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Race for the soul of ninth Kwara legislature

BIOLA AZEEZ writes on the moves by various interests ahead the inauguration of the ninth Kwara State House of Assembly.

THE ancient town of Offa in Kwara State has, for long, been one of the politically active communities in the state. Leading politicians in the community, who had traditionally been in political opposition against some past governments in the state, joined the Saraki political structure in the last political dispensation under the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Pundits hold the view that various political developments that culminated in the 2019 electioneering campaign made the Saraki political structure to leave the APC, while indigenes of the Offa community, hitherto in the Saraki political camp, stayed back in the party.

Due to the ever growing political enlightenment among the people, particularly in the course of the last general election, politicking was taken to an impressive tempo as these contestants tried to outwit each other. However, leadership of the APC in the state currently has a big task at hand as a result of the attained political enlightenment among the people.

At the moment, there is a brewing tension between two key members of the party and their supporters in Offa Local Government Area and pundits believe that wisdom and acumen would play great impact in resolving the friction.

In early March, just after declaration of the 2019 elections result by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC members in the Eesa/Shawo/Igbo-Idun State Constituency protested against alleged substitution of candidates in the just-concluded state House of Assembly election in the state.

Speaking after a peaceful protest at the palace of the Olofa of Offa, Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi, the spokesman of the protesters, Mr Abdulqadri Yusuf, said name of Abdulwaheed Yusuf was submitted in INEC by the APC. He said the name of Yusuf was changed to Maryam Adeniran, few days to the election, adding that INEC eventually announced Adeniran as winner of the election in the state constituency.

The protesters said declaration of Adeniran as the elected APC candidate was an injustice, adding that APC supporters in the constituency voted for Yusuf and not Adeniran in the election.  They called on the APC leadership in the state to wade into the matter in order to make the party retain the confidence reposed in it by the people.

When his matter could not be resolved by the APC leadership to his satisfaction, Yusuf took the matter to court. But the state High Court delivered a judgment in favour of Adeniran and the INEC presented her a Certificate of Return to become the only member of the 24-member Kwara State House of Assembly.

Not yet satisfied with the court verdict, Yusuf, on April 5, approached the Court of Appeal, Ilorin, presided over by Justice Balikis Aliu, who ruled that he was the legal contestant for the Essa/Shawo/Igbo-Idun State Constituency. Counsel to the appellant, Saka Razaq Ayodeji, described the judgment as a true reflection of the wishes of the people and position of the law on electoral matter.

However, a gender-based non-governmental organisation, Coalition of Women Associations in Kwara State, rose and appealed for the support of the APC leadership for Adeniran. Speaking with journalists in Ilorin, spokesperson of the group, Mrs Ayobola Olupinla, said: “The outcome of the election for the Essa/Shawo/Igbo-Idun State Constituency of the Kwara State House of Assembly was keenly contested and won by Honourable Mariam Adeniran to become the only female member-elect of the 24-member Assembly.

“She has been issued Certificate of Return by the INEC and returned elected. With her victory at the poll, Honourable Adeniran’s success represents just 4.16 per cent of the membership strength as against the 20.14 per cent women-membership of the outgoing state House of Assembly where five females are Honourable members.

“You will agree with us that the percentage grossly negates the 35 per cent as recommended by the United Nations (UN) for women slot in elective and appointive positions in governments globally.

“While we reject the Appeal Court judgment of April 5, 2019, we call on the national leadership of the APC as well as the State Working Committee ofmKwara APC, to prevail on the plaintiff in the suit seeking to remove the only female member-elect in the Kwara State House of Assembly. We believe this is an arrangement possible within the APC in a bid to seeing the current scenario beyond 2019.

Also speaking, Honourable Adeniran thanked the coalition for the concern and solidarity stressing that, “the action will not only protect the right of one of them, but will also secure the future for the women folk and future of females yet unborn. The struggle is a collective task towards the emancipation of women as well as repositioning their thoughts towards encouraging them to be politically conscious and by extension, nurturing our nascent democracy to maturity.”

As politicians are wont to, events and happenings among members of political parties as family affairs, political observers are of diverse opinions on how the APC leadership can possibly resolve the matter at hand. While the APC leadership is still busy thinking of how to resolve the situation in Offa, the race for the speakership of the ninth state House of Assembly came up with intrigues, politicking and calculations trailing it.

The situation, it was gathered, has caused division among political leaders in the Kwara North Senatorial District as some of the leaders are rooting for one of their own for the plum position, while some other leaders are saying that they are yet to come up with a position on the issue.

While Kwara North is of the view that such political positions as ministerial, Speaker of the state legiuslature and Secretary to the State Government (SSG) should come to them, some elders in the district, under the aegis of Kwara North Conscience (KNC), has canvassed for support of Muhammad Salihu as new Speaker. Salihu is a member-elect from Okuta/Yashikira Constituency in Baruten Local Government Area of the state.

In a statement issued last Wednesday by the coordinator of the group, Alhaji Ibrahim Audu from in Moro Local Government, the elders said they would embark on advocacy visits to convince Kwara APC leadership and others to get their support for the speakership position.

Also, religious leaders in the ancient town of Offa, under the aegis of Offa Muslim and Christian Cleric Council (OMCCC), have canvassed for experience in the consideration for electing ninth Speaker of the state House of Assembly. The clerics, while speaking with newsmen in Offa, said when considering Kwara State as a collective project, it was not logical to have the governor and the Speaker in both executive and legislative arms of government in the state.

The group averred that the state governor-elect, Abdulrazaq, is coming into governance with private sector background, while all the elected members of the state legislature, except one, Honourable Saheed Popoola, are all new members.

The spokesperson of the clerics, Reverend Segun Ogungboye, who said while zoning is good for power balancing, experience, among other qualities, should not be sacrificed on the altar of zoning. He said the group had made its opinion on the issue known to the party structure in the state, calling on party leaders and members in the state to encourage sacrifice and loyalty to the party rather than zoning formula which he said may breed apathy.

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