Politics of demolition in Kwara. By Mustapha Temidayo
The demolition of 'Ile Arugbo' in Ilorin, capital of Kwara State, by the government has deepened the fued between Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq and former Senate President Bukola Saraki. How will the rift be settled? SINA FADARE asks
THE recent altercation between the former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Kwara State Governor Abduraheem AbdulRazaq over the revocation and eventual demolition of the property of the former's late father, Dr. Olusola Saraki, is food for thought for persons in positions of power or those aspiring to such positions.
The late Saraki (May 17, 1933 to November 14, 2012) was a senator during the Second Republic (1979 to 1983). Until his demise, the 'Olooye', as he was popularly known, was regarded as the godfather of Kwara politics. After installing other persons as governors, he made his son, Bukola, governor in 2003.
The former Senate President eventually ruled the state for eight years and stepped into the shoes of his father afterwards, by installing a successor, Abdulfatai Ahmed. Since 2003, it had been a jolly ride for the younger Saraki in the corridors of power.
But today, the music has changed; likewise the dancing step. Following the demolition, the two sides have been engaged in media battle. Saraki cried out that one of the legacies of his father during his heydays has been trampled upon by the governor with impunity.
He said: "Abdulrazaq finally showed his true colour when he announced his decision to revoke the ownership of a property rightfully held by my late father, Dr. Olusola Abubakar Saraki on Plots 1, 3 and 5 Ilofa Road, GRA, Ilorin, popularly known as Ile Arugbo, (old people's home) which has for over two decades been used to host the weekly gathering of a multitude of aged people in the society."
The embattled former governor was emphatic in his condemnation of the governor's action. He pointed out that the battle line has been drawn and that he would not rest until what belongs to his father is legitimately collected back.
Saraki added: "This action is clearly a manifestation of vengeance and it shows that this governor is not out to serve any public purpose or pursue any development agenda. In his narrow-mindedness, he believes his victory at the polls is an empowerment, entitlement, and enablement to settle scores, provoke and pursue inter-family feud."
AbdulRazaq was clearly on the defensive after Saraki's sister, Gbemisola, a member of the ruling party and Minister of State for Transport, joined the fray, to insist that the legacy of their father cannot be rubbished by the governor.
Her words: "I am comforted by the knowledge that my father's good work and his respect, support, and love for the aged, which was sadly lacking in the governor's activities on Thursday, simply cannot be erased by demolishing a bungalow.
"When it comes down to it, 'Ile Arugbo' is a piece of bare land that holds the symbolic value of what my father stood for - humanitarianism, and that doesnít start nor end with a building."
Since the issue came to the public domain, a lot of views have been expressed. Many see the development as a payback time for Saraki, for all his political sins. The former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) appears to have lost its voice, after it lost power to the APC.
But, the demolition of Ile Arugbo is an opportunity for the party to let people know that it is still existing. The party in a statement by its chairman, Kola Shittu, said the action of the governor was uncalled for.
The statement reads in part: "But the governor went ahead to exhibit his dictatorial tendencies by illegally directing the demolition of the building. This is evil, an act of tyranny and impunity taken too far. Why the haste in destroying the property when the matter is yet to be decided by the court?
"The hurry and surreptitious manner the demolition exercise was carried out shows that the governorís action was not in the interest of the people but to satisfy his selfish ego, which is a gross violation of the oath of office, he swore to."
However, some political observers recall the havoc which the Saraki dynasty has caused the people, by enslaving them for decades before the baton was passed from father to son. They say the family had enslaved the people for decades, condemning them to poverty and penury.
They are of the view that AbdulRazak might have erred in the manner he went about the demolition of the controversial property. One of such observers, Mr. A.B. Edun, a social crusader, said a lot of atrocities had been perpetrated by Saraki with impunity during his tenure as governor.
Edun said: ďHe should have known that those who live in a glass house do not throw stones. Why do we have to continue dissipating energy on the Ile Arugbo land re-acquisition by the Kwara State government that originally owned the land? Bukola Saraki knows the truth that he used his position as the then sitting governor to corner the land for his father.
"When the said land was allocated by Bukola to himself without due process was there no physical government structures for the phase 3 of the state secretariat on the land? Was any payment made as compensation for the physical structures met on the land to Kwara State government before the illegal demolition of the same by Saraki?
"Was any payment made to the state government for the acquisition?"
Another legal practitioner, Lateef Abdulsalam, also wondered why many people have short memories, and fail to recollect what Saraki did when he was governor. Abdulsalam recalled that Saraki also victimized former Governor Mohammed Lawal and all his cabinet members after they left office. He said this was to the extent that some of them were chased out of Kwara State.
He said: "The title on the late Gen. Abdulkareem Adisa's house, opposite Government House, was revoked, because he was an ally of the former governor, Lawal. The license of a nursery and primary school duly owned by Mrs. Aisha Lawal along Admiral Villa Drive was revoked by the Bukola Saraki administration, because she was ex-Governor Lawal's wife.
"Idi-Ape Dry Fish Market was relocated and moved away from that location to Ipata Market, because Sarakiís dynasty was fighting ex-Gov. Lawal. Yet everybody kept quiet for fear of being victimised or sent to the great beyond by thugs working for them, led by late Akaje."
Abdulsalam said since government is a continuum, nothing stops the new government from repossessing Ile Arugbo, which was illegally acquired. He said: "If your father illegally took into his possession state property because he was the all-in-all at the time in question, nothing stops the new government from revoking the property for public use."
Upon assumption of office, the AbdulRazaq administration had set up a 15-man committee to look into about 90 properties looted in the state. It was headed by former Kwara State Chief Judge, Raliat Elelu, with a director at the Governor's Office, Shuaib AbdulGaniyu, as secretary. The probe panel set up to investigate the handling of public assets since 1999.
AbdulRasaq said the revelations from the report of the committee was so damning and that he was left with no other choice but to act in public interest. He said the state was stripped of the necessary accommodation to host visiting dignitaries.
The governor said: "The (Senator Ajadi) committee did a very good job. They submitted two reports and we're waiting for the final report. It is unfortunate that from my little reading of it so far, people just shared government property as if it was their fiefdom. They did not even think for one second that it was government property."
The die is cast and the battle seems to have just begun. Only time will tell who may likely be consumed by the drive to recover government properties from alleged looters.