Beyond the politics between the Senate and the Nigerian Police, there are clear indications that Bukola Saraki, Senate President, owes his political fortune to the blood and gore willingly shed by misguided youths from campus confraternities, writes ABDULGANIYU BOLAJI.
On 19, February 2003, 10 young men met at the Glover Road, Victoria Island, Lagos home of a young governorship aspirant. For the men, Tunde Ojulari, Tunde Shitta Bay, Abdul Jabbar Issa, Surajudeen Omotayo, Mufutau Salawu, Tolu Ayeni, Lekan Ajao, Niran Kudabo and Yemi Salako, it was pay day. Barely 12 days earlier, the young men had created a storm in Ilorin after putting together a ‘Project 2003 Team’.
It was created as a counter force to hired muscles of then governor of the state, Mohammed Lawal, led by Bayo Ajia. Project 2003 Team was headed by Ojulari. Its members were student cultists from proscribed confraternities in the school campuses in Ilorin. After it came on stream on 7, February, its members sought permit from the state police command on 14, for a political rally in support of Governor Lawal’s opponent and aspiring governor at the time, Bukola Saraki, who was a former top director of the defunct Society General Bank and erstwhile aide to Olusegun Obasanjo, then president in power.
The rally held on the 16th of that month after getting its blessing from state police commissioner. By 19th when the team gathered at the Victoria Island rendezvous, it was apparent that the Ilorin hullabaloo had caught the desired attention. The Glover Road rendezvous was the home of no other than Saraki, the governorship aspirant and top challenger to Lawal. Saraki was happy. And he was in a hiring mood.
In an arrangement carefully moderated by two individuals, a certain Mr Koye and Kola Alagbada, both men, associates of Saraki, a detailed sponsorship and funding package was made available to the team. This includes N20,000 each as monthly salaries for them; provision of a Toyota bus, red in colour with registration number GGE 886, Lagos, and another 505 Peugeot car were given to them to ease transport.
They also got an office at No. 19 Reservation Rd, Ilorin, according to the arrangement, provided by Mr Saraki, as alleged. Their job, in the main, was thuggery. They were used as body guards, too, and to foment trouble in Ilorin, against Ajia, lead gangster, loyal to governor, Lawal at the time. The first inkling as to the identity of Project 2003 Team was first reported in a tabloid, City People, in its 3, April 2003 edition.
This was after an unprecedented level of gang/cultist war was unleashed on the state, particularly its capital with lives and properties lost. But a more detailed confession came from one of the team members, Aminu Lukman, a year later, from inside Ita Kura Prison in Ilorin, in a hand written confession on a four page exercise book. Smuggled out by Abdulrahaman Abusida (real name is substituted to protect him), a social worker, Lukman said in his confession, “It was at the 7, February 2003 meeting that we made it known to Saraki that we all members of leading confraternity in all tertiary institution in Kwara.”
Adeniyi Kayode, aka Black Jesus, Gospel Seleipre Ogona, Oluwole Oladipo Eniola, are in no way linked to Project 2003 Team. But they also make a bizarre claim against associates and aides of Saraki, linking them as their sponsors as student cultists in University of Ilorin in 2004.
Kayode, Ogona and Eniola were apprehended by a combination of the University’s campus security and the Department of State Security, DSS, Kwara State Command, and handed over for prosecution. They were convicted of cultism related activities by an Ilorin High Court. Their conviction was expedited by a new law sponsored by then Governor, Bukola Saraki, on cultism. Kayode, Ogona and Eniola had appealed the ruling in a suit suit No KWS/20C/04. In seeking to upturn the lower court’s ruling, the trio, in a confessional statement attached to their briefs at the Appeal Court, alleged that their activities as members of Black Axe were funded by prominent aides and associates of Saraki who was governor at the time. According to Kayode, for instance, the following names were mentioned as sponsors of the Black Axe during Saraki’s election in 2003. Ojulari, who was Project 2003 Team leader. He had become a special adviser to the Saraki; Hon Saliu Bamidele-Aluko, then member, State House of Assembly, chairman, Justice, Judiciary and Human Rights and Legal Matters; Barrister Jimba Muyideen, Special Adviser, Youth Development and Employment to Saraki while as governor; Tolu Ayeni, who is also said to work at the former governor’s office and a certain Pastor Fatoyinbo of the Commonwealth Mount Zion Church, Ilorin.
Even as a governor, Saraki left no one in doubt as to his links to men of violence. Bayo Ajia’s case comes to mind in this regard. Formally a hired muscle for Saraki’s opponent in 2003, Late governor Lawal, Ajia was arrested in 2004 for the killing of three men believed to be followers of Saraki. Ajia was sentenced to death and confirmed all the way to the Supreme Court. But curiously, Ajia was pardoned by Saraki. The decision till date still baffles many. Why grant Ajia when there were the likes of Kayode, Ogona and Eniola Who claimed to have been sponsored by his aides in the course of the 2003 election? What of the other members of ‘Project 2003’ who also claimed to have been commissioned by Saraki?
But that fateful rendezvous at Glover Road, Lagos and the plight of the trio of Kayode, Ogona and Eniola, perfectly explains the unease in Kwara State government house and around Saraki, the Senate President, after another case relating to cultism/robbery was transferred from Ilorin to Abuja by the Police Headquarters. While Saraki and Abdulfatah Ahmed, Kwara Governor, may not have been evidently linked to cult related violence in the last 15 years, both men may have a hard time explaining why their aides and associates are consistently mentioned as sponsors of cultist and gangsters like it again happened, recently.
On 10, May, this month, residents of Ilorin woke up to the arrest of a certain individual that goes by alias, Askari. He is alleged to be a kingpin of Aiye, confraternity whose activities are banned under penalties of imprisonment in Kwara. Askari, along with five other suspects were arrested after sustained manhunt by police on allegation murder, thug related activities and robbery.
Curiously, Askari was identified as son of a former police public relations officer, Lanre Mohammed Soliu and a traditional title holder in Ilorin. The public thought nothing more of this detail until Saraki, during a plenary in the Senate, raised alarm that moves are afoot by the police to implicate him as sponsor of Askari’s cult related activities. According to Saraki, there is a grand plan by the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Idris, to implicate him, using Askari and his gang of cultists who have been arrested in Kwara State to implicate him.
Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Saraki told his colleagueshmmj that the Governor of Kwara State, Ahmed, informed him about how the IGP has concluded plans to link him to a group of cult suspects who were about to be prosecuted in Kwara State but had been ordered by the IGP to be transferred to Abuja.
According to him, the IGP plans to put the suspects under duress to change the statements they already made in Ilorin, with a view to implicating him and Kwara State Government. Saraki said the move was part of a strategy by the IGP to settle scores with the Senate for declaring him an enemy of democracy and unfit to hold any public office within and outside the country. He warned against what he described as rascality, intimidation and harassment. The Senate President, miffed expressed concern about the manner four of the suspected 17 cult members were transferred from the state police command to Abuja.
While Saraki may have spoken eloquently especially in the need political intimidation, it does not anyway vitiate the need for public to know who the godfathers and chief enablers of these cultists are, many of whom are dead, in prison or have simply disappeared from the face of the earth.