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Saraki and burden of loyal aspirants

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Saraki addressing delegates in Oyo State yesterday

The sudden interests among avowed cronies of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki seeking political offices under the present dispensation may suggest two basic developments. The eradication of a dictatorial style of leadership and signs of over-ambition among some of the followers of the politician.

As at the time of filing this report, six of Saraki’s followers who are political gladiators in their own rights and members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have filled nomination forms either as governorship or National Assembly aspirants.The current development may be antithetical to the existing style of leadership of the Saraki School of Politics noted for consensus choice of candidates rather than primaries ahead of elections.

Incidentally, save for the newly crowned Chairman of the PDP in Kwara, Mauruf Kola Yusuf stressing the need for political dynamism, no one from Saraki’s camp was willing to speak on the ‘’sensitive development.’’Leading the pack of the governorship aspirants under the PDP in Kwara is the incumbent Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Ali Ahmad. Besides, former Speaker of the State House of Assembly AbdulRasak Atunwa, Minister for Sports Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, and current member of the House of Representatives, Zakari Mohammed are also on the list.

It is not yet confirmed if or not the former Governor of the state Senator Muhammed Sha’aba Lafigi and Acting National Chairman of the PDP Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje will equally join the race. A cursory look into the profiles of the aspirants will suggest some similarities especially in the areas of competence on the job and closeness to their ‘’political leader.’’ But Saraki must settle for only one out of the aspirants. However, the biggest question is who may likely emerge the candidate of the party at the end of the exercise?

Saraki had during his tenure of office as the then governor told a section of the press of his inclination to allow ‘’someone who had served in his government to succeed me.’’ True to his word, he queued behind his former Commissioner for Finance Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed and the latter eventually emerged governor.

At present, it is not certain if Saraki would stick to his old style of picking candidates ahead of elections or would simply adopt a fresh method this time around. Whatever methods he may prefer, he would certainly opt for somebody that would either sustain or protect his political legacies.

Ali, a doctoral degree holder in law remains a blunt politician who caught his political teeth, serving as a Special Adviser to Saraki. He rose to become the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice before representing his Asa/Ilorin-West Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives.

The ‘Gbodofu’ Ilorin born politician was said to have played an invaluable role for ‘’the leader’’, during his (Saraki’s) ordeal at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). Ali catches a picture of excellence and action, being a lawyer and a lawmaker both at the national and the state’s levels.

For Atunwa, a Barrister at Law, he started as a Commissioner for Information in the state, and emerged the Speaker of the State House of Assembly before winning an election to the House of Representatives. This aspirant, with his mien and humility could bring governance closer to the people at the grassroots level.Abdullahi , popularly called ‘Omoluwabi’ by his admirers started with the Sarakis as a Senior Special Assistant on Communications when the latter was the Governor. As the Commissioner for Education, Abdullahi eradicated whatever could be called ineptitude in the ministry. The slogan then was ‘’the fear of Abdullahi is the beginning of wisdom.’’ He was always paying impromptu visits to schools and ensured minimum skipping on duties at that level of the civil service.

This aspirant was arguably the first political appointee in the North Central geopolitical zone to have conducted aptitude tests for primary and post-primary teachers. His exploits at this level probably fetched him the post of a Minister for Sports under the government of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. His appellation of ‘Omoluwabi’ came to the fore when he committed a seeming political suicide by resigning his ministerial office for a show of support for Saraki. Saraki had then been in tango with Jonathan. Abdullahi later emerged as the National Publicity Secretary of All Progressives Congress (APC) but had to resign from this post when Saraki his leader decamped to the PDP. Abdullahi stands tall if loyalty and competence would be Saraki’s nomenclature for picking his governorship candidate.

Mohammed, a ‘Gbure’ Baruten born politician started his career under Saraki as a Special Adviser. He would later emerge as the state’s Commissioner for Sports before his election as a member of the House of Representatives. Mohammed by virtue of his youthful age could beat others to the race.If Lafiagi decides to join the race, he would be following in the foot steps of Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state and Kayode Fayemi who till date remained the two former governors to be re elected into office after spending their first tenure in office. If Saraki is looking for requisite experience, he could settle for the ‘Nupe’ born senator.

Baraje had since his romance with Saraki when he emerged as the Acting National Chairman of the PDP been loyal to ‘the leader’. He could be compensated for ‘his loyalty’ if Saraki truly craves for one. Ahmad, has said that he would make the masses the fulcrum of his administration, if elected the governor of the state in the year 2019.

Besides, he promised to consolidate on the performances of past and present governors of the state, to make the state a cynosure of all eyes for speedy socio-political and economic growth.Ahmad gave the assurance in Abuja, shortly after submitting his Expression of Interest and Nomination forms as Governor of the state, on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The Speaker explained that his track records as Attorney – General of the State, one of the most celebrated members of the National Assembly and Speaker of the State Legislature, had equipped him to effectively govern the state, if given the opportunity to serve as the governor.He assured that he would govern the state with the fear of God and he would create opportunities for all and sundry, adding that job and wealth creations for the teeming youths would be his major priority.

The Speaker disclosed that the current legislature under his watch, recorded great feat, pointing out that his exposure, knowledge and wealth of experience had exposed him to the intricacies and dynamics of governance which, he said, would be of immense benefit in the task of running an efficient administration.

Responding, the PDP National Officers, comprising the National Organising Committee leader, Rtd. Col. Austin Akobundu, his deputy, Barrister Zyakubu Umar, the Youth Leader, Hon. Ude Okoye and the Treasurer, Mr. Wale Aribisala, described Ahmad as a worthy ambassador of youths, whose knowledge, exposure and wealth of experience, would enable him to effectively govern the state.

Making his own declaration at a programme inside the popular ‘Arca Santa’ event centre in Ilorin, Abdullahi, a journalist-turned politician promised a transformational agenda for Kwara and her people if given a chance to emerge as the next governor.For ‘Omoluwabi’ the state has no business being touted as a poor one due to its abundance of human and natural resources which he hope to harness for the overall good of the people especially the teeming population of its youth.

The thrusts of the agenda of other aspirants if voted to power were not radically different from those of the duo as they all premised them on prompt development of Kwara and the people.Although Shittu, the Chairman of the PDP in Kwara has assured all the aspirants of a free and fair contests, sources told The Guardian in Ilorin that Saraki may have begun moves that would turn the supposedly fierce primaries into a mere consensus.

According to him, ‘’We have been advised not to speak with the press for now on the issue relating to our Governorship aspirants. But I can assure you of one thing that the leader would eventually reconcile the aspirants and settle for a consensus choice at the end of the day.’’

Despite these words of assurance, political pundits in Kwara believe that the dust may not settle fast at the camp of the Sarakis after the emergence of the next PDP governorship candidate for the 2019 elections in the 51-year-old state.

Besides, the pack of the aspirants within the unarguably strongest opposition party in the state, All Progressives Congress (APC) may aggravate the headache of the Senate President who is also covertly carrying the burden of a presidential aspirant in a plural society called Nigerian state.


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