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Kwara and the Sarakis’ audacity

Kwara and the Sarakis’ audacity
January 25
18:19 2020
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Even by the poor standards of probity and public accountability in Nigeria, the reports of mind boggling sleaze that characterized the sixteen year combined period of Bukola Saraki and his political protégé Abdulfatah Ahmed as governors of Kwara state, will take some beating.  

At the 2019 elections, Kwara state was the highpoint of the democratic expression of the triumph of people’s will. The state set the marker for what a people should do to rid themselves of rulers who have turned against the will and interest of the people who voted them in the first place. The state wide ‘’ O to ge’’ campaign which signified the desire of Kwarans to chart a new political direction swept the political machine that former governor and Senate President Bukola Saraki inherited from his late father Abubakar Sola Saraki and consolidated in the state from when he became governor in 2003 through to the reign of his handpicked successor Abdulfatah Ahmed which ended last year after the latter’s mandatory two terms in office.

Even while in office as Senate President, several cases of Bukola Saraki’s alleged misdemeanours while in office as governor of Kwara state had come to light. He was reported to have allegedly turned the state’s finances into a personal purse spending as he deemed fit without proper budgetary appropriation and accountability. In the process he had been accused of allegedly ‘selling “to himself and cronies choice government properties in Kwara and elsewhere at prices that desecrated the meaning of the word. He had also been accused of hollowing out the capital base of two banks by approving dubious loans which led to their eventual collapse.

To cover himself from his serial financial infractions and misgovernance of Kwara state for the eight years he ruled as governor, he contrived to have his Finance commissioner, Abdulfattah Ahmed elected as governor after him.

The ‘’ O to ge’’ democratic revolution during the last elections was a genuine expression of all Kwarans in demonstrating their desire for a new dispensation in the state. They were fed up with the whole Saraki political structure and wanted a new lease of life from the one which has turned one of the oldest states in the country into a near basket case.

The election and advent of the new administration of Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq was bound to open up more of Saraki’s indiscretions and those of his hand-picked successor Ahmed when they reigned as governors of the state. The committee set up by the new administration to investigate the state of government properties discovered that the immediate past governor of the state, had allegedly ‘’sold’’ out 110 choice government properties without recourse to due process. One of such properties is the official residence of the deputy governor of the state who is now compelled to be living in a rented house as a result at great cost to the state coffers. As many of such indiscretions was coming to light the one that exemplified the level of Saraki’s abject contempt for Kwarans is the case of what is known of ‘ILE ARUGBO’.

This is a property that adjoins the state secretariat which the elder Saraki had converted into a place where elderly citizens of the state mostly women, were provided with welfare items.The committee headed by former senator Suleiman Ajadi to look into the disposal of government properties, discovered that ‘’ile arugbo’’ was not covered by any statutory right or certificate of occupancy to any individual or party. It was actually meant to be a car park for the secretariat but was converted to private use by the Saraki family. Bukola Saraki had allegedly transferred ownership of the property to his family owned Asa Investments without recourse to due process. There was no payments whatsoever for the acquisition nor was there any evidence whatsoever of payments for its use since it was converted to a welfare office.

With these revelations, outraged Kwarans have called on the Abdulrazaq administration to recover the property and restore it to its rightful use.

But Bukola Saraki in a fit of typical dubious entitlement and audacity had challenged the state government and engaged it in a running public spat over its actions. Saraki maintains that the property belonged to his family and claims that he had the necessary papers to back up his claims. He accused the state government of vendetta against his family in this and other matters and had sued the government. This action on the part of Saraki has had the consequence of uniting him with his sister, Senator Gbemisola Saraki who is the Minister of state for Transport in the Federal cabinet of president Buhari. The two siblings have been estranged for quite some time now on account of filial differences which has spilled over into the political arena. Ironically Gbemisola Saraki played a prominent part in the ‘’O to ge’’ movement that swept the Saraki political structure in Kwara. She has now publicly joined her brother Bukola in the fight against the Kwara state government over the ‘’ile arugbo’’ issue accusing the latter of betrayal for the effort she made in helping it come to power.

The ‘’ile arugbo’’ issue in its essence is a symptom of all that is wrong with our sense of commitment to the tenets of good governance which our public officials swore to uphold but practise in breach. The Sarakis’ audacity in the face of a clear case of their infractions is a demonstration of the contradictions between our publicly stated claims of upholding the tenets of accountability and what we actually do in exercise of the power we hold in public trust.

 

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