The defection of Senate President Bukola Saraki from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) on Tuesday has awoken a dormant political rivalry within the Saraki Family that stretched back to 2011.
Few hours after Mr Saraki’s announcement, his sister and arch political rival, Gbemisola, declared her “unwavering support” for the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari and the success of the APC.
On Tuesday, in a statement to PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Saraki said he was quitting the APC after accusing influential persons within the party of intolerance.
“While I take full responsibility for this decision, I will like to emphasise that it is a decision that has been inescapably imposed on me by certain elements and forces within the APC who have ensured that the minimum conditions for peace, cooperation, inclusion and a general sense of belonging did not exist,” he said.
Mr Saraki, who left the PDP in 2014 for the APC, said his former party has learnt more from its defeat in the 2015 election than the ruling party has learnt from its victory.
“The PDP that we return to is now a party that has learnt its lessons the hard way and have realised that no member of the party should be taken for granted; a party that has realized that inclusion, justice and equity are basic precondition for peace; a party that has realized that never again can the people of Nigeria be taken for granted.”
But soon after her brother announced he was quitting the party, Gbemisola Saraki, in a Facebook post, reaffirmed her support for President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election and the APC.
“I maintain my unwavering support for President Muhammadu Buhari, now and for his re-election in 2019, and for the success of our party, the APC, in Kwara State and across the federation,” she wrote.
“All members of my political organisations including GRS Movement (GRSM); GRS Foundation (GRSF); GRS Friends on Facebook (GRSFOF), Paramount Women Forum (PWF) and GRS Grassroots Youth Movements (GRS-GYM) will begin to implement the first phase of our “Get-Out-The-Vote” for PMB and APC.
“Politics is a public service to the people and we ought to conduct it with dignity, peace and love for our fellow citizens.
“May Allah grant us direction, guidance and restraint in our utterances and conduct,” she wrote.
The rivalry between the siblings can be traced back to 2011, when Gbemisola, who had been a member of the House of Representatives (from 1999 to 2003 under the defunct All Peoples Party) and two-term senator (from 2003 to 2011 under the PDP), wanted to succeed her brother, who was then outgoing governor of their native Kwara State.
She got the backing of their late father, Olusola Saraki, but her brother kicked against the idea arguing that it was not morally correct for the position to be rotated between siblings. He then backed the incumbent governor of the state, Abdulfatah Ahmed.
Having lost control of the PDP in the state to his son, their father, popularly called Baba Oloye, left the party and formed the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) under whose platform Gbemisola contested but lost to Mr Ahmed.
Mr Saraki was then also elected senator to represent Kwara Central Senatorial District.
In 2014, then as a member of the PDP, after her brother had defected to form the APC, she tried to contest for the governorship position of the state but was defeated at the party’s primary by Simoen Ajibola. She remained in the PDP till 2015 but under acrimonious conditions as members of the state’s chapter of the party saw her as an extension of her father’s hegemony and blocked her every move.
In 2015, days before the gubernatorial election, she defected from the PDP to join her brother in the APC. Despite her defection to the APC, sources close to the family said both siblings barely tolerated each other. Therefore, her declaration of support for the party and President Buhari did not come a complete shock.
Though it is not clear if she is interested in contesting in the coming election, in past weeks posters indicating that she was interested in running for the Kwara Central Senatorial District election have emerged on social media.
PREMIUM TIMES tried, unsuccessfully, to reach Gbemisola on her known mobile phone on Tuesday. But one of her associates, Lanre Issa-Onilu, said he could not confirm if she was interested in running or not.