Saka Olododo: No More Godfathers in Kwara Politics

Date: 2019-05-12

Alhaji Saka Cook Olododo was chairman, Ilorin East Local Government Council Area of Kwara State, some years back. He was also a former Chief of Staff, former commissioner and former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) during the tenure of Dr. Bukola Saraki as governor of Kwara State. Olododo was also one of the political strategists and foot soldiers of the late Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, the father of Bukola Saraki. Olododo, who was a right hand man of Bukola Saraki, fell out with him eight years ago because he was denied a House of Representatives ticket. He ultimately joined forces with the opposition movement in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state to oust Bukola Saraki in the 2019 election. Olododo won a House of Representatives seat during the elections, to represent Ilorin East/Ilorin South Federal Constituency under the platform of APC. Olododo talks to Hammed Shittu about a number of political issues in Kwara State and the country in general

Expectations of Kwara people are enormous from the incoming administration. Can you assure them that these expectations will not be dashed?

The difference between the incoming administration and the outgoing one is this: The incoming administration is a product of the collective efforts of the electorates and politicians whereas the outgoing one is a one man show, with no respect for the masses and their views about the ways and manner they are governed. So, for the incoming administration, everybody is a stakeholder and I know that the incoming governor - Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq - realise and know this very well. All of us, the elected members across board, know that there are no more godfathers in Kwara politics.

What are your plans for your constituency?

For your information, I was a chairman of my local government. So, I'm a grass root politician. I have never abandoned my people in all my years in politics, whether inside or outside the government. I left government about nine years ago. Up till this moment, I never abandoned them. With the help of almighty Allah and the masses, I was elected a member of the House of Representatives. By my own way of identifying with my people, I don't have to wait for inauguration before I start doing things that would add value to the lives of my people. That was why I swung into action. I bought generators to power their bore holes immediately after election. And so far, I have repaired 35 bore holes and other little assistance I could give them. I believe more goodies are still in the kitty for my people in my constituency.

What's the update about the next Speaker in the House of Representatives?

As the Kwara State coordinator of Hon Femi Gbajabiamila Speakership project in the ninth assembly, all our national assembly members in Kwara State have resolved to align with the directives of the party. In fact, in the North central, we have decided that we will follow the directives of the party. In terms of the Senate presidency, we are backing Senator Ahmed Lawan.

What will Kwara State benefit if Femi Gbajabiamila emerges as Speaker?

We believe we are going to benefit a lot. The federal government and the party know that Kwara State is a peculiar state so we need special attention because of the way the outgoing administration handled the resources of this state. I have already made it known to them that we need their assistance and as a member we believe and know very well that good things will come from Gbajabiamila.

The battle for the Senate President is on. Ahmed Lawan from Yobe North and Ali Muhammed Ndume from Borno are the contenders. They are both from North-East. Lawan, the Senate Leader, is taunted as the anointed candidate of the executive arm of government. The claim is in dispute because Presidency officials say President Muhammadu Buhari has no candidate while some senior leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC are saying otherwise. Ndume is the immediate past Senate Leader and a former Director of the Buhari Presidential Campaign, North-east.

Being ranking senators, the two of them have the requisite qualification to pilot the affairs of the Senate. But beyond that, what are the other issues? Some analysts say the other factors include, but not limited to competence, equity, loyalty, sacrifice and party supremacy. So how do the three contenders stand?

Those who are close to Lawan describe him as a gentleman and an experienced lawmaker, having been in the National Assembly since 1999. He first served as a member of the House of Representatives for three terms, that is, between 1999 and 2011, before moving to the Senate in 2011. Before he became the Senate Leader last year, Lawan had headed key committees in the upper chamber, notably the Public Accounts Committee.

He had been anointed as Senate President in 2015 before some senators opposed to him played a fast one on the APC and Senator Bukola Saraki emerged. In essence, this is the second time he is running for Senate Presidency.

Ndume is going for his third term in the Senate. Prior to coming to the Senate in 2011, he had spent two terms in the House of Representatives, together with Lawan.

One time Majority Leader of the House, Ndume, according to analysts, is a die-hard fan of Mr. President but he is said also to be blunt to the point of not shying away from saying the truth even when it hurts the authorities. That, perhaps, is why he is loved by fellow senators across party lines.

So much noise has been made regarding the issue of party supremacy on the election of the next Senate President.

Unfortunately, the APC National Chairman, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, is going about it in a manner that suggests that he thinks he is superintending a primary school where the headmaster issues orders to his pupils and the pupils have no choice but to obey. By fiat, Oshiomhole says Lawan is APC’s choice for Senate President. It was a unilateral decision. No consultations. Senators-elect of the APC, who ordinarily should have been carried along on a decision as crucial as the choice of who leads, didn't even have an input on how Oshiomhole arrived at Lawan and neither did the North-east caucus whose region the Senate Presidency had been zoned, enjoy the courtesy of having a say, in clear breach of tradition.

Regardless, the party chairman has repeatedly said it is Lawan for Senate President and nobody else, as if he is God.

Combative and arrogant party chair! Isn't it? Meanwhile, this was the same attitude Oshiomhole employed ahead of the 2019 polls that led to the APC losing Adamawa, Bauchi, Imo and Oyo states as well as his own senatorial district in Edo.

Even many APC senators-elect are said to be resentful of the way Oshiomhole is going about his 'Lawan for Senate President' campaign, an indication that they may vote against the party chair's anointed candidate on election day. The other issue is acceptability. Between Lawan and Ndume, who is more acceptable to fellow colleagues in the National Assembly? History adequately answers this question.

In 2007 when both Ndume and Lawan were in the House of Representatives, even though Lawan had been in parliament since 1999 and Ndume elected for the first time in 2003, it was Ndume who was elected as Majority Leader. And, in 2015, when both of them had become senators and the North-East caucus, which Goje chaired, was to decide who will take the office shared to the zone in a mock election, Ndume came tops with 10 votes while Lawan had one.

In fact, it is said that there is growing agitation among senators-elect from the North-east for another mock election to decide who is more popular between the two frontline contenders for Senate President to resolve the issue of popularity.

It was on the strength of the 2015 mock election that Ndume emerged the Senate Majority Leader and as things are, the so-called anointing of Lawan by the Oshiomhole APC leadership, according to party sources, has polarised the party’s senators-elect, thereby making it difficult to sell the Lawan candidacy.

On this score, a party source said the party leadership is working with the Lawan group to see how the two other contenders for Senate President, particularly Ndume, can be placated as it is becoming clear that Ndume is increasingly getting support among senators-elect across party line.

Now, to underscore the seriousness of the Ndume aspiration for Senate President, of the aspirants, only Ndume has publicly unfolded his plans for his colleagues in the 9th Senate and Nigerians, through a manifesto.

He has unveiled the shape of things to come if, God's grace, he is elected Senate President in June. In the 9-point agenda, Ndume said he would make the Office of the Senate President that which is truly first among equals by reducing the unnecessary privileges attached to the office; work harmoniously and inter-dependently with the executive without undermining the principle of Separation of Power; make new laws and review existing ones to be in tandem with APC's Next Level Agenda for Nigeria, especially those of Mr. President; make laws that will block leakages and devise improved means of generating revenue, especially through the amendment and review of our tax laws which will help to reduce reliance on local and foreign loans to finance budget; run the 9th Senate transparently, through open accountability with full participation of all Senators, (for example, we will transfer the approving powers of the privileges of the senators like foreign travels, allowances to Senate services committee or a new committee to be known as "ways and means committee); protect and improve on the welfare, rights and privileges of National Assembly workers; inculcate espirit de corps in order to utilize the experiences of our former colleagues by engaging them as consultants to committees and members of exclusive services and boards of the National Assembly; in cooperation with my distinguished colleagues, agree on a timeline for confirmation, passage of Bills, especially budgets, as well as executive request and pass the Constituency Development Bill to make Constituency Projects more transparent, accountable, efficient and effective.

rior to the pact, Hon. Idris Wase, APC Wase Federal Constituency, Plateau State had very wide acceptability to the extent that even if Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila had gone alone and won, there could be rancour in the House of Representatives for some time. This is why the old Wase camp, in explaining its decision to work with the Gbajabiamila camp, had to explain that it accepted the pact in the spirit of national interest, and to avert any possible crisis within the 9th House of Representatives.

Interest groups in the north had in the contest for the new leaders of the House, indicated their preference for Wase, but with this pact, however, the camp of those opposed to Gbajabiamila have reportedly been thrown into great confusion, seeing the overwhelming numbers that the current big numbers in the united Gbaja-Wase camp has.

In countering the agitations about a Muslim-Muslim ticket (Speaker and Deputy Speaker) in the leadership of the House, the new group is affirming that religion should not by any circumstance be used to deprive the nation of a golden opportunity to change the current narrative about unemployment, rising insecurity, and engender good governance for the teeming citizens of Nigeria, through robust legislation, which the combination of Gbajabiamila and Wase has the potential to deliver.

It (the new pact) has great prospects of ensuring stability in the House by galvanising majority of members towards working for the nation. The argument here is, while Gbajabiamila is a visionary lawyer whose passion for the greater good imbues him towards aggressive and somewhat impatient drive for excellence, Wase, and equally patriotic ranking lawmaker is however, calm, collected and measured in his steps, thereby revealing a tendency to ensure a tranquil atmosphere in the House, even in the face of a storm in the Green Chamber.

Besides, those currently introducing religious sentiments in this matter should recall that at some point in the Senate, David Mark (a Christian) was Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu (a Christian) was Deputy Senate President, and Victor Ndoma-Egba (a Christian) was Senate Leader, and there was no fuse from Muslims over this, neither was there evidence that the trio used there offices to convert some Muslims to Christianity. Rather, many citizens believe that the Mark-led leadership worked for the overall good of the Nation. A similar scenario played out when Dimeji Bankole (a Muslim) led the House of Reps as Speaker, with Usman Bayero Nafada (also a Muslim) as deputy. There was no evidence that the duo took advantage of the offices convert some Nigerians to Islam. Thus, development analysts believe those promoting religiosity in this matter should restrain themselves and join the league of those working for the greater good of Nigerians.

Much more importantly, there's groundswell of evidence that what is uppermost in the minds of Gbajabiamila and Wase is the setting up of a vibrant Legislative Agenda that will focus majorly on three key issues: Speedily addressing the rising spate of insecurity; Tackling the steadily growing unemployment, which worsens the level of poverty amongst citizens, thereby exacerbating the security crisis; Addressing the ugly trend of fiddling with Local Government funds by state governors, thereby incapacitating the LG administration, which is the first point of contact with majority of citizens of this country.

Specifically, the proposed Legislative Agenda will outline the step-by-step efforts to be made by the relevant standing committees of the House to, for instance, oversight the Defence Establishment to ensure that money appropriated for addressing security matters are duly disbursed to the agencies concerned, and also properly utilised for the purposes for which they were meant.

Equally, it will provide in detail, what the standing committee in charge of ports will be doing to tackle the menace of port congestion, which is a prerequisite for opening up the Nigerian economy for greater inflow of foreign direct investments, thereby creating millions of jobs to curb the rising unemployment.

Similarly, the Agenda is expected to outline urgent steps to kick-start a fresh constitutional amendment that will free the third tier of government from the shackles of some dictatorial governors by granting the much sought for LG Autonomy.



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