It was sometime in 2001. The political temperature of Kwara State had reached a troubling zenith. The godfather and his godson had declared a world war. Swords menaced swords, provoking fiery reverberations across Nigeria. Rear Admiral (rtd) Mohammed Alabi Lawal, now late, apparently egged on by his military pedigree, had put on acts like the Yoruba warriors of old. While declaring wars that conjured rivers of blood, those warriors literally spat skywards and thrust their red-eyed face to confront the rain of spittle.
The eyes of Abubakar Olusola Saraki, Senate Leader in the Second Republic, better known as Baba Oloye, owner and lord of a sprawling political clientele in his native Kwara, were fiery and dilating like the god of thunder’s. Right there on this expansive table in a small office in his cosy Ile Arugbo, Ilofa Road, GRA home in Ilorin this sunny noon, like a cross rattlesnake, Saraki spat venom with measured acidity. He shot arrows of diatribes and swearwords at Lawal like rotund-cheeked Kim of North Korea wantonly does whenever he is flexing his armament muscles at Donald Trump.
It was a Sunday. As you arrived Baba Oloye’s residence, what struck you were its celebratory mode and mood amid feasting. Slaughtered cows, women sorting out condiments and market-like exchange of jibes and jives rent the air. I was later to learn that this apocryphal feasting, reminiscent of a Feast of Passover, was a daily routine in Saraki’s vast political empire. Today, Baba Oloye wore a blue caftan and a Hausa-styled cap to match. Highly cerebral politician, Dr. Kola Balogun, kid brother of the incumbent Otun Olubadan, Oba Lekan Balogun, who had ferried me to the presence of this enigma of Kwara politics, was the third person inside Baba Oloye’s small office. The reporter had come for an interview on the broken down relationship between Saraki and his erstwhile godson, Lawal. Sure he would need the atmospherics, he scanned Baba Oloye as if he were a tiny speck just dropped from Mars. The reporter was quick to notice Saraki’s atypical dress sense: he wore a pair of sucks to match a caftan, a dress anomaly among the Yoruba. Not to worry, he had just asked that ‘Olusola’ be deleted from his name, substituted for ‘Abubakar’ and the whirlwind-like rumour that he hailed from Iseyin in Oyo State be perished thenceforth.
My recording spool picked a very humble Baba Oloye repeatedly chorusing in his fast-tempoed voice, “Editor, Lawal is a liar…” The interview ended and as Saraki saw us off in what would be, for both of us, a never-to-meet-again encounter, what ingrained itself on my consciousness like a painted canvass, even 17 years after, was the memory of Saraki as a calculatingly deadly political player who laced power play with grits and wiles. His empire was also said to have been sustained by a very potent marabout system, the like patented in Islamic Mali.
His son, Bukola, is perhaps the most discussed politician in Nigeria today. After that encounter, Baba Oloye, as he swore to me off-record, not only worsted Rear Admiral Lawal in the Kwara 2003 election, he successfully installed Bukola as the next governor and his younger sister, Gbemi, Senator. Apparently demonstrating a profound mastery of the political sense bequeathed by his father, Bukola politically trounced Saraki Oloye Baba Bukola, to the consternation of all in the 2011 elections. Bukola defeated the man fabled minstrel, Odolaye Aremu, the Dadakuwada exponent, famously called the rains of Kwara which beat the city dweller and the village yokel in equal measure! Was that power wrestling real or contrived or a spirit-dictated handover from imperial king to crown prince?
Bukola Saraki has since transmogrified into a very lethal version of his old man; a political power player you ignore or underrate to your peril. He has successfully drowned fears that Baba Oloye’s exit would end the hegemonic hold of the Saraki dynasty on Kwara. He has even moved it a notch higher by promoting a more sophisticated brand of that politics on the national plane. Sustained by a concept called patron-client or neo-patrimonial relations which foremost scholar on Nigeria, Director of The Program of African Studies at American Northwestern University, Richard Joseph called prebendalism, Saraki the son and father cultivate(d) a long chain of political clientele through a system whose mode of operation is such that, elected officials enroll clients in the sharing of government revenues. The political principal deploys largesse to benefit members of his ethnic groups, political supporters and devotees of similar religious cults. According to Joseph “the theory of prebendalism (is such that) state offices are regarded as prebends that can be appropriated by officeholders, who use them to generate material benefits for themselves and their constituents and kin groups…” One very distinguishing trait of this system is that it is sustained by massive corruption.
The Sarakis, beginning with using Kwarans as guinea pig of this rent system, have since promoted its dominant thesis on the national plane. Baba Oloye once established a bakery in Ilorin in the 70s/80s which was ran aground because its capital and products were used daily to feed a retinue of political clients majorly the poor of Ilorin and environs. He also went into banking, founding a bank which again suffered same fate due to massive unorthodox withdrawals of cash to sustain this patron-client relation. With Bukola as governor, it became easier to sustain this deadly power relation by dulling the difference between Kwarans’ public and Sarakis’ private purses. When Bukola became Senate President, it was not difficult to secure his hold on the House for use at periods of political expediency.
Most Buharists who now shout blue murder at Bukola’s seizure of the political space hypocritically fail to remember that Muhammadu Buhari, the General, was one of the clients of Bukola’s politics. Positioning himself as a do-gooder interested in power shift from Goodluck Jonathan to the so-called Mai Gaskiya, Saraki reportedly funneled billions of Naira into Buhari’s campaign, a prebend which became useful when he sought to become the Senate President. Rotimi Amaechi also deployed his Bombadier jet for the “incorruptible General” to traverse the nooks of Nigeria at election time, aside huge mounds of cash he offered a man whose definition of corruption excludes exchanges that make him beneficiary of stolen commonwealth. For Sarakis, whether it was the pregnant woman whose medical bill the system paid, the pittance distributed inside Baba Oloye’s house, the amala eaten on a daily basis by a retinue of hangers-on, the aim is to subtly control the levers of the heart of their client.
Ariyibi Adedibu perfected same system as a political tool in Ibadan for decades and since his death, that model seems to have died with him. Before him, Adebisi Giwa, a.k.a. Adebisi Idikan, wielded it as a social weapon. When the colonial government detained tax defaulters in scores daily in Mapo, Adebisi Giwa showed up in the colonial office with the offer to pay the tax off in the rapidly growing city. His counterpoise, Salami Agbaje received the scorn of the citizenry for his nil intervention in the personal economies and struggles of the people. Their modern day variant, Bola Tinubu, another patron of this deadly power relation system, patented his own prebendal brand in Lagos and called it Jeun S’oke. Every devotee of this cult, in less than twenty years of its inauguration, has experienced exponential wealth of less than licitly acquired cash. Tinubu was prevented by Saraki from becoming the vice presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), wielding the religious red card of a probable Nigerian resentment of a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Tinubu saw it as a gambit to stave off possible opposition to Omo Baba Oloye‘s own senate presidential ticket. Thus, on Saraki’s day of coronation as Senate President, while Tinubu sought his own pound of flesh from Bukola to halt his inauguration, Buhari was torn between his resentment of Tinubu and Bukola, both of whom he saw as far cries from his make-believe world of integrity. The Buhari hypocritical, Janus-faced and weak disposition to decision-making ensured the ascendancy of Bukola as Nigeria’s Number Three man and the stormy executive/legislature relationship in the last three years or so; it was the cause of the metastasis of the political cancer in the hands of Buhari and his henchmen today.
Sarakis thrive because they understand that rather than being Teflon, the Nigerian State is weak, incapable and incapacitated in ensuring good life for its citizens. The State in Nigeria performs its world-renowned service and care functions in abeyance and is seen as a non-existing behemoth which everyone takes advantage of. As it is currently organized, the Nigerian state is amorphous and even its runners do not know its nature and purpose. The Nigerian State defies virtually all known theoretical and conceptual purposes of State. It defies the Machiavellian theory of the origin of the authority of State as “the Power which has authority over men” or even Marx Webber’s explanation of the State as “that authority which gives order to all but receives from none.” The Nigerian State is also far away from Marx and Engels’ theory of State. The Nigerian State is even amorphous in the rendering of the origin of State thesis. Did the Nigerian State come of divine origin, social contract origin, the “force theory” origin or the Marxian origin? It has been difficult for political scientists to place Nigeria.
The question we all have to answer is if the Saraki, Tinubu and many political persons’ approximation of the role of the Nigerian State is a sustainable model. You may call this line of thought nihilist but we must collapse current understanding and operations of the Nigerian State and reconstruct/reconfigure it. Its current rendering is unsustainable. This is why there is no ideology in political party system in Nigeria and why the Sarakis literally put ropes on the necks of their captives and sequester them wherever they desire. I learnt Senators received millions of naira to leave APC and received millions as well from the Villa not to leave and for not leaving. Neither Saraki nor Buhari nor any of their hirelings factor the people into the loop. It is about personal interest and succession politics. Unfortunately, we are so pauperized and hungry that our manhood has shrunk into nothing. What is the solution? Honestly, I don’t know!
Why is Ladoja running from pillar to post?
Political Scientists will someday have to help us answer whether indeed the inability to say ‘No’ to amoral advances is what unites man’s oldest trade and his oldest vocation. When you look at Nigerian politics for example, you really will find no difference between the nymphomaniac prostitute who can’t put a rein on her sexual desire and the politician whose desire for political office ensures he flocks with goats, swine, dogs and the like.
Former governor of Oyo State, Senator Adewolu Ladoja is my inspiration for the above. You will remember the Ladoja impeachment saga, especially the undercurrents of that stormy political concoction put together by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo which culminated in the unseating of Ladoja in 2005. Obasanjo had reportedly told many leading political leaders of the state, including Ven. Alayande, that the battle to remove Ladoja was a battle of his life. Common thugs puffing at marijuana invaded the Oyo House of Assembly, led by late Eleweomo, even as they fiddled with the gavel like they do the bosom of an AK-47.
Many factors have been used to explain Obasanjo’s obstinate obsession with the idea of removing Ladoja. Some attributed it to Lamidi Adedibu’s vice hold on the presidency; to some, it was Obasanjo’s natural despotism, while to some, a woman – both being ‘connoisseurs’ – was at the heart of the enmity. Ladoja suffered terrible humiliation within the interregnum and it is said that this ‘Afghanistan’ experience pushed him to the point of desperation upon eventually regaining his office and made him susceptible to the shares gambit for which he is currently being humiliated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Forgive he should, especially after providence rubbished Obasanjo and his sadistic machinations, but why would the natural inclination to prostitute lure Ladoja to being in same political party with his ex-Tormentor-in-Chief? I saw Obasanjo, Ladoja in a group photo during the week and I could not but wonder if the heart of a Nigerian politician isn’t same smelly ramp as the whore’s bed.
I have had to ask myself repeatedly why Ladoja would leave his PDP domain if indeed wresting power from the ruling party in Oyo state is his ultimate ambition. That young man – Seyi Makinde – to my mind, has given Ladoja all appurtenances of party leadership, except agree that he nominates the governorship candidate of the party. Using all manner of political wiles, including tar-brushing Makinde as purchasing PDP National, Ladoja prepared a fertile ground for his divorce from a platform which would naturally uplift the prospect of reclaiming power.
My haunch is that Ladoja is under a very powerful spell of dissembling from his traditional enemy; or at best, this is a political gambit. In fact, I want political remembrancers to underscore this seeming political divination of mine with a red pen: Ladoja, in spite of his spirited denials, will run for Oyo governorship race by next year when he will be 76 years old.
The way it will be primed is this: Obasanjo, being the pilot of the ill-fated political assemblage called ADC, will call all the strange bedfellows assembled in the party and decree that only Ladoja can defeat the opposition in Oyo. Ladoja will exhibit tepid dissonance to this but will ultimately advertise his buckling, claiming that he could not refuse Obasanjo’s decree. By then, it would be too late to backtrack for gentleman and urbane politician, Olufemi Lanlehin as well as the other dreamer who had once stabbed an unforgiving Ladoja. Ultimately, remaining inside the crash-prone ADC, with the wily old warhorse as pilot, would be a fait accompli.