Between the political class and supporters
The electioneering that heralded the just concluded elections in Kwara State was particularly hot and acidic. It was a frenzied contest between two forces that wanted the soul of the state. On the one hand was the group led by the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, whose family had held the reins of affairs in the state since 1979. The group wanted a continuation of the current order. On the other hand was the group loyal to Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who wanted extrication from what they referred to as the stranglehold on the state, hence their slogan, ‘O to ge.’ Enough is enough.
The Senate President’s late father, Dr Olusola Saraki, was an all-powerful leader of the state, who installed and removed governors. He was instrumental to the making of Alhaji Adamu Atta as governor of the state in 1979. When he had issues with Atta, he, alongside others, saw to his defeat by Chief Cornelius Adebayo in the 1983 governorship election, though Adebayo was of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) stock. Dr Olusola Saraki also made possible the emergence of Alhaji Mohammed Lawal as Kwara State governor in 1999. When Lawal began to grow wings, the older Saraki moved against him, withdrew his support from him, defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), superintended over his defeat as governor, and replaced him with his son, Bukola Saraki. He also made his daughter, Gbemi, a Senator. The younger Saraki governed the state for eight years and replaced himself with his choice, Abdulfatah Ahmed, against his father’s will. Ahmed will be completing his second term on May 28.
The Lai Mohammed Group felt sidelined in the management of the state and the sharing of benefits. They believed Saraki and Co’s hold on the state had tethered it. They campaigned for a change. They agitated for freedom. They mobilized support from every nook and cranny of the state, they also solicited federal assistance. Nobody ever wants to let go of power, so the Saraki Group resisted them. They had their own counter campaign, arguing that Kwara was safer in their hands. But at the end of the day, not only did Saraki lose his senatorial re-election bid, everyone he fielded in the elections, including Razak Atunwa, the Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate, also lost. The defeat was both devastating and humiliating. Before the election, Saraki’s profile in Kwara State was intimidating. He was seen as invincible, described as the Godfather of Kwara, and perceived as the Alpha and Omega of Kwara. Many people referred to him as Kwara’s Rock of Gibraltar. But all of that changed first with his defeat, and then with the defeat of all his candidates.
The defeat was not just the demystification of Saraki, it was also the demolition of a hegemony, the hegemony that passed from his father to him. That is why the loss to the APC in Kwara State would be exceedingly excruciating to the outgoing Senate President.
But despite the agony of the defeat and the misery of the attendant mortification, Saraki congratulated Dr Ibrahim Oloriegbe, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, who defeated him in the election. He has also congratulated the governor-elect, Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq. For those who understand what it means to lose a hegemony, doing this could not have been easy for Saraki. But it was the right thing to do and the best step to take, so he did what was right. That is the spirit of sportsmanship. As it happened in Kwara, so as it happened in Oyo, where both Chief Bayo Adelabu, the APC governorship candidate, and the state governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, have congratulated Mr Seyi Makinde, the state’s governor-elect. It also happened in Ogun State, where the PDP governorship candidate, Senator Buruji Kashamu, and the African Democratic Congress (ADC) governorship candidate, Mr Gboyega Nasir Isiaka, have also congratulated Prince Dapo Abiodun, the governor-elect. The same thing happened in Lagos, where Jimi Agbaje of the PDP congratulated APC’s Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Many other politicians who lost their bid to get elected have congratulated those who defeated them.
But while political gladiators have moved beyond the pains of their losses and are already planning for other things, many of their supporters are still in battle mood. On many social media platforms, it is just as if the election is about to take place as groups still attack one another. Many political supporters are still antagonistic of those who do not share their views and are still ready to vent their venom on those of opposing political persuasion.
A case in point: Last Thursday, Oyo State governor-elect, Seyi Makinde, visited Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former President, in Abeokuta, and some supporters of his opponents saw that as an opportunity to attack him. They queried his claim of not being tied to any Godfather’s apron string if he had to visit a person like Obasanjo. But pray, what has godfatherism got to do with visiting a former president? For people like that, electioneering continues after the elections.
But the fact is that once elections are over, the lines between politicians should disappear because the next thing is governance and nation building. Nation building is blind to political differences. The best hands and minds are required to build a nation, so political differences are irrelevant.
Saraki, Ajimobi, Kashamu, Adelabu, Isiaka, Agbaje and others are leaders and have been able to achieve considerable success because they have learnt to change what they can and accept what they cannot change. They have also learnt that a loss is not final because a door that closes today may open tomorrow. So, while they may not enjoy current defeat, they know that there will be other opportunities in future. They also know that no one can keep a vehicle in motion if his gaze is fixed on the rearview mirror, so they put the past behind them and put on their antenna to pick new opportunities and possibilities.
This is what political jingoists need to learn from their political leaders. It is a waste of time crying over spilled milk; elections have been won and lost. Tears, anger, hostility and antagonism do not restore lost electoral opportunities. Except where there are legal issues, elections are over, let’s live in harmony and have our lives back.