For the threat by the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the leadership of the party, to remove the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, from office, the former governor of Kwara State would have been in the holy city of Mecca by now, performing the last pillar of Islam, Hajj.
Indications to this effect emerged during the week when checks by Saturday Telegraph revealed that some of those sponsored by Senator Saraki are already in Saudi Arabia, awaiting the arrival of their sponsor. Among the pilgrims is a female politician, who spoke with one of our correspondents from Saudi Arabia, explaining that they were shocked to learn that the man who facilitated their trip could no longer join them as expected. “Oloye is supposed to be with us but from the news we are hearing from home, it is certain that he is not coming here again. Saudi authorities are closing the border today, he wont be able to come here again.
“They are giving him so much problem in Abuja, so instead of coming to Mecca, he is going to Ijebu-Ode. We learnt the Kabiyesi Awujale has invited him for this year’s Ojude-Oba festival, so he will be going there on Thursday”, she said. Some close associates of the Senate President however disagreed as they argued that there was no trip to Saudi Arabia on the itinerary of Saraki, arguing that he was already billed to be in Ijebu–Ode for the annual Ojude-Oba festival.
Another member of the Saraki political family argued that the Ojude-Oba invitation had been extended since last year but was rescheduled, because Saraki was on the pilgrimage last year.
Though some of his close aides denied knowledge of any planned trip, several sources in Ilorin confirmed that this would be the first time in the recent years that Saraki would miss the Hajj rites. Although they were not categorical, they agreed that the development has to do with the crisis in the National Assembly.
A source very close to the Senate President said it would be ‘suicidal’ for Saraki to have left home with the current scenario at his backyard. “Of course he can’t travel, that would have been suicidal, he has to keep tab on every move around him,” the source said although she asked not to be identified in print since there was no clearance for her to speak with the press. Another source who has also worked closely with Saraki in the last few years said:
“Oga always perform the Hajj since I can remember but you know what is happening in the National Assembly deserves close marking, both for him and the nation. He has to be on ground to lead the counterforce against his planned impeachment.
“But he also has to be on ground to assure Nigerians that he is committed to resolving the INEC budget issue.
If he should travel now, people will use it against him, they will say he is working against national interest. Even when he is on ground they are saying that, how much more if he should travel for the Hajj?” The Ojude-Oba story was however buttressed by the Coordinator of the event, Otuba Fassy Yusuf, who had earlier issued a statement, appealing to the people of Ogun State to look beyond politics in the choice of Saraki as the Special Guest at the Ojude Oba festival. In the statement, Yusuf confirmed that Saraki had been earlier invited for the same role in 2017 edition of the festival but could not make it.
“The choice of Saraki should not attract any political nor religious connotation, after all in the past, Ojude Oba played host to political gladiators not in the same party with those at the helm of affairs in Ogun State during those editions. “In the last seven years, we saw our amiable Governor and my brother, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun, CON, FCA., playing host to PDP stalwarts (David Mark, Tambuwal, Dickson, etc.) at Ojude Oba Days.
Ditto, my brother and former governor Daniel, fas. Nigerian politics is all about alignment and realignment of forces cum interests- no permanent friends, no permanent foes.
“We must be circumspect about the way we approach and analyse issues. Objectivity, rationality, truth, equity, justice and fairness must be our watchwords.
We must imbibe those virtues Ojude Oba espouses: tolerance, accommodation, civility and mutual respect. “The decision to invite Saraki was taken early in 2017. However, he could not make it in 2017. And, the same invitation was extended to him before the present political imbroglio/ impasse.
“The decision to invite him is devoid of politics as Ojude-Oba has nothing to do with political permutation or consideration. Doing so or going the direction of politics would mean insulting the sensibility of Ijebu who belong to the various 50 or so political parties in Nigeria. Yusuf’s statement came on the heels of messages flying around inciting the public against the attendance of Saraki at the event.
Some of the messages written in Ijebu dialect read: ”Ijebu rejects Bukola Saraki. We should not allow Bukola Saraki to use Ijebu Land for publicity. His name should be taken off from Guest of Honour”, the message read. Saraki had earlier in May inaugurated a 10-man committee to coordinate his sponsorship of Muslim and Christian pilgrimages in Kwara State.
The committee which is headed by a former Grand Kadi of the state, Justice Idris Haroon, also has Reverend Cornelius Fawenu, the immediate past adviser to governor Abdulfattah Ahmed on Christian affairs as a member. Among other duties, the committee selects and screens those to be sponsored for Hajj, Umrah and Jerusalem pilgrimages by Saraki.
Speaking during the inauguration, Saraki said he decided to take over the responsibility of sponsoring Muslim and Christian faithful on pilgrimages because the government could no longer do it because of economic challenges whereas there has been a clamour for such among his followers.
“Any good leader must at all times listen to the yearnings of his people”, he said, adding:”We have our Muslim and Christian brothers desirous of observing the pilgrimages, but could not afford the cost. We will help such people with a forum through which they can realise their dreams.We may not be able to do like the government which used to sponsor about 400 when I was governor of Kwara state, we will start with 100.
The coming Umrah (lesser Hajj) shall be the starting point.”
Responding, the chairman of the committee, Justice Haroon praised the Senate President for his initiative, saying that, “this which you have initiated as a true Muslim, is the first of its kind in this state and Nigeria.” He assured that the committee’s members would work assiduously to meet the aspirations of the people. “We will do our job with fear of God and shall ensure that only pious people are selected for the exercise,” Haroon stated.