Saturday, 10th June 2023

SDP is alternative to APC and PDP in Kwara, says Afolabi

By Odun Edward
17 June 2022   |   2:48 am
Mr AbdulAzeez Afolabi is the chairman of the Kwara State chapter of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Followers of Information Minister, Lai Mohammed are the majority of SDP members in the state.

Mr AbdulAzeez Afolabi is the chairman of the Kwara State chapter of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Followers of Information Minister, Lai Mohammed are the majority of SDP members in the state.

Besides, they are the aggrieved members of the state’s faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

AbdulAzeez Afolabi

The SDP as a party in the state is seen and projected as a platform programmed to accommodate Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in the event of him losing the Presidential ticket of the ruling APC. ODUN EDWARDS discussed the continued relevance of the party in the state with the chairman.

Can we at this point say that strange bedfellows coalesced to form Kwara APC?
If we consider the four tendencies that formed the Kwara APC, your question may be answered in an affirmative way. These groups are Lai Mohammed, Oyedepo, Gbemisola Saraki, and Fagbemi. They had never before that period shared a common political belief. These groups made Bashiru Omolaja Bolarinwa (BOB) its Chairman. BOB is from Mohammed’s camp, and we met them on the ground. These four factions formed the ‘O’toge’ movement that ended the age-long political hegemony of the Saraki dynasty. We were in this situation till 2019 when electioneering processes began. We conducted our governorship primary, which in my opinion was keenly contested and three or two people were laying claim to be the winner. These are former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Professor Shuaib Oba AbduRaheem and Shuaib Abdullahi Yaman. But in the heart of all these, we all conceded the ticket to the incumbent Governor, AbdulRahaman AbdulRazak, known as ‘AA.’

What then led to the rumpus that eventually saw you and others defecting to SDP?
No sooner had AA become our flag bearer than he started creating more crises for the party. His first salvo thrown succeeded in capturing all the 24 State House of Assembly members but one (Saheed Popoola, Eesa/Sawo constituency). But it was difficult for him to capture BOB. The crises festered within the party and he eventually succeeded in capturing some minority members of the party’s executive but the majority stood by BOB. The situation continued until the dissolution of all the leadership of the APC right from the National echelon and across the states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
They later metamorphosed into caretaker committees. Besides, they were dutifully sworn in by the Buni-led national exco. BOB was a beneficiary and along with others instructed to swear in members of the state exco. To our surprise, without any reason and the support of the instrument of the office of the National caretaker Chairman, the state machinery disclosed the dissolution of the BOB-led executive. One Abdullahi Sanmori was brought in from the backdoor with a letter to be APC Caretaker Chairman in Kwara. He was backed by AA. This widened the gulf of disunity among the members of the APC in Kwara. All entireties to engender peace within the party met the brick wall. Then the tendencies of Mohammed and Oyedepo left the APC for SDP. These two sections formed the backbone of the APC then.

But going by the antecedents, it should have naturally been BOB who should emerge as chairman of Kwara SDP and not you?
BOB could not for now, due to cogent political reasons. No doubt he is a member of the SDP. I know you would equally ask of Lai Mohammed too. Let’s leave those two issues for another day. But there was a vacuum in the SDP that needed to be filled. Don’t forget that the other Exco of the APC equally joined us. To create a rancour-free executive in SDP, we integrated the foundation members of the party, whom we met on the ground into the Exco. I contested for the post and I came out victorious as the SDP chairman through a consensus arrangement.

How will 2023 polls be in Kwara State with your emergence as the SDP chairman?
Members of the public know those who were behind the ‘Otoge’ movement. Nobody in Kwara could boldly say he didn’t know that Oyedepo or Mohammed were the arrowheads of the revolution.

The surprise element remains among the public to date that those who fought for the liberation were eventually sidelined by the AA leadership. Because we were not part of the government, most of the promises made to the electorate could not be actualized. So, among the electorate they believe that we had been cheated, resulting in a gap between them and the government of the day.
Therefore, our movement to SDP has elicited a lot of goodwill from the voting public. We are seen as an alternative to APC and PDP. So the goodwill of the people is giving us the impetus to move on and an assurance of being voted to power come the year 2023.  The support from all quarters is massive. It shall indeed be a sweet victory for us all.

The PDP has Saraki as the arrowhead and we know the party is swimming in the pool of money. It has enough muscle to throw into the political ring. At present too, APC, being a ruling party at both the state and federal has the machinery of the state behind it to use to its advantage. But the feelers among the electorate are that having tasted both the PDP and APC and discovered how bitter it was, the SDP should be allowed to serve its own menu and allow the electorate to taste it.

Will you succumb to any pressure requiring you to form an alliance with any party, especially the opposition PDP?
I don’t see any alliance that can be feasible between SDP and the PDP in kwara State because of the style of leadership of the party. We on this side hate dictatorial tendencies from one man and therefore will not enter into any pact with the PDP.
We heard that SDP was rejuvenated as a backup for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in case he failed to emerge as the presidential candidate of APC; and now that he has emerged, is it not proper for you returned to APC and work for Tinubu’s success?
We have our own presidential candidate who is by name Prince Adewole Adebayo. So, what going back are you insinuating? Look, before we went to SDP some Greek gifts were dangled before us by the APC, which we honourably rebuffed. Working for Asiwaju or not is a proverbial bridge. When we get there, we will cross over it.  I am the chairman and there are other leaders of the party, nationally and at the state level. 

Could you remind us of your journey so far in the politics of Kwara state?
I joined politics through a cousin of mine, Niyi Omokanye. He came around for my support when he wanted to contest for a seat in Kwara State House of Assembly and I consented to his overture. He won the election on the platform of SDP and occupied the seat in Odogun constituency of Oyun Local Government Area (LGA) of the state. He was the chairman, of the Health Committee of the House.
At the same time, I was appointed the first Secretary of the LGA. But our administration was aborted when the then maximum Nigerian leader Gen. Sani Abacha came to the scene as Head of State.
When the fourth Republic commenced, I joined Action Alliance (AD), but when the merger between AD and All People’s Party (APP) produced Chief Olu Falae as the presidential candidate of AD/APP, some of us who supported Chief Bola Ige against Falae opted out of the merger arrangement.

For the next eight years, I returned fully to my private business. But when I returned to politicking, I joined Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), because, at that time, the AD was gasping for breath. I was in PDP until Dr Bukola Saraki asked all his supporters to defect to APC at the birth of the party. I refused to go along with Saraki due to his political style of leadership, full of egocentric excesses. That defection almost nailed the coffin of PDP in Kwara but we stayed back to rebuild it. But after this came a leadership tussle in the local PDP between Chief Iyiola Oyedepo and Prince Sunday Fagbemi. That was the situation on the ground until Saraki again defected to PDP. Discussions were held between the local leaders of the party but unfortunately, the national leaders of the party handed over the party machinery to Saraki.

Again, some of us migrated to APC. Fagbemi, who was giving us headache in PDP defected with us, together with the present governor, AbdulRazak.