Division in O To Ge camp as AbdulRazak seeks renewal of mandate Governor

Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq

As the battle for the soul of Kwara State rages on, it remains to be seen whether the incumbent Governor AbdulRahaman AbdulRazak may be coasting to another victory at the next governorship election in spite of the criticisms that have trailed his first term in office.
There has been internal wrangling among his allies with whom he joined forces to upstage Dr. Bukola Saraki as the generalissimo of the state’s politics. But at present, those allegedly at ‘war’ with the Governor are now at ‘war’ with themselves, with the centre unable to hold any longer.

It would be recalled that the ‘O To Ge’ movement under the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the three Senatorial seats, the six House of Representatives slots and they occupied the entire 24 seats of the state House of Assembly.

But no sooner had the APC won these landslide victories than the internal crisis started, especially because of crisis that had to do with alleged improper sharing of the benefits of democracy and the real leadership of the movement.

Chief Iyiola Oyedepo, Chief Kola Rex Olawoye (now late), Hon. AbdulYekeen Alajagbusi and Femi Yusuf, popularly known as ‘Koto-Kotokoto,’ had started a programme on a local FM radio station where alleged atrocities of the Saraki-backed government of the then Governor, Alhaji AbdulFatah Ahmed were being exposed to the listeners, weekly.

What started like a child’s play later snowballed into a popular programme drawing listeners across the state. The result was a huge hatred for the then People’s Democratic Party (PDP)-led government. The outcome of the election ushered in a new political era.

According to Chief Stephen Oluwike Oke, a chieftain of the APC in Kwara, “ordinarily, the Governor of any state should be seen as the leader of the party. But it was never to be in Kwara after the electoral victory. Many of the leading actors during the struggle, began to see themselves as leaders of the party after the sweet victory over Saraki.”

But Chief Iyiola Oyedepo expressed the belief that the alleged exclusive attitude of the Governor to many other leaders of the party and his alleged individualistic attitude to governance could not be divorced from the rationale behind the crisis.
“In my own case, I have achieved my aim. I don’t know what was the aim of others during the battle for the soul of Kwara. My target was how to dismantle the Saraki dynasty that had over the years failed to move our dear state forward,” Oyedepo said.

One unique trait of the critics of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government in Kwara is that they all belonged to different political parties with keen interest in political offices. They were all the apostles of ‘O To Ge’ movement but they are now doing it alone in their various political parties.

Akeem Oladimeji Lawal, the first son of the former Governor of the state (1999-2003), late Mohammed Alabi Lawal, said he would want to govern the state under the platform of Social Democratic Party, (SDP).

Already, his posters have littered the state while jingles announcing his manifesto as Governorship candidate of SDP are aired on all the major radio stations in the state. The thrust of his campaign is economic growth of the 56-year-old state.

For Yakubu Gobir of Young Progressives Party (YPP), he wants to be the next Governor of Kwara to liberate the people from their shackles of poverty and make the state economically viable.

Gobir bears the toga of ‘Alaanu Mekunu,’ which in Yoruba language literally means the caregiver of the peasants. At present, he has started doling out funds to many people in the state, especially his country home, Ilorin.
Professor Shuaib Oba AbdulRaheem, the Governorship candidate of the Kwara branch of New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), was a dogged apostle of  ‘O To Ge’ political revolutionary movement in Kwara.
AbdulRaheem, a former Vice Chancellor of University of Ilorin, said he would correct the alleged knowledge gap in the state by making education a priority if voted to power in this year elections.

For Suleiman Makanjuola Ajadi of African Democratic Congress (ADC), his major concern is not the seat of the incumbent but that of the Senate representing Kwara South Senatorial district, Architect Oyekola Ashiru.

He lost primary elections to Ashiru under the platform of the APC but got the same ticket under the ADC. Ajadi, a Senator of the same Senatorial district (1999-2003) said only a quality representation via experience, which he represents, could fetch his people the much needed dividends of democracy at the upper legislative chamber.

Saheed Popoola from Offa is vying for a seat in the House of Representatives under the platform of SDP. He was an audible voice of the movement before falling out with the Governor.

For an Ilorin-based social critic, Abdulkareem Olola-Kasum, the aggrieved former APC leaders-of-thought would not succeed against the incumbent due to their alleged perceived, egocentric ambitions.
Olola-Kasum, a product of the School of Political College of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, said when friends failed to form a common front against their common enemy, the battle was lost before it began.

In another development, Alhaji Raheem Adedoyin, a friend of the incumbent, lamented the fragmentations within the APC after the electoral victories of 2019. While expressing hope that the cracked walls could still be mended before the general elections, he noted that the party faithful who are still with the Governor have more electoral values in their respective constituencies.

Already, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara, under the leadership of former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, is seriously staging a come-back, the question remains whether the party could succeed without these embattled groups.

The spokesman for the state chapter of the PDP, Prince Tunji Morounfoye, said the party remained open for any talks with any political party of similar ideologies. 

Morounfoye, a prince of Ira, a sleepy settlement in Irepodun local council of the state, said the people in the state by now should have seen a significant change in what the PDP did while in power from what the APC government is doing presently.
For the Director General of the campaign train of the Governor, Yahaya Seriki, “the pockets of criticisms” of the APC-led government in Kwara would not have any negative effect on the chances of the governor and the party in the 2023 general elections.

He added that the number of decampees from other parties to the APC were massive and thus compared the development to the mathematical concept of “elimination by substitution.”

However, Seriki said discussions on having a workable arrangement with the APC was already ongoing among the governorship candidates of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Young Progressives Party (YPP) and other leading candidates of the opposition parties in the state.

In the same vein, Chief Sunday Fagbemi, the state Chairman of the APC and the state Commissioner for Finance, Mrs. Florence Oyeyemi, said that APC is one big family with a peculiar crisis resolving internal mechanism.

“Recall that I was Director General of the APC campaign council in the Kwara Central senatorial district in 2018/2019 general elections. Many of these people that defected from APC didn’t participate in the election campaign then. 

“In 2019, I approached about 13 governorship aspirants then on the need to present one person among all of us as the party’s governorship candidate. The major reason they are not in APC today is because of their personal interest or expectations, which, according to them, might not have been met.
“My own interest is to see a better Kwara state. If they believe in growth of the state, they would not have left the party. Kwara is bigger than anybody. Leaving the party, to me, is out of personal interest and not that of the state.

“To answer your question, their departure from the party would not affect the chances of the governor in his bid for reelection. They were probably looking for ways to see us come and meet with them, which we have already started. 

“By the special grace of God, the governorship candidates of the YPP, SDP, even PDP, are in talks with us. Don’t be surprised to hear and see tomorrow the PDP governorship candidate, Alhaji Shuaib Yaman Abdulahi, saying that because of Ambassador Yahaya Seriki, he’s supporting Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq’s reelection bid come 2023.”

Fagbemi opined that there is a difference between governance and partisan politics, adding that the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, is still a member of the APC.

According to him, “the Minister is our leader and he’s still part of us. He has never said that he’s no longer part of us. He will participate in the 2023 general elections with us. The closer you look, the lesser you know as it concerns APC in Kwara. Never mind, by the time elections come, you will see that we’re going to win by bigger margin than what happened in 2019. There’s no cause for alarm,” he said.

The spokesperson of the campaign council, Florence Oyeyemi said that the state has moved from the 20th position on financial sustainability index in 2018 to the eighth position currently.

She was responding to an allegation by the opposition on purported huge debt profile of the present administration, saying that there’s no way the present administration would have been servicing debt and still move up on the financial sustainability index.

“Fiscal sustainability index simply means ability to be able to sustain your finances comparing it with what your loan repayment schedules are and relating it with federal accounting and allocation Committee (FAAC) and IGR,” she said.

She also said noted that the only facility taken by the present administration was bond, which she said is being used for the execution of sustainable projects like a garment making factory, Innovation hub and Visual Arts Centre, among others.

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