By Gidado Yushau Shuaib
I advise the state governor to remain focused and avoid being distracted. In the process of executing good programmes and policies, the bedrock of good governance, one has to take hard decisions, march on thorny toes to withstand the concomitant pressure associated with doing the right thing.
Despite the reported hullabaloo over the demolition of Ile-Arugbo, the compound of the alleged charity homes established by the Saraki family, Ilorin appears to be calm and tranquil, at least to a visitor.
I arrived Ilorin to attend to a N500 million court suit filed against me and others by Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industry, a firm allegedly owned by President Muhammadu Buhari’s special adviser, Sarah Alade, over an investigative report I edited and published.
Before my arrival, I had thought that the city was in a state of unrest and restlessness, only to encounter a peaceful and serene environment, with residents going about their normal businesses.
The controversy over the demolition of Ile-Arugbo still lingers, as many players have argued for and against the decision of Governor AbdulRasaq AbdulRahman to wipe out the structures. The arguments were tarred by different factors, including political leanings and cultural affiliations.
During the heat of the matter, even President Buhari’s minister and member of the All Progressives Congress, Gbemisola Saraki and her brother, the former Senate president and PDP chieftain, Bukola Saraki, had condemned the demolition exercise. They are children of the late Dr. Olusola Saraki, who established the Ile-Arugbo.
The state government had justified the necessity of the demolition as being due to public interest. It said that the title of the land which was built on was unlawfully allocated to a private firm without any record of payment, and as such revoked the said title, and recovered the land for the building of a new government secretariat that it was originally meant for.
I strongly believe that, like many have observed and as pointed out by a public commentator recently, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has endeared himself to the people by his unassuming disposition, gender equality initiatives, developmental programmes and the prompt payment of the remuneration of workers.
In fact, in October 2019, Kwara ranked third on the list of states that had attracted huge foreign investments, recording an accumulated inflow of $1.14 billion. It was next to Lagos and Abuja in this regard. With this earlier good rating of the governor, the more recent negative remarks against his style of governance is quite worrisome.
Out of curiosity, as a youth, I spoke to other youths and various youth groups in the state to get their perspectives on the demolition of the structure by the government.
Most respondents based their arguments on morality, as well as the legality of the revocation of the land title and demolition of the buildings on it. Meanwhile, some responses were simply jejune and childish, bereft of any evidence, as others claimed that what happened sprang from a purely historical rivalry between the Saraki and AbdulRahaman families.
A youth group, Kwara Youths for Positive Change, claimed that the action of the governor was long overdue: “We believe that the revocation is long overdue because the land was intended for public use and not for private businesses. The government’s action is not an act of vengeance, rather it followed the due diligence and procedure,” a member of the group, Mujeeb Olayiwola Alabi, said.
Another youth advocate in the state, Muhammadu Kabir stated that: “Old women, mothers and grandmothers, usually go there from different parts of the state for as little as N500, with a local snack for a meal after the usual political rally at the venue. With the demolition of the Ile Arugbo, the women will be enterprising and productive in other endeavours rather their beggarly nuisance.”
Some people also declared that prior to it demolition, the place was being used for the breeding of political thugs. According to Mohammed Awwal, the convener of Let-the-Youth-Lead Initiative (LYLI), nobody stayed in the houses after every political event held at Ile-Arugbo.
“Late Olusola Saraki did not stay in the place. He usually stood at the top part of the house to address his followers and after his demise, the place harboured political thugs and some miscreants. None of his family members ever spent a night in the place,” Awwal Said.
Meanwhile, a young legal practitioner in Ilorin, Yinka Oba pointed out that the now reclaimed land was never allocated to any individual but to a company based in Lagos.
He said that: “The controversy is unnecessary because the land was allocated to Asa Investments Limited with an office in Lagos rather than Kwara State. The company in its last annual return filed at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in 2006 had the main objective to acquire by purchase, lease, exchange, hire, or otherwise, lands and property of any tenure. The status of the firm currently is inactive.”
While one can read political motives for most of the reactions generated by this issue, especially in the media, the fact and the reality on the ground is that most people I spoke to commended the state government for addressing major socio-economic challenges in the state, especially towards job creation, youth and women empowerment. The Ile-Arugbo drama could have been overblown as a result of other intents and interests.
I advise the state governor to remain focused and avoid being distracted. In the process of executing good programmes and policies, the bedrock of good governance, one has to take hard decisions, march on thorny toes to withstand the concomitant pressure associated with doing the right thing. He should nevertheless be conscious while taking sensitive and political decisions to avoid such actions being wrongly misinterpreted and misjudged.
Gidado Yushau Shuaib, the editor of Youths Digest and The News Digest, can be reached on email@example.com