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In spite of strides made, Kwara governor AbdulRazaq faces internal opposition

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Alhaji AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq

Two basic issues are currently tearing Kwara State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) apart. They are the desire by Governor AbdulRahaman AbdulRazak to change the style of governance for the better, on one side, and the quest by a group loyal to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Layiwola Mohammed, to assert its dominance after O toge movement that brought APC to power, on the order hand.

The development comes across as a bad omen for the party and its chances of winning future elections. After O toge mantra, which served as a catalyst for the overthrow of the age-long Saraki hegemony in Kwara politics, the people thought a new dawn had emerged. But it has been a sour relationship among party faithful since the electoral victory that ushered in AbdulRazaq.

The cold war has since snowballed into serious crisis, with the two factions wooing the national leadership and the Presidency for support. It would be recalled that members of Mohammed’s faction had alleged that the governor formed his cabinet of commissioners, special advisers and special assistants to the exclusion of its members.

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Besides, they claimed that AbdulRazak, through prudent management of resources, is operating the executive arm in such a manner that has starved the party of funds and unable to run the party’s affairs.

“Can you imagine, the first time we went to him to bankroll our trip to Abuja for the national meeting of the APC, what he approved for us was ridiculously low that we had to almost reject it,” a source from the party secretariat in Ilorin told The Guardian.

But a Government House source reacted to the claim thus, “if they are not prepared for austere type of running the affairs of the party, thus saving resources for projects funding, rather than jamboree-spending, what will then be the difference between our government and those of our predecessors that we sent packing from Government House?”

The claim and counter-claim remains the root cause of the crisis of the ruling party.

Prominent in the group led by Mohammed are Gbemisola Saraki, a serving Minister of State of Transportation, former Majority Leader of the state’s House of Assembly, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, former Chairman, Federal Character Commission, Professor AbdulRaheem Oba, among others. On the side of the governor are former Senator representing Kwara South Senatorial District, Suleiman Makanjuola Ajadi, former Leader, state House of Assembly, Chief Stephen Wole Oke, former Chairman of Ifelodun Local Government Area (LGA), Chief Rex Olawoye, among others.

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A series of attempts in the past at reconciling the warring factions failed. Adding salt to the injuries of aggrieved members was the simultaneous airing of party programmes on different Ilorin-based FM stations by the state executive members. In most cases, invectives were covertly hauled at leaderships of either factions. It presented ‘APC Gbode’ as AbdulRazak’s group and ‘APC Tunde’ as Mohammed’s faction.

Mohammed

What is glaring in all these shenanigans is that the governor has risen to the challenges of churning out dividends of democracy to the people across board. These benefits are built on the tripod of good road networks, pipe borne water and rehabilitation of urban and rural health facilities.

Chief Press Secretary to the governor, AbdulRafiu Ajakaye, who declined comments on the party’s internal rift, said, “the governor will continue to live up to his campaign promises to the entire people. They are all precious to his heart.”

Things came to a head at the sacking of a former House of Representatives member, Bashiru Omolaja Bolarinwa, by the National Caretaker Committee, which promptly announced Alhaji Abdullahi Samari, who was Bolarinwa’s deputy as the new caretaker chairman of Kwara APC.

Expectedly, Mohammed’s group kicked against the development during its Wednesday, January 13, 2021 press briefing held in Abuja. The group condemned the dissolution of the party’s executive arm and canvassed a return to ‘status quo ante’ to avert imminent “unprecedented crisis” within Kwara APC.

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On the same day, the AbdulRazak faction countered the briefing by lauding the dissolution and the appointment of Samari. Chief Oke, in a chat with The Guardian in Ilorin, said his group would address the media on the development.

According to a group loyal to the governor called ‘The Coalition of Kwara APC Young Stakeholders’, “we hail the national caretaker committee for heeding the popular call not to recycle the former caretaker chairman by the appointment of Alhaji Abdullahi Samari as the new caretaker chairman, a decision embraced by all with open arms.

“We believe upholding this decision will put a final stop to the misgivings in the party. Secondly, we implore the National Caretaker Committee never to rescind this glorious decision for any reason or bow to possible pressure from any group of individuals who are known never to have genuine interest of the party.

“We want to also make it clear that we understand that the only reason why some individuals may support the idea of having Bolarinwa is to keep pressurising the governor to allow them squander our common patrimony, a decision that our trusted governor, who has the future of the state at heart, will never allow.

“We are also aware of the ungodly aspirations of some of these individuals to clinch state power at every cost come 2023 to take the state back to the evil days Kwarans recently came out of to say ‘enough is enough’ with the popular ballot of 2019.

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“We must not forget to mention that the entire APC faithful in Kwara State is agog with the news of the emergence of Samari, as the new caretaker chairman; he’s an honorable man who has gained the trust of the majority in the APC family by his impeccable character.

Bolarinwa

“Finally, we seek the indulgence of this noble and trusted committee to keep up with this heart-warning decision of giving a trusted man in the person of Samari. And we assure you of the unity and progress of our party in the state.”

The Abuja conference, addressed by Chief Oyedepo, titled ‘The Road to the Destruction of the All Progressives Congress in Kwara State’, was loaded with bile that showed how aggrieved they are.

According to him, “we heard it as a rumour until we came face to face with the Secretary of the National Caretaker Committee of the APC, Senator John Akpanudoedehe on the 12th day of January 2021. It was the secretary that told us that APC has dethroned our Chairman, Hon. Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa, on the 11th of January 2021, by giving a letter of appointment to his deputy, Hon. Samari Abdullahi.

“It should be recalled that Bolarinwa became the chairman of APC in October 2018 and he led the party to 100% victory in the 2019 general elections. He, along with other state chairmen of APC in Nigeria, was sworn-in as the Kwara State Chairman of the Caretaker Committee on 11th December 2020.

Why was the chairman purportedly removed?
“The Secretary of the National Caretaker Committee told us that the chairman is said to have been removed on the complaint of the Governor of Kwara State, His Excellency, Abdulrahaman Abdulrazak, as he claimed that he could not work with the former.

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“The complaint was sustained and made a subject of removal as a result of a connivance between the governor of Kwara State and his Niger State counterpart and friend, Sanni Bello. The content of the complaints was neither made available to critical stakeholders in Kwara State nor to Bolarinwa.

“The decision of the caretaker committee was said to be based on the recommendations of the North Central zone of the party, under the Chairmanship of Bello, who was said to have recommended that the authentic chairman of the party should be removed and be made a commissioner in the cabinet of Kwara State.

“He also recommended that Abdullai Samari, the crony of the governor of Kwara State and the leader of Abdulrahman splinter AA group within Kwara APC, be made the caretaker chairman. With this recommendation, the smallest of the four tendencies that formed the new APC after the exit of Dr. Bukola Saraki is now given a political edge; that can never work.”

The group said the removal appeared to be a ploy by APC national leadership to save their unpopular friend and governor from drowning at the coming congresses in Kwara State.

Continuing, Oyedepo said; “We find it difficult to believe that the leadership of a national political party like the APC will flagrantly abuse its constitution by the purported removal of our state chairman. It is not written anywhere in the constitution of APC that a zone of the party like the North Central can recommend to the national secretariat for the removal of any officer of the party in any ward, local government and the state?

“Does the North Central zone know what goes on in Kwara State? Has the North Central zone conducted diligent inquiry on events in the APC in Kwara State to be in position to make any form of recommendation about the party? If the governors decide in solidarity with one another to abuse the constitution, it is our belief that the body that has the duty to uphold the sanctity of our constitution should be the national executive of the party.

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“And really this is an executive whose leadership had been visited by the Kwara State stakeholders in October 2020. The chairman of the National Caretaker Committee, on the occasion of that visit, undertook to convene the meeting of both sides to the crisis with a view for amicable reconciliation. Until the time of the illegal and unacceptable removal of our state chairman, the National Caretaker Chairman never convened any reconciliatory meeting.

“Yet reconciliation is the cardinal assignment given to the National Caretaker Committee at its inauguration. But the same chairman has now jumped into the arena to remove the state chairman to protect the hollow interests of his colleague and governor of Kwara State. Which direction is this party going in Nigeria and specifically in Kwara State?

Oyedepo noted that the only reason adduced by Niger State governor, Bello, for the purported removal of Bolarinwa is the inability of the governor to work with him, lamenting it was Bolarinwa, who in fact cleared the way for the governor when it was obvious that he did not win the primary election to qualify him as APC gubernatorial candidate in 2018.

Gbemi Saraki

“A person that the governor cannot work with is now recommended by Governor Bello to be made a commissioner by the governor of Kwara State in a government where commissioners are mere errand boys. Where therefore is the logic of this recommendation? Yet the party leadership acted on this illogical recommendation without the required consultations. Democracy, where are you?

“We have resolved to reject the verdict of the National Caretaker Committee on the purported removal of Hon. Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa. It certainly shall not work in Kwara State, no matter who is behind it.”

Oyedepo noted that his group had already notified the party that its decision could sink Kwara APC, adding; “We shall prove to those that aborted the people’s revolution, foisting on our party the present situation since 2018, that Kwara is not an appendage of any outside power conspiracy. We shall henceforth prove to those that are not popular at home, but rather rely on political manipulations from outside that the game is up.”

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The group therefore appealled to President Muhammadu Buhari to save Kwara APC from imminent destruction that the decision portends. It also appealled to party leaders to save the Kwara APC from its deliberate journey to political perdition.

From the ugly scenario, a show of numerical strength is inevitable, as each keeps referring to the other as “small faction.”

IN the midst of this, the Peoples Frontiers Movement (PFM), founded by Asiwaju of Babalonma, Senator Ajadi, has congratulated the newly appointed caretaker chairman. According to Jolayemi Benjamin, Publicity Secretary of the group, “the appointment came at the right time, when all hope was deemed to have been lost.

“There is no doubt the appointment of Hon. Samari at this critical time will ginger party members to greater commitment and stimulate party cohesion. This is a further proof that our able governor is in charge. The trying days for party faithful are over. This is a good reward for the labour and sacrifices we have made long ago.

“We appreciate our amiable governor Abdulrasaq for his steadfastness and uprightness in developing the state despite the harsh economic situation. It is our prayer that your relationship with our new caretaker chairman will wax stronger. His wealth of experience will lead the APC in Kwara State to greater heights.”

A lecturer of political science at the University of Ilorin, who did not want his name in print, said the absence of a clear-cut leader in Kwara APC could not be divorced from the festering crisis bedeviling the party. He said he’d made overtures to the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Agboola Gambari, an elder statement, astute diplomat and son of Ilorin to wade into the crisis.

On whether or not the warring factions are prepared to embrace the proverbial Olive branch, Oyedepo, who disclosed that the national leadership had allegedly invited the warring parties to Abuja for a meeting on Monday, January 18, said, “the outcome of the meeting will determine our next line of action.”

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Although both groups have ruled out any external force fanning the embers of discord, Oke said the era of extravagant spending of “public funds” under the guise of party funding should be over if the crisis will end.

He added, “that was part of the movement under O to ge. If we go back to that era now, then we didn’t know what we were doing in the past. This governor is simply saying we should do away with the old order and use the public funds for the benefit of the entire people of the state. That is our position.”

At the heat of the ongoing rift in the local APC, the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) has canvassed the upstaging of the APC in the state in the 2023 polls, citing the party’s “inexperience in governance.”

The PDP Chairman, Mr. Kolawole Shittu, explained that the true dividends of democracy could only be given to the people in a rancor-free atmosphere, adding, “that is why we must take over from the APC come 2023, because our state, a place of peace, should not be turned into a theatre of war under any guise.”

Unless the belligerent attitude of members of the ruling party is promptly reversed, there’s the likelihood of the emergence of a third party to checkmate what is turning to be excesses of the two leading parties in the state. The third force may be a beautiful bride both old parties will embrace to form a veritable alliance towards winning future elections in the state.

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