2019: What happens after Ahmed defection in Kwara?

MANY political observers in Kwara State had long expected the defection of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) judging by his smooth relationship with members of the opposition over time. Political pundits, particularly, refer to the recent defection of members of the National Assembly from the state to the PDP.

However, what many people did not envisage are the culminating events or nature that aftermath of Saraki’s defection are now taking, particularly in Kwara State.

The defection of Saraki, who is the leader of the Saraki political structure in the state, has expectedly been trailed by defections of elected organs and members of his political structure, except for members of the political structure who have vowed to remain in the state executive committee of the APC.

Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, 23 members out of 24-member state House of Assembly, 16 elected council chairmen, vice chairmen, Speakers, LG secretaries, supervisory councillors, 193 elected councillors and other political appointees have all defected from the APC to the opposition PDP.

Justifying the reasons for their defection, Governor Ahmed said that he and other former members of the APC in the state defected to the PDP because the APC government at the centre had not met the wishes and aspirations of the people of the state and also engaged in political persecution and victimisation of the party leadership in the state. The governor enumerated some other reasons as outright marginalisation in the scheme of things right from the inception of the APC-federally controlled government since 2015 up till date.

“Most of the political appointments at the federal level were done without any input or consideration from the state party stakeholders and in flagrant neglect of established principles of federal character,” he said.

Governor Ahmed, who noted that some party leaders, who nursed private but personal agenda other than the party manifesto, using the instrumentalities of government, worked against all efforts and entreaties to amicably resolve the impasse, saying: “The problem became compounded with ceaseless litigations and harassment of himself and the Senate President with insinuation of complicity in the condemnable Offa Robbery,” he said.

Also speaking in line with the governor during the defection of the 16 former APC Local Government chairmen in the state to the PDP in Ilorin, the state chairman, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in the state, who is also the council boss of Oyun Local Government Area of Kwara State, Joshua Omokanye, said that their decision was not in conflict with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and supported by Section 109 (1) (g).

“It is our collective resolve to join the Peoples Democratic Party PDP as the worthy alternative platform to further our political careers and work for the advancement of the generality of our people. Since we are welcomed by the party, we have no doubt it wouldn’t be like the conglomeration of strange bedfellows that APC had been in the last four years.

“We have in the recent time experienced untoward developments within the political party we all claim to belong and loyal to. Precisely, it would be noted that All Progressives Congress APC is being controlled by a cabal who are hellbent in destroying its ever -rising acceptability before the populace.

“They have surreptitiously made it lose the compass of inclusiveness. It can today be said that APC is lacking internal democracy. It has sunk into an abysmal level of political decorum, regaling in civil misconduct and lagging behind in ethical standard, thereby impairing the growth of democratic culture in the political arena.”

However, while the defectors were saying that their membership of strange bedfellows in the APC had affected delivery of democratic dividends to the people of the state, some members of opposition, particularly, opponents of the Saraki political structure are saying that a change in leadership was needed in the state to effect their desired level of development.

The people, under the banner of a sociopolitical organisation called the Kwara Liberation Group, staged a peaceful rally around the Ilorin metropolis to demand for better leadership and governance in the state.

The peaceful rally, tagged a mega rally of 300,000 Kwarans in three kilometres, three hours, three minutes and three seconds, it was said, was aimed at mobilising people to effect what they described as needed change from current situation in the state to a progressive change. Members of the group took the rally from the popular Gerin Alimi roundabout through major roads such as Lagos, Surulere/Oja Oba, Emir’s Palace and terminated it at the Post Office area of the metropolis.

A statement by the chairman of the organization, Dr. Amuda Aluko, a member of the defunct National Reconciliation Committee (NARECO) and an octogenarian, said that the people had for long been deprived and denied basic benefits expected from a functional representative government who enjoyed goodwill of the people to get to power.

The elder statesman, who solicited support and cooperation of the people to the movement and others in the search for development of the state, said that, “we are close to the promised land. We should collectively put a stop to the unholy use of both our capital and human resources to a more meaningful and masses oriented options.”

Also speaking, Secretary of Save Kwara Group, Comrade John Adegboye, said that people are now more enlightened on what they want for the state and for themselves. Adegboye said that many states created after Kwara state could boast of more development than what obtained in the state presently, attributing perceived low development to poor leadership drive.

But in a swift reaction, the governor’s special assistant on Media and Communication, Dr. Muideen Akorede, said that the state had witnessed development across education, health, energy, agriculture, water resources and youth empowerment since 2003.

“From 2003 to date, Kwara State has witnessed unprecedented development across the education, health, energy, agriculture, water resources and youth empowerment. While ex-Governor Abubakar Bukola Saraki has laid the foundation for modern Kwara State through projects like KWASU, Aviation College, the Diagnostic Center, Ilorin water reticulation, Community Health Insurance, etc. Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed has upscaled that vision by completing all inherited projects, ground-broken new infrastructure, expanded the local economy and laid the foundation for the current and future sustenance of Kwara State through reforms in IGR and IFK.

“These have ensured the government continues to meet basic obligations such as salaries and pensions while implementing major infrastructure across the state. Today, we have an internationally recognised IVTEC, new engineering complex at KWASU, remodeled General hospitals, statewide health insurance, the innovative Light Up Kwara project and an informal sector boosted with N3b in SME funds.

“Ongoing projects such as the Diamond Underpass, KWASU Osi and Ilesha campuses, dualisation of Zango-Oke Ose, among others, testify to the great work Governor Ahmed is doing in Kwara State.

“So, the government has from 2003 to date delivered tangible benefits of governance to Kwarans. Also, the leadership of Saraki ensures inclusive through consensus building which gives everyone a sense of belonging. That is why we have rancor-free primaries and orderly congresses, unlike other structures,” he said.

Corroborating assessment of the governor’s aide on achievements of the present administration in the state, spokesperson for a sociopolitical youth organisation in the state, Kwara Agenda, Yaqub Kannike, who addressed the governor amidst other members of the group after holding a solidarity rally around Ilorin metropolis, said that the rally was aimed at sensitising people of the state to the antics of opposition elements and political spent forces who are jittery over Saraki’s defection to the PDP.

Supporters of the Senate President, who held their rally a day after their counterpart had theirs, trekked around major roads of Ilorin metropolis to hail Saraki’s defection from the APC to the PDP. The jubilant crowd, who carried placards with inscribed messages to support the Senate President, said that Saraki would always win any election in the state irrespective of political platform he chose to use.

Aside, use of mega rally to mobilise and sensitize people in the state, more especially after the defection of Saraki political structure to the PDP from the APC, it was gathered that the state chairman of the PDP, Chief Iyiola Oyedepo, defected to the APC with some members of the party, in a move political watchers said would hot up 2019 political contest between the two leading parties in the state, which are PDP and APC.

The stages are being set and the actors are rearing to perform to the best of their ability to attract undivided attention of their audiences. While some pundits would say that the 2019 contest may not turn out to be the usual game in the state, many others have said that nothing unusual could come in form of any upset.

Meanwhile, like Saraki said when he met with members and supporters of his structure in Ilorin during the week after he defected to the PDP, a reconciliatory committee had been formed to ensure fruitful relationship, cooperation and mutual concession with some elders of the PDP who had been managing the party in the state.

“Those we are talking to in PDP have understood that we need to move Nigeria forward. There is no cause for alarm. We should forget about personal ambitions as we move to a new party. What should be paramount in our minds is Kwara State and Nigeria’s progress. We will set up our committee which will be meeting with the PDP committee. I’ve met with great stakeholders in PDP such as former minister of National Planning, Professor Sulaiman Abubakar, former PDP governorship candidate, Chief Simeon Ajibola, PDP stalwart, Alhaji Yekini Alabi, among others and we have all agreed to work together. We should cooperate with PDP people who we are joining,” Saraki said.

Commenting on the return of the Senate President to the PDP, some members of the PDP under the aegis of PDP One Umbrella Project in Kwara State  said that the return would assist to dislodge the  administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.

Speaking with journalists in Ilorin on Friday, coordinator of the group, Comrade Ben Duntoye, flanked by other PDP leaders from all the three senatorial districts of the state, debunked the speculation that Saraki would not accommodate old members of the opposition party. They said that Saraki, as a national leader of the PDP, will be fair to all members of the party, not only in Kwara but in Nigeria as a whole.

Also, former Kwara State deputy governor, Joel Ogundeji, former Kwara House of Assembly Speaker, Babatunde Mohammed and former minister of National Planning, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman, among other PDP leaders in the state, have welcomed Saraki and Ahmed to the PDP. Chief Ogundeji and Alhaji Mohammed served in Saraki’s government before they parted ways politically in 2015 while Sulaiman was a minister in the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Other PDP members that hailed the comeback of Saraki at Friday’s event were the 2015 PDP governorship candidate of the party, Chief Ajibola, current PDP deputy chair in the state and his women leader, Alhaji Abubakar Sanni and Hajia Fatimah Magaji and other party stalwarts and elders.

Addressing reporters in Ilorin, the state capital, Alhaji Sanni said the defection of Senator Saraki, Governor Ahmed, the Kwara Assembly speaker and other 22 members, National Assembly members and local government chairmen was a welcome development. He added that the gale of defections to the party has increased its chances of wresting power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2019.

Already, a reported harmonisation and alliance is said to be ongoing among the Kwara PDP leaders, a development that political observers have said will implications on the choice of candidates for the elective positions in the state in the 2019 general elections.

It is recalled that the choice of aspiring and prospective elective political office seekers in the Saraki political structure had always been made through consensus arrangement whereby the leader had always come up with the final decision said to be borne out of wide consultation.

Analysts now believe that with this new relationship, there is likely to be mutual concession among leaders of the PDP in the state to determine emergence of candidates for elective positions in the state.

Unlike what happened when the Saraki political structure defected to the APC in 2014, pundits recalled that there was ample time for the leader to strategise and come up with his own candidates right from the structure. But now, with only few months to election and the leader who they say is not in that position to get total control of the party for consensus as usual, they said that there may be sharing of political office slots among all leaders of PDP in the state. This, they said, would be a departure from the traditional system of the political structure almost solely determining choice of candidates.

On the implications of the defection of Governor Ahmed to the PDP, political watchers hold a strong view that the two leading political parties in the state, which are PDP and the APC, would be monitoring each other on where candidates for next governorship would emerge in 2019 after the expiration of Ahmed’s tenure.

With rising agitation between the people of the Kwara Central and Kwara North on who picks the governorship ticket, governorship aspirants from the two areas and from the two leading political parties have been canvasing for support among their people.

However, the bulk of vote in Kwara State comes from the Kwara Central senatorial district and the people of the area are determined to use their numerical strength to fight for the position. Another point of interest is that the two leading parties are either planning to bring their standard-bearer from the district or at least from the Ilorin emirate, which include Moro Local Government Area, to benefit from the voting largesse in the area.

Interestingly though, Moro Local Government Area is in the Kwara North senatorial district and also falls in the Ilorin emirate. Thus, the scenario being painted is causing apprehension among the people and would-be aspirants and political leaders on how to produce their governorship candidate.

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