History often repeats itself. Historical scenarios reoccur in almost the same pattern, even though the dramatis personae may not necessarily be the same. The recent political happenings in Kwara State bear serious semblance with the events of the last years of Pharaoh in the ancient Egypt.
Accounts by the holy books recorded how Pharaoh, having rejected God’s signs amid unprecedented ill-treatment of the Israelis and the prospect of God’s wrath ending his ignoble reign, started devising all tricks and delay tactics to continue his wayward conducts and arrogance.
Each time God sent down his punishment in return for his recalcitrance, Pharaoh would pledge to turn a new leaf and ask Moses to kindly intercede for him so that God can lift his anger! Exploiting God’s unparalleled forbearance, he continued this tricky habit amid cocky conducts until God finally drowned him and his goons in the sea.
Pray, save for the difference in name, place and time, is there any difference between Egypt’s Pharaoh and Kwara’s Bukola Saraki, who recently claimed to have inherited this state from his late father? I was travelling in a cab in Ilorin two weeks ago when a conversation ensued on the future of Kwara.
The cab driver refused to join the conversation. Challenged to contribute to the talk, the man yelled that he has children and a wife to look after and cannot afford being traced and silenced for his opinion on the goings-on in Kwara. This is a trend in the town, and across the state, where people have been intimidated for so long.
They have seen critics of Saraki’s politics getting killed. In many parts of Ilorin and elsewhere, Saraki’s thugs walk the streets with guns and weapons unchallenged. Led by the Bayo Ajias and the Ariyos, they often visit the homes of potential opponents to the dynasty to drop some warnings the Don Corleone way. Are you seeing a semblance to Pharaoh’s rule?
But, like Pharaoh’s hegemony, Saraki’s stranglehold on Kwara is breaking and he is, like Pharaoh, trying all the tricks in the book to prevent the dynasty from crumbling. He started by deploying massive violence on Ilorin and tried to blame it on the opposition — a rehash of the tactics used against Muhammad Lawal in 2003. While many people in and outside of Kwara appear to be aware of this tactic, there’s no telling that Saraki would back down from using it, no matter how many lives get lost in the process.
As a corollary to that, Saraki’s henchmen issued a statement at the weekend announcing that he had sealed a pact with traditional rulers in Kwara North. The pact, it is said, will see Saraki ceding governorship slot to Kwara north in 2023 in exchange for the traditional rulers mobilising their people to back Saraki’s proposed ‘viceroy’ Razaq Atunwa in the March 2 2019 governorship poll.
It is a very desperate measure which exposes a few things about Saraki. One, it confirmed that he is seriously shaken by the wave of opposition to his grip, especially so by the candidature of APC’s AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. Like Pharaoh, Saraki fears losing power which he used for his grandiose lifestyle. Two, like Pharaoh, Saraki doesn’t believe in God as his arrogant posturing reveals.
No true believer talks about deciding what happens tomorrow, much less what happens in the next four years (2023). What made him think he will live until May 2019, much less 2023? Three, Saraki is a despicable gambler who sees the Kwara people as a game of chess. He even tried to manipulate the traditional rulers in his political chess game of deceit and brutality.
The reason Saraki has been running from pillar to post is simple. His reign has been a curse to the people of Kwara. Most of the state’s properties and businesses he inherited as a governor have been sold to himself or his cronies. As his lackey Atunwa confessed in a statement yielding to the pact (as if he had any say, anyway), Kwara north has been in the backwater of development. Atunwa was actually saying the truth that applies to all of Kwara which has one of the country’s lowest development indices. All of these explain the ongoing revolt against him.
Now, without underrating Saraki’s ability to cajole people and blackmail our poor traditional leaders, there are two issues our people of Kwara North must consider. One, how reliable is Bukola Saraki as an individual and as a politician? What is his history? Can they sensibly rely on him?
What were the outcomes of his last promises to Kwara North? Can our traditional rulers and people please ask Bio Ibrahim to tell his experience about the worth of Bukola Saraki’s promise? If he was so ‘mad’ about conceding governorship slot to Kwara North, why didn’t he simply allow Senator Shiaba Lafiagi, a son of Kwara North who came second in the PDP’s dubious primaries, to replace Atunwa who has been found to forge his National Youth Service Corps certificate? Is Saraki believable? The answers are a resounding no.
Two, let us assume that Saraki will live till 2023 and will fulfil his promise to Kwara north. He would handpick one of his lackeys as the candidate and make him his next viceroy. Now, I invite our people to ask Kwara South elders what their experience has been with Abdulfatah Ahmed, one of their sons who Saraki had handpicked to become governor in 2011.
Despite warnings from within the Kwara South against backing anything from Saraki, the majority fell for his trick. Eight years down the line, the region is now worse off as Ahmed not only couldn’t do anything for the region, he has wasted a slot which Kwara south elders and people felt could accelerate development statewide. They had thought Ahmed would be an executive governor who would operate independent of the leech called Saraki. They were wrong! The latest antics of Saraki are no different from those of Pharaoh. Ultimately, Saraki will remain Saraki. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
The time has come in the political history of this state that everybody must say no to anything that comes from Saraki. I dare say the options before our people have never been clearer: reject Saraki and anything related to his prebendal politics in exchange for a prosperous Kwara that promises equal sociopolitical opportunities or embrace him to further entrench a regime of under development, poverty and repression.
Hamman-Pategi writes from Edu Local government area of Kwara State.