OPINION: Between Saraki and Lawal: The Fact and Fallacies. By Mohammed Abduraheem

Date: 2002-08-11

Today, one of the existing falsehood which are peddled as truth in Nigerian politics is the relationship between Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki the Turakin Ilorin and the godfather of Kwara State politics and the elected governors of Kwara State since 1979. Those sponsoring the disinformation about this issue have been saying it all over the place that Saraki is fond of sponsoring a person to get elected as governor of Kwara State and shortly after the person assumed office, Saraki will disagree with him and such disaggrement will become so exacerbated that in the end the two will become irreconcilable. The aim of the merchants of this propaganda stuff is to paint Saraki as an unstable politician who does not know what he wants for Kwara State. It is also to show that Saraki usually breath down the neck of these governors.

This piece is to remind Nigerians of the political history of Kwara State as it concerns Dr. Saraki and the four governors that have so far been elected to govern the State. It will be recalled that because of the philantrophic and selfless service Dr. Saraki was engaged in the State before the' advent of the second republic, he had by 1977 when he was elected into the Constituent Assembly emerged as the strongest political force in Kwara State. 

Saraki who set out to be a senator of the Federal Republic in 1979 was persuaded by some NPN leaders to join the race for the presidential ticket of the NPN in 1978. He ran and came fourth behind Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Mallam Adamu Ciroma and Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule. Saraki was at that time one of the financiers of the NPN and its only hope in Kwara State which comprised the area now known as Kogi State. 

Saraki supported Alhaji Adamu Atta to become governor. He had relied on the fortunes of Saraki for his political aspiration. In fact, after his becoming governor, he was still enjoying patronage from the Turaki as a part of the stragegy to dissuade him from dipping hands into the state treasure. The relationship was smooth up to half of Atta's tenure. But as the 1982 NPN presidential primaries was getting nearer, certain strains became noticeable in the affair between the godfather and his anointed.

This strain was obviously a fall-out from the machinations of some NPN apparatchiks in Lagos who were bent on eliminating all oppositions to President Shehu Shagari at the NPN convention. The group had calculated that with Maitama Sule packaged out of the country at the UN and Ciroma in Shagari's cabinet, the adversaries to be wary of were the money men-Chief M.K.O. Abiola and Dr. Sola Saraki. Remember that by that time Saraki had become the biggest sponsor of the party. In fact as revealed by the Fouge-role affair,' the NPN was seriously indebted to Saraki before the 1982 primaries. Those NPN leaders were working to ensure all oppostions to Shagari's re-election were eliminated.

Thus, they hatched a scheme to deal with the perceived opposition early on time. They ensured the multi-millionaire did not get a nomination form, a ploy which put paid to his plans to challenge Shagari.at the convention in Kano. As for Saraki, who to all intent was not really keen about challenging Shagari, they moved to checkmate him from his state. They then reached out to the Kwara state Governor, Adamu Atta, nudging him to stop kow-towing to a senator. The Shagari men then instigated Atta against Saraki and set him to start undermining his benefactor. 

Saraki was surprised at the turn of event. But when it also became clear to him that the scheme had a deeper aspect which was to ensure he was not re-elected into the senate, he also began mobilisation against Atta.

Saraki decided to tell those schemers he was in control and with the grace of God when he directed that his supporters should vote for his colleague in the Senate, Cornelius Adebayo, who was the UPN candidate, Atta lost. It will be recalled that throughout the three months that Adebayo spent as governor, he had no problem with Saraki and if today, the two men are no political buddies, it is because they have never belonged to the same political party or ideological background.

In the Babangida transition or what some called the aborted Third Republic, Saraki endorsed the candidacy of Alhaji Shaaba Laafiagi who was as a result elected governor. Till today, Laafiagi and the Turaki are political allies with the former governor being a staunch loyalist of the senator.

However, when in 1998, the race for the governorship of Kwara State under the platform of All People's Party (APP) was on, Lafiagi, was one of the favourites. He would have gotten Saraki's endorsement until the campaign became hot among Ilorin elites that since the creation of the state, no Ilorin person had become governor, even under the military.

As an Ilorin person, the campaign became a blackmail on Saraki and as an astute politician, he knew he had to accede to the people's wish. Thus, Saraki had to drop his support for Laafiagi and commenced a search for a capable Ilorin person. 

With this development, Laafiagi felt disappointed and thus decamped to the PDP while still maintaining a good relationship with Saraki and his family on a personal level.

In the search for an Ilorin person, Governor Mohammed Lawal was not really one of the favourites. This is because Saraki has always been suspicious of people with military background and their suitability for political office in a democratic setting. In an interview with The Comet last year, Prof. Albert Ogunsola, the APP chairman who Lawal forcefully removed from office after he had supervised his election as governor narrated how Lawal became the choice candidate. He said it was the intervention of Saraki's son. Dr. Bukola Saraki, who maintained that his father should try and support a candidate who is financially independent and with broad exposure so that such a person won't need to rely on Turaki's fund for his campaigns and will be less likely to dip hands in the state resources after assuming office. He felt Lawai fit the bill.

Bukola first tried to persuade Ogunsola and the APP hierarchy who now directed him to go and talk to his father about the situation. 

As it turned out, the relationship between Saraki and Lawal was smooth until Lawal chose to extend his control of government to the control of the party machinery as some of his APP colleagues in Sokoto, Zamfara, Kogi and other states are doing. In that bid, he needed to undermine Saraki and wrest all levers of party control from the old man. He went ahead with his plans vowing that in the military, the strategy is to achieve total control of your environment by using all means to force the opposition to submission. In every war like the one declared by Lawal against Saraki and the people of the state, propaganda is a veritable instrument. It is for this reason that he started saying it that he needed to seize control of the party machinery because he knew Saraki was planning to deny him a Second term by bringing his son, Bukola to run.

He raised this issue with Saraki and the old man denied it. The governor even went to Abuja and raised his fear with Bukola who was then a Presidential aide and the man also dismissed the insinuation. Yet Lawal and his cronies continued to say it that since Saraki has a record of not supporting a governor for the second term, Lawal's case won't be different.

But from the above history, it is clear Saraki only diagreeed with Atta and the reason was obvious.

Today, Saraki and Shaaba Lafiaji are back as political father and political son. I therefore challenge Lawal and his history falsifiers to contradict the above narration. 

Mohammed Abduraheem, Ilorin


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