Emir moves to mend cracks in Ilorin political dynasty

Date: 2013-12-28

The Ilorin Emirate Council is moving to end the lingering feud between Bukola and Gbemi, all children of late Dr. Olusola Saraki, Kwara’s political sage, which is threatening the age-long political dynasty. How far can the emirate go? Weekly Trust reports

The recent meager of the newPeoples Democartic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) had shocked even political analysts and pundits alike. While the APC might be gloating over its soaring membership, the merger has ruffled feathers in the political firmaments of the affected states.

In Kwara, the situation is dicey. It has widened the gulf in the political dynasty of late strongman of Kwara politics and Second Republic Senate Leader, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki who passed away on November 14, 2012. Prior to his death, Saraki was the main factor in Kwara politics for over four decades, dictating the pace of political leadership in the state. 

The ascension of his son, Bukola, to the governorship of the state in 2003 was his icing on the cake after toiling for many years installing virtually all the civilian governors who had emerged before Bukola. Not only that Bukola became governor, he was also the first civilian governor to rule the state for two terms of eight years.

However, in the build-up to the 2011 general elections, there was a fragmentation in the dynasty when the late Saraki made case for Bukola’s younger sister, Gbemisola, then a Senator representing Kwara Central, to succeed her brother. This did not go down well with Bukola, who reportedly opposed the move on the premise that opportunity should be given to other senatorial districts to produce the next governor. 

When it became clearer that securing the PDP ticket for Gbemi would be impossible, late Saraki floated the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) to actualise Gbemi’s governorship ambition. She was, however, defeated in the poll by the then PDP candidate, incumbent Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and then candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mohammed Dele Belgore, SAN. Political watchers were of the view that the scenario in 2011 election was the major political defeat of the late godfather who was instrumental to the ascendancy to virtually all politicians who became what in the state.

The Gbemi’s project also caused division in the camp with some politicians queuing behind the former governor while others backed his father and vigorously campaigned for Gbemi. 

Though the late Saraki and his son later reconciled, thereby throwing the ACPN into the dustbin of history and reuniting the already divided camp, reconciliation could not be achieved between Bukola and his sister who is apparently pained by her brother’s implacable opposition to her governorship ambition. The frosty relationship between the two siblings, however ,dragged on and could not be resolved until the death of their father. 

An associate of Saraki, Professor Albert Ogunsola who also died on Sunday September 8, this year at the age of 90 had told Weekly Trust that he regretted that he could not reconcile Bukola and Gbemi before Saraki’s death. All other efforts to reconcile them not materialise up till the elder statesman also breathed his last.

His first son, Femi Ogunsola, who is a commissioner representing Kwara State at the Federal Character Commission (FCC), told journalists that his late father’s only regret was his inability to reconcile late Oloye Saraki’s children, Senators Bukola Gbemisola. 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’. Even 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. Even in the wee hours of his departure, he was still calling Dr Bukola Saraki to fix a date when they would meet for the resolution of their seemingly irreconcilable differences so that the family will be one and united. Baba was still on the verge of reconciling the two siblings when he passed on.” 

The cat and mouse relationship between the two siblings came to fore during the first anniversary of Saraki’s death on Friday November 14, this year when Gbemi shunned the prayer organised for her father at Ilorin Central Juma’at Mosque. Instead, Gbemi who came to town that Friday went to offer prayers on her father’s mausoleum alongside two other siblings, Tope and Laolu. Explaining why Gbemi, did not attend the prayer, one of her associates who pleaded anonymity said  “she believes the gathering is political and essentially anti-GEJ. You know she is on the same page with Professor Oba Abdulraheem and the likes”. 

Gbemi has, therefore, refused to follow her brother and Governor Ahmed to the APC and remained in the PDP with other former members of her father’s political empire including Professor Abdulraheem, the FCC Chairman, former Sports and Transport Minister, Alhaji Isa Bio, among others currently rallying support for President Goodluck Jonathan. It was also gathered that Gbemi has been penciled down for a ministerial position to strengthen her politically and is expected to serve as rallying force for the remnants of Saraki’s dynasty in the PDP. 

Nevertheless, Bukola and Governor Ahmed and their loyalists who were hitherto in the PDP had moved en-masse to the APC, but political pundits predict a political quake for the state if the warring parties who are members of the same family are not brought together. Members of the Ilorin emirate community are wary of the implication of the political wrangling in a once united dynasty on the peace and harmony the emirate and the state are known for.

This, however, prompted the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU), the apex socio-cultural organisation of all Ilorin emirate indigenes, to take the case to the Emir of Ilorin and Chairman of the state Council of Traditional Rulers, Alhaji Ibrahim Zulu Gambari. At the annual IEDPU conference which takes place   every     December 25, IEDPU National President, Justice Saka Yusuf called on the emir to mend the cracks in Saraki’s dynasty. In a tacit reference to the raging political division in the community, Justice Yusuf told the gathering where Gbemisola was lady chairperson that Ilorin emirate politicians should “see themselves as one family and brothers’ keeper who are after the peace, progress, growth and development of Ilorin Emirate Community.

“We want to appeal to our political class or politicians that they should not play politics as a dirty game which can lead to rancour and acrimony. We plead with all the politicians that Ilorin Emirate community should be first and foremost in their minds. We wish them Allah’s support and protection,” he said.

A prominent Ilorin based Islamic scholar, Sheik AbdulRasaq Adama-Thani also spoke along that line, urging the emir to reconcile Bukola and his sister on one side and Saraki and Abdulraheem on the other hand. He advised the people of the state to shun activities capable of igniting crisis in the state, noting that crisis is an ill wind which would blow no one any good just as he recalled the wanton destruction of lives and property associated with the political upheavals witnessed in the state in the Second Republic and between 2001 and 2003.

Analysts, however, opine that IEDPU must have given the emir a big task given his expected non-partisan stand as a father to all and sundry. As all politics is driven by interest; and politicians align and realign to satisfy their individual interest, resolving the differences between Saraki and his sister might therefore entail removing the toga of politics and make it strictly a communal initiative. This would require the duo as well bowing to the wishes of the majority and allowing peace to reign in the state. How the Emir is going to carry out this gargantuan task is what is not clear to stakeholders in the community.

A prominent IEDPU member who spoke to Weekly Trust on condition of anonymity advised the duo to come together not to “rubbish” their father’s lineage. He said  “it is the wishes of the IEDPU that the two of them should reconcile and resolve their differences. Reconciliation is a welcome initiative. It is going to benefit the country and it is good for Nigeria. You know that some people are friends to Bukola, some are friends to Gbemi and the earlier the reconciliation is carried out, the better for the community. You know they also talked about reconciling Bukola with Professor Abdulraheem but the major reconciliation I think should be between the two siblings. So the reconciliation has a lot of benefits for the community. I want to advise the two of them to be reasonable. They have to preserve the image of their father”.


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