2019: Kwara Central and Saraki’s third term bid

Biola Azeez, in Ilorin examines the political trends and intrigues emerging in the Central Senatorial District where Senate President Bukola Saraki is prospecting a third term return to the Senate.

Political observers are not seeing the intention of a return to the Red Chamber by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, representing Kwara Central senatorial district of Kwara state, in the next year general elections as an ordinary aspiration. The view among the observers is that the aspiration has many sides and meanings to it.

Saraki is seen as the political leader in Kwara state, be it in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and in the political dynasty created by his late father, the legendary political icon of the state, Dr. Olusola Saraki.

There is the determination by his ruling political structure to sustain the political dominance in the state which has reportedly spanned over 40 years. Moreover, this is against rising opposition and antagonism of political opponents in the leading opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and other political parties in the state.

To political pundits, the Senate President will be fighting political battle of his life in the coming elections as his political opponents are also rearing to go the whole hog, with the determination to wrest power from the Saraki political structure, saying that there should be a new political order.

Saraki, who is aspiring to return to the Senate for third consecutive term, was a two-term PDP governor of Kwara state between 2003 and 2011, and has served as Senator of the federal republic of Nigeria since 2011 under different political platforms.

The Senate President, who won the Kwara Central senatorial district under the PDP in 2011 to enter the Senate, defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014 prior to the 2015 general elections that brought President Muhammadu Buhari to power. He returned to the PDP this year when he led the governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, members of the State House of Assembly, except one member, and the 16 local government chairmen out of the APC to the PDP, citing political persecution, among other reasons.

In the last PDP presidential primaries, Saraki was a presidential aspirant of the PDP but lost to former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar. He came back home to pick the senatorial ticket of his party after the presidential primary under an agreement arranged by the party’s national leadership that allowed all presidential aspirants opportunity to go back to their pre-primary seats.

Meanwhile, according to information on Kwara Central senatorial candidates released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at its Ilorin West local government office, located at Ipata Oloje area of the Ilorin metropolis, 17 political parties are participating in the senatorial election in the Kwara central senatorial district.

It was also gathered that the 17 candidates in the election, who include four women and 12 others would slug it out with the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the Kwara Central senatorial seat in the forthcoming general elections.

The four women, who indicated they are traders in the documents submitted to the electoral umpire, are Abubakar Khadijat Akanni from MPN, Okanlawon Adekunle Taiwo of GPN and AbdulWaheed Mariam Titilayo from ADP and AbdulSalam Kuburat (LP).

Other candidates for the contest are former member of the Kwara State House of Assembly under the APP, Dr. Yahaya Oloriegbe (APC), Abdurahman Garuba (AP), Ambali Mujaheed (ACPN), Babatunde Sambo (SDP), Abdulraheem Abubakar (ADC) and Mohammed Saidu of Peoples Trust (PT).

Among all the contenders for the Kwara Central senatorial seat in the 2019 general elections, Saraki has a staunch political rival in Dr. Yahaya Oloriegbe of the APC. Alhaji Oloriegbe was not unknown to the Senate President, as the two were leading candidates for same seat in previous elections, where Saraki had come top.

Feelers from the camp of Oloriegbe is indicating that things may no longer be the same, just as Saraki supporters claim that the Senate President is well loved by his people because of his performance, ruling out any upset in the election.

The Kwara Central senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 general elections, Dr. Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe, is a medical practitioner of note and a former Majority Leader of the Kwara State House of Assembly. He had the highest number of required majority votes to beat other aspirants in the keenly contested primary polls of his party, APC.

Oloriegbe, who described his ambition as people driven and a desire to lead members of his constituency to their next level of socio-political and economic growth, said the journey was yet to be over.

“In life, we need to make a significant input ensuring that the future of our people is not jeopardized. It is not going to be a one man show, it has to be a collective efforts. All our people should come together now to restore our values, heritage and rescue our future and those of all our children from the cabals by ensuring true and sustainable development.

According to political observers, there are some issues contending issues in the Kwara Central senatorial election, among these emerging factors is the issue of federal might and influence of APC political leaders who are holding federal appointment in Abuja. Observers recalled that members of the PDP in the state complained of police harassment during the last November by-election into the Oke Ero/Isin/Irepodun federal constituency, where APC candidate was declared winner.

Another factor to contend with is the control of media in the state, coupled with growing use and misuse of social media by the leading political parties and candidates in the next February 2019 general elections. Before this time, majority of people in the state rely on government media outfits, namely newspaper, Radio and Television stations, to get news and information about the state government and its agency. However, with advent of private FM radio stations and FRCN FM stations, tide had changed as members of opposition have avenues to vent their views unlike before. Interestingly, some of these private radio stations are owned by politicians in opposition political parties.

To many political pundits in Kwara state, the Ilorin Emirate Traditional Ruler Council is considered as a big factor in sociopolitical affairs of the state. The influence of the traditional ruler council, headed by the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, had over the years been respected and obeyed by indigenes of the emirate.

However, the Ilorin emirate traditional ruler council has been quite fair to every political party and the candidates in the coming elections as issues that should have got the traditional institution enmeshed in political quagmire had been carefully settled, while maintaining neutrality among the people.

Speaking on the chances of the two leading candidates for the Kwara Central senatorial seat in the coming general elections, the state chairman of United Progressive Party (UPP) in Kwara state,  Hon. Dave Fabiyi, who is also the public relations officer of the Congress of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), confirmed that the party has a candidate in the election.

Fabiyi, who said that the UPP was also working seriously towards good showing in the election, however, said, when asked about chances of his party, that it is not all elections one contests for that one wins.

“Based on the strength and experience of the person of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, he will have it. But we are not saying that we are not contesting. We are contesting. It’s not all elections that you contest to win. But you contest to make name and make reference,” he said.

The PRO of the CNPP, who described the election as a game, said that it is open for the two leading candidates. “The game is open for the two of them to go into the field and battle it out. It›s left for the electorate to see who has been there for them before, now and would be there for them. So, the electorate have that decision to take. Rather than somebody who may have not tested the water before», he said.

As political leader in the ruling party in the state, Saraki said that the PDP in the state had all it takes to win next year›s general elections, adding that the party would not only sweep the elections in Kwara state but would win the presidential election by the grace of God.

He asked his supporters not to be afraid of the use of federal might in the forthcoming general election, pointing out that he had confronted such situations in two previous elections and floored the incumbents.

Saraki spoke at the inauguration of a 42-man Campaign Council for the the state PDP  at ABS Constituency Office, Ilorin, the state capital.

The Senate President said while the 2019 election, like any other election has its challenges, experience has shown that with the right tactics and strategies, the PDP would win the state again.

«Dont be afraid, don›t create fears in your heart, I have heard all the talks of the opposition about using federal might.  But we have seen it all. We saw it in 2003, we saw it in 2015 or dont you know that they used federal might in 2015? In 2015 with federal might we defeated them. It was you people that God used then and in 2019 with those who have come to join us we will defeat them again», he said.

He, however, asked members of the Campaign Council to demonstrate utmost faithfulness in the discharge of their duties to achieve the desired results.

Saraki recalled that the Mandate office has been the platform for every electoral victory of the party since 2003 and expressed confidence that God is with his political structure to win the next poll again.

«Every election has its challenges. But, we have what it takes to tackle it and once you are committed victory is ours»,he said, and tasked the party on the need to implement a rigorous campaign to ensure everyone is reached.