By Abdullah Abdulganiy
Bukola Saraki, immediate past President of the Nigerian Senate and former Governor of Kwara State has learnt nothing from the Otoge movement that crumbled a dynasty whose foundation his father, Dr Olusola Saraki laboriously laid long time ago. Kwarans don’t pray he learns though because in it lies their continued freedom from the shackles of fiefdom which the Saraki dynasty he superintends represents. So, they are saying never again to the dynasty.
Before Otoge happened in 2019, the Sarakis called the shots. Bukola Saraki determined who gets what, when and how. All the elective posts in the state were in his grip. Then, over the years something led to something, and to Otoge which completely uprooted the Saraki dynasty.
If there was any lesson from the Otoge movement, it’s that of humility. This, many observers thought the proud Saraki would have internalised long after the revolution. But a leopard does not change its spot. You cannot feign humility. Saraki, as many scenarios have confirmed and continue to confirm, is anything but humble.
He was therefore in his true colour when on Tuesday, October 27, 2021 he granted an interview to Arise TV. Very condescending, he talked down to Kwarans. Asked what he has learnt from Otoge, Saraki said the Otoge movement taught him that “elections have to do sometimes with sentiments or propaganda.”
According to him, “If you come to Kwara today and talk to people, you’ll find that a lot of them will tell you that ‘we were sold lies and propaganda… We have made certain mistakes in following up the issues’ and that at the end of the day, they were better of then than now.”
Sir, Kwarans are not daft. This attempt to revise the narrative and guilt-trip the people is dead on arrival. The import of the Otoge revolution is not lost. Everyone was clear about the motive of the movement: to send the feudal lord and his acolytes packing, thereby ending decades of misgovernance and impunity, enslavement of the masses, tokenism, amongst others.
It’s the height of disrespect and revisionism for Saraki to then come out and say Kwarans were sold lies and propaganda to provoke the Otoge movement. By this, he is unwittingly insulting the sensibilities of the Kwara populace, saying they are gullible. Kwarans are not foolish, please. We were wise enough to see that based on the realities on ground then, our state deserved better. And there was no need for anyone to sell lies or propaganda. The demarketing factors were all there for everyone to see.
Basic education was in a shambles. The administration of AbdulFatah Ahmed, Saraki’s sidekick got a facility from UBEC to upgrade and enhance basic education in the state. The facility was diverted, leading to UBEC blacklisting the state for several years. This took the state aback as a large number of schools across the three senatorial districts of the state are nothing to write home about in structure and facilities.
Despite the humongous funds voted to tackle the problem of water in the state under the Saraki dynasty, the current administration of AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq inherited a decripit water system where major waterworks were already dysfunctional and as such many homes cut from getting water; a basic necessity of life. Workers in the water corporation were already on strike over unpaid salaries and entitlements.
The tale at the health sector too is sordid. Many health facilities were already in a state of dilapidation across the state. Important health materials and equipment were not available despite evidence of funds allocated for them. In the heat of the COVID-19 virus, Kwara had no single ventilator. How we were able to push through, emerging one of the best sub-nationals that responded well to the virus is thanks to the good governance style and efficient resources management skill of Governor AbdulRazaq.
The sad story is the same for the agricultural sector. The present administration did not inherit a single functional tractor in the whole of the state. Political farmers had a field day and were incentivised by the previous governments. All these are a microcosm of the failed system Bukola Saraki in his rude remark said Kwarans were better of with. I have not added the ill-treatment workers got under the dynasty. Their salaries were not paid as and when due; at the local government level, civil servants were getting percentage salaries. No promotion, and when there is, it is not cash-backed. The morale of workers was at an all-time low. These are areas, basic, basic ones, where the Saraki dynasty failed woefully.
So, what has changed? A lot. This AbdulRazaq government brought Kwara out of UBEC blacklist, clearing the backlogs owed to the federal government commission. Basic education is now getting optimum attention. Schooling facilities are being upgraded across the state. About 600 basic schools were drafted for facelift and renovation. And for the first time in recent history, Kwara had a recruitment process of teachers that was clearly merit-based and objective. In the past, recruitment forms were distributed at political platforms, paving the way for misfits in such a sensitive sector.
Otoge has led to the resuscitation of our major waterworks. Staff of the water corporation have been paid their backlogs. Water pipes are being properly channeled and replaced. And the tankers we saw yesterday, we are seeing them no more. So many health facilities have got a facelift under this administration. New specialist health centers are being built. Kwara now has ventilators. Our oxygen plant is back to life after years of abandon. The present administration has procured new tractors for the use of farmers.
Civil servants are getting their pay as and when due, both at state and local levels. Several backlogs owed by the previous administrations have been settled and are being settled. Civil servants are now getting promotion, cash-backed promotion. These and more are what have changed. Is this a move forward or backward? So what does Saraki mean when he said Kwarans were better off under the failed system led by his dynasty than now?
If he had really learnt anything, Saraki was expected to have wholeheartedly used the medium to apologise to Kwarans for dragging them aback and denying them the most basic things, not opening his buccal cavity to talk down to the people. It shows he’s yet to be humbled.
Abdulganiy writes from Ilorin, Kwara State