CLOSE-UP: The genesis, arrowheads of “O to ge” movement that consumed Saraki in Kwara

Senate President, Bukola Saraki
Senate President, Bukola Saraki

Senate President Bukola Saraki last Saturday lost his re-election bid in Kwara State.

Mr Saraki’s party, PDP, also lost the presidential and all federal legislative seats in Kwara.

That was the first time since 2003 that Mr Saraki would lose elections in the state. The phrase ‘o to ge’, which means ‘it is enough’ was popularised by Kwara residents who wanted the exit of Mr Saraki.

PREMIUM TIMES brings you some of the arrowheads of the movement.

1. Ibrahim Labaeka

Although there are conflicting accounts of how the “O to ge” mantra was birthed in Kwara, the dominant narrative is that it was coined by Islamic gospel artiste, Ibrahim Labaeka. Mr Labaeka, a member of the Islamic Musicians Association of Nigeria (ISMAN), also confirmed this in several amateur clips posted on Youtube as well as a social networking site, Facebook, in the heat of the campaign.

Mr Labaeka is a respected voice in Kwara music industry, ranking as one of Ilorin’s most influential artistes. He has often lent his voice to discourse on Kwara politics, supporting with his music the late Olusola Saraki and Governor Muhammed Lawal at different times in the past. When the Senate President was reportedly assaulted at the Ilorin Eid ground in 2015, he was also recruited to appeal to the people and indeed released a song calling on Ilorin people to protect Saraki, whom he described as “Ilorin’s Shield.”

But in the buildup to the 2019 elections, Mr Labaeka alleged that he was ‘swindled’ of millions of naira by those in Senate President Bukola Saraki’s camp, despite working for them in the past. He thereafter claimed that he would expose them as ‘deceptive hypocrites’ who failed to honour basic terms of agreements and campaign against them.

In a city with deep religious sensitivity, it was easy for him to appeal to the people’s emotions and, hence, the potency of the “O to ge” mantra.

2. Lai Mohammed

While Mr Labaeka provided the artistic inspiration for the birth of “O to ge”, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, provided the political shield. Seen as an embodiment of the “federal might” in Kwara State, Mr Mohammed successfully rallied party members to the cause despite protracted legal battles that almost scuttled the party’s plan.

Mr Mohammed himself has often identified with the “progressive” camp in Kwara politics, which has its firm root in the southern district. He contested the 2003 election in the state on the platform of Alliance for Democracy but lost to Mr Saraki of the PDP.

Unsurprisingly, on Saturday, Mr Mohammed swept the elections in his hometown, Oro, and won his Irepodun local government for President Muhammadu Buhari.

3. AbdulRazaq AbdulRahaman

The governorship candidate of the APC, AbdulRazaq AbdulRahman, remains one rallying force in the “O to ge” movement in Kwara State. An oil magnate with a deep pocket, he is the CEO of First Fuels Limited.

He is also a son of the first lawyer in Northern Nigeria, AbdulGaniyu Folorunso (AGF) Abdulrazaq, considered one of Ilorin’s most influential elder statesmen. The old man is believed to have popularised the notion that Mr Saraki’s father, Olusola, hailed from Abeokuta.

On two occasions, precisely in 2011 and 2015, Mr AbdulRazaq contested the Kwara Central Senatorial District seat. But he lost to Senate President Bukola Saraki. He defected to the APC from the PDP in the build-up to the 2019 elections and declared interest in the governorship seat.

Party insiders told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr AbdulRazaq was picked ahead of other candidates in the party primary, especially Oba Abdulraheem, because of his non-affiliation with the Saraki family. Unlike other contestants, sources said, party chieftains chose Mr AbdulRazaq because they were worried that the “O to ge” mantra may be problematic if its major candidate has no clear ideological detachment from the Saraki clan. That he is a son of one of Ilorin’s most respected elders, and the candidate with by far the deepest pocket, were only a plus.

4. Ibrahim Oloriegbe

Ibrahim Oloriegbe won the Kwara Central Senatorial seat in Saturday’s election. He is a medical graduate of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria with decades of experience in both the private and public sectors as a medical professional and politician

A one-time majority leader at the Kwara State House of Assembly between 1999 and 2003, Mr Oloriegbe contested for the Kwara Central Senatorial seat on the platform of the defunct ACN in 2011 but lost to Mr Saraki at the court of appeal. He has since been a major opposition figure in Ilorin and on several occasions, vowed to retire Mr Saraki from active politics.

5. Moshood Mustapha

Known widely as MM, Moshood Mustapha was once Special Adviser on Inter-parliamentary Affairs, Protocol and Special Duties to Senate President Bukola Saraki. Mr Mustapha has been an ally of Mr Saraki since 2002, serving as commissioner until 2005. A former member of the House of Representatives, Mr Mustapha fell out with Mr Saraki over what party insiders said were intra-party affairs at the time. He was consequently denied the ticket to return to the National Assembly in 2015, despite being among those who decamped with Mr Saraki into the APC.

He was one of the earliest governorship aspirants in the APC to declare his ambition. When he lost out in the primaries, many insinuated that he would decamp but he did not.

6. Lukman Mustapha

Lukman Mustapha is the Chairman of Sobi FM, by far one of the most influential media platforms that dictated the pendulum of the “O to ge” movement. Mr Mustapha is a brother to Moshood Mustapha, a former aide to Mr Saraki. He defected into the APC shortly after Mr Saraki took over the structure of Kwara PDP and contested the governorship position but lost out to Mr AbdulRazaq. He has since provided support for the “O to ge” movement in Kwara, especially with his hold on the media.

7. Yahaya Seriki

A philanthropist and notable Ilorin politician, Yahaya Seriki was one of the earliest members of APC to declare his gubernatorial ambition. He, however, lost to Mr AbdulRazaq in the primaries. He has been accused of working for Mr Saraki in the APC, although he denied the allegations. He added that he would not trade his loyalty to the party for anything, revealing also that he was lured into the PDP with a promise of appointment by Mr Saraki but he rejected it.

He was later appointed the Director General of the APC campaign in Kwara Central district and indeed delivered for the party.

8. Yinka Aluko

Yinka Aluko is the former security aide to Mr Saraki during the latter’s tenure as governor of Kwara State. Mr Aluko left his former boss before the 2015 general elections to become a running mate to then PDP candidate, Simeon Ajibola. He was a member of the PDP National Executive Council until he defected into the APC in 2018. He contested the party primaries but lost out. He, however, remained a strong pillar of the “O to ge” movement especially in the heart of Ilorin.

9. Cook Olododo

Abdulganiyu Cook Olododo was born December 25, 1960 to the family of Cook at Amode Compound, Okelele in Ibagun Ward of Ilorin East. Mr Olododo was a strong ally of Mr Saraki in the past, serving as his Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Kwara State Government at different times. He is one of the strongest pillars of the “O to ge” revolt in Ilorin widely considered as vast in the knowledge of Saraki’s electioneering gambits.

On Saturday, he emerged the Reps member-elect for Ilorin South/Ilorin East by polling 56,496 votes to defeat Ayinde Mohammed of PDP who polled 27,737 votes.

10. Oba Abdulraheem

Oba Abdulraheem once served as Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin. He is known as the Talba of Ilorin. Widely respected and loved by the people, Mr Abdulraheem is revered in Ilorin particularly because of the doors of opportunities he opened for many when he held sway at the Federal Character Commission. He is largely seen as a part of the larger Saraki political family but fell out with Mr Saraki shortly after the death of the late Olusola Saraki. He contested for the governorship ticket in the PDP during the 2015 election but lost to Simeon Ajibola.

He defected into the APC and also contested for the governorship ticket. Party insiders told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Abdulraheem is believed to have won the APC governorship primaries but party strategists feared that his association with the Saraki clan would affect the fortune of the party in the state. ‘

Although he was rumoured to be working for the PDP, he has since debunked the rumour and restated his commitment to the APC.

11. Iyiola Oyedepo

Perhaps the most consistent antagonist of Senate President Bukola Saraki in contemporary Kwara politics is Iyiola Oyedepo. Mr Oyedepo has ensured that the reign of Mr Saraki and by extension, the Kwara State Government, was put under check. He has also remained politically distant from Mr Saraki, moving away and into the PDP and APC respectively as the Senate president also moved in and out.

Mr Oyedepo, as the state PDP chairman, moved to the APC when Saraki returned to the PDP last year. Earlier in 2014 when Mr Saraki left the PDP for the APC, he moved away from the party.

For about five years, he is widely reputed to have been the brain behind a radio programme on Harmony FM, “PDP Gbode”, galvanising opposition against the Saraki dynasty and the state government with a critical appraisal of government’s policies and exposure of the government’s many misdeeds and alleged corruption.

12. AbdulYekeen Alajagusi

Alajagusi was until last year a member of the PDP. He would later defect into the APC alongside other members, winning a House of Representatives ticket in Ilorin. He was one of the politicians the APC relied on to weaken the influence of the PDP in Asa local government, considered the stronghold of Mr Saraki.

He won the House of Representatives seat for Ilorin West/Asa with 68,585 votes to defeat Abdulrasaq Lawal of the PDP who polled 42,068 votes.

13. Offa/Kwara South People

Although the “O to ge” revolt was said to be infectious in Ilorin, it has firm root too in Offa and other parts of Kwara South. Already the region is considered the home of opposition in Kwara politics.

The revolt that resulted in Mr Saraki’s fall on Saturday is said to have its roots in Offa and other parts of Kwara South, beginning with the Ekiti/Irepodun/Isin/Oke-Ero Federal constituency bye-election which the APC won in 2018. The anti-Saraki sentiment in the town was, however, intensified by the Offa Robbery debacle of April 2018.

14. Kwara North Youth

Although there is very little evidence people in Kwara North were fanatical about mouthing the “O to ge” mantra on their streets, they spoke louder than all of the regions with their votes on Saturday. The less chant of “O to ge” in the region, PREMIUM TIMES observes, may be due to linguistic concern, as the region does not boast of huge Yoruba population like the South and Kwara Central. But the votes from the region spoke louder than street sloganeering as the margin of victory recorded by the APC was much significant than it was in the two other regions.

PREMIUM TIMES understands that the youth in the region were at the forefront of the campaign even after local chiefs pledged allegiance to the Saraki dynasty.

15. Non-partisan traders, Cab drivers and Youth

The “O to ge” campaign was designed to appeal to non-partisan voters, largely because of its ‘revolutionary’ tone and many of them caught the vibe. In Ilorin and other parts of the state, so infectious was the mantra that residents expressed it in different forms, with motorcycle riders and cab drivers popularly using the horn of their cars and motorcycles to make the sound in the city centre. Apart from party members, many of them were non-partisan residents.

PDP’s ‘O tun ya’ response did little to dilute the potency of the mantra. Perhaps owing to its acceptance and effectiveness, it has even been adopted in Lagos by an anti-Tinubu group, with the slogan “O to ge Lagos”.

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