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Kunle Akogun’s review of Aminah Salako-Adekunle’s book, “Lest we forget: Kwara Political Revolution”
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Kunle Akogun’s review of Aminah Salako-Adekunle’s book, “Lest we forget: Kwara Political Revolution” 

Mr. Chairman, the Chief Launcher, the Guest Speaker, distinguished guests, gentlemen of the press, ladies and gentlemen, I must confess that I cannot fathom the reason why the Organising Committee of this Book Presentation settled for me as the person to review this beautiful piece of intellectual effort. But even then, when I was sounded out by one of the Committee members, my brother and friend, Oluseyi Dasilva, I had no problem promptly giving him my word that I would do it.

The reasons are not farfetched: As a journalist, I am always excited when my professional colleagues are doing things that ultimately bring out the best in our noble profession. And book writing is one of those things. So, I immediately requested for a copy of the book, which Dasilva mailed to me about four days later.

So, this review is based entirely on what I got from the electronic copy and I would seek your indulgences sirs and mas that some pagination references might have changed during the printing of the hard copy. I, however, believe that there won’t be any significant textual changes in the hard copy from the electronic copy I was made to work with. Thank you.

The Review

Aminah Salako-Adekunle’s book, “LEST WE FORGET: KWARA POLITICAL REVOLUTION, A Broadcaster’s Personal Account” is an insightful account of how the power of information was exploited in mass mobilising a jaded Kwara populace to take their fates in their hands, as they came out of the political cocoon into which they had consigned themselves following years of political subjugation and social intimidation, and then took the much needed political action that eventually broke their shackles of oppression and removed the yoke of bad governance.

The 2019 political tsunami in Kwara State was hitherto unthinkable even by the most respected book makers nor was it ever predicted by any of the politically exposed prophetic seers that dot the land. Not only did the “O to ge Revolution”, as the unprecedented political event came to be known, confound the most critical political analysts, it also befuddled both the opposition and the sitting government that was unceremoniously displaced.

The author was (still is?) the anchor of a very popular radio current affairs programme, ‘PDP Gbode’, later ‘APC Gbode’ on Radio Nigeria Harmony FM, Idofian. The programme that could easily go for the flagship of political programmes on radio stations in Kwara State then was aired weekly on Harmony FM. So popular was the programme then that it even served as a veritable news source for national newspapers whose correspondents in Kwara State scooped news stories from some submissions by guests on the programme.

This book gave a blow-by-blow account of how one of the radio programmes that culminated in the revolution was used to give a 100 percent victory to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), winning all the State House of Assembly seats, all the House of Representatives seats, the three Senatorial seats and ultimately the governorship seat in the 2019 general elections!

“LEST WE FORGET: KWARA POLITICAL REVOLUTION, A Broadcaster’s Personal Account” chronicles the submissions of the programme guests, which in the main, highlighted what they termed “the misrule” of the government in power then. This included the use of consultants for tax collection, thereby rendering the relevant civil servants that were statutorily charged with that function redundant; “gerigedi” or “amputated” salaries for the state civil servants and the delay in paying it; deplorable roads all over the state, poor treatment of pensioners in the face of humongous allowances for former governors and their deputies; misplacement of priority in infrastructural project execution and so many more.

The radio programme was so effective in mobilising the populace that even the elites, especially the civil servants, who used to see election days as public holidays to relax at home, trooped out en masse during the 2019 election to exercise their franchise and gave vent to their determination to effect “regime change”. But, as events turned out, the great expectations that followed the so-called change of political baton turned out to be great disappointments, as many of the much talked-about misdemeanours of the past administration identified by the ‘O to ge’ soldiers on the ‘PDP/APC Gbode’ programme are still as they were if not in worse shapes three years after the immediate past government was displaced.

The 133-page book opens with a panoramic review of the people, events and radio programme that birthed the popular “O to ge” revolution in Kwara State that invariably uprooted what the author called the “Saraki hegemony”. The major dramatis personae, according to the author, were the guests on the weekly current affairs programme she anchored on Radio Nigeria Harmony FM, Idofian, “PDP Gbode”, which later transmuted to “APC Gbode”. The radio programme was introduced to, according to the author, “arouse the political consciousness of Kwarans” and this handsomely paid off as it “propelled them to upturn an age – long political dominance”. The programme, which eventually “gave birth to similar programmes on other radio stations in the state and outside Kwara State”, was an eye-opener for Kwarans as it precipitated what Alhaja Salako-Adekunle called “a mass movement for liberation”.

The regular guests on the programme, Chief Rex Olawoye (now late), Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, and Femi Yusuf, as well as Alhaji L. A. K. Jimoh, who made occasional appearances, were the veritable chaperons, who, through their weekly appearances, harped on the need for Kwarans to wake up from their slumbers and take the bull by the horn and kick out the government of the day that has been accused of maladministration and gross incompetence.

Written in free-flowing, easy-to-understand prose, the book is divided into 10 Chapters, each of which complements the other both in chronology and plot progression. It is also spiced with several illustrations, photographs, newspaper bromides, official documents, as well as graphic tables, to complement the content and make the reading breezy and less tedious. It also has about 80 pages of Appendix, which copiously featured the author’s interviews with about 15 experts in several fields, proffering useful suggestions to the government on sundry developmental challenges and governance issues.

Chapter One introduces the reader into the book with an overview of the radio programme: ‘PDP – APC Gbode’.  The author tells us that the journey of the radio public enlightenment programme by the then opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the State under its Chairman, Barrister Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, began during the 2015 general elections campaign and was sustained after the poll by the party.  She said that when she took over the anchoring of the programme, it became an instant hit, winning even more listeners and becoming a sort of ‘Thursday – Thursday tonic’ for the listeners who got permanently hooked on it. In the words of the programme anchor and author of this book under review, “the programme grabbed the attention of Kwarans and became the morning dew that drenched both supporters of the programme and the opposition”.

As popular as it was, so was it also controversial as week after week, the programme attracted criticisms from the party in government that felt the programme was exposing too much of its innards and sundry allegations of bias and partisanship. Thus began the glorious journey of a public enlightenment programme that propelled an unprecedented mass movement that changed the face of Kwara politics in 2019.

In Chapter Two, titled “Lone Voice in the Wilderness”, the author chronicles the thrills and frills of the weekly programme, detailing the submissions of the guests, which mainly bordered on their series of allegations against the then APC government, led by Dr. Bukola Saraki and, later, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed. These allegations, according to the author, included the bastardization of the once virile Kwara State Civil Service, turning it to a shadow of itself, as incompetence and nepotism have killed skills and destroyed discipline.

The radio guests, also referred to as “Like-minds”, made several other revelations, including mismanagement of about N1.5 trillion earnings from the state’s statutory allocations from VAT, external and internal borrowings, excess crude oil, Paris Club loan refunds as well as bailout funds from the Federal Government.

Other accusations include infrastructure decay, moribund industries, misuse of women for political gains, neglect of traditional rulers, neglect of agriculture, which is a potential development impetus for the largely agrarian state, asphyxiation of the local governments in the state, dilapidated sports facilities, widespread non-availability of potable water in most parts of the state, especially Ilorin metropolis, and so on. Needless to say that all these exposes by the ‘Like-minds’ on the ‘PDP Gbode’ programme made many people in the state to see them as heroes of a new Kwara.

Chapter Three of the book unveils the first dividend of the radio programme. According to the author, the 2017 Local Government Election in the state was a litmus test for the government in power, a veritable signal that things were no longer as they used to be. The effect of the radio programme on the political behaviour of the electorate had started manifesting.

The author tells us that the programme, ‘PDP Gbode’ was also instrumental in forcing the then APC government of Abdulfatah Ahmed to conduct the local government elections, which Barrister Oyedepo, among other commentators, said was overdue as the last Council election was held in 2013.

The ‘Like-minds’, we were told, used the radio programme to intensify their political awareness campaign on the need for the people to get registered for the permanent voters card, which they said, was their tool in the “liberation struggle”.

The local government election was a real jinx breaker as the opposition PDP made several inroads into the traditional APC strongholds, winning several councillorship seats, especially in Ilorin West Local Government, which is Dr. Saraki’s home base.

The Chapter put it on record that the PDP’s obvious electoral fortune naturally jolted the ruling party, APC, which did everything possible to ensure the discontinuation of the “offensive” radio programme. One of these moves was the tabling of a motion in the State House of Assembly by an APC lawmaker, seeking to compel political parties in the state to limit their discussions on radio stations to their respective party programmes and leave the other parties out of their discussions. That move, however, died a natural death.

In Chapter Four, which is titled ‘The Big Switch: APC – PDP Decampees’, the author narrates the intrigues, subterfuge and manipulations that preceded Dr. Saraki’s decision to pull his mighty political machines out of the APC back to his former party, the PDP. This decision, which started like a rumour, did not go down well with the state PDP, whose arrowheads were the ‘Like-minds’, the popular guests on the Radio Nigeria, Harmony FM’s popular programme, ‘PDP Gbode’. To them, it is inconceivable to co-habit with Saraki in the same PDP boat.

However, as speculations became reality and Saraki finally decamped to the PDP with all his APC party structures, including the state governor, all but one of the state House of Assembly members, all the state commissioners and SAs, all the state members in the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Oyedepo-led PDP members also moved en-masse to the APC, a stark indication of the deep-seated political incompatibility and long-existing personal animosity among the major dramatis personae! With this development, the name of the radio programme instantly changed from ‘PDP Gbode’ to ‘APC Gbode’. What a clean swap!

In Chapter Five, titled ‘Big Signal: The Rerun Election’, the book exposes how the November 17, 2018 bye-election of the Oke-Ero/Irepodun/ Ekiti/Isin House of Representatives seat demystified the widely held notion of invincibility of the Saraki’s political machinery. The bye-election was the first major election to be held after Dr. Bukola Saraki pulled out his giant political structure from the APC to the PDP.

The APC candidate, Raheem Olawuyi Ajuloopin, defeated his PDP opponent, Saheed Alatise, convincingly in an unprecedented landslide.

Chapter Six focuses on the intrigues that characterized the run-up to the 2019 general election primaries in the two leading political parties in Kwara State and the role played by the ‘APC Gbode’ programme. In the APC fold, the much-disputed primaries invariably sowed the seed for the on-going crisis currently rocking the ruling party in the state. In the PDP, we were told, the primaries also divided its rank and file.

In Chapter Seven, the author exposes the reader to the philosophical underpinnings, theoretical frameworks and sociological background of the ‘O to ge’ mantra that has come to be regarded as the most potent campaign slogan in the history of  electioneering in Kwara State, nay the entire country.

Chapter Eight discusses the outcome of the ‘O to ge’ whirlwind of 2019, which saw the opposition APC sweeping the polls, clearing all the contested seats, including the governorship, 24 House of Assembly, six House of Representatives, and three Senatorial seats! It was indeed, the dawn of a new era in Kwara State.

In Chapter Nine, titled ‘The Unsung Heroes of Kwara 2019 Elections’, the author pays glowing tributes to those she calls “unsung heroes” whose patriotic efforts contributed in making the 2019  general elections free, fair, peaceful, and credible.

Among those singled out for commendation is the Kwara State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mallam Garba Attahiru Madami, who was said to have turned down monetary inducement from politicians to compromise the outcomes of elections in the state. The author also commended the Kwara electorate, who refused to sell their conscience for a pot of the politicians’ porridge.

Other unsung heroes, according to Alhaja Salako-Adekunle, were all Kwarans, lovers of change and good governance who sacrificed their resources, the voters, the party agents, and others who played significant roles in ensuring a peaceful electoral conduct and for shunning violence and other electoral vices.

Chapter Ten of the book is an appraisal of the ‘journey so far’ after the much-orchestrated change of governmental baton. The author points out that there has been so much talk about eradicating god-fatherism in Kwara politics, and “this makes majority of the people to expect a clear departure from the performance of the previous administration”.

The Chapter ends with a tribute to Baba Rex Olawoye, who died on September 16, 2021 as the book was about going to the press.

Then followed the final section, which the author calls ‘Appraisal’, but which I thought could have been more appropriately titled Appendix. In this section, the author publishes an 80-page panoramic interviews with about 15 experts in various fields of human endeavour. The interviewees spoke on a wide range of topics, postulating and proffering suggestions on how to move the state forward.

The experts include Professor Hassan Salihu of the Department of Political Science, University of Ilorin and President, Nigeria Political Science Association;  Professor Gafar Ijaiya of the Department of Economics, University of Ilorin; Dr. David Kayode Ehindero, the Kwara State Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Agriculture and Allied Employees; Comrade Ajibola Olawale Tajudeen, the former Kwara State Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN); Dr. Henry Sawyer of the School of Environmental Health Science, Kwara State University, Malete; Prof. AbdulRazak Olayinka Oniye of the Department of Counselling Education, University of Ilorin; and Dr. David Obafemi Adebayo, also of the Department of Counselling Education, University of Ilorin.

Others are Professor Aishatu Gobir of the Department of Paediatrics and Gynaecology, University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital; Alhaji Hambali AbdulRaheem, a former Intelligence and Community Policing Officer, Metropolitan Police, UK; Mallam AbdulMajeed Abdullahi, Managing Director, Harmony Holdings; Mr. Boladale Sodiq, General Manager, Scotler Resources Limited; Comrade Olumo Nasir Kolawole, former Kwara State Chairman, Trade Union Congress; Mr. Nasir Abdulquadri, a Public Affairs Analyst; Dr. Ibrahim Olaitan Bashir, the Ag. Head of the Department of History and International Studies, University of Ilorin; and Mr. Bayour Issa, a veteran sports journalist.

In her concluding passage, the author made a case for the improvement of the welfare of the state civil servants, who, she said, were among the arrowheads of the clamour for change that eventually birthed the present administration. She also called for improved power supply through the distribution of transformers to the needy communities.

Alhaja Salako-Adekunle also called on the government to intensify its efforts on rural roads rehabilitation to make life more abundant for the rural dwellers. Finally, she urged Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazak to ensure that peace reigns in the ruling party and the entire state as a whole.

A Critique 

In the course of the narrative, the author of the book inadvertently confirmed a widely held allegation of partisanship against the federal government-owned Radio Nigeria, Harmony FM, Idofian and some of its programme presenters, a charge that was vehemently denied by the management and fans of the radio station. As a potent organ of mass communication, especially in a volatile period as electioneering, a public-run radio station is expected to show considerable neutrality in its political programming. It ought to treat all registered political parties with justice, equity and fairness.

All shades of opinion should get equal attention, as it is not in the province of the organ to assume the role of a propagandist for the course of a party, no matter how popular among the people, to the exclusion of the other. But, in the words of the author, this was the exact role widely assumed by Harmony FM during the 2019 electioneering campaigns in Kwara State. According to the author, “This book aims to preserve history about how the radio was used to awaken political consciousness of Kwarans and propelled them to upturning an age – long political dominance”, (p.2)

The book left a number of matters relating to its plot hanging, and, therefore, unresolved. Having deliberately broached some issues, one would normally expect that the author would go the whole hog of treating some controversial issues to their logical conclusion, thereby clearing all doubts in the inner recesses of the reader’s mind. But NO! Some questions raised by the author were left unanswered, thereby leaving the reader in needless suspense! Just one example will suffice here:

While postulating that the situation in Kwara State was so benignly precarious under the “Mighty Saraki” that majority of Kwarans adopted the “sidon-look” approach rather than openly criticising the government of the day, the author failed to tell the readers the reason for this “silence of the graveyard” in the face of political vindictiveness and administrative indiscretions. To me, she would have done well as a journalist that has access to critical information and also privy to some of the events that defined some political actions at that time, to tell the readers why she thinks the people became so timid and docile in the face of evidential faux pas. She rather said that the reason “is a topic for another day”. I don’t think that this is good enough for a book I rate so highly as a compendium of historical records.

The book also exposes the radio station as an accomplice in one of Nigeria’s worst political inconsistencies, the annoying lack of ideology and slippery, fluid and slip-shod political arrangement that casually allows political actors to change camp with shameless ease and chameleonic rapidity. This unconscionable fluidity was particularly rampart in the apparent ease with which politicians cross carpet and political parties swap names with opposition parties adopting the names of the ruling parties they used to vilify ceaselessly

Interestingly, the flagship radio programme that is the main plot of this book did not bat an eyelid before flippantly changing its name from “PDP Gbode” to “APC Gbode” in the wake of the melodramatic political actions that played out in 2017 with the celebrated APC – PDP flippant name swap following the Saraki people’s exodus from the APC and emigration to the PDP!

Conclusion and Suggestions for future improvements

These few anomalies notwithstanding, the book, “LEST WE FORGET: KWARA POLITICAL REVOLUTION, A Broadcaster’s Personal Account”, is a clear manifestation of Alhaja Salako-Adekunle’s versatility. It is historically enriching, politically informative, socially educative and morally instructive.

If the status of someone who endorses a book confers any importance on such intellectual effort, then there is no doubt that this book will rub shoulders with great publications in this part of the world with the insignia of one of the biggest players in the nation’s socio-legal and political milieu and a great ambassador of Kwara State, Barrister Lateef O. Fagbemi, SAN, boldly stamped on it with the Foreword he wrote on page …… This is no mean endorsement! I congratulate you, madam.

Despite her tight schedule as a full time broadcaster with a number of programmes to handle, the enterprising author still found time and energy to venture into this commendable work of art.

To me, the author’s effort is worthy of emulation by every journalist that is worth his/her calling. Efforts like this will make Nigerian journalists to be more respected by other members of the society that often hold them in utter contempt, if not outright scorn.

As journalists, what we have in our hand is a noble profession; we are the veritable torch-bearers of the society, whom every other segment therein should look forward to for guidance. We are constitutionally recognised and charged with the onerous responsibility of setting positive agenda for other members of the society, including those in government, to follow. But unfortunately, this societal watchdog has lost its bite and panache. Its otherwise noble role has been hijacked by charlatans, wheeler-dealers and, indeed, misfits. Ironically, these are the ones the society sees as the face of Nigerian journalism because they are so notoriously vocal despite being in the minority. These are the ones that are easily visible to members of the public that made them to form warped opinion that all journalists are never-do-well layabouts and harbingers of fake stories.

Apart from these bad eggs that give our noble profession the terrible image we all struggle to shake off today, there are others who are so lazy, so unimaginative and so complacent as to just be contented with reporting “he said, he said” and fight over pecuniary hand-outs at assignments when their peers are breaking news that could make the society a better place to live in. This category too is not giving our dear profession its deserved good image. However, if we have more of Alhaja Salako-Adekunle’s type in the profession, the negative stereotypical impression the society holds about journalism because of purveyors of fake news and lazy, hand-out chasing practitioners could significantly reduce, if not totally banished.

That is why I must commend the author of this book profusely for her great effort, which in a way is a very fine attempt to document the historical events of the 2019 elections for posterity.

For good measure, the author has stood up to be counted among the very few radio programme producers/presenters who have metamorphosed into great thinkers, drawing from their vast experience, exposure and job specifications to add more value to the society.

This book will definitely provide a useful pedestal for heated discussions on a major phase in Kwara’s political evolution. Political historians, students of politics, students of journalism and even political actors will find this work very handy as a useful reference material and an enriching addition to their library collections.

I want to recommend it as a very useful reading for secondary school Civics in Kwara State educational curriculum.

If perchance, the author is considering reviewing the book for a future edition, I will like to suggest that more attention should be paid to germane editorial issues like syntax, punctuation, agreement of tenses and grammar generally.

All in all, the book is a rich compendium and a commendable addition to bibliographical development and a well-articulated contribution to the literature on Kwara State’s political history. Definitely, anybody that cherishes a good work of art would naturally find it a good material to relax with.

I commend the author’s didactic efforts and recommend this book to students of Political Science, scholars, aspiring politicians, political players, political analysts and commentators, and of course, general readers as it would help shape and sharpen their thoughts and guide their steps on the political practice in particular and political discourse in general.

Kunle Akogun is a veteran Journalist and the Director of Corporate Affairs, University of Ilorin

December 15th, 2021

 

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