By Adetola A. Kehinde
Today, November 15, 2020, marks the fourteenth anniversary of the passing of the former military governor of Ogun State and civilian governor of Kwara State, Rear Admiral Muhammed Alabi Lawal. Late Muhammed Lawal fondly called “Ọmọ Laderin” was the first Ilorin emirate to become the governor of Kwara State.
For many young persons, they grew up to know late Muhammed Lawal as a Governor who braced the waters to deliver good governance. Many would rightly claim that Lawal already started laying the foundation for a new Kwara. The plan for rebuilding cut across state and included the establishment of a state-owned university; metropolitan water system; rural and urban roads construction; upgrading of the health facilities in the state; revitalisation of Kwara Hotel; construction of Presidential lodge and opening up of Kwara State for economic prosperity through transport scheme and mobility.
Kwarans were savouring the optimism when Late Muhammed Lawal who enjoyed the support of the late Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki for his emergence as Governor of Kwara State in 1999, suddenly became a prey. The godfather- godson relationship became frosty. The relationship many commentators posited was dangerous to the progress of the state as it served the interest of a single master instead of serving the interest of the millions of Kwarans.
Rather than serving the interest of the godfather, late Lawal gallantly opted for serving the interest of Kwarans. This marked the genesis of the enmity between late Saraki dynasty led by Olusola Saraki against late Muhammed Lawal.
The Saraki dynasty in an effort to oust him from power resorted to blackmail and sponsor of malicious falsehood against the person of late Mohammed Lawal. They engineered thuggery and hooliganism in the state whilst presenting themselves as the lovers of the people using cheap material to induce conscience. Sadly, they succeeded in their deceitful craft and prospered in the weapon they fashioned against him. This led to his defeat in the 2003 election in the state.
As one of the foremost media practitioners in Nigeria and former Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Modibbo Kawu wrote in his remembrance of late Muhammed Lawal in 2015, that “the late Olushola Saraki exploited our feelings and manipulated emotions about our historical values to open access for his son, Bukola, to seize the reins of power and unfortunately, we couldn’t foresee that we were embarking on a journey to perdition”.
Modibbo Kawu further described the Saraki hegemony in the state as the worst plague that our community has ever or can ever suffer. Kwara’s, not only Ilorin alone, socio-cultural value system suffered for this for 16 years post-Lawal era before the people finally had the voice and political power to say “O to ge” (Enough is Enough).
In the face of oppression, intimidation, bullying and harassment, late Muhammed Lawal stood firm on his feet; however, with the minds of the majority already poisoned against him, the Saraki dynasty was able to defeat him at the poll. Surprisingly, the majority of those whose minds were poisoned against him is still living till today fighting their conscience and seeking forgiveness for allowing themselves to be used.
It is on record and some of us who were of age when Bukola Saraki became the Governor of Kwara state in 2003, witnessed how Bukola Saraki used the state apparatus to vilify late Mohammed Lawal and rubbish all his legacies. Despite all the vilification and persecution, late Muhammed Lawal was exonerated and nothing tangible was found to nail him. Even the almighty EFCC led by Nuhu Ribadu found nothing incriminating against him. This gives credence to the fact that the Saraki dynasty only had one agenda: to hunt him down.
Incredulously, the same Saraki dynasty is all out again to sponsor falsehood and personality assassination against the incumbent governor of the State, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq to return to power. The same scenario, same strategy!
Kwarans, should we fold our arms and allow them to succeed yet again against a man who has started righting the wrongs of Saraki hegemony, positioning Kwara State for economic prosperity, and providing a sustainable approach to human capital development in the state?
Babajide Kolade-Otitoju noted that late Lawal affirmed his commitment to emancipating Kwara State from the “strangulating grip of the oligarchy.” Just like the late Lawal urged, I am also urging well-meaning Kwarans to ignore their differences and personal interests to work together in ensuring that what happened to late Lawal does not repeat itself in Kwara State.
If there is anything Kwarans should emulate from late Mohammed Lawal, it should be the virtue of believing in oneself to lead the fight of freedom and emancipation in the face of oppression. Never fold your arms or give room for oppressors to succeed in their craft. They did it against Ọmọ Laderin, do we need to allow them to do it and succeed against AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq?
The present scheme being orchestrated by Bukola Saraki is Déjà vu, and I would like to draw the consciousness of all well-meaning Kwarans on the need to be awakened and stand firm against the oppressors who have begun to scheme day and night to take the state back to the days of darkness, terror, and underdevelopment.
May the Lord continue to rest the soul of Rear- Admiral Muhammed Alabi Lawal (Ọmọ Laderin), and save Kwara state from the evil craft of those who tried to destroy his legacy.
Adetola A. Kehinde is a Research Fellow, Socio-developmental Analyst and he writes from Lagos. He can be reached via: 08068218386 or [email protected].