Those who know Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq well enough to attest to his character say this politician, who made a mark as an entrepreneur, likes to shy away from controversy. They describe him as urbane and unassuming, despite establishing himself as a big player in such critical sectors as oil and gas, real estate, shipping, construction and solid minerals.
A man who does not like the limelight much, Abdulrazaq recently showed the world that it is better to help the needy than to engage in grandiose celebrations, when, during his 60th birthday, he told his friends and associates to make donations to the poor rather than spend money on social parties for his sake. That gesture brought to the fore his promise, at his inauguration as governor on May 29, 2019, to focus on people with special needs.
Abdulrazaq loves business and entrepreneurship. At the age of 31, he made a name for himself by founding the first indigenous oil and gas trading companies in the country, NOPA Oil Services and First Fuels. His company was lifting crude oil and petroleum products to the United States, Europe and Asia. He also did consultancy for many multinational oil companies and some African nations, including Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. He could pass for the godfather of present-day big oil magnates in the country, who took a cue from him and actually did tutelage under him in the sector.
With his foray into politics, which has transmogrified him to the political pinnacle of Kwara State, being an elected governor, Abdulrazaq could be said to have murdered sleep without knowing it. This simple man who shies away from public attention and public disagreement has sudden come into the mix, owing to his effort and determination to do what is right. Recently, Abdulrazaq was in the eye of the storm, following the demolition of the property of former Senate Leader, Oloye Olusola Saraki, in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
The action leading to the demolition of the Saraki property started when the Kwara State government revoked the rights to the land, on the allegation that they were illegally acquired. The state government said the land on which the Saraki property was erected was originally meant for a government secretariat and parking lot for the civil service clinic, but it was unlawfully allocated to Asa Investments Limited, a private firm, without any record of payment to the government. To correct the mistake, as it were, Abdulrazaq revoked the allocation of plots 1, 3 and 5 to Asa Investments Limited. In explaining why this should be so, he said: “Hundreds of civil servants still operate from rented apartments at a huge cost to the government … The new secretariat, once completed in 2021, will definitely go a long way to end this unhealthy trend as well as provide a more conducive and decent working environment for government workers.”
After the bulldozers rolled over the Saraki property, known as Ile Arugbo, government made some clarifications. A statement by Muritala Olanrewaju, Commissioner for Communications, said: “Contrary to the claim that the state government was served court papers on the matter, we state that no court paper has been served as at the time the government took steps to preserve what lawfully belongs to the people.
“Finally, we urge the people of the state to remain calm, peaceful and be guided only by facts of the matter and not be drawn into an emotional outburst that is targeted at distracting the public from the issues at stake. While the administration is focused on restoring sanity to the state after years of barefaced impunity, we will do so within the limit of the law.”
As expected, the Sarakis would not take this audacious government action lying low. Son of the late Oloye Saraki and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and his sibling accused the state government of bad blood. There was mass protest of old women, who claimed that the demolished structure served as an old people’s home. With the protest, Saraki had declared on his Facebook wall: “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.”
The daughter of the late Kwara politician and Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemisola Saraki, on her part, said: “So, many things have happened this year. In fact, right up to the very dying hours of the year, but we will continue to take brave and faithful steps. We will continue to walk even though we have no idea what will happen next, though we are comforted, encouraged and reassured with this. But they plan and Allah plans and Allah is the best of planners. We are going to be known now as GRS-OLOYE Movement.
“We have history, and we are proud of that history. May Allah forgive the sins of all our departed and may He make us worthy representatives of all that they stood for.”
Although the tension that hitherto rose high in Kwara State, following the demolition of the Saraki property, has come down, there are salient questions that must be asked. Did the late Oloye Saraki legally acquire the land on which the structure was erected? Could the Sarakis make public the document relating to this transaction? Was the place really an old people’s home, registered and run as such? The answers to these questions and many other are important so that the true position of things is clear, to avoid the public being misled. If the land was legally acquired and proved to have been, the government should take the blame and aplogise. If, on the other hand, the land was illegally acquired and government wants it back, there is nothing wrong with this action. Nobody should whip up sentiments in order to cover a misdemeanor.
Those who find themselves in government or those close to the corridors of power should not take over government property or other people’s property illegally, using state power. Where such happened and it has to be corrected, it should. The Kwara State House of Assembly once alleged that guest houses for the state governor and his deputy were transferred to the occupants of the offices, under the Bukola Saraki government, as part of the state’s Pension Law for Governors and Deputy Governors. If this is true, it is wrong. Yes, it is unjust for government officials to sell government’s buildings to themselves, for an office that would have new occupants. If you sell governor’s or deputy governor’s guest houses or official residence to outgoing officials, what would new occupants of the office use? Such a policy does not make much sense, as government would spend money to build, buy or rent new structures and by so doing spend tax payers’ money on what should have been avoided.
It is good that the Sarakis have sought out-of-court settlement. If they have seen their error and want to make amends, the Kwara State government should temper justice with mercy. If they, however, feel the state government was wrong and have the instrument to prove their case, they should continue with it in court. However, as they say, he who comes to equity must do so with clean hands.