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2023: Undercurrents shaping Kwara Central Senatorial seat poll

By Odun Edward, Ilorin
14 August 2022   |   2:44 am
Election for the Kwara Central Senatorial seat in the 2023 general elections would no doubt be keenly contested. This is because of the array of candidates that would be on the ballot jostling

Malam Saliu Mustapha is the new Turaki Ilorin

Abdullahi, Mustapha, Apaokagi Leading The Pack

Election for the Kwara Central Senatorial seat in the 2023 general elections would no doubt be keenly contested. This is because of the array of candidates that would be on the ballot jostling for the zone’s seat, consisting of Ilorin West, Ilorin East, Ilorin South and Asa Local Councils of the state.

The candidates are former Minister of Youths and Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); Mallam Saliu Mustapha of All Progressives Congress (APC) and Dr Ridwanulahi Apaokagi who will fly the flag of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Before now, the dominant posture of Saraki’s political dynasty wouldn’t have given room for any highly competitive election. The choice of the scion of the dynasty, Bukola Saraki would have ordinarily dwarfed any other candidate contesting the same seat. But the ‘O To Ge’ political movement some three and a half years ago altered the equation as a political contest in any part of the state has now been reduced to a level playing ground for all manners of candidates.

Chief Wole Oke, a chieftain of the APC in Kwara described the development as a healthy one for the nation’s burgeoning democracy. Oke, the majority leader of the state House of Assembly in the aborted third republic said, “what else should we say than to applaud the change in the chemistry of Kwara State politics through ‘O To Ge’ reactionary movement by our people. This has smashed the age-long dominance of the scene by the Sarakis. This is indeed a very good time for our democracy. You don’t need any godfather to contest any political office again in Kwara.

But the spokesman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara, Prince Tunji Morounfoye believes that the people should have learnt great lessons about the movement. Morounfoye, a one-time Commissioner for Information in the state told The Guardian that it was the turn of the PDP to return to the Ahmadu Bello Government House, Ilorin after the 2023 polls.

Morounfoye said, “What has improved in Kwara for the past three and a half years ago? Let the APC government come out and answer this question. What we are saying is that people now know better, having tasted the two sides of the coin. The reports constantly coming to us are that people want the PDP back to power come the year 2023.”

In the wake of this struggle for political dominance in the 55-year-old state is the emergence of the three Senatorial candidates as replacement for Dr Yahaya Oloriegbe (Kwara Central) whose second term bid ambition had been truncated at the shadow elections of the APC.

Mustapha (APC) is from Ilorin East, while Abdullahi (PDP) is from Ilorin West just as Apaokagi (SDP) hails from the same local council as the PDP candidate. The SDP is dominated by aggrieved members from the ruling APC. According to sources, members of the party had allegedly vowed not to have a share in the political style of the Sarakites. They are therefore left with two basic options returning to the APC or remaining at the SDP as an opposition to the ruling party. 

The second option will no doubt favour the PDP at the election. A critic in the state, Alhaji Abdulkarim Olola Kasum, however, thinks otherwise. According to him, “the influence of the SDP is growing daily in the state. The members we learnt may eventually declare for the APC Presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu because more than two-thirds of the members have sympathy for the former Governor of Lagos State. But on other cadres of elections, they want to do it alone.”

This position may be the thinking of the leadership of the SDP in Kwara as the party’s factional chairman, Ibrahim Yahaya said: “We are capable of winning elections in Kwara state at any level. We have the structure and the organisation. But I want to tell you that Asiwaju may turn out to be our jewel here in Kwara.”

Apaokagi is senior medical personnel whose growing influence is boosted by his constant but robust analysis and informed commentaries on some local radio stations in the state.

Abdullahi, a former Special Adviser, an ex-Commissioner of Education in the state, and a former Minister of Youths, Sports and Culture remain a darling to many supporters of Saraki in Kwara politics. 

He started his journey to stardom when he cut his political teeth with a Nigerian national daily, Thisday. He rose to the position of a regular columnist with the tabloid before venturing into the murky waters of politics. He is a graduate of the school of politics of the Saraki political dynasty.

During the alleged cold war between Saraki and a former Nigerian President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the PDP Senatorial candidate, who was enjoying the paraphernalia of his office as a Minister, had to resign his appointment in order to openly pitch his tent with Saraki. This development fetched him the name, ‘Omoluwabi,’ a Yoruba word for a person with an impeccable character.

He is from Ubandawaki ward in Ilorin. Abdullahi’s quest for a seat in the Senate will no doubt serve as a yardstick for measuring the acceptability or otherwise of his political mentor among the people of Kwara Central Senatorial District. 

For Mustapha, the flag bearer of APC, it is the auspicious time for him to serve his people, having of late been turbaned as Turaki of Ilorin at a colourful event by the peace-loving Emir of Ilorin, Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari.

Relatively unknown in the field of politics though, the candidate has endeared himself to many members of his constituency via charitable endeavours that run into several millions of Naira.

He has the backing of the state Governor, AbdulRazak AbdulRahaman going into the contest. His alluring billboards with some poetic inscriptions are already mounted at strategic locations in the ancient town.

Mustapha is an apostle of ‘stomach infrastructure, political parlance for welfare style of leadership, especially the one fashioned out for empowerment of the less privileged.

The APC chairman in the state, Sunday Fagbemi, while unveiling the candidate of his party, said: “A vote for Mustapha is a step out of poverty. He remains an apostle of charitable endeavours and one with a great vision for the entire people of North Central belt.”

His counterpart at the PDP, Tunde Mohammed described the party’s candidate thus: “Abdullahi is the most experienced candidate among the others ahead of the election. A knowledgeable young man in his early 50s, he will use his God-given talents in favour of the youths, women, the aged and indeed the entire members of his constituency if given a chance.”

For Yahaya, the Chairman of SDP in Kwara, “Apaokagi has a stable job as a physician of note. But his desire to improve the lots of his people motivated him to volunteer his services to them. He will introduce a new spice into the political scenery of the state.”

As the battle for the hot seat intensifies, the year 2023 will no doubt resolve the ongoing puzzle as to who has the greatest number of voters among the three contestants. But while awaiting the elections, the people have been enjoined by the Emir of Ilorin to uphold the virtue of peace irrespective of who wins the election.

According to AbdulAzeez Arowana, the spokesman of Gambari, who is also the state’s chairman of the Traditional Council of Chiefs, “the Emir believes that only one person will at a time in any political contest. He encouraged the would-be-winner to live up to the expectations of the voters. At the same time, he urged the would-be-losers to congratulate the winner and jointly work for the overall progress of the state.”