With the two main political parties in Kwara State – the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party – now out to outwit each other in their campaigns, the battle for the state’s exalted seat promises to be a must see, writes Hammed Shittu
The race to Ahmadu Bello Government House, Ilorin is set to kick off among the contending political parties in Kwara State, as the various contending political parties in the state have returned to the drawing board with the intent of outwitting each other. Among the contending political parties to watch out for are, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP).
Already, the ruling APC led by a former governor of the state and senator representing Kwara central senatorial district, Senator Bukola Saraki, penultimate weekend in Ilorin, the state capital, inaugurated the campaign team for Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed’s re-election.
The campaign team, headed by the incumbent speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Razak Atunwa, as its Director-General alongside other political juggernauts in the APC has been mandated to ensure the electoral victory of the party in the elections.
Inaugurating the team, Saraki boasted that the party would win all the seats in the election, including that of the governorship. He said with the calibre of membership of the campaign committee and the verifiable achievements of the disciples of the Saraki political dynasty since 2003, the coming elections would be a walk over for the APC.
He added that the pedigree of the APC presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Ahmed is a plus for the APC, even as he likened his pedigree of the APC presidential candidate and President Goodluck Jonathan to "that of light and darkness".
The APC leader added that the PDP campaigners were bereft of idea on how to move the nation forward, noting that "This is the reason their campaign has not been issue-based. What have PDP campaigners been able to point to as the achievements of Jonathan"?
He also dismissed the PDP gubernatorial candidate in the state, saying: “We know him, we know him." He expressed optimistic that the intimidating, tested and trusted structure of the APC will make candidates of the opposition PDP fall like "sacrificial dogs".
Saraki said he had led the current political structure in the state to battle three times and conquered. "We have gone to battle and we have conquered. We did it in 2003, we repeated in 2007, we repeated it 2011 and Insha Allah, we shall repeat it in 2015," he said.
He therefore charged the team to work hard because the APC in the coming elections would not only secure landslide victory but send a strong message to the PDP that power belongs to the people.
"We don't want 60:40; we don't want 70:30; we don't want 80:20 – a minimum of 90 per cent and above. This is your goal. Your goal is not just to win but to send a strong message that Kwara belongs to Kwarans. It does not belong to South-south. God is here; they should leave Kwara alone and should not interfere in Kwara," he warned.
Saraki's assertion was however corroborated by Ahmed, who vowed that the APC would make all PDP candidates in the coming elections fall like sacrificial dogs. "The PDP, since the beginning of its campaigns, could not explain to Nigerians why they should vote for Jonathan in next month's election."
The state chairman of the APC, Hon. Ishola Balogun-Fulani advised members of the party not to be deceived by the various religious togas being carried on by some candidates of the PDP saying, "Anyone that is not in APC is nowhere."
In his remarks, Atunwa urged members of the party not to be intimidated by the presence of the military and police on election days, assuring that the APC has all it takes to win in the state.
Following the inauguration of the APC campaign team, the group has since rolled out its schedule with Offa town being the kick-off ground. The choice of Offa town as the kick-off point may not be unconnected with the current acceptance of the party by the people of the community.
Before now, Offa town had been in opposition party since the days of its late political icon and leader, the late Chief Josiah Olawoyin, the people of the town have since accepted the political dynasty of Saraki and by this gesture, the political pundits in the state believe that the town being the choice for kick-off campaign would go a long way in giving the party and the governor a bigger support base.
Another added advantage to the choice of Offa town is the fact the Offa town falls within the Kwara South senatorial district of the state, where Governor Ahmed hails from. Thus, kicking off from the zone might help.
Besides, the alleged strides of the administration in the past three and half years are believed to have endeared the administration to the electorate.
But in the opposition PDP, the leadership is yet to inaugurate the party’s campaign team for the election of Senator Simeon Sule Ajibola. Feelers from the party however revealed that the party is still battling with the intriques and maneouvrings that led to the emergence of Ajibola as the governorship candidate of the party.
After a lot of horse-trading, the PDP leadership in the state and at the national level allegedly agreed that the candidature of Ajibola be upheld and asked all other governorship aspirants of the party to rally round him for electoral victory of the party.
In the event, the Kwara central senatorial candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Ahmed Yinka Aluko was drafted as the running mate to Ajibola while the defeated senatorial candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Abdulrazaq Abdulraham was given the ticket to contest the Kwara central senatorial district in the election. But the PDP is leaving no stone unturned to give the ruling APC a serious fight, evidently banking on federal might.
The Labour Party appears to be in crisis over its choice of governorship candidate. Aside, the emergence of Dr. Mike Omotoso is presently causing crisis within the ranks of the party.
Omotosho is a former House of Representatives aspirant of the PDP for Irepodun, Ekiti, Oke-Ero and Isin Federal Constituency but lost out in the party’s primaries to become the Labour Party governorship candidate.
Already, the widely believed major financier of the party, Akeem Adelaja Amoo, who was the gubernatorial candidate of the party but lost out in the power game, has allegedly vowed to work against the success of Omotoso because he owns the structure.
THISDAY checks revealed that Omotosho, believed to be popular because of his humanitarian gestures angrily left the PDP claiming that he was rigged out of the primaries. A Progressive consultant with broad-based experience in the healthcare sector, Omotoso had organised a one-week medical mission for more than 5000 people in 12 communities in four Local Government Areas of the state in August 2014.
Chairman of Labour Party in the state, Mr. Kunle Babalola, who confirmed the development said "Dr. Mike Omotosho is the governorship candidate of the party, having met all the requirements of the party."
He explained that a former lone aspirant, Akeem Adelaja Amoo, who has been parading himself as the gubernatorial candidate of the party was denied the flag of the party in the state because he failed to meet the party’s laid down rules and regulations.
“In our party, we have laid down rules and regulations among others that guide us in the emergence of candidates for various posts. Engineer Akeem Adelaja Amoo only paid N1M fee of intention and refused to pay the balance of N6.5M to qualify him as the party’s gubernatorial candidate. All the efforts we made to make him pay the balance failed, as he was asking me what does the party want to do with the money, and I replied that the question was too big for me to answer and eventually he didn’t pay.”
In his own reaction, Adelaja Amoo said he never told anyone that he would not pay the balance of N6.5 M as he still has till last Monday midnight according to the party’s guidelines to pay and described the state chairman’s claims as blatant lies.
“I nurture Labour Party from the scratch in Kwara. I not only fund the party, I funded the primaries. I fund the members too on their individual personal needs. The national leadership of the party is aware of all these things I’m telling you. I was doing all these when I asked them if they have the structure to win election and they said they do. So, I said let us go. I, that did all of these would I now say that I won’t pay the N6.5M which I know I still have time to pay.”
Generally, with the situation of things in the political hemisphere of the state, the ruling APC possesses standard political structure that can be used to defeat the opponents in the state, banking on the long standing structure of the Saraki dynasty and the laudable achievements of Governor Ahmed. In office in the last three and half years, the APC remains a party to beat in the state during the election.
Besides, the simmering crisis in the opposition PDP that arose as a result of last year’s primaries of the party which sources said was yet to be unresolved, may serves as impetus for the ruling APC to win the election as some of the aggrieved members are poised to work against the party's electoral victory.
There is no doubt that the political parties in the State of Harmony are set for the race to the Ahmadu Bello Government House, Ilorin come February 28. The APC, however, remains the party to beat in the election in the state and even if there is going to be a federal might as being propounded, the power of the people will be out to show strength.