BY VICTORIA N. IKEANO
Now that the so-called ‘Ile Arugbo’ case is out of the realm of judicial adjudication, following request by one of the parties for an out of court settlement, one can now comment on it. One views this option agreed by both parties with mixed feelings. True, it is better to ‘jaw jaw’ than to ‘war war’. However, one was happy that the matter went to court as one was eager to see what concrete evidence the prosecuting party would tender to contradict the government’s claim backed by facts, that the land on which ‘Ile Arugbo’ was erected was illegally acquired. According to media accounts, court officials reportedly said the only document the Sarakis filed through their firm ( ASA Investment Limited) to prove their case was a “mere letter of allocation in principle without attaching any right of occupancy or certificate of occupancy documents”. Yet, before now and following government’s demolition of the illegally acquired land for ‘overriding public interest’ all manner of people, especially internet warriors flooded the media space casting aspersions on the Abdulrshman Abdulrazaq administration for “demolishing former Senate president Bukola Saraki’s family house” without first accessing the facts.
Even a minister of the federal republic, Aunty Gbemisola Saraki who had been at daggers drawn with his brother, Dr. Bukola Saraki politically, suddenly aligned with him and considered the government’s demolition of ‘Ile Arugbo’ (so the land can be reverted to its original use)as a provocation, etc. I have always held that our politicians are not principled generally. For, it is naturally expected that anyone joining a political party would equally subscribe to its manifesto, unquestionably. Now among manifesto of the APC government of which Gbemisola Saraki is a chieftain as a cabinet member, is fighting corruption in all ramifications which includes illegally acquiring government assets without following the due process. In throwing her hat into the ring, Minister Gbemisola Saraki’s action sought to cloak the false accusations against the government with some form of credibility. Some people were hoodwinked and it gave the Internet warriors ammunition for their nefarious activity. Yet, anybody that digs deep enough would be able to separate the facts from fiction.
According to chairman of the committee on recovery of government properties, Senator Suleiman Ajadi, “We are not saying that the land was stolen”. Crux of the matter is that this is part of land earmarked for third phase of the state government Secretariat long ago. Indeed, foundation for this had been done in the 1980s. And as is the norm, government-owned land is not to be converted to private use.For one reason or other the Secretariat building did not continue as planned. But the Ministry of Finance and a civil service clinic had been built. Part of the earmarked land was meanwhile acquired by Asa Investment Limited, a private company, apparently owned by late Dr. Olusola Saraki, famously dubbed ‘the strong man of Kwara politics’. But as has now been confirmed, the Sarakis only possess a letter of intent. They have no title to the land by way of certificate of occupancy or right of occupancy.
The widely held view that the demolished house was the Sarakis’ family house is false. Such a relatively modest house cannot be Dr.Bukola Saraki or his father’s personal house. For we are aware that our top politicians usually build state of the art house in their country home. It has now been discovered that the house served as a waiting place for the numerous persons flocking to see the ‘strongman of Kwara politics’, Pa Saraki and also used for political meetings.
Also, its name ‘Ile Arugbo’, (old peoples home) is a misnomer. Were it an old peoples home per se, it would have been equipped with the facilities and staff needed for the feeding, comfort and recreation of the elderly who would be living there permanently, similar to an orphanage home. It would also be a government facility, for, private citizens hardly own or run an old peoples home.
The fate that befell the Saraki house brings to the limelight the penchant by some influential persons to distort land master plans that are intended to benefit the citizens at large. Kwara state is not an isolated case. It is a general, nationwide malaise. For example, in the FESTAC area of Lagos state, open spaces reserved for parks and school recreation fields have since been converted to residential and commercial edifices. Your guess is as good as mine on the consequences of such illegal conversions. Ditto the once exclusively residential Ikoyi and Victoria Island in same state that are now being turned to commercial areas.
Mallam Nasir el rufai, now governor of Kaduna state, as minister of the federal capital territory, Abuja, took the bold initiative of demolishing buildings that contravened Abuja’s original master plans. Many abused and ‘cursed’ him for this. But objective persons commend him for this singular action which sought to save the FCT from the trappings of Nigeria’s former capital, Lagos with its social and environmental consequences.
It is noteworthy that Saraki through his lawyer is now seeking an amicable solution to the matter at hand. To show that there is no political undertones in its action as well as exhibit its magnanimity, the Kwara state government could allocate another plot at the appropriate area to the Saraki family with the family paying all relevant fees for this new plot from start to finish, to government coffers. There is a limit to false propaganda.