Kwara APC awaits Chief Bisi Akande to smoothen rough edges
• As Factions Give Perspectives To Violence In Shao
When democracy returned in 1999, it was interpreted that the president is the leader of the party, while a governor is the one to call the shot in the state. Party chairmen were to be relegated to the background. That has continued till now and it’s having serious backlash in states.
In Kwara State, a sort of supremacy battle is brewing in the All Progressives Congress (APC). Things seem to be falling apart as Governor Mallam AbdulRahaman AbdulRasak and the Chairman Bashiru Omoloja Bolarinwa are putting legs in the same trouser, as they say in local parlance.
The development is troubling and may form the thrust of what Chief Bisi Akande- led National Reconciliation Committee would arbitrate on when they visit Kwara in a few days time. Already, the Committee had asked members with animosities to submit their petitions on or before March 10, 2020.
Already, the situation has degenerated to the level in which members cast aspersions on one another and commit assaults against some of the leaderships of the party.
There now exists a dichotomy within the party. These are the Governor’s group, which arguably forms about 70 per cent of the entire population of the membership of the party and the group allegedly led by the Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Layiwola Mohammed, said to have the backing of Bolarinwa.
Bolarinwa, an experienced politician who caught his political teeth in Lagos State is believed to be a man of peace but allegedly being controlled by some clandestine political gladiators.
A taciturn politician, the local APC chairman had been a politician of note from the Progressive School since the beginning of the fourth Republic when he represented Lagos State in the Green Chamber of the nation’s National Assembly. He was among the leaders of thought in Kwara APC, who fought to a standstill the political hegemony of the former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
However, Bolarinwa seems not to be the party chair the Governor needs for reasons best known to the duo and their allies.
Sources told The Guardian in Ilorin, that the Chairman, fully aware of underlying issues within his party embarked on a tour of the 16 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state to reconcile aggrieved members and thank them for the successes recorded at the last elections across the state.
While the exercise appeared to be a huge success in eight of the councils so visited, the ninth attempt in Moro LGA was a botched mission as the exercise was cancelled due to reported build-up of tension at Shao, the venue chosen for the event.
Besides, an unconfirmed report said the exercise had been a clandestine one, where Bolarinwa and his team were allegedly appointing parallel executives at both the ward and LGA levels.
But Bolarinwa denied the allegation, noting that the proponents of such rumour should desist from spreading falsehood. He noted, ‘’I know that God is the ultimate judge and He alone will judge between me and those trying to throw spanner into the wheel of the progress of our great party.’’
A Professor of Political Science from University of Ilorin under condition of anonymity said the crisis within the Kwara APC should be expected, citing the new political dispensation and system without a pivotal leader who will serve as a rallying point for all the members of the party.
He said, “in the past, Saraki was the sole authority in the state’s party politics. He had the final say in everything and he served as the legislative, executive and the judiciary arms of successive ruling parties in the state. But today, there is no clear-cut leader for the APC. So what is happening within the party is normal. After the shake up, a distinct leader will naturally evolve.”
Speaking on the Shao aborted trip, Bolarinwa confirmed that he was assaulted and had his car damaged by suspected thugs mobilised to the venue, but managed to escape from being lynched by the mob.
When asked to shed light on the ‘sad event’ he noted, “but many people had reacted to it on my behalf and on the part of our great political party.”
For Chief Wole Oke, the Jagunmolu of Shao and a chieftain of the APC, the allegation of an attack on Bolarinwa was allegedly over played.
According to Oke, a native of the town, “it was a mere exaggeration to have said that the APC Chairman in Kwara was attacked in Shao. It is no longer hidden that APC is polarized now in the state. Our group supports the Governor while the other faction is with Layiwola Mohammed.
“The other group had constituted parallel executives across eight LGAs of the state. But they went about telling some people that they embarked on the LGAs tour thanking the people for their support during the last round of elections. Why did they choose this period to do phantom thanksgiving”?
Oke, who was the Third Republic Leader of the state House of Assembly said the Shao mission was allegedly carried out without his knowledge as a party leader and that of the elected ward and council leaders of the area (David Adebiyi and Alhaji Adebayo Jimoh).
He added, “when the mission leaked some 12 hours to its commencement, the loyal APC members in Shao got in touch with the state’s Police Commissioner, Mr. Kayode Egbetokun, informing him of a brewing tension at the proposed venue of the event. Besides, the Paramount Ruler of the town, (Ohoro of Shao) who did not want bloody crisis at his domain, halted the meeting, canvassing instead a new date for it. He did this by calling the two parties together.
“As the news of the postponement filtered in, one identified APC member was strangulated and in the process lost his mobile set, just as his head was smashed with a plastic chair. At this moment, Bolarinwa was inside his car for about 20minutes. When he saw that the situation was not palatable, he drove off. Then action and reaction on both sides spontaneously occurred leading to the stoning of his vehicle that was already in motion by only God known mob.”
Oke, who alleged the arrest of some members of his group by the Police after the mayhem, said though none of them was detained beyond the hours required by the law, he believed that “aggrieved party members should be allowed by the police to amicably resolve the issues.”
The spokesman of the state Police Command, Ajayi Okasanmi DSP, said the Police, as a neutral security agency would not be indifferent to actions considered to be inimical to the peace and security of any settlement in the state. Okasanmi added, “we must carry out our duties without fear and favour and nobody should interfere or teach us what to do.”
One of the APC members fingered in the crisis, Saka Salawu gave his eye witness account thus: ‘”Like the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill would say, and I quote: ‘Truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it but in the end, here it is’.
“In the first place, the APC stakeholders meeting scheduled to hold in Shao that day was programmed to fail; there were so many things wrong about the meeting. If the meeting was supposed to be a stakeholders meeting of our great party, it left so much to be desired.
“The local government organ of the party wasn’t aware of the meeting, so also was the party in the Ward (Shao), where the meeting was billed to hold. Alhaji Toyin Ayinla and my good self (two of us members of State Exco from Moro) were not carried along, so to speak. Yet someone would want us to believe that this is indeed a truly APC meeting. No, it is a lie.
“Secondly, in spite of this observable anomalies, we decided to be at the meeting to complain/protest what we thought was wrong. We got to the proposed venue of the meeting by 9a.m. to find quite a handful of people. But the atmosphere was a bit cold, and as more and more people came around we noticed some of the youths exchanging harsh and abusive words and imprecations. On account of this, Hon Abdulmumin Katibi and I approached the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), who was also at the venue.
“He, the DPO immediately made some phone calls and in no time he came back to inform us that the Commissioner of Police would like to see both parties; and that we should select our respective representatives. On our side, I was selected to lead our group. At the meeting, the Police appealed for peace, and that the meeting in Shao should be allowed to go on.
“In the meantime, His Royal Highness, Ohoro of Shao, had also been briefed about the development, and the possibility of the outbreak of hostility and violence. He also, therefore, decided to intervene by inviting both parties for a peace parley in his palace. The outcome of that meeting, I was told, was the postponement of the meeting in the interest of peace and order in the community.
“It must be pointed out at this juncture, that apart from the tensed atmosphere, there is a general belief that the Bolarinwa’s meeting was largely an anti-government program designed to begin to organise against the present administration in the state. Which is why (they reasoned) prominent supporters and loyalists of the Governor were excluded from the meeting.
“It is not for nothing that Chief Wole Oke, Hon Iliasu Ibrahim, Engr. Yinusa Afolabi, our KWHA members, Commissioner etc., were never invited. And since Shao people don’t want to be seen as anti-government, the Kabiesi was anxious to ensure that the meeting did not hold, at least, on his soil. Only last Monday, government contractors were all over the place in Shao working earnestly on the Shao township road project, a social achievement that has eluded the town for so many years.
“So, by the time we came back from the force headquarters with the message that the meeting be allowed to hold, Kabiesi’ own message had gone far, and everywhere at the venue had been taken over by those who heard what Kabiesi pronounced. The situation was so tensed, so chaotic and the youths so uncontrollable.
“When Bolarinwa and his team arrived the venue, the hostility, anger and resentment was palpable. Even the truckloads of policemen on their entourage could hardly do much in the face of the intimidating crowd of people who were opposed to the meeting. As they tried to force their way, there was sustained commotion all over. And as they struggled to leave the venue, the crowd pelted them with pure water and other objects.
“The truth of the matter is that Bolarinwa and his group in APC (Moro) are very unpopular. Of the four members on the Exco, he has one. Of the 27 or so Exco members at local government level, he has four. Of the 17 Ward chairmen, he has two. So how does he hope to rule the party in Moro with this insignificant minority?
“Unlike other LGAs, Moro has suffered greatly as a result of opposition politics. However, we now have a government that is sympathetic to alleviating our plight. Those leaders from Moro who for one reason or the other have decided to take up arms against the government must rethink their thoughts and begin to work for the welfare and wellbeing of the long-suffering people of Moro Local Government Area. Scapegoating me and others will not debar me from supporting what I believe is right and good for our people.”
Reacting to the development, a former Kwara State chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Chief Iyiola Oyedepo underplayed the alleged crisis within the APC. Oyedepo, also an O’ toge advocate said where less than 10 per cent members population are aggrieved over an issue, the nomenclature of ‘’faction being used over such condition by the press’’ should be discountenanced.
According to Oyedepo, “some people are just being mischievous and are causing a needless crisis within the party. I think what Bolarinwa and his group were doing was to identify critical stakeholders across the 16 LGAs of the state in order to thank them for their roles in the last round of elections leading to the victories of the party.
” The mission of this nature by Bolarinwa would naturally be carried out by a selected few. It was not a political rally as being speculated in some quarters. I personally feel that the endeavour was needful so that the voters and the entire people of the state can be willing and ready to vote for the party when the need arises.’’
Akogun, who is the Akogun of Isin land in Kwara State added: “Before the unfortunate Moro trip, he had led his team to eight LGAs without any hitch. He has the constitutional power to meet the people especially those considered as the stakeholders and to equally explain to them happenings and developments within the party.
“I was told that aftermath of the Shao debacle, the Police authorities in the state had called all the members to order and made them to sign an undertaking of peace and pledged never to participate in violence again. What we see, read or hear in the media over the issue is not the true situation of things within our party. The media is just celebrating some 10 per cent members of the party who have contact with some amount of money to throw around. The press is, unfortunately, referring to them as parallel members of the APC.
“There is no crisis within the Kwara APC but there exist misunderstandings, which to me are the normal trends in politics. The ongoing development will not affect our chances in future polls. However, it is the duty of Chief Bisi Akande-led committee to smoothen the rough edges. We are expecting him and his members very soon in Kwara. APC is one big family and we shall remain so.’’
As the party members await the Akande’s team The Guardian observed that the development has not stopped the state government from churning out its campaign promises to the people in the areas of massive repairs and construction, drainages, provisions of pipe-borne water, equipping all the state’s owned general hospitals, prompt payment of workers salaries, among others.