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Kwara: Countdown to INEC deadline as SDP, APC, PDP square up

 ...Set for primaries, APC, PDP opt for consensus.


The Independent Electoral Commission’s (INEC) June 3, 2022 deadline for candidates of all political parties that would contest in the 2023 general elections to emerge is around the corner. This is to say, except the electoral body agrees to the calls or bows to the possible pressures “from above”, asking it to shift the date forward, the deadline remains sacrosanct. Even, with the growing number of aspirants in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara State except that of the governorship, INEC has spoken.

APC though is believed to be the one, which has the wherewithal because it is in government both at the national and state levels and may possibly manipulate the umpire to speak another language on the last day.

READ ALSO: SW PDP Congress: Stop insulting, threatening NWC, you are not PDP Governor-General, state chairs tell Gov. Makinde

In Kwara State, three political parties are holding themselves by the jugular to be in charge of the next government in the North-central state in 2023. The parties are the All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the raging Social Democratic Party (SDP).

This is the party that positions itself to accommodate all aggrieved members of the earlier two parties. The party is set to grab power and work hard to achieve that.

This goal, however, appears to be working because of the squabbles in the ruling APC, which makes SDP membership to swell by day. The people, the big wigs known long before now to be key players in the politics of Kwara State are moving to the party in droves. They were the people known to lead the ‘O to Ge’ struggles that sent the ‘Saraki political dynasty’ packing.

No sooner than they succeeded in that project, however, than they were reported to be rubbished in all forms, by the governor; Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, till date. With the growing ugly trend, they in turn have been moving trooping into the SDP. Going back to the PDP from where most of them left for APC could not have been a good option because they caused the ridiculous fall of the Sarakis in 2019. PDP is currently in the firm hold of Dr. Bukola Saraki, former Senate President, and is definitely a no-go area for them. SDP is where they can find solace.

Talking about prepararng for the dreaded INEC June 3 deadline for political parties  to field their candidates for election, SDP appears to be the one that certainly cannot think of a consensus arrangement. Its primary election must hold and it is either through a direct or indirect system. It is now few days to go for this very significant exercise, especially that of the governorship ticket. All eyes are, therefore, on the party to make the difference. This is because left to the APC, there can be no other candidate than the incumbent governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. That is a done deal. The reason is simple; all those who can have the liver to challenge him have long been sidelined in the affairs of the party and had left for either the PDP or the SDP. Now that election season is here, they are leaving APC in droves for the SDP.

Not only that, while the big PDP and APC are yet to be seen as getting set to get acceptable mechanisms to resolve issues, surrounding their candidates for elections next year, SDP simply lay ambush to poach and get unsatisfied aspirants in the two parties to fly its (SDP’s) tickets, including, the governorship.

PDP is like his personal property of the former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and he decides what happens there. That has become the tradition ever since his father, the late Dr. Olusola Saraki, passed on the baton to him. However, the autocratic practice synonymous with the family in politics appears not to be working this time around. Feelers from the party indicate that the former Senate President, unlike his father, who spent huge amount of money any day to oil politics in the state, even when not holding political office or aspiring to contest elections, only does that as long as he has access to public fund by proxy. So, it is said the older Saraki was once reported to have said that he had no industry other than politics and Kwara State was his factory. Bukola Saraki today is not ready to spend his personal money on Kwara politics, according to feelers from the PDP in the State. With that, the culture of free money, imposing candidates at will because it is a rule that who pays the piper must dictate the tune, could have been over. Members of the party now have roles in deciding who flies their ticket.

For now, zoning and the process of selecting candidates for next year’s general elections is the issue in the party and preparations for 2023 cannot be said to be ongoing. Sources said party members had agreed with Saraki to let the governorship slot be reserved for the northern district, comprising Kaiama, Baruten, Moro, Edu and Pategi Local Governmrnt Areas of the state. It is yet to be resolved by the affected local governments as at the time report on Monday.

The lineup of those known to have interest in their new-found SDP is not new. They are the people known to have thrown their hats in the ring so many times in the past but had at one time or another been choked out of their dreams by the hefty political muscles of the Sarakis. The Sarakis were the ones, who held the political destiny and fortunes of people in their hands until the game changed in 2019. However, from the feelers, the same Sarakis are adopting the lifestyle of a ram, i.e. moving back to gather strength and rushing back to deal a devastating head butts and claim dominations all over again. However, the long known enemies of this political warlord family appear to be ready for this onslaught and they are all in the SDP.

The lineup of governorship aspirants in SDP include Professor Shuaib  Oba Abdulraheem, a one-time Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, and a regular governorship aspirant. His tenure as the helmsman in the university witnessed turmoil and the dust is yet to settle. It marked the beginning of serious trade fights in the institution mainly involving the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The issue of the ‘Unilorin 49’ keeps ringing and the people, particularly in the ivory tower, had never forgotten nor forgiven this academic of repute till now. Each time the ASUU versus the government comes up, the name of Professor Oba comes up again. The worse is giving him the credit of the genesis of the unending ASUU crisis in Nigeria. The story was that a nationwide strike action was declared by the national body of ASUU, which required all chapters of the union across Nigerian universities to participate in. It was the time Professor Oba Abdulraheem was the vice chancellor and he directed that lecturers in his university dared not participate. His audacity, which was strange in the management/labour relations, did not go well with ASUU and the battle line was drawn. His rigid position did not help the matter when he ordered the sack of these lecturers, drawing the backing of government. The spiral effects of the ugly episode are still on in the university system across the country till date because some of the lecturers died along the line because of the untold hardships of their joblessness for the time the problem lasted. Each time, the name Professor Oba Abdulraheem came up in the system almost 30 years after,  the bitterness in the academic communities revibrates.

Also, the stints of Professor Abdulraheem, akin to that of the University of Ilorin at the Kwara State Polytechnic where the then Governor Bukola Saraki made him the head of the Governing Council was not too complimentary as well. He was said to be behind harsh policies that equally made several workers, including the academic staff lose their jobs. While there too, the Professor of English language was reported to be very hostile to the trade unions of the Polytechnic.

Similarly, it was said that as the Chairman of the Federal Characters Commission, the Professor was said to have the record of not too good working relations with the staff of the Commission who were reported to have protested against his rule more than once. Sources also added that contrary to the principles of the Character Commission, the professor grossly erred by allegedly favouring his Ilorin Community from Kwara State with appointments into all categories of jobs in the Federal service at the expense of other sections of the State. Feelers in his party; SDP told this news medium that this alleged unfriendly profile may work against the party at the poll if the erudite scholar emerges the governorship candidate of the party come the general elections in 2023.

Alhaji Khaleel Bolaji 

Alhaji Khaleel Bolaji was a renowned management consultant. His outfit, Kha’ab Consultant, was an outstanding consultancy firm in the late eighties up to early nineties covering the South West, North Central, North East and North Western parts of the country. He is today known to be one of the most experienced and active politician in Kwara State. He was reputed to be a top notch organiser of workshops, trainings and seminars for government staff at both the federal, state and local government levels. This was part of the instruments reputed to be part of the processes that gave birth to the creation of new state and local governments under the military regimes. This was because Khaleel Bolaji was known to be very close to the seat of power at every successive stage both at the centre and Kwara State. Subsequently, efforts of that time through consultants like him helped to midwife the Third Republic. He was a member of the then National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the National Republican Convention (NRC), All Peoples Party (APP), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC) and now, the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

He was a senatorial aspirant under the NRC, a governorship aspirant under the ANPP, member of the National Conference, Member of the National Institute of Policy and Stategic Studies (mni) and the immediate past Chairman of the National Orientation Agency (NOA). As one of most experienced politician in the state having been in the game as a young man in Lagos in the Second Republic and later came home in Kwara State be part of it at home too. He was active in the Kwara politics of the Third Republic and then became a cabinet member in the two military administrations in Kwara State. Opinions said Khaleel Bolaji is very close to picking the ticket of the party for the position of the governor going by his long-standing experience in the politics and governance of Kwara State.

Arch. Kale Belgore

Arch. Kale Belgore is better described as ‘Mr. Blueprint’. He is the political master planner since 1999 when this republic started for the Sarakis. He was at the engine room of the structures when Saraki brought the late Admiral Mohammed Lawal into politics immediately after Lawal was retired from the Navy in a manner that was not clear till date. Lawal got promoted in the Navy and in about a month afterwards, he was retired. The circumstances that shot Admiral Lawal up above those who were known to be kitchen cabinet members of Dr. Olusola Saraki among those who were expected to become the APP governorship candidate at the time were strangely dropped. Saraki went to Abuja to announce his choice of governorship candidate as Admiral Lawal. Kale Belgore, the Saraki boy, was said to be at the engine room then. He was a commissioner in the cabinet of Bukola Saraki after serving at the ‘Mandate’ situation office of the campaigns that saw Bukola through to power. He was a governorship aspirant in 2014 under the Peoples Democratic Party. In 2019, he was known to be the brain behind every draft that is today the document of governance of the administration of the incumbent Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. His departure from AbdulRazaq is still kept secret but he had left the APC to join SDP and now a governorship aspirant in his new party.

Engr. Sunday Babalola 

He is a staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). He was a governorship aspirant of the PDP in 2014. He hails from Omu Aran in Irepodun Local Government Area of the State. He and Khaleel Bolaji are the two aspirants from the Kwara Southern District. He beat a retreat from politics as soon as he lost out in the 2014 primary election of the PDP and was into charity works, which people said is more noticeable in the southern part of the state where he comes from, particularly around Omu Aran, his home town. He is also into pastoral activities until he threw his hat into the ring again, aspiring to become the governor.

Mallam Akeem Lawal

He is the the late Governor (Admiral) Mohammed Lawal’s son. He was a young man, who was in school when his father was on the saddle as a governor. He was not in any way a public figure until 2014 when he came out to gun for the position of the governor under PDP. Before his demise, his late father became a sworn enemy of the Sarakis. Though his fight against Dr. Olusola Saraki shook the king of Kwara politics to the foundation, Lawal succeeded in creating awareness that Saraki was not a total superman in Ilorin in particular and Kwara State in general after all. Lawal lost out; he lost his position as governor but his marks fetched him a large following till date, even in death. However, this large following, inherited by his son, could not fetch him the governorship ticket of the PDP in 2014 because he was considered too young and inexperienced for the topmost job of a governor. A school of thought had said the young man should have given a shot at the National Assembly first, before eyeing governorship of the state. His chances again this time will be known in few days time when the primaries of the state SDP holds.

Alhaji Tajudeen Audu;

Alhaji Tajudeen Audu, the Makama; a high chief of Lafiagi Emirate in Edu Local Government Area of Kwara State was a governorship aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2019. He is a private businessman, an accountant by training, doing his business in Abuja but shuttles between the Federal Capital and Kwara State. People say the calculation of Alhaji Tajudeen Audu is based on the agitation that it is the turn of Kwara North to produce the next governor of Kwara State. This is because the PDP at the instance of Senator Bukola Saraki had zoned the governoship from the party to Kwara North. Not only that, it is zoned to the Nupe-speaking people of Edu and Pategi Local Governmrnts. PDP, it was said, had already picked a choice from Pategi, giving the chance to Edu to have a candidate from any other party so that large votes would come from Nupe land for candidates, who are their sons, in the 2023 general elections.

Nobody knows where the pendulum would swing. However, the picture of things to come will become clearer in the next few weeks.