The Chief Press Secretary to Dr Bukola Saraki, when he was the governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Mas’ud Adepimbe, explains why Saraki, the incumbent Senate President remains the undisputable ‘lord’ of Kwara politics, in this interview with SUCCESS NWOGU
What is your reaction to allegations that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, during his eight-year administration as the Kwara State governor impoverished the people and did not invest in infrastructure?
They are spurious allegations made by those who in their assessment believe that the former governor of Kwara State now the Senate President has not done well for the state. Let me start by saying that the election of Dr. Bukola Saraki in 2003 as the governor marked the beginning of a new Kwara. It was an era that really made a great impact in the lives of all citizens and residents of the state. It was a period that encouraged people’s participation in governance irrespective of their background. It was an era that gave maximum opportunity for whoever that was available to contribute to the growth and development of the state. Naturally, the people will have their own assessment of a government.
To some people, if they are not part of it, no matter what the government might have done or put in place, they would still maintain that such government has not achieved anything. Development is not only about provision of infrastructure but also human capital development. He is the first governor in Nigeria to introduce amnesty. He empowered more individuals and groups than any governor before him in the state.
Prior to his election as the governor, everybody in this state knew that political thuggery had taken over the state. That was during the administration of the late governor Mohammed Lawal. Then, we used to have what was called the Gbesa Boys against the Sarakite Boys. For the first time, we witnessed great upheaval that did not allow people to move freely in the city and the security agencies then had Herculean task in restoring normalcy. By then you could not go freely to major areas in the community without you being frisked by security agents or even being monitored to where you were going because no one could be trusted. Killings and maiming were the order of the day. Saraki came and said, “Young men, you cannot continue to do this. You have your life to live, you also must have a plan for your life. What do you really want to do?”
Saraki encouraged them to start a business with as low as N50,000. But before he empowered them, he encouraged them to submit their arms.
What about infrastructural development?
For the first time, we had road networks such that every nook and crannies of the state capital was tarred. He reconstructed and repaired many roads yet he believed that they were still not enough and that he needed to do more. That was the zeal he had. We started constructing roads even in rural areas.
The pioneer chairman of the PDP in the state faulted Saraki’s claims that his administration conceived the idea of building a state university. He said it was actually started by the late governor Muhammed Lawal. What is your reaction?
I know Pa Kunle Suleiman to be a politician of note in Kwara who had every opportunity that a politician should have, but with all sense of modesty, I can tell you that he cannot point to any developmental project he had facilitated to the state since he became the pioneer chairman of the PDP in the state. Was Pa Kunle Suleiman a member of Lawal’s party? Governor Lawal was elected on the ticket of the All Peoples Party through the Saraki dynasty until they had political disagreement, and the party was later changed to the All Nigeria’s Peoples Party, and the late Dr. Olusola Saraki joined the PDP. How did he know that the KWASU idea was conceived by the government of a party which he was never part of? KWASU was an idea mooted by Saraki when Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi was the Commissioner for Education. These are the things he initiated with eminent Kwarans including the late Prof. Shehu Jimoh, Prof. Shuabu Abdulraheem, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin; a former Chairman of the Federal Character Commission and a former governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Shaaba Lafiaji. They were in the forefront and they played a prominent role in the establishment and running of KWASU. While the idea came, we had an education summit in the state which ratified the idea of KWASU and other laudable educational programmes and policies for the state. KWASU was a well conceived idea, if the university was not doing well, they would have said, ‘see Bukola was the one that wasted our money.’
He also described the Shonga Farm as a wasted project. What is your comment on that?
It is unfortunate that some people are saying things they don’t know about the farm. From inception, Shonga Farm was not the traditional farming we were used to. It was a commercial farming. Part of the benefits of it which many of those who are condemning the project did not allow them to achieve was the transfer of technology. The global economy and the way the nation is being developed, subsistence farming is no longer fashionable. It is commercial farming that is in vogue. Whatever they are producing in Shonga Farm are not expected to be sold at local markets. The products have become part of the raw materials being used by agro-allied industries. The products are being supplied directly to industrialists. There was a time that the Saraki government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with WAMPCO. This is what commercial farming is all about. Some people embarked on campaigns of calumny to the extent that even the natives who should have ordinarily lent their support and benefit from the technology transfer, were made to believe that Shonga Farm is a fraud. To the glory of God, Shonga Farm is still there and doing well.
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