The Peoples Democratic Party in Kwara State is in for an all time test as the governorship ambitions of its members have begun to threaten the collective goal, writes Akinbami Faloye
As the nation gravitates towards 2015 given its significance, it is nmot out of place that politicians and other interest groups are also warming up for recognition, using all means possible to position to undo one another.
In Kwara, the scenario is intriguing, particularly within the fold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) desirous of ousting the incumbent administration of Governor AbdulFattah Ahmed of the All Progressives Congress (APC). But more importantly, they seem to desire an end to the control of the Saraki political family with the 2015 elections in the state. And with an insider like Senator Gbemi Saraki, these gladiators are emboldened the more.
While ardent supporters of the PDP consider it a done deal with the active support of President Goodluck Jonathan, some critical observers point to some dysfunctions within the opposition party as possible clogs in the wheel of their march towards the Government House in 2015.
Among these factors, one that is prominent and perhaps, damaging is the ambition of key leaders of the party which currently is punching holes in the umbrella of their association and which if not handled maturely, could tear the cover and expose the party to electoral ridicule.
Thus, all attempts to remove the factional stigma that had polarised the various groups that coalesced into the new PDP prior to the party’s congresses in February have yielded little outcome. Even though the new Chairman, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo keeps insisting on the maintenance of discipline and party lines, the responses from key members has been of little encouragement.
A very clear way to monitor the regular messages on the FRCN station in the state from party members; courtesies are given to key leaders based on their factional affiliation.
It is also this same trend that has created the problem of leadership for the party according to observers. Although the party has an executive committee in place, it is well known among members that the exco only answers that name but in reality, each leader still has his/her obligations to the factional group that produced them.
For instance, it is well known that some members of the exco are not answerable to the party chairman and there is little the one-time Chief Whip of the Kwara State House of Assembly can do to whip such exco members into line.
Again, the internal crisis within the party is said to be responsible for why the state has not been able to produce a minister since the sack early this year of Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi as Sports Minister.
As such, party leaders have been explaining away this loss of representation at the federal cabinet as a subject of presidential prerogative. But those familiar with the matter hint that the delay has to do more with the tussle over leadership among key leaders of the party.
For instance, Hajia Bola Shagaya has emerged a significant factor within the party given her close relationship with the presidency but the fact that she has not been active in the state’s political system until now is a major reason many other leaders refuse to bow before her as the overall leader of the party in the state.
Added to this is the fact of her gender which even if acceptable to members from the southern district is not within the contemplation of members in the predominantly Muslim central and northern senatorial districts to accept her emergence as their leader.
Yet, from all indications, it is her candidate that is being rumoured to have scaled the hurdle for the coveted position which, sources claimed Senator Saraki is also interested in. It is also rumored that Senator Saraki had once worked against Shagaya when the latter was touted to be a minister. As a result, Shagaya might want to take back her pound of flesh.
If that is the eventual outcome, it would only expand the scope of disagreement between the two women. According to sources, GRS, as the female former senator is fondly called, may have dumped the ambition to be governor given her experience in the 2011 election when she was rejected by the electorate due to her gender even though she had the full backing of her powerful and influential magical political father, the late Dr. Olusola Saraki. She was also said to have earlier rejected an ambassadorial position in order to be able to monitor her political constituency.
The remaining option is a ministerial appointment which, it was gathered had been promised her by her brother’s close friend, the incumbent National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Amadu Adamu Mua'zu, but seems to be slipping away with the intervention of the Shagaya factor.
Another reason GRS may also have decided to dump the gubernatorial ambition is the fact that she cannot conveniently campaign against her father’s name in the election.
Sources close to her disclosed that she had expressed some reservations over the way and manner some of the leaders of the party had descended on her father’s name during the initial rally they held at the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority and subtly warned against such political infringement.
They had repeatedly referred to her father’s years of leading the state as the years of slavery. Yet more of it would expectedly reverberate during the campaign and which of course might be bitter.
While these two prominent Ilorin women battle themselves for relevance in Aso Rock, the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Alhaji Suleiman Makanjuola Ajadi, recently removed the lid over what many leaders of the party had sought to conceal.
He told a national daily that his southern senatorial district must still have a go at the governorship ticket given that if with the permutation that PDP will oust APC in the election, the central district should still wait to allow the south enjoy a full tenure of eight years; broken into four years by the incumbent and four years by the PDP.
The thinking in his circle is that if the central is allowed to produce the governor in 2015, the new governor will spend eight years and thereafter the slot will go to the north which will be expected to also spend eight years such that the ticket will come to the south only after 16 years from 2015. That will be in the year 2031 when most of the current players would have left the scene, most probably.
A choice of candidate from the central will be the end of Ajadi’s long and tortured battle to govern the north-central state. But Ajadi is not alone in the equation from the Kwara South. A former president of the Nigerian Youth Council and now member of the ongoing constitutional conference, Ben Duntoye is also relying on his connection with the presidency to have a shot at the Government House.
But the Ajadi and Duntoye theory is already creating bad blood in the central, particularly among supporters of Mr. Dele Belgore, who left the APC solely because he sought a platform to actualise his governorship ambition.
Belgore can hardly wait four years for the south and eight years for the north before he sits on the throne. That will be 12 years from 2015. A choice of candidate from the south would also be a slap on the political face of Shagaya, who according to sources, has become the major campaigner for a Belgore ticket.
It was gathered that she had personally led the former ACN gubernatorial candidate to meet President Jonathan for an endorsement and there are those who believe that the recent media outburst by Ajadi was a form of protest and warning to the party’s national leadership over the consequences of such endorsement.
Yet the Belgore factor is also sour grapes to the aspirations of Professor Shuiab Abdullahi Oba, who recently launched his ambition by assembling various committees to work out how his dream would be realised.
Although many party members are afraid of the emergence of the former university boss and current chairman of the Federal Character Commission given his antecedent while at the University of Ilorin, there are those who believe that he deserves the ticket given the fact that he was the first major person in the Saraki camp to openly challenge their political leader and withstood the storm that such a move generated.
He had sacrificed for the party, they say, and so deserves such honour compared with Belgore, who only came at a later date. Indeed many in the camp of Oba, as the FCC boss is called, are unhappy that the same issue that chased Belgore out of the APC is what he has come to the PDP to preach: that the party structure should not be handed over to people who just come to join at the expense of those who have laboured over the years building the structure.
For now, the future is unclear as the party battles itself without a leader few months to a major election which bears no similarity with what happened in Ekitii because it will be one of several similar elections taking place on the same day.