“Every revolution starts like a seed, it grows to become an oak tree,’’ these were the words of Lazeez Ayinla Kolawole (LAK), the originator of the campaign slogan, “O To Ge”, which was used in uprooting the political structure of Senate President Bukola Saraki in Kwara.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) ran its campaign under this slogan, dislodging three sitting senators, six house of reps members and securing landslide victory for President Muhammadu Buhari.
LAK, who is 79 years old, spoke to NAN in Ilorin on how he came about the wildfire campaign slogan, “O To Ge” which literally translates to “Enough is Enough’’.
The renowned Kwara politician said the “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 election.
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, LAK said he had used a similar slogan, “It Is Time For Change’’ in 2003 when he contested Kwara governorship primary of the PDP which was also won by Saraki.
‘IT DIDN’T START IN 2018’
“This movement did not just start in 2018,” the politician said. “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 their votes to dethrone decades of a political dynasty that had impoverished Kwara.”
The septuagenarian, who left public service as a permanent secretary in 1982 for active politics, 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’’.
“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,” he said.
“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 Saraki as governor of Kwara was a sham.
SARAKI ‘PLUNGED KWARA INTO DEBT
“Billions of Naira were pumped into the project but till today no single farm product came out of the farm till it got moribund,” he said.
“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 alleged that the state-owned Trade Bank was liquidated simply because the management was not cooperating with the state’s political authority to use the bank forthe looting of resources.
COLLAPSE OF GOVERNMENT COMPANIES
LAK 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, the 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.
He 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.
‘ILLEGAL’ ELEVATION OF POLITICAL GODFATHERS
LAK said some Level 12 officers with political godfathers were appointed 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,” he said.
“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.’’
He said the cumulative effects of decades of bad governance led to the mass action and revolution fuelled the “O to Ge” movement that ended Saraki’s 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,” he said.
“What we have achieved today is the collective efforts of all Kwarans who wear the shoes and know where they pinch.”