A community development practitioner and Director of the Kwara State University Centre for Community Development, Lawal Olohungbebe has reviewed a book authored by a frontline Otoge crusader, Abdullateef Babafila. The book, titled ‘Otoge: The Triumph Of Hope and Progress,’ was presented to the public last Saturday in Ilorin.
In his review, Olohungbebe who did a chapter by chapter review of the book, commended the author for enriching public discourse by documenting an important episode in the political history of Kwara State. He also applauded the courage of the author for putting out a book he described as an “elephant” which would be interpreted by different individuals based on the side that is closer to them. Read full review below:
Author: Abdullateef Babafila
Book Title: Otoge: The Triumph of Hope and Progress
Publisher: Musty Graphic Press, Ilorin, Kwara State
Reviewer: Lawal O. Olohungbebe
Abdullateef Babafila, with this captivating book, has no doubt taken us on a very interesting voyage of political odyssey, one that distils personalities and chronicles events with the finesse that only an insider and partaker in some of the issues reported in the book could have done. History, including the unpleasant ones, needs to be told in order for us to learn from the past. The book under review, Otoge: The Triumph of Hope and Progress is, therefore, intended for every curious mind, especially those in the fields of History and Political science. The book can be fairly called a work of historiography directed at a mass audience. The genre of the book is politics, specifically, the Nigerian brand of democracy; without an institutionalized ideology.
The author’s motive in putting this book together is two-sided:
- Prime purpose: “to actualize a dream which concerns transmitting the momentous message contained therein into the worth-the-while reading”
- Principal aim: “to set many records straight, and present objective narratives, facts and analysis that would prove that Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq nicknamed “AA” deserves a front seat either now or in the future when the heroes and heroines of Otoge are being praised”
The book is chronologically divided into 11 chapters. Babafila chooses to start by giving a convincing account of the making of the Kwara State, the Willinks Commission, placing its founding fathers in their right place in history:
“At one of the meetings as honourable member, Chief Josiah Olawoyin moved a motion that Ilorin and Kabba provinces be brought together to form a State. The motion was seconded by Alh. Ganiyu Folorunsho Abdulrazaq (AGF). This gave birth to Kwara as one of the twelve (12) States of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1967.”
Starting out in Chapter one, Babafila traces the socio-cultural as well as the political evolution of Ilorin as the epicentre of political participation and engagement in Kwara State. While the author does not specifically draw clear parallels between the two episodes, his narration of how late Sule Maito, the leader of Talaka Parapo travelled to Kaduna, the then capital of Northern Nigeria, to lay a complaint to Makama, the National Chairman of Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC) of how “few elites have been dominating the affairs of NPC, thereby oppressing others” bears a striking similarity with the protracted complaints of O to ge crusaders to Saraki’s lordship over political affairs in Kwara ahead of the 2019 polls.
Again, Sule Maito, as leader of Talaka Parapo left the NPC in a manner similar to the ways those who later formed the nucleus of O to ge always moved in alternative political direction to Saraki whom they, like Maito, also perceived as “dominating” Kwara’s political arena. Of course, the way Sule Maito left the NPC to forge an alliance with Sunday Olawoyin of the Action Group (AG) to wrestle power from the Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC) in the 1957 elections is similar in all ramifications to the way different tendencies came together in 2019 to wrestle power from the Saraki dynasty. In all, these correlations of history, as chronicled by Babafila, suggest that Ilorin, and by extension Kwara people, have always stood up to reject political domination in whatever guise, and the 1957 example proved that this has always been the case even before Dr. Olushola Saraki appeared on Kwara’s political scene in the prelude to the 1964 elections.
In chapter two, the author reflected on what he termed as the “once upon” greatness that was noticeable in Ilorin and Kwara, bemoaning the wasted opportunity to advance the level of development in the State. With the clairvoyance of a perceptive observer, Babafila identifies some of the popular industries in Kwara at the early stage of its life, concluding that mismanagement and long years of neglect have rendered them comatose.
In chapter three, Babafila attempts to answer a question that has been asked by many, especially non-Kwarans. When many expressed surprise on how only one person came to be very powerful in Kwara’s politics, asking almost contemptuously how as a people, Kwarans would allow one man control their political destiny; Babafila helped this category of people make sense of how the man came to build his political empire and attained massive political influence he wielded during his lifetime.
The author regaled the readers of how late Dr. Olushola Saraki turned “personal generosity” to political asset. In narrating how he came to build his political power, Babafila wrote, “Baba-Oloye came to the rescue when water scarcity was like a curse, as the problem was so serious that in desperation, women and children used to go through the risk of leaving their homes in search of water at 4am to scoop for water in springs, which were mostly found in swamps. He intervened through the provision of water tankers to supply water to Ilorin metropolis, and he also built water reservoirs in different locations. Not only did he intervene in helping to address the lingering problem of water scarcity which had indeed driven the affected people to the point of despair, but he also paid taxes on behalf of tax defaulters, who were arrested by Balogun’s agents, arguing that they could not afford it on their own. Dr. Saraki was known to have enjoyed a lot of support from the clerics in Ilorin who for whatever reason backed him with prayers and supplications. He, in turn, indulged them with slots for massive sponsorship of people to pilgrimage on annual basis, Ramadan gifts, cash and educational sponsorship for the needy. After all, according to him, his sole aim of joining politics was to alleviate masses’ suffering and challenges; most especially women.”
What late Saraki’s life epitomizes, as the reader can see in Chapter three of the book, is that an average Kwaran is but a grateful soul, and that he enjoyed their love and support for as long as he did during his lifetime only because he was able to show through sheer power of verifiable doing, and not claims of doing as is most common nowadays, that he also loves the people. No matter what must have been his motives, the people felt he was genuinely interested in their welfare and wellbeing, and in return, they rewarded him with their love and support. This is a testament to the good heart of an average Kwaran who rewards generosity with an equal proportion of loyalty and dedication.
Chapter four was a further elaboration on the subject of chapter two, which discusses the subject of governance and management of state resources and properties, especially by the government of Dr. Bukola Saraki between 2003 to 2011. Chapter five chronicles the political battles and struggles of late Dr Olushola Saraki, especially in national politics and in relation with his ambition to be President of Federal Republic of Nigeria, and, of course, his political muscle flexing with his estranged political godsons and other adversaries. In chapter six, Babafila introduces readers to the many issues that combine together to further inflame the already smouldering ember of discontent against the political dynasty. Chapter seven records the point at which the O to ge revolution finally reaches its zenith and the issues and factors that turned the tide in favour of the O to ge crusaders. Chapter eight narrates the situation that complicates issues for the then ruling class in the State, while chapter nine identifies individuals that played different but complimentary roles in the success of the O to ge struggle. In chapter ten, Babafila reports the evidence-based progress recorded so far under the Malam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq’s administration, while putting forward his objective recommendation on the way forward, requesting the governor to build strong institutions in order to prevent the emergence of strong individuals who will be so strong as to subjugate everyone else under their control.
In all, the book successfully pulls out from their long-sealed shells the frontiers of Kwara politics. In so doing, flashlight was pointed at few individuals, with more emphasis on Baba AbdulGaniyu Folorunsho (AGF) AbdulRazaq and Baba Saraki. The author brings to light what brought them together, what separated them and the legacies they both left behind. Of particular interest is the manner through which the author explains how different players, at different times and within the same space used different languages or expressions to say the same thing; O to ge to the power that be. He elucidates how gladiators like Late Alhaji Sule Maito, Late Alhaji Adamu Attah, Late Akanbi Oniyangi, Late Muhammad Lawal, Mr Olawepo Hashim, Mr Muhammed Dele Belgore (SAN) and host of others said O to ge at different times in Kwara State.
In support of his arguments, the author relies on interviews he personally conducted, articles and books published by key players in the struggle and his own personal experience, especially the awful ones. Without a doubt, the graphic verbal account of the key players like Lawyer Kunle Sulaiman and Dele Belgore (SAN) are searing and significantly enriched the narration in the book.
The author’s experience of the Nigerian brand of politics further proves that a whole lot of sacrifices are not known, not because they are unimportant, but because every sacrifice cannot be documented. So, the author was once a poster boy! So, he was brutally bruised at the polling booth to the extent that he had to shout out for rescue. “MDB, they have killed me,” he exclaimed as he received what must have been a peculiar kind of beating. Having been thoroughly dealt with, the son of Babafila, on his return home, received a ‘hot slap’ for refusing to oblige his father’s directive to retreat before he got beaten at the booth. In the same vein, Abdullateef had to experience a self-imposed exile because he would not close ranks with Senator Bukola Saraki’s camp as requested by a caring father, who thought that was the best for his politically defiant son.
As immaterial as it may sound, it is worthy of note that the author appears to be a lover of wristwatches. While reeling out AA’s achievements, he recalls how, on 28 January, 2022 he was at the Kwara Mall when he received his salary alert. He said “I was going to deposit for a wrist-watch priced at #25000 when I received the alert. And to my utmost dismay; the sum of #25000 has been added to my monthly take home. I couldn’t believe my eyes. In the end, I bought the wrist-watch outright instead of making a deposit.” You will agree with me that, regardless of your take home, a teacher that buys a #25,000 wristwatch is an unapologetic lover of the timepiece.
In addressing the second leg of the motive behind this book, the author successfully and convincingly gave an unbiased narrative of how not to assess the contributions of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq (AA) to Kwara politics and his emergence as governor. He is able to establish the fact that AA will be grossly short-changed if reference is not made of his contributions to the growth of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara State in 1998; Gubernatorial seat contest under the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), 2011; Senatorial seat contest on the platform of PDP in 2015 among other covert interventions.
Just as Calvin Coolidge, a Republican candidate for Massachusetts gubernatorial seat won the election through radio programmes, the success of the Otoge gladiators won’t be possible without mentioning PDP Gberede which later metamorphosed to APC Gberede on radio stations. The author did not shy away from acknowledging contributions of politicians like Barrister Iyiola Akogun, Dr Kolawole Rex Olawoye, Hon. Yekin Alajagusi and Mr Femi Yusuf as well as the courage of apolitical clerics like Prof. Abubakar Aliagan and Dr. Abdulhameed Olohunoyin in the making of the monumental success of the O to ge movement.
He also boldly advises that the capital city can be cleaner if “strict implementation of environmental laws through KWEPA (Kwara State Environmental Protection Agency), and empowerment of KWEPA viz a viz private contractors by the government” are actualized. He preaches inclusive institutions which could create virtuous circles of innovations, economic expansion and more widely-held wealth.
The author’s boldness and sincerity are seen on every page of this book. Two occasions are very instructive; his first encounter with AA when he said to him, “Sir! There is a general belief within the fold of Otoge that anytime you secure a ticket, you always “run-away” and perhaps; you must be working for Bukola Saraki who usually pays you off at the end of the day” and his assertive response to his father, Babafila when the old man said to him that “the Senate President (Bukola Saraki) wants me to bring my son for he does not want to deal with us, old-men again”.
It is worthy of note that Abdullateef seems prejudiced against anything that projects the dynasty as a saviour; given his progressive and liberative mindset, it is believed that it will be difficult, if not impossible, not to feel this way.
However, despite the richness of the work; there are some inconsistencies regarding the names of some characters, for example, the immediate past governor of Kwara State. In some instances, the author refers to him as ‘Abdulfatah’ and in some other instances he refers to him as ‘Fatah’. Also, he writes AA’s name in six different ways; ‘AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq’, ‘AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq’ ‘Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq’, AbdulRahman AbdulRazq’, AbdulRahaman AbdulRazaq’ and ‘AbdulRahaman Abdulrazaq’. In Chapter Four, the author, while dissecting the Shonga issue, said the ‘remaining four hectares’ but actually meant ‘four thousand hectares.’
In chapter seven, the author notes that “Samuel Adedayo, Joel Ogundeji and others were the principal actors who contributed immensely to the success of the PDP in the 1998 general election.” Unfortunately, there was no general election in 1998 but in 1999. This must have been an overlooked typographic error. Again, perhaps due to his unrestrained patriotism, the author appears too critical of Bukola Saraki and was unable to detach himself from getting emotionally involved with the subject of his narration. This was particularly evident in chapter four where, even when he identifies any project Saraki embarked on as governor of the State, he would still critic it. A case in point is the Aviation College which he queried how it would help a poor State like Kwara. Objectivity will require that the author completely detach himself from the issues and instead leave readers to make their deductions without seeming to be judgemental. In the same chapter, the author also reproduces many allegations and rumours concerning Bukola Saraki that enough support evidence was not provided. While some of the sentence constructions in the book, especially in the introductory part, can be strengthened and the punctuations improved; these did not detract from the richness of the work as an important compendium of political events.
Conclusively, AbduLlateef’s conversational style makes for an easy read. Although, history is never truly objective but the author has presented his own account as he sees it. It is left to the reader to pull all the assertions together, to credit or discredit parts or all of his account. This book, just like the O to ge movement itself, is like the proverbial elephant that when assessed by some blind men; some may see it as being objective, while some may arguably perceive it as self-serving and laced with political claims. Notwithstanding, I describe the book as a truly assertive and bold attempt to chronicle recent events in the most compelling style possible.
The reader, if circumspect enough, would discover from this important work major issues that shaped some of the political happenings that we, the onlookers, merely see as happenstance. The author has opened our eyes to see beyond the facade and to pay attention to the indiscernible situations that we had hitherto neglected or barely paid attention to. The son of Babafila has no doubt done both the present and unborn generations a great service of preserving a very important episode of our political evolution as a people. It is most certain that posterity would judge the author appropriately for this audacious endeavour.