…Sets For Primaries As APC, PDP Go For Consensus

WOLE ADEDEJI takes. A holistic look at the growing popularity of the Social Demicrtaic Party, SDP, in Kwara State, which continues to swell in ranks with the Defection of aggrieved members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and main opposition Propels Demicrtaic Party, PDP, to its fold and also ex-rays the chances of the major gladiators for the governorship ticket of the party.

The clock is ticking as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s June 3rd, 2022 deadline for the submission of names of candidates of all political parties that would contest in the 2023 general elections to emerge draws nearer.

This is to say, except the electoral body agrees to the calls or bows to the possible pressures “from above,” asking it to shift the date forward, the deadline remains sacrosanct.

Even, with the growing number of aspirants in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in Kwara State, with exception of that of the governorship, INEC has spoken.

APC though, is believed to be the one which has the wherewithal because it is in government, both at the national and state levels, which possibly gives it an edge to manipulate the umpire and make it speak another language, June 3rd is the last day.

In Kwara State, three political parties are holding themselves by the jugular, to be in charge of the next government in the North-Central state, come the election year 2023. The parties are the ruling APC, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the rampaging Social Democratic Party, SDP.

The SDP is the party that is now relevant in the state and it positions itself to accomadate all aggrieved members of the major two parties. The party is set to clinch power and it is working hard to achieve that. This goal, however, appears to be yielding gains for it because the squabbles in the ruling APC makes SDP membership to swell by day. The people, the big wigs known long before now to be key players in the politics of Kwara State are moving to the party by the day. They were the people known to lead the ‘O to Ge’ struggles that sent the ‘Saraki political dynasty’ packing. No sooner than they succeeded in that project however, than a strange in-house trouble started among them and they were reported to have been consistently rubbished in all forms, by the governor, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, and this has been the story till date. With the growing ugly trend, they in turn have been moving in droves into the SDP. Going back to the PDP, which most of them left for APC four years ago certainly coud not be the option now, because they caused the ridiculous fall of the Sarakis in 2019. The PDP is currently in the firm hold of Dr. Bukola Saraki, the former President if the Senate; and so, his party is definitely a no-go area for these politicians. SDP only, is where they can find solace.

Talking about preparing for the dreaded INEC’s June 3rd deadline for political parties to submit their candidates for election, the SDP appears to be the one that no doubt is certainly cannot think of a consensus arrangement. Its primary election must hold and it is either through a direct or indirect system.

It is now few days to go for this very significant exercise, especially, that of the governorship ticket. All eyes are therefore on the party to make the difference. This is because left to the APC, there can be no other candidate than the incumbent Governor AbdulRazaq. That is a done deal. The reason is simple; all those who can have the liver to challenge him have long been sidelined in the affairs of the party; and had left for either the PDP or the SDP, where they are many. Now that election season is here, they are leaving APC in droves. Their anchor base therefore is the SDP.

Not only that, while the big PDP and APC are yet to be seen as getting set to get acceptable mechanisms to resolve issues surrounding their candidates for the elections next year, SDP simply lay ambush to poach and get unsatisfied aspirants in the two parties to fly its tickets, including, the governorship.

The PDP is in the firm grip of the former President of the Senate, Dr. Saraki. The party is like his personal property and he decides what happens there. That has become the tradition ever since his father, late Dr. Olusola Saraki, the political scion of Kwara State passed on the baton to him. However, the autocratic practice synonimous with the family in politics apprears not to be working this time around. Feelers from the party indicate that the former President of the Senate, unlike his father who spends huge amount of money anyday to oil politics in the state, even when not holding political office or aspiring to contest elections, Bukola only does that as long as he has access to public fund either directly or by proxy. The older Saraki was once reported to have said that he had no industry other than politics and Kwara State was his factory.

The younger Saraki today is not ready to spend his personal money on Kwara politics, according to feelers from the PDP in the state. With that, the culture of free money, imposing candidates at will, because it is a rule of who pays the piper dictating the tune could have been over. Members of the party now have larger roles to play in deciding who flies their ticket.

For now, zoning and the process of selecting candidates for next year’s general elections is the issue in the party and preparations for 2023 cannot be said to be ongoing. Sources said party members had agreed with Saraki to let the governorship slot be reserved for the Northern district comprising of Kaiama, Baruten, Moro, Edu and Pategi local government areas of the state; it is yet to be resolved by the affected local government areas as at the time of filing this report on Monday.

The line up of those known to have interests in their new-found SDP are not new. They are the people known to have thrown their hats in the ring so many times in the past, but had at one time or the other been choked out of their dreams by the hefty political muscles of the Sarakis. The Sarakis were the ones who held the political destiny and fortunes of people in their hands until the game changed in 2019.

However, feelers from the PDP indicate that the same Sarakis are adopting the lifestyle of a ram, which has gone back to gather more steam and rushed back to deal a devastating head buts and claim dominations all over again.

However, the long known enemies of this political warlord family appeared to be ready for this onslaught and they are all in the SDP.

The line up of the governorship aspirants in the SDP include:

•Professor Shuiab Oba AbdulRaheem, a one-time Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin and a regular governorship aspirant. His tenure as the helmsman in the university witnessed tumoils and the dust is yet to settle. It marked the beginning of serious trade fights in the institution, mainly involving the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU. The issue of the ‘Unilorin 49’ keeps ringing and the people, particularly in the ivory tower never forget nor forgive this academic of repute till now. Each time the ASUU versus the government comes up, the name, Professor Oba comes up again. The worse is giving him the credit of the genesis of the unending ASUU crisis in Nigeria. The story was that a nation-wide strike action was declared by the national body of ASUU, which required all chapters of the union across Nigerian universities to participate in. It was the time Professor Abdulraheem was the Vice Chancellor and he directed that lecturers in his university dare not participate. His audacity which was strange in the management/labour relations did not go well with ASUU and the battle line was drawn. His rigid position did not help the matter when he, as Vice Chancellor, ordered the sack of these lecturers drawing the backing of government. The spiral effects of the ugly episode is still on in the university system across the country till date, because some of the lecturers died along the line because of the untold hardships of their joblessness for the time the problem lasted. Each time, the name Professor Oba Abdulraheem came up in the system, almost 30 years after, the bitterness in the academic communities revibrates.

Also, the stints of Professor Abdulraheem, akin to that of the University of Ilorin at the Kwara State Polytechnic where the then Governor Bukola Saraki made him the head of the Governing Council was not too complimentary as well. He was said to be behind harsh policies that equally made several workers, including the academic staff lose their jobs. While there too, the Professor of English language was reported to be very hostile to the trade unions of the Polytechnic.

Similarly, it was said that as the Chairman of the Federal Characters Commission, the Professor was said to have the record of very bad working relations with the staff of the Commission, who were reported to have protested against his rule more than once.

Sources also added that contrary to the principles of the Commission, the professor grossly erred by allegedly favouring his Ilorin community from Kwara State with appointments into all categories of jobs in the federal service at the expense of other sections of the state. Feelers in his party, the SDP, told this news medium that this alleged unfriendly profile may work against the party at the poll if the erudite scholar emerges the governorship candidate of the party in the general elections in 2023.

•Alhaji Khaleel Bolaji

Alhaji Khaleel Bolaji is a renowned management consultant. His outfit, Kha’ab Consultant, was an outstanding consultancy firm in the late 1989s up to early 1990s, covering the South-West, North-Central, North-East and North-Western parts of the country. He is today known to be one of the most experienced and active politician in Kwara State. He is reputed to be a top notch organizer of workshops, trainings and seminars for government staff at both the federal, state and local government levels. This was part of the instruments reputed to be part of the processes that gave birth to the creation of new state and local governments under the military regimes.

This was because Bolaji was known to be very close to the seat of power at every successive stage, both at the centre and in Kwara State.

Subsequently, efforts of that time through consultants like him helped to midwilfe the third republic. He was a member of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN, the National Republican Convention, NRC, All Peoples Party, APP, the All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, the PDP, the APC, and now, the SDP.

He was a senatorial aspirant under the NRC, a governorship aspirant under the ANPP, member of the National Conference, member of the National Institute of Policy and Stategic Studies, mni, and the immediate past Chairman of the National Orientation Agency, NOA.

As one of most experienced politician in the state, having been in the game as a young man in Lagos in the Second Republic, and later came home to Kwara State and be part of it at home too. He was active in Kwara politics of the Third Republic and then became a cabinet member in the two military administrations in Kwara State.

Opinions said Bolaji is very close to picking the ticket of the party for the position of the governor going by his long standing experience in the politics and governance of Kwara State.

•Arch. Kale Belgore

Arch Kale Belgore is bettter described as ‘Mr. Blueprint.’ He is the political master planner since 1999, when this republic started for the Sarakis. He was at the engine room of the structures when Saraki brought late Admiral Mohammed Lawal into politics immediately after Lawal was retired from the Navy in a manner that was not clear till date.

Lawal got promoted in the Navy and in about a month afterwards, he was retired. The circumstances that shot Admiral Lawal up above those who were known to be kitchen cabinet members of Dr. Olusola Saraki among those who were expected to become the APP governorship candidate at the time were strangely dropped and Saraki went to Abuja to announce his choice of governorship candidate, Admiral Lawal.

Belgore, the Saraki boy, was said to be at the engine room then. He was a commissioner in the cabinet of Bukola Saraki, after serving at the ‘Mandate’ Situation Office of the campaigns that saw Bukola through to power. He was a governorship aspirant in 2014 under the PDP.

In 2019, he was known to be the brain behind every draft (blueprint) that is today the document of governance of the administration of the incumbent Governor AbdulRazaq. His departure from AbdulRazaq is still kept secret, but he had left the APC to join SDP and now a governorship aspirant in his new party.

•Engr. Sunday Babalola

He is a staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. He was a PDP governorship aspirant in 2014. He hails from Omu Aran in Irepodun Local Government Area of the state. He, along with Bolaji are the two aspirants from the Kwara Southern district. He beat a retreat from politics as soon as he lost out in the 2014 primary elections of the PDP; and was into charity works which which people said is more noticeable in the Southern part of the state, where he comes from, particularly around Omu Aran, his home town.

He is also into pastoral activities until he throws the hat in the ring again, aspiring to become the governor.

•Mallam Akeem Lawal

The young man, Akeem Lawal, is the son of late Governor (Admiral) Lawal. He was a young man who was in school when his father was on the saddle as governor. He was not in anyway a public figure until 2014, when he came out to gun for the position of the governor under PDP. His late father, before his demise, became a sworn enemy of the Sarakis. Though his fight against Dr. Olusola Saraki shook the king of Kwara politics to the foundation, Lawal succeded in creating awareness that Saraki was not a total superman in Ilorin in particular, and Kwara State in general, afterall.

Lawal lost out, lost his position as governor, but his marks fetched him a large followership till date, even in death. This volume of followership, which his son inherited could not however fetch him the governorship ticket of the PDP in 2014, because he was consideref too young and inexperienced for the topmost job of a governor.

A school of thought have said the young man should have given a shot at the National Assembly first, before eyeing the governorship of the state. His chances again this time will be known in few days time, when the primaries of the state SDP holds.

•Alhaji Tajudeen Audu

Alhaji Tajudeen Audu, the Makama; a high chief of Lafiagi Emirate in Edu Local Government Area of Kwara State was a governorship aspirant of the APC in 2019. He is a private businessman, an accountant by training, doing his business in Abuja, but shuttles between the Federal Capital and Kwara State. People say the calculation of Alhaji Audu is based on the agitation that it is the turn of Kwara North to produce the next governor of Kwara State. This is because the PDP at the instance of Senator Saraki had zoned the governorship of the party to Kwara North. Not only that, it is zoned to the Nupe speaking people of Edu and Pategi local government areas. The PDP, it was said, had already picked a choice from Pategi, giving the chance to Edu to have a candidate from any other party so that large votes would come from Nupeland for the candidate who is their son, come 2023 general elections.

As it is, the battle line for the governorship of Kwara State on the platform of the SDP is surely going to be titanic fight making these gladiators and the winner will slug it out with incumbent Malalm AbdulRazaq and whoever the PDP picks.

What is however not known is whether the cohesion in the SDP will r moan after the primary election, when winners and losers would have been determined.

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