By Folorunsho Abdulkareem
Last week, elements of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara State went into the archives to pull out a footage that is as old as 2018, twisted the whole narrative about it, in an attempt to embarrass the current Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. Alas, they met their waterloo as that campaign of calumny backfired and turned against them. It was to curry public sympathy for their party. However, they ended up shooting themselves in the leg by convincing Kwarans the more that they are yet to turn a new leaf. The Kwara people had in 2019 unceremoniously sacked the Saraki dynasty over years of propaganda-driven administration, cosmetic governance, among other things. In fact, the leader of the dynasty, Bukola Saraki, rode to power through a well-oiled propaganda machinery against then Governor Muhammad Lawal. The trend exactly is what they are repeating as the 2023 general elections approach. It’s an exercise in futility, if they must know.
So, in that footage they shared across the social media, was an unruly minority loyal to the Saraki dynasty who took turns to shout down then candidate AbdulRazaq at an event of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU) as far back as 2018, build-up to 2019 elections. The unruly Saraki loyalists didn’t allow AbdulRazaq pass his goodwill message. That was when the Sarakis were still in control of the reins of power. They booed the then APC guber candidate, and chanted ‘Sai Saraki’, ‘Sai Leader’ and all sorts. That was the true narrative.
In a sudden twist which reeks of unconscionable propaganda, boys loyal to the crushed Saraki dynasty picked up the video and labelled it as students of Kwara State Polytechnic booing now Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq in 2022. The Kwara Poly authorities have come out to dismiss it, saying their students have since been on academic break. Even so, Kwara Poly students have no reason to boo Governor AbdulRazaq. Here is a Governor that has been consistent with the payment of their teachers. Here is a Governor that had completed the about 2000-capacity multipurpose hall in their school which was abandoned for 16 years by the Saraki dynasty now gleefully linking falsehood to them. The hall project was initiated by late former Governor Lawal. But on political vendetta grounds, the Saraki hegemony literally killed the project. This is where AbdulRazaq differs. He has been consolidating on inherited, abandoned and incomplete projects of the previous administration, while also initiating new ones. Again, here is a Governor that has helped to complete a number of their hostel projects, and at a time came to their aid over payment of school fees. He directed that considering the prevailing economic situation, students should be allowed to write their exams even when they have not paid their tuition. The students will certainly not boo such an understanding and genuine Governor to the joy of a dynasty that owed their teachers, causing their senior colleagues to sit at home in the face of strike actions.
Point number two is the fact that the footage underscores the tense and adversarial atmosphere with which the Saraki hegemony ran their government. Every opposition voice was silenced. It was even fairer in that footage, perhaps due to the raging Otoge consciousness at the time. Earlier, an opposition AbdulRazaq would not even be able to attend such an event, not to talk of attempting to pass a goodwill message.
Governor AbdulRazaq has however shown class and maturity. He has embraced opposition elements. Nobody harasses the other person on account of partisanship under his administration. State and non-state actors are not deployed to threaten dissenters. Opposition figures are allowed to come into town, attend eid prayers, and even acknowledge cheers from their followers. I witnessed live how AbdulRazaq exchanged pleasantries with Saraki, and other opposition leaders during the 2022 Eid-el-Adha prayers. Saraki left the eid ground first, making frequent stopovers on the road to do some political stunts, delaying the Governor and his crew who were at the back. I’m very sure that were it to be in their reign, the Sarakis would never tolerate such. It would be met with violence.
Governor AbdulRazaq has made the political atmosphere of Kwara sane and peaceful, that everyone can pass their sentiments without harassment. I recall some of these Kwara bloggers who are now a rabid critic of the present administration had gone to Government House under the last administration to protest what they perceived as the humiliation of their principal because his building was demolished. They were given the beating of their lives and afterwards apprehended like a criminal. That was the Kwara of yesterday. Not even a pretense of tolerance for opposition. Opposition figures were waylaid by ’good boys’, and even abducted with threats. That’s not happening. I’ve lost count of protests held under the AbdulRazaq dispensation handled with the highest level of maturity and tact. The political bloggers also publish so many falsehoods against the government, but they are ignored, and fate is now dealing devastating blows to them because no one takes them seriously again. Review the engagements on their platform over time.
I move to the Kwara PDP again. They have been crying foul that propaganda drove them out of government, and that they are only deploying same energy. Their leader, Saraki had echoed similar sentiment. Tunji Moronfoye, a self-confessed liar and regular ‘customer’ of anti-graft agencies, who is the new face of the Kwara PDP had also regurgitated similar thoughts. But it is an attempt to gaslight the Kwara people. The Kwara PDP should come out to tell us if it was propaganda that basic education had been taken to the base and that UBEC blacklisted Kwara for years over diversion of grants by previous administration. They should come and tell us if it was propaganda that there was no Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Ilorin General Hospital. They should come and tell us if it was propaganda that they were not paying salaries as and when due, and in fact left backlogs of unpaid salaries and allowances across MDAs, schools and parastatals. They should come and tell us if it was propaganda that major waterworks in the state had collapsed, and water tankers were used to distribute water to the people in the most chaotic manner. They should come and tell us if it was propaganda that Saraki embarked on dubious projects with the bond collected in the name of millions of Kwarans. The Shonga Farms of this world that gave us more food for thoughts than food for the stomach. The Kwara Mall of this world where Kwara contributed the highest equity share but is the minority shareholder, with nothing to show for in the investment. The Cargo Terminal of this world that has not yielded significant benefit for Kwarans measured against the resource committed into it. The Diagnostic Centre of this world where they bought machines but refused to pay the suppliers and when the machines started developing faults, those ones did not give them an audience, and they watched the facility failing. Billions of naira was pumped into the Diagnostic Centre project, but in their books, they did not make returns on investment. The Sarakis should come and tell us if it was propaganda that they left no functioning tractor in the state despite braggadocios about commitment to agribusiness. They should come and tell us if it was propaganda that Radio Kwara had gone off-air despite records of approving funds for its revitalisation. They should come and tell us if it was propaganda that several primary health centres had become a shadow of their old selves. The list is endless.
The Saraki dynasty failed Kwarans, shattered their hopes and moved their state years backwards. Where it appeared they took a step forward, ten steps had actually been taken backwards.
The campaign has not started yet. Jungle neva mature! At the appropriate time, we’ll do a dossier of the Saraki dynasty that seeks to return to government on sentiments and propaganda. They are not people to trust with power again in Kwara State. They have so run out of ideas that their chairman, a certain Babatunde Mohammed, has been repeating the tales by moonlight of 300 million naira siphoned at the local government areas which has been dismissed by Aisha Ahman-Pategi whom the claim is attributed to herself. All these strategies are old, jaded, and self-destructive.
AbdulKareem, a political analyst writes from Ilorin, Kwara State.