KWARA: SARAKIS IN BATTLE OF WITS
By Demola Akinyemi
THE battle over who succeeds Governor Bukola Saraki in Ahamadu Bello Way, the Kwara State seat of power, in Ilorin has been full of intrigues, suspense and very unpredictable to say the least.
Last Sunday, from around 1.30pm when all the delegates were already seated, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP after much horse-trading and political gerrymandering conducted its primaries at the base ball ground, Adewole in Ilorin.
The finance prodigy, economic strategist and immediate past commissioner for Planning and Economic Development, Alh Abdulfatah Ahmed, who had been in the administration since inception, emerged the party's candidate after long and tortuous primaries that lasted till about 4.30 a.m of Monday.
With Abdulfatah's emergence, the 2011 gubernatorial election in the state is becoming clearer by the day as it might be a straight fight between Abdulfatah and Senator Gbemisola Ruqqayat Saraki who emerged as the Allied Congress of Political Party of Nigeria, ACPN flag bearer last Saturday.
Other political parties in the state with notable politicians and popular candidates are either in a running battle among themselves or have weak political structures on the ground.
In the camp of Action Congress of Nigeria ACN, the battle for the gubernatorial ticket of the party has been a long one between Arc Lola Ashiru an old and financial member of the party who hails from Offa and Barr. Dele Muhammad Belgore who Vanguard reliably gathered is favoured by the national leadership of the party because of his more polished profile and the need to have someone respectful with high profile particularly with Ilorin roots to fight the Sarakis in the state.
The differences may affect the ACN, which is planning to benefit from the ongoing battle within the Saraki political dynasty. The crisis may rob off on the gubernatorial primaries of the polarised ACN.
Another gubernatorial aspirant in the state, is Hon Gbenga Olawepo, the candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP).
Since his last attempt in 2003 when he performed creditably well, Olawepo abandoned his political structures and traveled abroad. A host of his followers have joined the ruling party. He has a tough task to rejuvenate his support base, which he has been doing since he returned. His posters have been pasted on the streets of Ilorin.
Meanwhile, the forthcoming governorship election might be dicey for the ruling PDP because of defections.
ACPN public relations officer in the state, Alh Abdullahi Oganija, told journalists that on daily basis PDP members were trooping into the ACPN dropping their PDP membership cards and receiving ACPN's in replacement. 'As I am talking to you, I have two bags of Ghana must go filled with the cards of PDP, and they are still coming,' he said.
This may not be unconnected with the directive by the strongman of Kwara politics, Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki, penultimate Sunday, that members of the party should move en mass to a relatively unknown ACPN when members of PDP would not concede the next governorship seat to Senator Gbemisola Saraki, the younger sister of the incumbent governor as he expected.
The governor's father who in 2002 ordered his followers to move from ANPP which he jointly founded to PDP to realize the gubernatorial ambition of the outgoing governor Dr Bukola Saraki, is treading on a familiar terrain and could not be taken for granted since the strategy has not failed him over for four decades. With his bags of politricks, he has remained behind the driving seat of the politics of the state having produced all the elected governors so far.
The political development within the ruling PDP became more confusing when the state leadership of the party suspended its publicity secretary, Alh Isiaka Danmiromu for issuing a press statement that the party would not in anyway be affected by the defection of the members of the political leader from the party to ACPN
The PDP State Chairman, Alh Yusuf Ayedun, in a statement, dissociated the party from the statement credited to its publicity secretary because 'he has no mandate to issue such a statement on behalf of the party.'
The statement noted: 'The leadership of the party also wishes to recall that there was no time such discussion leading to the statement as reported in the media was ever discussed with the PRO as the statement issued by him was his own opinion.
'It is unfortunate for the turn of events in the on_going political development in the state but we wish to re_instate that PDP as a party has as its policy to always respect elders and accord them their rightful positions at all times. The leadership of the party holds the Elder Statesman, Dr Olusola Saraki in high esteem and as such cannot afford to rubbish him as he is still regarded as our political father and mentor''.
'The party is therefore investigating the statement credited to the PRO, but while investigation is still going on, the PRO, Alh. Isiaka Danmairomo is hereby suspended with immediate effect''.
Meanwhile, the PRO has been instructed to handover all properties of the party in his possession to the party secretariat.
The party appealed to all aggrieved members who in one way or the other might have been offended through the publication as the leadership of the party would not leave any stone unturned to get to the root of the matter.
Danmiromu had in a chat with newsmen said that, 'the movement of Oloye and his teeming supporters does not remove anything from the PDP in the state. We are not deterred by the movement of Baba Oloye to the new party called Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN). It will make us stronger, stronger and stronger in Kwara State.'
Vanguard investigation revealed that this development which ordinarily should fetch the publicity secretary an applause but cost him his much cherished job, has sent wrong signals to the remaining members of PDP who are confused about the political development. They are at cross roads as to whether to stay with Governor Bukola Saraki who has decided to honour his father and sacrificed his publicity secretary for what was considered as an uncharitable statement or to believe in the kingmaker and jump the boat to ACPN so as to secure their political future after may 29, 2011.
Meanwhile, the PDP candidate Alh Abdulfatah Ahmed who had long been predicted as reported in Vanguard as Governor Saraki's likely successor had been seen before now as the engine room of the financial policy and implementations of various programes of the out-going administration.
His grandstanding and confidence at various public functions where he spoke explicitly on all policies of the government often betrayed him as the successor. Even his press conference on his gubernatorial ambition was not less, as he talked in a way that he arrogated every policy and achievements of the government to his initiative.
Saying that the PDP flag bearer is close to the Governor is an understatement. He is one of the aspirants the Second Republic Senate leader Dr Olusola Saraki described as 'idiots' who had taken the advantage of Governor Bukola Saraki's frequent visit to Abuja over his Nigerian Governors' Forum, NGF assignment to become thin gods in the state.
'I don't even know some of these people, a large number of them cannot win ward election in their local government. 'I will remain their leader as long as I am alive and when the time comes, I will see who among them will not follow me,'' said the political warlord while addressing his supporters in Ilorin, recently.
It will indeed be a battle royale between Governor Bukola Saraki as represented by Abdulfatah Ahmed of the ruling PDP which is battling to halt the exodus of its members to ACPN where the kingmaker Dr Olusola Saraki is putting finishing touches to strategies that would ensure the emergence of Senator Gbemisola Saraki in the general elections.
If the PDP wins in Kwara State, it would be a triumph of real democracy, and real reason over autocratic political leadership, and Governor Bukola Saraki will naturally continue to be the leader and a kingmaker of a sorts. But if Senator Gbemisola Saraki wins, it would prove right some skeptics, who alleged that the Sarakis were only playing games.
But whichever way it goes, the incumbent governor, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki by steps taken so far on the PDP primaries and other issues concerning his succession would have been seen to have done his best within his limited capacity. Time will indeed tell.