Gbemi Saraki condemns Gov. Abdulrazaq for demolishing father’s property

Gbemisola Saraki, the Minister of State for Transportation, has attacked Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq for ordering the demolition of her family home in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.

“I condemn in totality the actions taken on Thursday 2nd January 2020 by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq, especially unleashing terror and mayhem on innocent defenseless aged women simply exercising their right to peacefully protest,” Ms Saraki said in a statement on January 3. “The level of force and violence that the Governor chose to adopt was totally unwarranted. What resistance to protest justifies firing live ammunition and tear-gassing old women?”

Ile Arugbo has served for many years as a place of convergence for loyalists of late Olusola Saraki, a Nigerian political heavyweight and father of Gbemi and the immediate-past Senate President, Bukola Saraki.

It was demolished on January 2 amidst allegations of political vendetta. Mr Saraki, a former governor of the state, reacted swiftly to the demolition, condemning Mr Abdulrazaq’s action as vindictive.

Mr Abdulrazaq assumed office on May 29, 2019, in a victory widely seen as dislodgement of the domineering Saraki dynasty in Kwara.

Olusola Saraki joined politics shortly after Nigeria’s Independence and later became the majority leader of the Nigerian Senate during the Second Republic that began in 1979 and was truncated four years later by a military coup that brought Muhammadu Buhari into power in December 1983.

After leaving the Senate, he assumed the role of Kwara’s most consequential politician, dishing out political patronage to others behind him. In 2003, Bukola, his first son, became governor of Kwara State. In the same year, his daughter, Gbemi, was elected to the Nigerian Senate, serving until 2011 when Bukola seized the seat from her after serving two governorship terms.

A wedge that was driven between the siblings following Bukola’s action in 2011 has failed to ease several years on. When Bukola joined then-opposition All Progressives Congress from then-ruling Peoples Democratic Party in 2013, Gbemi joined the PDP at the time. When Bukola, as Senate President, left the APC in 2018 to join the PDP, Gbemi again moved the other direction to the APC.

She was amongst a coalition of political interests that not only took control of Kwara from Mr Saraki and his political proteges but also denied the former Senate President a return to the Senate during 2019 general elections.

Ile Arugbo served for years as a place of convergence for core loyalists and teeming supporters of the senior Saraki — a situation that did not change much even years after he passed on in 2012 at 79.

While Gbemi may have long fallen out of political favour with her brother, her statement emphasised a longstanding family bond — even while not directly mentioning her brother by name.

She said Mr Abdulrazaq’action was aimed more at exerting vendetta against Bukola Saraki than any developmental decision for the state.

“We must stand up against vindictive politics, driven by envy, motivated by jealousy and practiced without integrity,” Ms Saraki said in her Friday night statement.

She warned the governor to be mindful that the coalition she and others formed with him in 2019 was to dislodge the PDP from the state grip and not to victimise the Saraki family.

She accused the police of being used to carry out the demolition, during which live rounds were reportedly fired by officers deployed there.

Ajayi Okesanmi, a spokesperson for the police in Kwara, did not immediately return calls seeking comments Saturday morning. A spokesperson for the governor could not be reached for comment on Ms Saraki’s statement.

Read her full statement (titled: “Those Who Come To Equity, Must Come With Clean Hands”) as sent to PREMIUM TIMES by her media aide, Titilope Anifowoshe, below:

[ABUJA, FCT, January 3, 2020] At 3:00am Thursday 2nd of January 2020, the Governor of Kwara State, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, gave orders to the Police to open fire on aged women, at the contested welfare home, popularly known as “Ile Arugbo” (Home for Aged), owned by my father, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki.

As a staunch and loyal member of APC, I have kept quiet to date on the happenings in my state, Kwara State. I had done this for a number of reasons including trying to “keep my head when all about me are losing theirs”. But all in all, I had kept quiet, as being a loyal member and supporter of the party, I did not want to get into any squabble with the Governor despite so many provocations.

Again, as a loyal and dedicated daughter of my father, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, whom I hold in very high esteem, I did not want to express my opinion on the propriety of the Governor’s recent political actions as it would be seen as biased because the late Waziri is my father.

However, given the turn of events and the violent nature of the Governor’s position, it is only right for me to speak now.

There might have been some elements within my party, APC, who wanted to change the OToGe narrative of the 2019 elections to be about the Sarakis, and not about what it was — the removal of a failing PDP Administration.

But clearly, by some recent steps taken, especially with Thursday’s actions, Kwara State APC must be careful to not allow a few elements with their own agenda, other than governance, to turn their personal vendetta into the official position of APC in the State. They must not be allowed to hijack the narrative of what our party stands for.

The APC has, since its inception, preached and worked earnestly for genuine good governance, security, increased welfare, progress and development of the people, as exemplified by President Muhammadu Buhari, who in the face of direct provocation and deep personal attacks remains true to the oath he took to govern ALL Nigerians, in spite of allegiances.

That is why it is important that my silence is not misconstrued as tacit approval or support for the actions taken by the Governor.

As stated earlier, I chose to refrain from commenting on the onset of this landsaga and did so for three reasons:

(1) I believed that this was a matter that would go through the rightful forum and due process to ascertain and establish my father’s legal rights or otherwise.

(2) My family individually and/or collectively have NEVER derived and continue not to derive ANY commercial benefit from that piece of land. At the end of the day, what is on that land is nothing — no block of flats that the family is getting rent from; no office building, no factory, or any other commercial venture. Just a bungalow where the old women gather and get their basic needs attended to.

(3) Nonetheless, were my father alive today, surely, he would have been saddened to see bulldozers in Ile Arugbo.

However, I am comforted by the knowledge that my father’s good work and his respect, support and love for the aged, which was sadly lacking in the Governor’s activities of Thursday, simply cannot be erased by demolishing a bungalow. When it comes down to it, Ile Arugbo is a piece of bare land that holds symbolic value of what my father stood for — humanitarianism, and that doesn’t start nor end with a building.

But after the events of Thursday when the aged women were tear gassed and shot at in the wee hours of the morning (3:00AM), I do not want my silence to be misconstrued, as mischief makers have used that silence to attribute false statements allegedly made by me.

The level of force and violence that the Governor chose to adopt was totally unwarranted. What resistance to protest justifies firing live ammunition and tear gassing old women?

Even my own personal home was not left out of the attack as numerous empty bullet shell casings and dispersed tear gas canisters were found inside my home.

I feel that at this point not only as a child of the late Waziri but as a member of the APC, I need to speak. I do so not only as a daughter but as a member of the party, to ensure that those thousands of members of APC who are Sarakites that supported the OToGe Movement are not alienated. In addition, I do so to ensure that the resounding victory that APC enjoyed in Kwara is not short-lived or diminished.

Governments acquire properties, even compulsorily without necessarily resorting to unprovoked violent attacks in the dead of night. It is especially disrespectful to me personally, as a member of the APC since 2015, who welcomed and supported those who only joined us a couple of months to the elections, which includes the Governor himself, that my position as a member of the party was not given any consideration and/or regard when approaching this issue.

Furthermore, given how well and how long I have personally known the Governor beyond Kwara State, so much so that I have always regarded him as one of my older brothers.

Even in the political arena, over the years, we have known each other as political opponents and allies and I have always accorded him respect which he has not accorded me.

As one of the APC leaders in the State, I have consulted broadly and have also sent messages appealing to party members not to be provoked by this unwarranted assault on my late father.

I do this with all sense of responsibility so that party cohesion and unity is not undermined by arbitrariness to rush into an attempt to settle perceived old generational family political scores. Revenge cannot be a policy thrust of governance.

I am also using this opportunity to appeal to our teeming supporters to remain calm and poised and maintain peace in the face of unwarranted provocation. “Allah Bring about ease after difficulty” Q 65 vrs 7.

I condemn in totality the actions taken on Thursday 2nd January 2020 by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq, especially unleashing terror and mayhem on innocent defenseless aged women simply exercising their right to peacefully protest.

I call upon the Inspector General of Police to call the State Commissioner of Police to order — using security agencies and live ammunition to settle political and personal scores is NOT what the Buhari Administration is about.

We must stand up against vindictive politics, driven by envy, motivated by jealousy and practiced without integrity.

Honour should be our code.


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