Even where the issue is not being played up, there is said to be an existing succession plan in Kwara State. The arrangement is that Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed would only serve a term in office, relinquishes power voluntarily so that another person from Kwara North senatorial district takes over the mantle of leadership in the state. If that is true, then this administration is expected to end in 2015.
It is an unwritten rotation arrangement designed to enable the three senatorial districts have a shot at power within the shortest time possible, especially because Kwara Central has dominated the governorship position over the years.
But as 2015 draws nearer, the issue is beginning to generate debate among the people – those from the South senatorial district where the governor comes from and politicians loyal to the governor and who are of the opinion that he has performed well and should be allowed to complete his two terms.
Though former Kwara State governor, Senator Bukola Saraki was said to have only mentioned the one term deal during the 2011 electioneering as part of the understanding that paved the way for his successor. But he is yet to reiterate it in recent time. Yet, many feared that Saraki who inherited his father’s political dynasty is firmly in control of the state’s politics and not likely to renege on his position.
In fact, the governor had been compelled to deny over and over, the rumour that as part of his personal moves to secure a second term, he is considering returning to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) because his predecessor who by all standard is the political leader in the state, would rather he did not contest for a second term.
However, the very reason such an understanding has become an albatross is because people generally believe Ahmed has performed well and justified the need for continuity in the state. For instance, he is said to have successfully combined his experiences in the academia, banking and the public sector to facilitate the computerisation of the treasury to reduce expenditure leakages, particularly on staff salary.
The Kwara State government has also ensured prudent management of resources which was why the state government received excellent rating twice by the Fitch Rating International.
The template for the financial management of the state is believed to have been put in place by the governor when he was Commissioner for Planning and Economic Development.
Then, he had introduced e-budgeting system for efficient and effective preparation process, thus improving fiscal discipline and signaling his competence in development planning with the production of the first ever Medium Term Sector Strategies (MTSS) as a foundation for future sound economic development and his administration has successfully leveraged on that to develop the state.
No doubt, Governor Abdulfatah has excelled since taking over the mantle of leadership of Kwara State in 2011. His administration has made impacts in the areas of road constructions, education, agriculture, energy and health to youth empowerment and SME promotion.
He also implemented programmes such as the innovative Kwara Bridge Empowerment Scheme (KWABES), under which the government has employed 5000 youths including 2000 civil servants. The expanded Empowerment Scheme, QuickWin, has seen the engagement of 5200 youths in the first phase with 8200 youths targeted for empowerment in 2014.
Also, 41,000 small business owners were empowered while 100 transporters and 47 artisan groups have benefitted from the N640m in micro-credit disbursed under the Kwara Entrepreneurship Scheme since 2012 including several other projects that have endeared him to the people.
Aside his acceptability by the people, he has also remained loyal to the Saraki. He joined his predecessor and other PDP governors and stakeholders across the country to leave the ruling PDP for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in a landmark defection that many believe is actually as a result of a fight between Saraki and the presidency and not himself per say.
Therefore, as the 2015 gathers momentum, Ahmed’s constitutional right to a second term is imperative. Sadly, he may opt not to seek re-election on the grounds of the existing deal of one term except the governor chooses to give it a rough try, a development that could undermine the APC as well as impair his own credibility since the deal was struck on his honour.
But there is a growing belief that the understanding could change in the light of the many political developments that have since played out. It is also believed that replacing a performing governor is not politically expedient given the battle ahead.
Indeed, certain political calculations might have informed Saraki’s thinking. One is that Kwara Central produces the largest votes in the state and where the opposition PDP picks its candidate from the central senatorial district against the governor, the chances of an APC victory is slim.
Importantly, it behooves Saraki, the governor and other leaders in the state to ensure that the succession deal does not whittle their relevance in the state.
“If the North is properly pacified to wait and get a two term after the South, it could be a better option for us. And for me, all these issues we are talking about feel to me as a game plan; Saraki is too politically savvy to try that (replacing the governor) at a time like this,” a member of the party who feels the governor would get a reelection said.
From all indications, the governor himself is not favourably disposed to the concept of zoning. This aside, people in the governor’s camp are disquiet about the proposal and are said to be hoping that the succession arrangement would not stop him from coming back.
Ahmed who was a guest lecturer at the public lecture organised by the Lagos State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) last week in Lagos tactically showed his disapproval for the idea when emphasised that as 2015 inches closer, progressives should “eschew primordial and divisive sentiment and instead, work for a secured future for the country.”
He urged that considering the pivotal place of the annulled June 12, 1993 election adjudged the freest and fairest supposedly won by the late MKO Abiola, progressive forces should leave aside personal ambition for the sake of the country and bemoan the fact that issues such as religion and zones are taking over performances and good governance in considering those qualified to hold offices in the country.
“The situation that confronts us today calls for sober reflection. Today, we live in a society where you become a leader not because you are imbued with right measure of leadership skills, understand the challenges facing our country and the concrete pathways to their solutions but because you come from a certain region of the country or profess a particular religion.”
To him, Abiola’s “loud victory demonstrated that Nigerians are more concerned with a true leader and what he stands for rather than his geographical background and political affiliation.”
The governor said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and state electoral commissions must be granted full autonomy that would ensure efficiency and insulate them from direct pressure from the people.
“When politicians know that they cannot rig or otherwise manipulate elections, they will be less likely to abuse their office or disregard the desires of the electorate for good governance knowing that the people will be waiting for them down the road.”