Saraki dynasty suffers, as Bukola-Gbemi feud lingers

Date: 2014-03-09

The frosty relationship between a former governor of Kwara State and the heir to Saraki’s dynasty in Ilorin, Dr Bukola Saraki and his sister, Senator Gbemisola Rukayyat Saraki dated back to 2011.  It  began when Bukola, who was about to complete his tenure, opposed Gbemi’s governorship ambition.

Sunday Trust discovered that the current political happenings exposed the deep-seated cracks in Saraki’s dynasty as both siblings now work at cross purposes in the current dispensation.

The 2011 election was a turning point in the annals of Kwara politics because the late strong man of Kwara politics, Dr Olusola Saraki pulled out of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and floated the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) to actualize the gubernatorial ambition of his daughter. The decision to float the ACPN was reportedly taken after it became crystal-clear that securing the PDP ticket for his Senator-daughter would be a hard nut to crack.

The point that scores of Saraki’s supporters pitched tent with the ACPN and vigorously campaigned for Gbemi Saraki was a concern to many analysts at the time. But Gbemi’s vigour wasn’t potent enough to win the 2011 governorship poll as she was defeated by the PDP candidate and the incumbent Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed.

Bukola reconciled with his father before his death. The ACPN was abandoned as many of Saraki’s supporters returned to the PDP. However, the snag remains the need to bring Gbemi and her brother together after the 2011 election. As destiny would have it, the cat-and-mouse relationship between the duo persisted till the death of their father, who was popularly known as ‘Oloye’.

Saraki’s close associate, Professor Albert Ogunsola, who is now deceased, once told our correspondent that his pre-occupation after Saraki’s death was how to reconcile Bukola and Gbemi.

His first son, Femi Ogunsola, a commissioner representing Kwara State at the Federal Character Commission (FCC), however, told journalists that his late father’s regret was his inability to reconcile late Oloye’s children, Senator Bukola Saraki and his younger sister, Senator Gbemisola Saraki.

He said, “I remember my father’s last words were ‘what will I tell Dr Saraki if I meet him again if the differences between the brother and sister are not resolved. On his death bed, he said Saraki’s children are vital to the continued peace in Kwara. My late father tried as much as possible to reconcile the two siblings”.

Though the two siblings have maintained sealed lips over their differences, the unfolding political events gave credence to the lingering crisis which observers see as a reflection of the division within the Saraki’s dynasty.

For more than two years after the 2011 election, Gbemi maintained a rather low profile and was barely seen in the public. The ACPN, a party on which platform she contested is becoming virtually extinct in the State. She neither returned to the PDP nor joined any other political party.

Sunday Trust gathered from some of her associates that she actually planned to join the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). But this did not happen before the CPC’s merger with other opposition parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC).

GRS as Gbemi is fondly called, was, according to a source, “actually biding her time, weighing all options available to her before deciding on her next political move and the platform to use in the 2015 election”.

It was while in the process of evaluating the options available to her that the crisis in the PDP resurfaced with the emergence of “New PDP” led by a former acting National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Kawu Baraje which later merged with the APC.

However, the recent defection of Saraki to APC alongside Governor Ahmed and their supporters created the avenue for Gbemi and several others who have grievances against Saraki to regroup and take over the PDP in the State.

Apparently in order to prove to the world that she is not on the same page with her brother, Gbemi on Saturday February 8 this year held a rally in Ilorin where she formally defected to the PDP. The rally which witnessed large crowd of her supporters and some of her associates, also saw her two siblings- Tope and Laolu Saraki- joining her to declare support for PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

In a strongly worded speech delivered to the mammoth crowd, Gbemi reminisced on the events of last three years after the 2011 elections, saying, “three years may not be so much a long time, but it has been long enough for me to learn very important lessons....I have interacted with the traditional rulers, the community and religious leaders. I have lived every day of my life as an Ilorin woman and as a Kwaran. I have had my happy moments. I derive my utmost joy when I have you, especially the common people around me. I have had my low moments. Unfortunately, this has been more pronounced because each day, I see despair and helplessness from people who are ordinarily hardworking, honest, and courageous. I hear tales that are heart rendering....”

Gbemi said despite the defection of her brother to APC, PDP remained the majority party of Kwarans. She said, “the majority of the people of Kwara State remain in PDP. We must therefore show our strength. We must begin to pull together and give our support to President Goodluck Jonathan.

“It is clear that the reason for defection by a loud few is because of their personal and selfish reasons. It is not about Kwarans, majority of whom remain solidly committed to our party and the national leadership”.

Last Monday, Gbemi was among defectors, who were received by President Jonathan and PDP National Chairman Alhaji Ahmed Adamu Mu’azu. In her remarks, she allayed fears that the unity among opposition politicians would not last because of individual ambitions, saying that all of them had decided to put their individual desires at the back seat and chart a common cause towards ensuring victory for the PDP in 2015.

Gbemi Saraki’s declaration for PDP has, no doubt, deepened the uncertainty over Kwara 2015 election. Our correspondent gathered that Gbemi, who may likely be nominated as a Minister by President Jonathan, having sacked the Minister of Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi who hails from the State, is expected to serve as a rallying force for members of Saraki’s dynasty who remain in PDP.

Pundits say the way she is going to upstage her brother in the current political battle is still within the realm of conjecture.

A prominent Ilorin indigene, who spoke with Sunday Trust on condition of anonymity, said though political differences between Gbemi and her brother were normal in politics, “it is evidently clear that there is fight between the duo. We are just watching as events unfold”.

On his part, Saraki, who is now the Senator representing Kwara Central in the National Assembly, the position vacated by his sister, has equally been reticent about their rift. He prefers, instead, to speak generally about those who hitherto worked with him and have refused to follow him to APC.

However, when asked about the division in his father’s dynasty in a recent interview by an online medium, Premium Times, Saraki evasively said, “First of all, I only have one sibling that is in politics. This is not the first time that we are having different political views with my other sibling that is in politics. It is not abnormal. It happens all over. We all have our own different political aspirations and wishes”. Saraki is, however, confident that APC would win all elections in the State in 2015, telling the party “to go and sleep. By God’s will, we will deliver in all elections”.

Speaking with our correspondent, an associate of Saraki, Alhaji Salau Alabi Olorin advised the duo to sheathe their swords in order not to destroy the legacies of their father, saying that they needed to work together to protect the dynasty from crumbling.

Olorin, who contested against Saraki in the 1979 Senatorial election for Kwara Central, said, “Late Dr. Olusola Saraki, the Second Republic Senate Leader worked assiduously to build a political empire which benefited many Kwarans and non-Kwarans as well. It is not fair for the two of them to fight each other on politics because they are of the same blood. They need to work together to protect what their father worked for over the years”.

Also recently, the Ilorin Emirate Descendants’ Progressive Union (IEDPU), the apex socio-cultural organisation of Ilorin indigenes at home and abroad, tasked the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Zulu Gambari to reconcile the two siblings in the interest of peace and sustained harmony in the emirate. Will this reconciliation work as envisaged? Only time will tell.

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