ingrates for voting out Saraki and his men in the 2019 general election. He said Saraki had done so much for the people of Kwara to warrant anyone saying Otoge (enough is enough) to him and whatever he represented. He then concluded that the people would soon know if they had made the right choice or not in sacking Saraki.

For the record, Mr Sowunmi, like 90% of Saraki-is-forever-the-best choristers, is not from Kwara. He was in fact the spokesman for the PDP presidential campaign and a House of Representatives candidate in Ogun State. It is strange, and contemptuous of our people, to have such persons pontificate on their political choice.

Left to the Sowunmis, the rational thing is for Kwarans to suffer from the Oslo or the abused-children syndrome whereby they would continue to endure and blame themselves for whatever indignities or underdevelopment they may have suffered under Saraki’s leadership. Thanks, but no thanks!

Our people rightly said Otoge to Saraki because they could no longer tolerate the fellow’s idea of self-centered politics which his historic campaign speech in Offa typifies. Addressing the people of Offa in the run-up to the presidential election, Saraki said Kwarans should vote for PDP because the party offered them the best. And what was that? He said the PDP offered them the position of the national leader of the party; promised them the (retention of the) senate president’s seat; and had also given them the frontline role to lead the party’s campaign (himself being the director-general)! Those, in the thoughts of Saraki, were the reasons Kwarans should vote for the PDP.

Anyone who has followed the politician’s trajectory should know this is his philosophy. In 2011 when his governorship tenure expired and his late father wanted his daughter to succeed him, Saraki jnr made the point that he wouldn’t have his sister succeed him because it is unfair and immoral. That was a fair argument until one discovered that the same Saraki was succeeding the same sister as the senator representing the Kwara Central Senatorial District. What a just leader!

Besides, Saraki led Kwara at a time of oil boom when the state received fairly good allocations. But you can hardly feel the impact on the people — beyond status projects that did nothing to maximise the potentials of the state or truly transform it from its traditional position as a civil service state. The Shonga Farm remains controversial till tomorrow as people continue to question its ownership status and justification for committing so much of public resources to what Saraki’s handlers now call ‘private concern’.

I had my primary education in Kwara State in the late 80s and early 90s. Like most Kwarans, the fortune of my community has gone from bad to worse. The primary health centres and primary schools that were functional then are now comatose. Anyone who hasn’t been to their communities these past decades can’t miss the roads to their homesteads. Is that the situation in Ogun State where Mr Showunmi comes from? If you last visited Abeokuta about four years ago, you are 10 times likely going to miss your way if you go there today.

Most communities in Kwara are no longer accessible and the instant sign to know you have entered Kwara when coming from elsewhere is the bad state of the roads. In Ilorin, a whopping N6bn is said to have been spent on water reticulation but there’s hardly anything to show for it. What you can call the traditional Ilorin communities remain the way they were some decades ago. No serious effort at urban development, even as petty trading and handcrafts for which Ilorin was known have given way to a forced culture of destitution as Saraki ratcheted up his political mercantilism designed to keep people eternally subservient. Antiquity is not apt enough to describe the situation in Kwara North. A man leading a state as bad as this was recently heard in an audio tape saying he spent an average of N300million to bankroll elections in 2015 in each of at least 30 states in Nigeria.

Then the man tried to become an emperor! Things got so bad that it was a crime to criticise the ’emerging tiger’ as his diehards increasingly deified him. People old enough to be his father could not shake or sit on chairs once he’s sitting down — an anomaly, if not a taboo in a conservative society like Kwara, which Mr Olusegun Adeniyi recently alluded to in his observations on the outcome of Kwara election.

As a Kwaran and a reporter who has followed Saraki’s politics since 2003, I can say the senate president would not be missed. To suggest otherwise would be to say that our people would suffer from the Oslo syndrome.

And while the incoming administration of AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq recognises the historical burden of rebuilding Kwara and a need to not engage anyone in media war, it is appreciated if the likes of Mr Sowunmi stop insulting the people who are trying to fix what is left of the carcass left by their hero!

AJAKAYE is the media aide to Kwara State Governor-elect

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