By Abdulwahab Oba
A long time friend visited me last week. It was a great reunion which afforded us an opportunity to catch up on the past given the fact that this golden comrade has been out of Nigeria for a long time. Thus we reviewed politics, we reviewed policies, we reviewed elections, we reviewed sports. Almost everything that caught our fancy, but more importantly those things we consider dear to out commitments.
I have decided to share some of our exchanges with you on this page today because I consider them very germane to an understanding of several issues. Coincidentally, most of the issues I discussed with my friend from London were also discussed with the Managing Director, The National Pilot Newspapers, “Lord Billy,” when he paid an unscheduled visit to the Press Crew office of the government house.
Expectedly, one of the topics that featured prominently in the just two days we had to share our thoughts was the Saraki factor in Nigeria and Kwara politics. “The man is seen as an oppressor. People say he’s arrogant, too rigid, never smiling, never mixing with the people he calls his followers”, my friend cried out as if that was his mission of visiting me. He concluded with the big question “why?”
But I was not surprised with this kind of footled and skewed perception about the senate president. I have had to contend with such insinuations, even as the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Lagos State Council. They are south west based contemptuous biases against percceived northern hegemony. Way back in 1992, a friend in Lagos had once queried why Dr Abubakar Saraki was still in politics. “The same reasons why Chief Obafemi Awolowo died in politics,” I answered him simplicita.
So, today, I’m not rattled that similar questions are being asked about his son. “That’s the impression some people want others to have about Saraki. And that’s the gospel truth because if you accuse him of oppressing the people, the question is, in what ways? Is it by giving opportunities to people who ordinarily would never have thought of being where today are because of their background of being children of the less privileged? In the political system of south-west Nigeria today, is it possible to remove the Awolowo factor? How was Awo able to dominate the politics of the region despite the various opposition antics? Was it not because he met the needs of the people through policies and programmes? The opposition saw his hold on the region as oppressive too but his people knew he was a God-sent.”
“The same with Saraki and Kwara. His opponents would continue to cry and give him all sorts of names, but the people on ground, who daily in one way or the other are exposed positively to his impacts will continue to queue behind him, come rain, come sun. That’s the truth.” I said.
I asked my friend to let’s visit some communities in Kwara central senatorial district where Saraki’s constituency projects are ongoing. How many of his ilks are doing that? What of his current empowerment programme? How many of those who accuse him of oppression are doing one tenth of that? It is easier to tag someone like Saraki as an oppressor because that simply gives his enemies something to latch on.
At the accusation that he frowns all the time, I smiled and asked him if a man should laugh just for him to be seen as so doing. Again, come to think of it, those who make such pedestrian allegation, how many times have they had personal contacts with him? And let’s even assume this to be true without conceding, is it by smiling that you help your people? Those who claim to have the capacity to laugh and hug the masses, how many have they lifted up in life? Why is it that the masses keep flocking to the house of a man “without a smile”? Why do they snide at the men with smiles plastered on their faces and inviting them to come? Could it be that these poor masses can detect the difference between a genuine smile and a cosmetic one? Why do these so called “smilers” run away with their smiles at the end of every election in the state, because I am sure that allegation is coming from their quarter?
I told my friend to discard that allegation. And then he landed on my boss, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed. Why is he not in charge of Kwara, he asked. “Who told you the governor is not in charge here?” I retorted. Or just because he pledges allegiance to his political boss then he is no longer in charge as Governor? Go and ask his cabinet members and aides and get to know the truth instead of accepting mere speculations. “Governor Ahmed is fully in charge of the administration of the state,” I said.
The truth many are not willing to accept in our evolving democracy is that leadership will be emerging and allegiance would be formed and it is all part of politics. We should not see loyalty as a negative quality but rather as a virtue. Personally, for instance, I’m not very comfortable with what some APC leaders in the south-west are doing in this regard. No matter the offence or misunderstanding, virtue does not teach us to throw mud at our destiny helpers. Saraki is a destiny helper for Ahmed and none of the Holy Books teaches us to treat such men with disdain just because we are in a position of honour today. Dr Ahmed is a study in humility, resourcefulness and loyalty. Dr Ahmed initiates and implements policies and programmes of his administration and fully takes responsibility for the results.
In any case, the truth that I know is that Saraki is too busy in Abuja than dictate to Ilorin. Governor Ahmed is too loyal to Saraki than block lines of communication between them or deny his leadership. The earlier some people realise and accept this, the better.
Ok, my friend said, why is your governor not able to pay local government workers? I’m sure you too are used to this. It’s a sore point in two ways. One, in the sense that a man like Ahmed would never find himself being comfortable in this kind of situation and he has expressed his anguish over the development times without number.
Secondly, the matter is a sore point because some elements have deliberately refused to understand the true constitutional workings of government. If you are sure it is the state government that is responsible for the plight of local government workers why can’t someone take it up legally? The truth is that it is a function of the local government and if there had been any shady deals over the years on this matter, at least, by now something should have been exposed. At least we are seeing that with the Teaching Service Commission issue.
Critics of government have simply refused to admit the fact that the harrowing financial strait that Nigeria has found herself is a major factor for the bruise the local government workers are carrying today. It is unfortunate but the truth again is that like it or not, the state has not left them to themselves. They too can bear witness to this.
Finally, though my friend conceded the unfair political persecution of Dr Bukola Saraki, he said Asiwaju Tinubu has not been fairly treated by the party he sacrificed so much to build. On this, I reserve my comments for another day.
*Oba can be reached via e-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org