KWARA: FAIRY TALE OF BATTLE OF FATHER, SON AND DAUGHTER
The 2011 general elections ended on a pleasant note for the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) in Kwara State. Reason(s): Its candidate, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, emerged the governor-electel. Not only that, the party coasted home with 22 of the 24 seats in the state House of Assembly.
Party stalwarts admitted it was not so at the beginning. They agreed that it was not a tea party. The Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) really gave the PDP initial worries and nightmares.
The elections pitched the son, Governor Bukola Saraki (PDP), against his father, Dr. Olusola Saraki and sister, Gbemisola. Senator Gbemisola flew the gubernatorial flag of the ACPN. She was heavily backed by her father. Then came 'reports' that the people, especially in Ilorin, were flocking into the ACPN, particularly, from the PDP.
With that unusual scenario, the PDP was glaringly jittery and panting. To their great relief, the National Assembly elections of April 9 saw the PDP gaining the upper hand. And then, there was no stopping the edge.
That election gave away the ACPN, the elder Saraki and the unfounded myth surrounding him. It reduced his hitherto giant political edifice to rumbles. The PDP cleared all the National Assembly seats, leaving only one for the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
Before the battle
There are stories making the rounds why things went the way they did in Kwara State. Fairy tales on why the situation became so hopeless between father and son. Daily Sun learnt that the father/son fued started when Bukola became repulsive to another Ilorin man becoming governor after him. The reason is not far-fetched. The elder Saraki installed the late governor Mohammed Lawal in 1999 on the platform of the then All Peoples Party (APP). He could only survive four years before he parted ways with the godfather. That cost him his second term. Lawal hailed from Ilorin.
Saraki's son, Bukola, came on board in 2003. He had an easy ride for a two-term of eight years. For Gbemisola to take over from his brother, that will mean another eight years. Ilorin, would consequently have ruled for 20 unbroken years.
That is disgusting to Bukola. And he told his father and sister so in clear terms. The outgoing governor saw this as unfair, unjust, unacceptable and offensive. An aide of the governor confided: 'The governor was very tactical. He was determined to handle the situation in a matured way. He made concerted efforts to prevent a major crisis in the family. He did not want a public showdown. So, he appealed, begged and pleaded with the father. He also consulted widely.'
When all these failed, Bukola was not totally disappointed. He refused to give up the fight. He would not agree to being succeeded by his sister. He complained to whoever cared to listen: Where then was the zoning arrangement his father professed to hold close to heart?
He knew there was no justifiable explanation for his father's action. He then did the unlikely. He was alleged to have offered his sister, Gbemisola, the deputy govenorship ticket. That was also outrightly rejected. There and then, the final battle line appeared to have been boldly drawn. There was no going back.
The battle moved to the next stage of intense schemings, maneuverings and intrigues. It assumed a wider dimension, drawing the ACN into the centre stage. The principal aim of the ACN leadership is to put an end to Saraki's hold on Kwara State. And it made no pretension about that. All its actions and inactions pointed to that direction. The match the elder Saraki, the party picked an Ilorin man, Mohammed Dele Belgore (SAN) of Fulani stock as its gubernatorial candidate. This infuriated some other aspirants. They did not take kindly to this. Bola Ashiru, an aspirant was particularly pissed up with the manner Belgore was imposed on the party from Lagos.
Ashiru claimed he was never consulted, as an aspirant, on the choice of Belgore. He strongly believed the ACN leader, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, relied solely on the advice of Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party Publicity Secretary to settle for Belgore. Mohammed is from Kwara South like Ashiru. Clearly, the ACN did not particularly get that right. Ashiru almost single-handedly won the Offa Local Government for the ACN in council polls. Without a convincing explanation from the ACN, Ashiru moved on to ACPN with his supporters. He contested Kwara South Senatorial seat on the platform of ACPN, but lost to PDP.
That was the beginning of ACN woes in Kwara State. Cashing on that error, PDP went to the same Kwara South, and picked Ahmed as its gubernatorial candidate. The South which is the traditional stronghold of the defunct Action Group (AG), Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Alliance for Democracy (AD) and now ACN became factionalised. The electorates there saw Ahmed as their son, but ACN as their party. The situation became cloudy and dicey. An election held then could sway to any side.
ACN daring moves
Daily Sun gathered that shortly after the presidential election, the ACN made some daring moves to capture the state. Its National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, explored and exploited his Igbomina connection. Akande is from Ila-Orangun, an Igbominaland, but in Osun State. He was said to have approached the elder Saraki for support to unseat the PDP. He wanted a backing for Belgore, a fellow Ilorin like Saraki. But he got more than he bargained for.
Saraki would not buy into his bargain. He reportedly told Akande that the only condition for alliance or cooperation was for Belgore to step down for Gbemisola. Akande doggedly fought on. He would not give up easily. He explored the All Nigeria People's Party option. He approached its gubernatorial candidate, Khaleed Bolaji to step down for Belgore. Bolaji rebuffed him. He is an Igbomina like Akande and Ahmed.
He told Akande that Belgore should instead step down for him because he is from the same Local Government with Ahmed (PDP's candidate). He claimed he is a grassrootsman and far more popular than Belgore. The alliance talks irreconcilably collapsed. Bolaji ordered his supporters to cast their votes for Ahmed. To finally dash the hopes of CAN, Abdulrazak Abdulrahman, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) candidate, also stepped down for Ahmed. That was a day to the election. Abdulrahman is from Ilorin.
Orisun Igbomina: The final onslaught
The Orisun Igbomina is a socio-cultural organisaiton of Igbomina sons and daughters. On the eve of the gubernatorial election, it held a crucial meeting in Ajasse-Ipo. Sources said Igbomina obas and chiefs attended the meeting. The meeting agreed on the final strategy to get Ahmed elected after his adoption. It was agreed that the zone should vote for Ahmed in the governorship election.
For the state House of Assembly, voters can vote their preferred candidates. A particular prominent Oba was given the task of passing the message to other obas and chiefs who could not make the meeting. That, to some extent reflected in the results from the zone. Ahmed won overwhelmingly. The ACN won the postponed House of Representatives election held on that day.