The recent demolition of Ile Arugbo (Old People’s Home) reportedly owned by the late doyen of Kwara politics, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Sakari, by the state government has elicited condemnation by many Nigerians, including ardent followers of the late flamboyant politician. Dr. Olusola Saraki was a Second Republic Senator and father of the former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
The Ile Arugbo property located at Iloffa Road, Ilorin, Kwara State was pulled down on the early hours of January 2, 2020, on the order of Kwara State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq. The governor also revoked the title on the land over the alleged illegal acquisition by Saraki. He contended that the property was not the ancestral home of the Sarakis as portrayed to the public.
However, the son of the late politician, Dr. Bukola Saraki, stated that the property was rightfully allocated to his late father in the name of one of his companies, Asa Investment Limited, since the 1980s. The ex-Senate President also said: “Contrary to the claim of the governor, the land was properly allocated with a right of occupancy title issued on it.”
The residents of Ilorin have not come to terms with the hasty demolition of the property. They have also wondered why the government was in such a haste to pull down the property associated with the revered late Kwara politician.
The hasty demolition of the Saraki property is in bad taste and should be condemned. It reminds us of what happened in Oyo State when Governor Abiola Ajimobi, in 2018, partly demolished the N800 million Music House of gospel singer musician, Yinka Ayefele, on the excuse that it encroached into “the sight distance” of the Y junction along Lagelu Estate.
The Oyo State government had had to undertake reconstruction of the demolished portion of the complex following public outcry.
The Kwara State government should have exhausted all legal channels available to it to repossess the property if need be. We enjoin that our politicians should learn how to play politics without bitterness. Those in power should not use certain actions or measures to settle old scores. There is no doubt that the demolition of the said property is not the best approach to resolve the matter. There are other acceptable ways the matter should have been approached other than the use of brute force.
The excessive use of force by those in government, which smacks of impunity, should be avoided at all times.
It is good that the Saraki family has taken the matter to court for redress. Therefore, we urge all the concerned parties to be calm until the matter is finally resolved. The resort to self-help as witnessed in some similar cases in the past is not the way of democracy and the temptation to do so must be resisted by all concerned.
While the Kwara State government has argued that the property was illegally acquired by the Olusola Saraki under the umbrella of Asa Development Company and that there was no evidence of any payment to government for the property, the pertinent question is why the hasty demolition of the property? Or better still, couldn’t whatever default there was in the acquisition of the property be rectified, given the controversy it was bound to generate if its certificate of occupancy was revoked by government?
The argument by government that the space the Ile Arugbo property occupied was originally designated as a park for the state secretariat and hospital is not convincing enough. The government should have known that any attempt to tamper with the building associated with the Saraki family would be met with resistance.
It would take the best of the goodwill and maturity of the political leadership of the state to resolve the issue. Although the matter is in court, we hope that the leadership of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and other stakeholders in Kwara State politics, should wade into the matter and resolve it amicably.