Two years to the next general elections, consultations are on in Kwara State. Politicians are scheming for the seat that will be vacated by Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed on May 29, next year. ADEKUNLE JIMOH examines the succession struggle and aspirants on the platforms of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Though next general elections are two years away, Kwara State is already abuzz with politics. Major political gladiators interested in the seat that would be vacated by Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed have started oiling their political machinery.
Kwara politics is still dominated by the Olusola Saraki dynasty. This perhaps, explains the large number of aspirants that have in one way or the other signaled their interest in the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC). So far, about 15 persons on the platform of the party are said to be interested in the seat.
A good number of them are associates of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; most of them are holding political offices both at the state and national levels. Some of the aspirants considered to be serious contenders have floated what an impeccable source called “subtle pressure groups”.
They include the spokesperson of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi; the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Dr Ali Ahmad; former acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and now APC stalwart, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje; the Special Adviser to the Senate President on Special Duties, Alhaji Mashood Mustapha; Senator Representing Kwara North Senatorial District, Alhaji Mohammed Shaaba Lafiagi; and member representing Asa/Ilorin West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Razak Atunwa.
Others are a member representing Ilorin East/South Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Dr Abubakar Amuda-Kannike; his counterpart for Edu/Moro/Patigi Constituency, Alhaji Bahago Ahman Patigi; Zakari Mohammed representing Baruten/Kaiama Constituency; the Chief of Staff, Government House, Ilorin, Alhaji Yusuf Abdulwahab and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters, Alhaji Usman Bibire Ajape.
The aspirants have begun clandestine recruitment of youths, who are already helping to market their candidacy in the social media.
A source told The Nation that some of the aspirants are keeping their ambition to their chest, owing to the peculiarity of Kwara politics. It was learnt that some of the aspirants who are bent on taking part in the contest are afraid of a possible backlash in the event that they unveil their plans ahead of time.
Some social media platforms are already touting Abdullahi, Ahmad and Mustapha as likely successors of the incumbent Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, when the latter’s second term of four years ends May 29, 2019.
Mustapha is not making his ambition secret as he has already started strategic moves to curry the favour of the power that be in securing the governorship ticket of the APC.
He was a member of the House of Representatives between 2011 and 2015 and served as Commissioner during the tenure of Saraki as governor.
For Abdullahi, some youth organisations were said to have started convening stakeholders’ fora both in Ilorin and Abuja as a platform to commence subtle campaigns for him. He served as Minister of Sports and Chairman, National Sports Commission in the cabinet of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
However, a source hinted that Ahmad is also interested in the race, but he has chosen to keep the ambition close to his chest. He was a member of the Seventh National Assembly, where he served as the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Justice.
His four years in the Green Chamber of the National Assembly gave birth to the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, a bill he solely sponsored, with main objective of speedy trial of criminal cases.
The Speaker’s media aide, Shuaib Abdulkadir, dismissed media reports that his principal was nursing governorship ambition in 2019. He said it is only the party hierarchy that will determine who takes what in the forthcoming general elections, adding that no decision had been taken on that yet.
He said: “As far as everybody is concerned in Kwara State, and as you rightly know, he (Ali Ahmad) is the Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, representing Ilorin South Constituency in the House of Assembly.
“Yes, you might have been told some things about his ambition. I am not aware of that for now. But I can tell you reliably that he is not eyeing the governorship seat, except probably what the hierarchy would decide, which everybody is not aware of for now. That is all I can tell you.”
Abdulkadir neither picked up telephone calls nor responded to the message sent to him inquiring about his 2019 governorship ambition.
A member representing Ilorin East/South Federal Constituency, Dr Abubakar Amuda-Kannike, could not be reached for his comment on the matter.
But, Baraje advised those nursing governorship ambitions within the APC to tary a while. He urged such persons to exercise patience and allow the incumbent governor to concentrate on the good job he is doing.
Baraje said it is too early for anyone to start campaigning for the next governorship or any elective office.
He pointed out that a rare political system where the party’s hierarchy decides who takes what exists in Kwara State. Baraje advised those reported to be nursing governorship ambitions to allow the system work.
He added: “In Kwara State, Dr Bukola Saraki, the Senate President, is still our leader. I respect him and still queue behind him and when the time comes, all of us shall sit down together and the system will bring out the best candidates for governorship and other elective offices that will be beneficial to the people of our state.
“For now, I think we should allow the sitting governor to continue the good work he is doing. The governor is doing his best to serve the people of the state in accordance with the principles and policies of our great party, the APC. It is public knowledge that the governor has been going round the state, flagging off various projects, as well as empowering the vulnerable members of the society.
“To those nursing governorship ambitions, I advise them to be patient and cooperate with the political leader of the state.”
Baraje said if the so-called governorship aspirants “have been part of the APC family in the state, then they are not doing justice to the system and if they have not been part of us, then they should know that we have a system.
The former Labour Party (LP) governorship candidate in the 2015 election, Dr Mike Omotoso, it was gathered, may still give the governorship seat a shot. But, this time around, he may be contesting on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Omotosho recently gave conditions to make himself available for the 2019 governorship race. Though he did not disclose the platform on which he intends to contest, he said the readiness of the electorate would spur him to join the race. Indications are that the pharmacist-turned-politician is tinkering with the idea of defecting to the crisis-ridden PDP to realise his ambition.
Popularly known as Omotosure, he said the masses remain the determinant factor of the electoral processes.
The former LP flag bearer who lost to Governor Ahmed in the 2015 polls said his decision to vie for governorship was to improve the welfare of the electorates.
He said: “I would love to run, but the people must be ready. It is not about me wanting to be governor; I am not a career politician. It is about better life for the masses. At the right time, details will be unveiled by the people, if they actually want me to run.”
The PDP is currently destabilised by factional crisis. The party is divided into two factions, with Senators Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi who are laying claims to the soul of the party.
Although the recent Appeal Court verdict recognised Sheriff as the authentic National Chairman, the National Caretaker Committee chaired by Makarfi has gone to the Supreme Court to challenge the appellate court judgment.
– The Nation