The senator-elect for Kwara Central and originator of the campaign slogan, “O To Ge”, of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Kwara, Alhaji Lazeez Ayinla Kolawole Jimoh, has opened up on how he began the campaign which led to the defeat of the incumbent Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in the senatorial district.
The 79 year-old, while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, said, “every revolution starts like a seed, it grows to become an oak tree”.
“O To Ge’’, which literally translates to “Enough is Enough” in the English language, has been described by election observers as an impactful three words campaign slogan effectively used to end decades of political hegemony of a self-imposed dynasty in Kwara.
Observers saw the APC’s clean sweep of the Feb. 23 Presidential and National Assembly elections in the state as an upset and a death knell for the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Kwara politics.
In the elections, PDP unprecedentedly, lost the presidential election and the entire three Senatorial and six House of Representatives seats to the APC.
The major upset was the defeat of the Senate President in his stronghold, Kwara Central Senatorial zone by the APC candidate, Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe.
Oloriegbe polled a total of 123,808 votes to defeat the Senate President who scored 68,994 votes in the four Local Governments Areas of Kwara Central Senatorial District.
Contrary to claims in certain quarters, Jimoh said, “O to Ge’’ movement actually started in 2010 when he was an aspirant for the Kwara Central Senatorial seat under the PDP, preparatory to the 2011 general elections.
The 1971 graduate of Political Science from the University of Lagos said he contested the seat with Saraki, but was “robbed of his mandate’’.
Before 2010, Jimoh said he had used a similar slogan, “It Is Time For Change’’ in 1983 when he contested Kwara Governorship Primaries of the PDP which was also won by Bukola Saraki.
“This movement did not just start in 2018. Every revolution starts like a seed and with time it grows to become an oak tree.
“When I foresaw the revolution that will end the era of bad governance in Kwara, majority of the people did not see it.
“People did not see it then and I was accused of being too revolutionary but I assured them that we will ultimately get there.
“Gradually, the revolution assumed the spine and magnitude that we just saw in this year’s election, when the people used the power of vote to dethrone decades of political dynasty that had impoverished Kwara,’’ he said.
Jimoh alleged that for 40 years, Kwara was under the “government of hegemony of exploitation, massive looting of public resources and administration so insensitive to the plights of the people’’.
He explained: “Kwara is not an industrial state, it is an agrarian state but today we do not have even a Ministry of Agriculture. We do not have any thriving agricultural project at all.
“All the agric nurseries and training schools and even the land of the Ministry of Agriculture were sold out.’’
He said the media hyped multi-billion Naira Shonga Farm project by Bukola Saraki as governor of Kwara was a sham.
“Billions of Naira were pumped into the project but till today no single farm product came out of the farm till it got Moribund.
“It is all fraud. What they called Zimbabwe farmers were just farm workers who did not bring a dime to the state for investment yet they called them investors.
“It was the state government that borrowed billions of Naira from the defunct Intercontinental Bank and gave it to these people but we have nothing to show for it,’’ he said.
The Senator-elect said that Kwara inherited some employment creating establishments like the Jebba Paper Mill, Tate and Lile Sugar manufacturing company in Bacita and the British Morris Tobacco Company, which had all collapsed because of hostile economic atmosphere.
He alleged that the state owned Trade Bank, was liquidated simply because the management was not cooperating with political authority to use the Bank for looting of resources.
Jimoh said under the watchful eyes of the past administrations also, state owned Gateway Insurance Company, Kwara Express and Kwara Hotels folded up.
He said the state had witnessed a total decay of infrastructure, ranging from bad roads, poor health delivery system, collapse of environmental sanitation and educational system.
“When I saw all these, I said we must not continue in that way and allow these people to destroy the state.
“Then, I said, “O to Ge, Enough is Enough. We must rise against the misrule and slavery,’’ he said.
Jimoh said the maladministration started having significant impact on the people when it was extended to the civil service when workers, pensioners and the common man started feeling the pinch.
He said the civil service which ought to be the engine room of government was politicised and turned to rubber stamp.
The septuagenarian said some Level 12 officers with political godfathers were being appointed as Permanent Secretaries above their seniors thereby, dampening the morale of workers
He said the situation got so bad that government could no longer pay salaries of civil servants as well as gratuities and pensions of retirees.
“With reckless looting of the state’s treasury and siphoning of government money to individual pockets, the government could not pay salaries of civil servants.
“The entitlements of retirees after 35 years of active service to the state were not paid and they were regularly being called for screening during which many of them died
“In 2008, the Bukola Saraki government borrowed N3.3 billion from Intercontinental Bank to settle the accumulated arrears of benefits of Kwara retirees.
“When the government received the money, a committee set up for the disbursement recommended that 50 per cent of the money be used for the pensioners while the balance be used for the development of infrastructure.’’
Jimoh said the pensioners challenged the legality of the government’s decision to use the money borrowed to settle their entitlements for development of infrastructure.
He said the matter got to the Supreme Court and many of the pensioners were yet to be paid.
Jimoh said the Local Government Administration was not left out in the maladministration with the Joint Account System which had left the Councils unproductive.
He said the cumulative effects of decades of bad governance led to the mass action and revolution fuelled by “O to Ge movement that witnessed the end of the Saraki grip on Kwara politics.
“It is not just about campaign because the people of Kwara decided that they want a change of government because they were tired of the old order.
“What we have achieved today is the collective efforts of all Kwarans who wear the shoes and know where they pinch,’’ he said.