Ending The 11-year-old Saraki, Lawal Political Rivalry

Date: 2012-07-29

The 11 years old enmity between the Saraki and Lawal political dynasties in Kwara State has been finally laid to rest, courtesy of the immotalisation of the late Alh. Mohammed Alabi Lawal, who ruled the state between 1999 and 2003, under the platform of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP).

The immotalisation of the late Kwara State Governor Lawal by the state government through renaming of the Ilorin Golf Club after him, though came to many as a surprise, but it has no doubt healed some old wounds among the gladiators of the two political camps.

It would be recalled that the Second Republic Senate Leader and kingmaker of Kwara politics, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, had helped Lawal to become the governor of the state in 1999. The goings between the godfather and godson went on smoothly until March 2001 when a crisis broke out between them over undisclosed matters.

The crisis, which polarized the then ruling ANPP into two factions with Saraki’s camp being led by Prof. Albert Ogunsola and Lawal’s camp being led by Alh. Abiodun Usman, later saw Saraki defecting from the party to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the build-up to the 2003 governorship election in the state.

The elder Saraki had to take the painful decision of dumping the party, which he financed from the scratch, when it became apparent to him that the late Lawal would stop at nothing to get the ticket of the ANPP for a second term in office. And since Saraki was determined to ensure that his estranged political son did not rule Kwara beyond May 29, 2003, he had no option than to find an alternative political platform for his preferred candidate.

Saraki, upon request from his followers, later fielded his son, Dr. Bukola Saraki, under the platform of the PDP against the then governor Lawal in a fierce 2003 governorship election in the state. Bukola Saraki eventually defeated Lawal in the election and went ahead to rule the state for eight years, after which he installed the incumbent Governor of the state, Alh. AbdulFatah Ahmed, as his successor.

Since the crisis between Lawal and Saraki broke out in 2003, loyalists of the two political gladiators remained sworn enemies until Thursday, July 19, 2012, when in a rare act of magnanimity, the state government announced a post-humus award for the late governor, Mohammed Lawal.

The Secretary to the State Government, Alh. Isiaka Gold, had broken the cheering news at a post-state executive council’s meeting press briefing at the Government House in Ilorin, the state capital.

Though, signs of an impending truce between the feuding political camps had emerged in the build-up to the 2011 general elections in the state when the leader of Lawal’s followers in the state and former commissioner for special duties in the state, Alh. Razaq Lawal, led the large chunk of Lawal’s supporters to the ruling PDP. It was, however, the immotalisation of the former governor that sealed the deal.

Before Razaq Lawal’s defection to the PDP, Lawal’s elements in the Kwara patriots (TKP), led by Chief Wole Oke, had also decamped to PDP, following the adoption of rotation formula by Dr. Bukola Saraki, the leader of the PDP in the state.

The remnants of Lawal’s followers in the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) under the leadership of Alh. AbdulRaheem Olesin later followed suit by joining the PDP few months after the 2011 gubernatorial election.

Keen observers of political events in the "State of Harmony" have concluded that the above scenario spearheaded by Razaq Lawal had paved the way for the immortalisation of Lawal, and resultant resolution of the over-a-decade enmity between the followers of Saraki and Lawal.

Announcing the renaming of the Ilorin Golf Club after Lawal, the state Commissioner for Sports, Anthony Towoju said: "The late Mohammed Lawal in his lifetime contributed positively to the development of golf sports in the state. When he assumed office in 1999, the Ilorin Golf Club was in comatose, and he did everything to rehabilitate it to international standard. By the time he left, Ilorin Golf Club was second to Ibrahim Babangida Golf Club in Abuja.

"He sponsored so many competitions, both at the state and national levels, which led to human capital development. Therefore, Ilorin Golf Club will now be known and addressed as Mohammed Lawal Golf Club, Ilorin," he said.

In a spontaneous reaction to this development, associates and followers of the late governor hailed the state government’s decision to immortalise the former governor by renaming the Ilorin Golf Club after him.

In separate appreciation letters to Governor AbdulFatah Ahmed, copies of which were made available to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY in Ilorin yesterday, leaders of various political associations loyal to the former governor described the action of the state government as a bold step.

The letters were authored by Lawal Followers Association in the state, the Lawal Leadership Forum in Ilorin Emirate, and the youths and women wings of Lawal Political Group in the state.

The letter of appreciation written by Lawal Leadership Forum was signed by Alhaji Ilyas AbdulRahman, Alhaji Rasak Kebe and Hon. Yekini Alajagusi, while the one written by youths and women wings of Lawal Political Group was signed by Hajia Nana Murtala and Alhaji Raheem Akore.

In one of the letters, signed by the leader of Lawal followers in the state and former commissioner of Special Duties, Alhaji Razaq Lawal, they noted with delight that the renaming of the Ilorin Golf Club as Mohammed Lawal Golf Club was in recognition of his contributions towards the development of the state, particularly in the area of sports.

They also assured the governor of their unalloyed support and co-operation in spreading democracy dividends across the state.
The associations equally thanked the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Bukola Saraki, for his purposeful leadership style which has made the immortalisation of the late governor possible.

Also, the Idi-Ape family of the late governor paid a "thank you" visit to the immediate past governor of the state, Dr. Bukola Saraki last weekend to show their appreciation for the honour done their son, even in death.

The delegation, which was led by Alh. Saadu Suleiman Are, included the National President, Afonja Descendants Union, Alh. Olola Kasum, and the union’s Secretary, Alhaji Isiaka Amao, among others.

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