Court will reclaim Ile Arugbo to Saraki ― Loyalists

Love, admiration, benevolence of the late Kwara State political icon, Dr Olusola Saraki, enjoyed by the unarguable largest number of electorate in the state are still being displayed, despite the demolition of their meeting place, called Ile Arugbo.

It is recalled that, Oloye, as fondly called, had used Ile Arugbo, located on plots 1, 3 and 5 Ilofa Road, GRA, Ilorin, directly opposite his residence, as one of the venues to meet with and share goodies with his party loyalties.

The children of the philanthropists, namely former two-term governor of Kwara state, Dr Bukola Saraki and Senator Gbemisola Saraki, had also used the place to distribute largesse to their followers even before and after the death of Oloye.

Despite, sad occurrence caused by overcrowding of beneficiaries at some points in the past on the land, these beneficiaries, majorly, aged and averagely old women thronged the place to welcome Saraki family whenever any member of the family is around in the state capital.

Such items as textile materials, food items, cash, Hajj (holy pilgrimage to Makkah/Jerusalem), political positions, among others had been shared among these women and other beneficiaries of Oloye’s largesse, while these people had over the time appreciated the gesture with their massive turn out on every election day over the years.

The development had made many political analysts in the state to deduce that beneficiaries of Oloye, were only expressing their loyalty and love for the family (upon what they have enjoyed) by keeping vigil on Ile Arugbo, especially when it was learnt that the new APC government had planned to demolish structures on the land.

The structures on Ile Arugbo was eventually demolished in the wee hours of last Thursday, witnessed by security agents and government officials.

Days after the demolition of Ile Arugbo by agents of the state government, the aged people are still seen in clusters around the place on Saturday, discussing the development and bemoaning the loss.

Security personnel, both in uniform and plain cloth were also seen around the place, yesterday, though, the bulldozers and other items used to demolish structures on the land had been evacuated.

It was also gathered that representative of Senator Bukola Saraki, one Alhaji Abdulrazaq Aladie, distributed items to the people a day after the demolition.

The women in their hundreds continued their show of solidarity for the immediate past senate president, Dr Bukola Saraki, praise-singing and pouring accolades on him.

As usual, foodstuff, clothes and money were distributed to the women who defied the cold weather to arrive Ile Arugbo as early as 7.00 am.

Alhaji Aladie said Saraki has always made enough provision for the women whether or not he is in Ilorin.

It is recalled that the women had on Thursday marched from the Ilofa road, GRA residence of the Sarakis to the Emir’s palace in the downtown area of the metropolis, protesting the demolition of the charity home- Ile Arugbo.

The aggrieved women who condemned the government’s action, were led by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) women leader in the state, Alhaja Ramata Oganija.

One of the women who simply identified herself as Alhaja Sifawu said Saraki had for about 30 years been using the place to distribute gifts to the aged women, even during the military rule without any hindrance.

“The late Olusola Saraki was our benefactor who took good care of us during his lifetime. His son, Dr Bukola Saraki is also following the footsteps of his late father in this regard,” she said.

Also speaking, one of the daughters of Oloye, and the present minister of state for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, who condemned the demolition, explained that, “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.

“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”.

Also, the immediate past Senate President, Bukola Saraki, had this to say to beneficiaries of Oloye’s love and philanthropic gestures:

“Following the development this morning in Ile Arugbo, I want to commend the women and men, old and young, who displayed their affection, love and staunch support for my late father and the family. I appreciate the genuine support of the women and youths who stood firmly in the face of aggression and naked show of force.

“Your action throughout the night gave full expression to my belief that what Ile Arugbo represents to all of us is etched in our hearts. It goes beyond the physical structure. I am happy that you were not intimidated as you stood your ground. This day will go down as the day you reciprocated the love and affection my father and family have for you. You have displayed a gesture of goodwill and passionate love. We assure you that justice shall prevail in a not too distant future. May God bless you all.”

While argument rages on court papers between the Saraki and the state government on why the structures should be demolished or not, one of the former aides to Saraki and chairman of the Saraki Legacy Forum, Alhaji Bibire Ajape, was of the optimism that court would give back the disputed land to Saraki.

Speaking with the Tribune Online, Alhaji Ajape said that the land was rightfully possessed by late Saraki for more than 20 years, adding that a case was filed at the High Court, Ilorin, on December 31, 2019, challenging the action of the state government.

Meanwhile, the state government has said that it did not receive any court papers to that effect.

Alhaji Ajape, who said that the case would continue after the eventual demolition of Ile Arugbo by agents of the state government, said that long holidays of the court had stalled the commencement of sittings, adding that a judge had also been assigned to the case.

“The suit with Number KWS/463/2019 between Asa Investments Limited and Governor of Kwara State, Kwara House of Assembly, Attorney General of Kwara State, Director General of the Bureau of Lands and the Inspector General of Police was filed on Tuesday.

“In an obviously desperate attempt to pre-empt the court case, the State Governor directed one of his aides to lead a demolition team to the property on Tuesday morning accompanied by some policemen.

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“However, the policemen withdrew when they saw the crowd of old women and youths who gathered to protest the illegal demolition exercise. With the withdrawal of the policemen, the team from the state government were forced to quickly leave the place.

“Some hours later, exactly a few minutes to the New Year, about 11.45pm, the particular aide led another team, this time with a bulldozer and some policemen massed around the premises of Ile Arugbo but were again resisted by the crowd of women and youth who had then decided to mount a ceaseless vigil around the property.

“Early on Thursday morning from 12.40am, while the old women and youth were having their New Year entertainment as they mount watch on the premises of Ile Arugbo, the aide again led a team of demolition squad comprising security agents from the Government House, Ilorin, workers of the Ministry of Works and some urchins to Ilofa Street.

“For hours, their attempt to commence the demolition exercise was rebuffed. At about 3.30am, the security agents began heavy shooting of gun and tear gas canisters to dislodge the people protesting against the demolition. It was after they were able to disperse the crowd that the bulldozer moved into the street and commenced the demolition exercise.

“It will be recalled that while the Governor on December 27 claimed that there was no existing document showing that the land was properly allocated to late Dr Saraki, the same government through its agent on Monday circulated a letter of allocation to Asa Investments owned by Dr Saraki in which the company was directed to pay the sum of N1, 047, 090 (One Million, Forty-Seven Thousand and Ninety Naira only).

The government then changed its story that the property was allocated to a company which had nothing to do with any politician, dead or alive and that they could not find any record of money paid. The Saraki family has maintained that a Right of Occupancy title was issued to Asa Investment, an indication that the allocation was lawfully concluded with all parties meeting their obligations.

“The pre-emptive move by the state government to demolish the property was made to undermine and frustrate the judicial process and it represents another act of disrespect for the judiciary and the rule of law which the current government of Kwara State is known for.

“On our part, we call on supporters of the Saraki family, particularly the women and youth who were brutalized during the attempts to carry out the illegal demolition exercise to maintain peace and not take laws into their hands. We assure them that this illegality will not stand as the family will pursue all legal means to claim the rights of their late patriarch”.

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