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2023: How Saraki’s triumphant homecoming unsettled Kwara APC

The recent visit to Ilorin, Kwara State by former Senate President and national leader of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki has unsettled the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) writes ACTING EDITOR, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM.
Last week, immediate past Senate President and national leader of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki stormed Kwara State after more than a year outside the county.
Although, Saraki’s visit was in connection with the 8th Year Fidau of his late father and kingpin of Kwara politics, Dr Olusola Saraki popularly known as Oloye, it has however continued to generate intense political comments between the PDP and APC with an eye on the 2023 political hostilities in the state.
Prior to the visit, the state chapter of the APC after Saraki’s defeat in 2019 had found it difficult to get above its internal leadership crisis with the latest coming just few days ago when Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq had to be smuggled out of the venue of a failed coup by the governor’s henchmen against the state chairman of the party, Bashiru Omolaja Bolarinwa (BOB).
For many supporters of the former Senate President and political observers, Saraki’s visit jolted the APC to its very foundation and thus there were some attempt to downplay its impact going forward.
Although the ruling and opposition parties initially engaged in brickbats over the visit, the State Commissioner of Police, Kayode Egbetokun later cleared the air that the shooting incidence at the Radio Kwara junction at Ilofa road in GRA Ilorin was cultist related with some arrests already made.
Away from attempt to downplay the visit, the coming of Saraki this time around to the state witnessed some noteworthy event that will not go unnoticed for political observers. Now unlike the many previous Fidau that Saraki attended in Ilorin for the late Oloye, this is the first time that the former Senate President will attend with his immediate younger sister and Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemisola Saraki who is a leader of the APC in the state. Many commentators have already started making permutations of the implication of the development for 2023 election in Kwara State especially with the rousing reception that was accorded Saraki from the airport to the family’s residence in Ilofa road.
Contrary to the expectation of the ruling APC, Saraki shutdown the state as party supporters, admirers and residents from different parts of the state and neighbourhoods troop out en mass to receive him.
From the airport, shouts of “this hardship of the present APC government in Kwara is too much” encapsulated in “O su wa” rented the air with a call for Saraki to “please come back to continue to provide his focus and welfarist leadership that has been missing since the advent of the present administration.
Party supporters and the residents bitterly complained of how Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq and his party have foisted and continue to exert on the citizens policies that are not only killing but regrettable and retrogressive while extolling the leadership style of the former Senate President.
“O su wa” (we are tired of the hardship) that the All Progressives Progress (APC) administration has brought to the state. “Idera de” (comfort has returned), we want you back to continue to provide a leadership of focus and welfarism”, the mammoth crowd who received him at the Airport shouted”.
As early as 7am, members of the Kwara State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), supporters, Saraki’s enthusiasts and other residents formed a mammoth crowd at the airport amidst singing and dancing with different party paraphernalia and logo waiting for his arrival.
The carnival-like celebration which lasted for several hours was grandiose to say the least and a triumphant entry to the state about somebody that the ruling party had sponsored the narrative of rejection about all along.
It took the convoy of the former Senate President about 3hrs to get to the popular Geri Alimi Diamond Split Underpass from the airport as he kept on acknowledging cheers of the residents from the rooftop of his vehicle who lined up on both sides of the road and the median to catch a closer view of him.
Some of the supporters and residents climbed the underpass and crowded Sawmill road and other adjoining communities to catch a glimpse of Saraki whose motorcade had a herculean task moving as he was sandwiched by several tricycles, commercial motorcycle riders and artisans amidst blaring of car horns.
That Saraki was not even in government in whatever capacity anymore made the event more auspicious as the separate but mammoth crowds that accompanied him from the airport, those waiting for him at his GRA residence and the last batch that followed him to the palace sent a strong signal of Saraki’s acceptability in Kwara despite the election set back.
APC’s Confusion
For the State chapter of the APC, the visit and Saraki’s reception further plunge the party into confusion as it chairman and the PRO issued separate statements that only revealed the extent of the division among the executives. While the PRO, Alhaji Folaranmi Aro promoted the thuggery storyline to whittle down the impact and message of the visit, his chairman, Bolarinwa however captured the event in a more matured tone that “Saraki is not a threat to the APC in Kwara”, which was believed to be a subtle admission of Saraki’s continued popularity and a referendum on the failure of the APC to meet and even fulfil the expectation of Kwarans.
Bolarinwa, who was addressing newsmen regarding the statement of Saraki that he is “back and better” during his short parley with the press on Saturday, further went spiritual on the issue.
“Let me say this for all to hear. We are not disallowing anybody from entering the state. We know that Saraki can no longer pose any threat to APC in the state. God that was with us is forever with us. Our members have no reason to entertain any fear…” he added.
In one of his radio programmes after Saraki’s visit, a leading member of the APC and member representing Balogun/Ojomu state constituency at the Kwara State House of Assembly, Hon Saheed Popoola who acknowledged the massive crowd that came out (unsolicited) to cheer Saraki in all places visited while in the state, noted that party’s protracted infighting is already taking its toll on its activities adding that there is need for unity to reign supreme in Kwara APC.
However, Saraki who likened politics to the Premier League further made inroads into the hearts of many disgruntled and aggrieved APC leaders, member and supporters with his mourning of the late Governor Mohammed Lawal whose memorial came a day after that of his father on November 15, 2020.
“Today (November 15, 2020), on the 14th year of his passing, I remember one of my predecessors, Alhaji Mohammed Lawal — who was Governor of Kwara State between 1999 and 2003. I pray that Almighty Allah will continue to grant him a place in Al-Jannah Firdaus”, read Saraki’s terse but impactful statement last week.
It was the treatise of another APC member and staunch loyalist of Minister of Information and Culture, Kayode Ogunlowo” who captured how greatly the development has really unsettled the APC when he wrote under the heading “Saraki’s Return, a Challenge to Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq” noted that:
“Incontrovertibly, the flurry that greeted the arrival of the former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki in Ilorin was electrified and fanfare. Whether we ascribed to the fact or not that the crowd that greeted him at the airport and along the major road were hired crowd or not, forsooth, he was cheered by the people who care about him.
“I am a bonafide member of APC in Kwara state and having carefully dissected the political ambience created by his arrival since (Saturday) both in opposition and ruling party’s camp, no doubt, Bukola Saraki is a political factor to watch in Kwara politics.
“Political scientists believe politics is a game of numbers not arithmetic number but people. Therefore, he who has people has the numbers. Ipso facto, Saraki has the standby numbers anytime.
“The presence of Dr Bukola Saraki on should be a tocsin to any slumbering politician in Kwara state especially in ruling party. Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq complacency in O to ge rhapsody should cease and face political reality.
“I thought people would be stoning Saraki when I heard about his arrival but surprisingly, the opposite was the result. It seems people are beginning to compare and see Saraki as alternative which I expected that should have fizzle out by now with your actions and performance.
“It is time for Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq to put a lid to all the avoidable crisis in the party since after the election and stop all his hide and seek games and face the reality, unless the governor is not interested in having a second term which I doubt.
“Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq should stop banking on praises of hungry sycophants around him and reach out to all party members with sincerity of purpose. Your actions or their actions has continue to make you unpopular everyday and people are getting disenchanted with your government and policies. Your Excellency, you have a lot of work to do in your party and in government if you must get rid of Saraki influence in Kwara politics. If not, Saraki may come back”, Ogunlowo noted.

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