Main power brokers in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara State are locked in what looks like a fight to the finish over the control of the party and sundry issues. BIOLA AZEEZ traces the genesis of the crisis and the attendant fallouts so far.
Major gladiators seem poised for a battle to the finish in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Kwara State chapter. Despite interventions from the APC top echelon, the intense power struggle among has been manifesting in various shapes and forms, with many observers saying the outcome of the ongoing membership registration and revalidation exercise of the party could determine the superior camp among four tendencies involved in the ‘war’ for the soul of the APC in the state.
The uncanny rivalry among the main combatants predates the events that began to unfold at the threshold of the membership registration exercise. For instance, some party buffs recalled a curious event during the inauguration of the ministers by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. There were accusations and counter-accusations of a seeming attempt to embarrass the state governor, Abdulrahan Abdulrasaq at the event. Since then, the cold war has persisted in the party degenerating into an unpleasant scenario at a recent stakeholders’ meeting.
So far, there are four tendencies within the Kwara APC. They include the Lai Mohammed tendency, Akogun Oyedepo tendency; Sunday Fagbemi tendency and Gbemisola Saraki bloc. And the chain of developments in the state, especially, in the past few weeks, made some observers to conclude that both the Lai Mohammed and Akogun Oyedepo tendencies are in one camp, while the Sunday Fagbemi and Gbemisola Saraki tendencies constitute another group. However, other observers contend that the Kwara APC crisis has an external dimension. They claimed that the national leader of the party and former governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, is reportedly backing the Lai Mohammed tendency, while Governor Abdulrazaq is for Sunday Fagbemi tendency.
It is recalled that the Lai Mohammed tendency produced the former chairman of the party in the state, Honourable Bashir Bolarinwa, before the 2019 general election> However, all the tendencies collaborated in the struggle that culminated in the outer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from power in the elections then. Nonetheless, the relationship between the party and the people in government had been everything but mutual since the inauguration of the APC administration. There has been accusations and counter-accusations on matters of inclusivity. But, the new chairman of the party, Alhaji Abdulahi Samari, declared the existence of such power blocs was not bad if the motive is in tandem with democratic ideals. He stated: “There is nothing unusual about having tendencies within a party. Pluralism of opinion is healthy for democracy. What is not good is anyone resorting to self-help or insisting on being right all the time. Such domineering attitude can only breed unsavoury development.”
As the membership registration and revalidation exercise inched near, the political space became heated up. The venue of a scheduled party stakeholders’ meeting for the exercise was turned into a battleground on February 3, 2021. The caretaker chairman of the APC in the state, Alhaji Abdullahi Samari, accused some loyalists of the Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, led by former chairman, Honour Bashir Bolarinwa, for the ugly scenario. That claim was countered by Bolarinwa. He accused some APC members loyal to Samari, of attacking him and his supporters when they were about to enter the venue of the meeting, resulting in some members sustain injuries. Samari had explained that the meeting was meant to brief party members on the modalities to adopt for the registration exercise being coordinated by the Senator John Danboi committee.
Litigation and 2023 elections
The rift among the APC stakeholders in the state has since degenerated into litigation by some party elders and youth believed to be in the Lai Mohammed group. They instituted the court action seeking to restrain the committee sent by the national leadership of the party to the state including the party chairman, from conducting the exercise. The erstwhile chairman of the party in the state, Bolarinwa, who was reportedly suspended and removed by the national leadership of the party, led by Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, based on a reported petition against him, still claimed that he remained the chairman of the party in the state. Also, Samari, Bolarinwa’s former deputy, who was appointed the APC chairman in his place by the national leadership, with a letter reportedly issued to him to that effect, has assumed leadership of the party in the state, performing official duties and attending party meetings in and outside the state.
A few weeks after the national leadership of the APC intervened in the political frictions between the opposing camps in the party in Kwara, especially at a meeting in Abuja in with other party stalwarts in attendance, the matter was referred to the North-Central zonal committee, headed by the Niger State governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, to settle. However, the contending forces held on to their opposing positions, as they intensified efforts to mobilise members for the registration exercise aimed at showing who is in charge of the APC in the state. The mobilisation of party members for the exercise was characterised by reported violent clashes, especially in Gbugbu community in the Edu Local Government area of the state. In his reaction, Governor Abdulrazaq vehemently condemned the alleged violent attacks on some chieftains of the party, calling on security agencies to go all out against anyone involved in the incidents, describing as unfortunate and politics taken too far the claim that his aides currently on different assignments in Ilorin, the state capital, were the ones physically behind the skirmishes in Gbugbu area. The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Rafiu Ajakaye stated in a statement: “The administration has zero tolerance for violence. The development in Edu is unacceptable. Anyone found to have perpetrated the violence should be arrested and prosecuted. The governor sympathises with those who had their properties damaged or sustained any form of injury. This is totally unacceptable.”
As far as some party faithful are concerned in Kwara, the seemingly intractable crisis in the party is all about the 2023 general election in the state. In their opinion, there has to be disagreement among progressives to evolve good governance and development. However, to a chieftain of the APC in the state, Alhaji Omar Aiyelabegan, the ongoing schism is the handiwork of political office seekers. He urged the combatants to sheathe their swords, alleging that some forces were bent on returning state to the era of impunity.
The leadership of the APC in the state also cautioned against further escalation of the intraparty feud. It advised the members to be peaceful and orderly during the scheduled registration and revalidation of members of the party across the 1,872 polling units in all the 16 local government areas of the state. The chairman, caretaker committee of the party, Samari, however, warned against a repeat of the recent violence witnessed in Gbugbu area of the state. He said: “We call on the security agencies to promptly arrest and prosecute anyone involved in unleashing violence on the people. Just as the Governor has rightly noted, there is no basis for anyone resorting to violence as no one would be excluded.”
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