By KAYODE ABDULAZEEZ
“Power doesn’t corrupt people, people corrupt power”, says William Gaddis. The above phrase of fact is a confirmation that we are all ordinary citizens first, before opportunity presented itself to few people amongst all to be leading the whole populace in the day to days affairs of governing the community, state and country. But what they do with power would determine how posterity will judge them later.
We could recall that the present All Progressive Congress (APC) administration in Kwara State under the leadership Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq, set up a special committee to review sales of the state properties from 1999 when late Muhammed Lawal was the governor till the tenure of the immediate past governor of the state, Abdulfatah Ahmed.
The committee was headed by the former lawmaker at the National Assembly, Senator Sulaiman Makanjuola Ajadi, who was also former commissioner in the state with other notable personalities as members of the committee. According to some political observers in the state and beyond, the committee of such was expected from the present administration since the control of the state got out of Senator Bukola Saraki for the first time since 2003 he first became governor of the state.
The committee, while briefing journalists about the outcome of their findings, made it known that hundreds of kwara properties both in the state and outside were illegally allocated to some individuals, and also confirmed that some people among the allottees were magnanimously paid ridiculous amount that do not commensurate with the value worth of the property in question.
The committee, however, confirmed to made recommendations for the government to retrieve many of those properties back to government, especially those that government already have master plans for and give some beneficiaries of the land that does not really of important to government, the opportunity to pay the value price of the properties they got and it would completely be theirs forever.
The committee as well confirmed that among those recommended to retrieve back to government is an open land with structure partially on it, located along Ilofa Road, in which the late Dr. Olusola Saraki used to attended to his political followers, most especially aged people called Ile Arugbo and inherited by the former Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki for his political activities, just like what his late father was using the land and structure on it for.
While giving the reason for their recommendation of the said land, the committee said “ it is in government record that the said land was allocated for Civil service clinic, Secretariat annex and car Park, with evidence that past government in the state had once started work on it for the same purpose it main for before they stopped”.
Reacting to the outcry that trailed the demolition of the structure on the land, the chairman said “The issue of the land in question came under the terms of reference of this committee which considered several other properties of government and submitted its recommendations in July 2019.
“As was the case with all the properties looked into by the committee, the committee’s recommendations were based on strictly available records from the archives of government. And based on the available records, the Committee did not see proof of any payments nor an approved Right of Occupancy even though there was a letter of allocation in principle.
“In reaching its conclusions, the Committee noted foundation work with erected columns at varying areas of the larger segment of the land. The Committee also noted that the land in question was also a part of a larger parcel of land, part of which has been developed into the Civil Service Clinic and Secretariat complex now housing the State Ministry of Finance, among others.
“Finally, based on the existing convention that land acquired by Government in overriding public interest cannot be converted to private use, unless under extraneous circumstances which requires the express approval of the Governor of the State, the Committee did not see a case made for this land and neither was there any approval from the Governor of the state to convert it to private use. In view of the above reasons, therefore, the committee was compelled to recommend that the land be repossessed and put to the original use it was meant for.”
“let me draw the attention of Nigerians to the use of “ile arugbo” to describe the land in question. Usage of that phrase leads to many people erroneously thinking of a structured building where old people were catered for. This is not so. What was on the ground up until the physical reclamation by the government was a garage-like structure (a shed) used by the older Saraki to keep people waiting to see him or to hold political meetings”
“In addition, it is important to discuss the issue of ownership which should be central to the whole debate. With emphasis, from all records available, there is no “Right of Occupancy” or “Certificate of Occupancy” available to the private firm to which the land was allocated in principle. There also no receipt of payments for the land.”
Senator Bukola Saraki had earlier reacted to the demolition and recovery of the said land by the state government, led by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq. According to him “the Kwara State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq finally showed his true colour when he announced his decision to revoke the ownership of a property rightfully held by my late father, Dr. Olusola Abubakar Saraki on Plots 1, 3 and 5 Ilofa Road, GRA, Ilorin popularly known as Ile Arugbo, (Old People’s home) which since the Second Republic, has always been used to host the weekly gathering of a multitude of aged people in the society who are provided food, money and health services, as part of the social welfare programme sponsored by the late politician. The tradition has since been maintained.
“The property had been rightfully allocated to my late father under the name of one of his companies, Asa Investment Limited, since the 1980s and contrary to the claim of the Governor, the land was properly allocated and a Right of Occupancy title issued on it. It should be noted that the excuse given by Abdulrazaq in his revocation order holds no water since it is clear that this is the height of his vengeance against my father, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki and I.
“However, seven months down the line, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq has shown that its cardinal Programme is to wage war against my late father and I. He has demonstrated that his only competence and astuteness is in the area of viciously assailing the late Oloye Saraki and I. Definitely, he is a man with no sense of history. Enough is enough. Now, he has crossed the line”
“However, it should be made clear to Abdulrazaq and his administration that their attack on my late father cannot erase the legacies of Oloye. No evil design, negative plot or propaganda can successfully rewrite the history of Kwara State. This plot against my late father will not stand. And I will like to make it clear that we will contest this petty, malicious, dubious and bias action of a parochial, vicious and vindictive administration through all legal means. We are sure this is not an action taken in public interest. Rather, it is done in pursuit of a selfish and devious objective”, Saraki stated.
Also reacted was All Progressive Congress (APC) stalwart who is a daughter of late Olusola Saraki and current minister for state transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki.
According to her “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”
She added that, she chose to refrain from commenting on the matter since the beginning of the saga due to the following reasons as said by her.
“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.
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 ofthe 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”
“It is especially disrespectful to me personally, as a member ofthe 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” she said.
While saying his opinion on the habit of personalized public properties by some public office holder, a public affairs analyst, Mr Toyin Ibrahim said “Government should not look back on its move to get back public properties that some past leaders, illegally personalized for the interest of kwarans. Moreover, the recent action of Governor would serve as a serious warning to the present public holders as well make people to have change in orientation about public office. But, more importantly, government must ensure they follow rule of laws and consider life of the people when embarking on the assignment”.
He added that “Governor, should know that he is only in charge at moment, and whatever he does with power would surely be review in the future as well, no matter how long it takes, and he should be fair with all his steps and as well make delivery of dividends of democracy his priority above all things”.