Opinion: The Past, Present and Future of the Saraki Dynasty

Date: 2012-11-11

By Abdulrazaq O. Hamzat

In this article, we are taking a look at the past, present and the future of the Saraki dynasty, a political dynasty in Kwara state Nigeria, which started over 40 years ago.

The Saraki dynasty is a political dynasty which has its origin in Ilorin, Kwara
State and Dr.Abubakar Olusola Saraki is the founder.

Saraki is a doctor turned politician, who was a senator of the Nigerian Second Republic (1979-1983). He was born on the 17th of May, 1933 at Ilorin, Kwara State. Though, his claim of Ilorin as a birth place is always questioned by some people, but this force which has been dictating the pace of the State since the late 70's has maintained his stance till date.

Olusola Saraki first ventured into politics in 1964. At that time, he contested for the parliamentary election in Ilorin as an independent candidate, but his dream of becoming a parliamentarian was dashed when he lost the election. His loss at that time forced him to return to Lagos to continue his medical practice.

Fourteen years after he lost his first election, Saraki returned back to politics in 1977 when he was elected as a member of constituent Assembly that produced the 1979 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. His emergence at that time marked the beginning of what is today known as the beginning of the Saraki dynasty.

In 1979, he was elected a Senator of the second republic and became the Senate Leader. Saraki was later elected in 1983 into the Senate on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).

Olusola Saraki supported Alhaji Adamu Atta who came from a minority ethnic group in his bid to become the first civilian Governor in Kwara state in 1979. The support he provided paid off as Atta emerged as governor. After few years, Saraki had crisis with Governor Adamu Atta. This new development meant a political contest would have to take place between him and the incumbent governor if the governor stood as a candidate for re-election.

Having fallen off with the incumbent Governor whom he helped win the election in 1979, Saraki anointed a candidate to contest against the Governor. Lately in the contest, Saraki declared his support at the last minute to the for Cornelius Olatunji Adebayo. This was necessary haven seen that his own candidate was not popular enough to win the election.

As a result of Saraki's support, C.O Adebayo who was not very sure of victory won the election and became the Governor in 1983. He later lost his position in December 1983 when the military lead by Major General Muhammed Buhari overthrew the government.

Saraki nominated Saba Lafiaji in 1992 and he won the governorship under General Ibrahim Babangida's regime, before the coup of General Sani Abacha in 1993.

Also, upon returning to civilian rule in 1999 after the demise of General Sani Abacha, Saraki anointed late Admiral Mohammed Alabi Lawal who became the governor under the platform of APP where Saraki was a member of the Board of Trustee. Having gone on loggerhead with Lawal, Saraki decamped from ANPP to PDP and nominated his biological son Dr.Abubakar Bukola Saraki to become the Governor in 2003.  Saraki's son defeated the incumbent Governor which proved the unstopability of Saraki in the midst of tight situation.

The re-election of Bukola Saraki as governor in 2007 after a serious contest and defeat of Comrade Gbenga Olawepo in a controversial way signifies his last eligibility according to the Nigerian constitution, which means that the Kwara godfather who is obviously growing old and tired needed to prepare his children ahead of 2011. In his desperation to uphold the status quo and transfer the 'godfatherism' power to his son, Saraki decided to use his last strength to create a godfather transition avenue, which was to see his son and the entire family take over the decision making of Kwara State. He then decided to create a public manipulative game, just as he did in 2003 against the then incumbent governor, late Admiral Mohammed Alabi Lawal, where he manipulated the people to dethrone the then Governor.

At that time, the only weapon that did the magic for Saraki was turning the Islamic scholars against the Governor, an effort he achieved by claiming that the late Governor was going to dethrone the Emir if he wins the second term and also that the Governor was disrespectful to the Royal House of Ilorin (Ile Alimi). A house regarded and respected by all scholars and people of Ilorin. This singular issue pitched the scholars against the Governor while Saraki reaped the benefits politically. It was a situation which later led to the eventual defeat of Mohammed Alabi Lawal in his bid to seek re-election in 2003. Although after the removal and demise of the late Governor, a popular Islamic Scholar with the name Sheikh Buhari Ibn Musa lamented the ignorance of the scholars at that time about the Saraki's game which pitched them against the helper of the people, this was said at the 4th years remembrance prayer session organized for the late Admiral.

Ahead of 2011,Saraki decided to introduce another game to achieve his political dream of godfathersim transition between himself and his son to continue the line of the Saraki dynasty, he then created a two version like contest between his family, where both version shall pursue its political interest separately on two different fronts, one front led by himself and the other by his son Bukola Saraki who is the immediate past Governor of the state and presently a Senator representing Kwara Central Senatorial District.

Saraki lead his daughter, Gbemi Saraki to depart the PDP to a new platform (ACPN) with no structure to contest for the governorship position, while his son anointed his own candidate and remained in the PDP.

At the conclusion of the election which produced Alh Abdulfatah Ahmed as executive Governor, Saraki reunited with his son in PDP. This was after successfully placing him as the only determinant factor in the Kwara politics.

To prove that the atmosphere of the version like created during the electioneering period was nothing but a game, the majority of the appointments given in the present administration went to the members of the ACPN who returned to PDP immediately after the election was concluded. Notably among them is the Chief of Staff, Alhaji Toyin Sanusi who is popularly known to be P.A and the right man of Dr. Olusola Saraki, the father during the election period.

At present, The Saraki's dynasty is comfortably sitting on the political control of the state, which may likely continue for some time. The main godfather Olusola Saraki is quietly sitting indoors. His son who just became the new godfather is dictating the pace, who gets what, where and how in the state at present. He was responsible for the installation of the Governor, Senators, Federal House of representative members, Members of State House of Assembly, Chairmen ,Commissioners and including SAs. All these people holding these positions are accountable to this young man, but as unbelievable as it seems, this is the reality on ground as far as Kwara State is concerned.

The future of the Saraki's dynasty presently seems bright as they control virtually every situation in the state without any opposition. Political opposition that may wish to make any statement would have a very huge mountain to climb. Besides this fact, Saraki has strategically positioned most of his family members in strategic leadership position to counter any opposition. They are well placed to take leadership role one after the other, a situation which may help them retain power for very long time to come.

For example, before 2003 when Bukola Saraki came to contest for the Governorship election, he was a presidential adviser under the first term tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo. Saraki's daughter, Gbemi Saraki at that time was also a member of the Federal House of Representative. In 2003, Bukola Saraki became the Governor of the State, Gbemi Saraki became a Senator representing Kwara Central, Laolu Saraki was made an S.A to the Governor on Student Affairs.

In 2007, Bukola Saraki was re-elected as the Governor, Gbemi Saraki as Senator, Laolu Saraki became a Presidential Adviser under the late president Umaru Musa Yardua and another member of the Saraki extended family, Ope Saraki was made the S.A to the Governor on Student Affairs.

In 2011, Bukola Saraki became a Senator representing Kwara Central Senatorial District after taking over the 'godfatherism' position from his father, he installed the present Governor Alh.Abdulfatah Ahmed and virtually every political appointment holder in and outside the state. Ope Saraki was made the S.A on MDG to the present Governor.

What all those closely watching the Kwara situation are usually surprised at is that, none of the Saraki family members have any real business except politics. This make it seems that they have already resolved to keep the state as their personal business.

To continue holding unto power and maintain the godfatherism transition without going broke, Bukola Saraki decided to adopt his father's style where all those who made it to their respective positions under him were made to a pay a certain percentage of their earning in their respective positions to Saraki. This pay shall serve as the fuel fee needed to keep the game rolling for the family. A situation was recently rumored to have occurred between Senator Saba Lafiaji and Senator Bukola after receiving the first constituency allowance as a Senator, an allowance which amount to around N500,000,000.00.

Bukola Saraki was rumored to have approached Saba Lafiaji just as he approached every other Kwara representative at the National Assembly to pay out of their received allowances. He was rumored to have demanded the sum of N400,000,000 out of the N500,000,000 received by the Senator's as constituency allowance, but according to the rumor, Saba Lafiaji requested to know why he had to give out such amount, Saraki explained that N300,000,000 out of the N400,000,000 requested would go to the father, while the remaining N100,000,000 would go into the party's pocket for its upkeep. Saba was said to have refused to oblige with his request and said the money is meant for constituency projects not for party's upkeep. The situation was rumored to have created a conflict between the two, though no one could confirm the story, but the story spread far and wide across the state in public discussion.

In my opinion, if the present political situation and the strategic positioning of the Saraki family are to be considered, one would have no doubt about the continuation of the Saraki's dynasty for a long time to come. Though, the general belief of the people of the state is that, the situation is destined and likely to change immediately after the demise of the old Saraki who is feared by many prominent and wealthy personalities in the state.

For over 40 years of Saraki's leadership of Kwara State, he had always made it through every political battle that came his way, though he never went unchallenged at any time.

In Saraki's bid to install Adamu Atah as Governor in 1979, he was challenged by Obatemi Usman. In 1983,Adamu atta whom he supported to become Governor in 1979 turned against him, but Saraki later supported another of his opposition in the person of Chief C.O Adebayo, this was the case when it was obvious that his anointed candidate can not make it. C.O Adebayo was supported to ensure that the incumbent Governors who defy him did not return to power. In 1999,Saraki was challenged by Yekini Alabi, young Gbenga Olawepo and others in his bid to make Alabi Lawal the Executive Governor of the State, he was later challenged in 2003 by Lai Mohammed and Alabi Lawal whom he help to make Governor in 1999. In 2007,Saraki was once again challenged by Gbenga Olawepo as the leading challenger, alongside others like Bamgboye and Senator Suleiman Ajadi. In 2011, Saraki was challenged by Gbenga Olawepo, Dele Belgore, AbdulRazaq Rahman etc.
Other challenger to the Saraki's dominance are Bilkisu Gambari,Lola Ashiru etc.

Gbenga Olawepo was the first man to ever challenge Saraki in the court of law on the basis of election rigging in 2007. The challenge which went from the tribunal to the appeal court was later given in favor of Saraki's son, Bukola Saraki.

In conclusion, despite all opposition against Saraki, he has always come out victorious, but none of his previous political victory could be equated with the feat he achieved at the just concluded election where he successfully transferred his godfatherism status to his son. Although, many believed that the son lack the charisma and leadership qualities to achieve the kind of success and victorious enjoyed by his father, people still believe that despite all strategic positioning of the Saraki's family in key political positions, their strength shall fade away in the absence of their father in a very short while.


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