Kwara 2023: Will Ó tó gẹ́ mantra fly?

As the 2023 general elections build up questions have been raised on possibility of sustaining the Ó tó gẹ́ political revolution in Kwara state given fracas and cracks in the APC coupled with its unpredictable political atmosphere, KEHINDE OSASONA writes.

Ó tó gẹ́ meaning “enough is enough” was a slogan for the political revolution that took place in Kwara state in 2019. The slogan was first used by 79-year-old Lazeez Ayinla Kolawole, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Ó tó gẹ́ ended decades of political hegemony of Saraki’s dynasty in the state. Before the 2019 election, all elective offices in Kwara state were nominated and won by loyalist of Saraki’s dynasty led by Olusola Saraki, who later transferred the mantle of leadership to his son, Bukola Saraki, a two-time governor of the state and former President of Nigeria’s Senate.

The revolution saw the defeat of Bukola Saraki, who was the incumbent Senate President in 2019.

APC’s chances in 2023

There are divided opinions on the chances of the ruling APC in the forthcoming governorship election in Kwara state. While some school of thought believes the intra-party conflict would affect its chances, others insist the power of incumbency would work in the party’s favour.

For former Senate Bukola Saraki Kwarans now regret voting the APC during the 2019 election, noting that he left the party before the poll over what he called orchestrated.

Speaking in Ilorin, he criticised the Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq-led administration for failing to deliver a tangible project in over three years in office.

Saraki added that the federal government had failed to justify the trust of the citizens.

Conversely, when asked in a recent interview his views on the chance of the APC in the governorship election despite the cracks and gale of defections, the Speaker, Kwara State House of Assembly, Danladi-Salihu, said there was really nothing to fret about.

“All you hear are mostly contrived noise to seek attention. For me, there is more noise than substance in the noise about so-called crises. Some lousy minorities are the ones making so much noise because they want to be recognised.

“They are using all sorts of blackmail just to portray a crisis. I will urge such persons to join hands with the Governor and other sincere stakeholders to build the party to a greater height.

“For me, what I see is sheer blackmail and red herring to seek undeserved attention. I’m sure the National secretariat of the party has seen through the gimmick during the party registration,” he said.

Trouble in paradise?

Going by the dynamics of politics and recent happenings, political analysts are of the opinion that unlike what was made possible by amalgams of political actors and gladiators in 2019, it would be a herculean task for the Governor Abdulrasaq-led APC to repeat the Ó tó gẹ́ Tsunami.

Shortly after the APC recorded the unprecedented feat, things started falling apart as they could not manage the victory. It was so bad that the in-fighting festered and the party structure started crumbling and not even the national secretariat of the party could salvage the situation.

In different interviews, multiple party sources, who refused to be named, described the governor’s high handedness and one man show as the remote causes of APC’s fracas in the state.

Blueprint Weekend gathered that the APC went back to sleep after its hard-earned victory; a development that culminated in endless internal party wrangling and inter-party feud which has now torn the party apart.

As at the last count, virtually all the Ó tó gẹ́ gladiators and party chieftains have either deserted the governor or defected to other political parties including SDP, NNPP, ADC, LP, PDP, and YPP.

Four of such heavyweights; Professor Oba Abdulrahman (NNPP); Hakeem Lawal (SDP); Yaman Abdulahi (PDP); and Yakubu Gobir (YPP); are contesting the governorship election against APC’s Abdulrasaq.

Similarly, party heavyweights like Akogun Oyedepo; Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; Bashiru Omolaja Bolarinwa, a member of Kwara State House of Assembly, Saheed Popoola, Alhaji Abdulraheem Yusuf Akorede and Yaman Shuaib Abdullahi, (PDP), have deserted the governor.

Prof Shuaib Oba, Makama of Lafiagi, Alhaji Tajudeen Audu and son of late Kwara Governor, Akeem Lawal, Chief Sunday Oyebiyi and world-renowned neurosurgeon, Prof Olawale Suleiman, who resigned as SA Health Matters to the governor, among others, have all pitched their tents elsewhere leaving a handful of light weight politicians and supporters in APC to face the 2023 battle.

The defection of the Senior Special Assistant on Rural Mobilisation to the Governor, Mr. Musibau Esinrogunjo, who defected to the main opposition PDP alongside 4,000 members of the ruling APC may be the last straw.

Esinrogunjo, who defected to the PDP just weeks after his resignation, in his address during the defection said: “Politics is not religion, we were all clamouring for Ó tó gẹ́ in 2019. I am not convinced with what we are witnessing today in Kwara state and with that I have made my mind with thousands of my followers to leave APC to come back to PDP, a great party.

“Change is constant in life and at a point in time when things are not going fine, you have every power and every audacity to leave a party to another party.”

He called on all PDP members to get prepared for the election stating: “PDP doesn’t tolerate thuggery, we don’t tolerate violence and we will do our campaign door to door the way we did it for Ó tó gẹ́ in 2019.

All hope not lost

Like the saying that it is not over until it is over all hope is not lost as some APC elders have restated support for governor.

Blueprint Weekend reports that in the thick of the superiority fights and muscle-flexing amongst the actors in the party in 2021 some leaders and elders of the APC in Kwara state had who stood in defence of the governor.

They had warned the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, to stop denigrating the personality and Office of Governor.

The elders under the aegis of Kwara APC Elders Caucus questioned the minister’s role in the funding of the 2019 electioneering campaigns and election proper.

They dismissed the minister’s popularity in Kwara politics, stating that he was never known in Kwara politics until 2002 when he surfaced.

Fast forward to 2023, the same elders have reiterated that the election of Governor Abdulrazaq for a second term would further ensure equity and fairness in the state’s political zoning arrangement.

Speaking with journalists in Ilorin, last week, the APC elders said that it was better for Governor Abdulrazaq to complete his two terms as the state governor than to have a new person in the saddle.

They said, “On the issue of zoning arrangement, it would be better for Kwara Central Senatorial District to have another shot at the governorship seat through the incumbent Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, who has just four more years to complete his constitutionally guaranteed eight years tenure, than for someone coming afresh from the same senatorial district.

“It’s our belief that this arrangement will be of greatest benefit to the party as it will go a long way to ensuring equity and fairness in the geopolitical allocation/sharing of our common patrimony.”

The spokesman of the APC elders, Ambassador Nurudeen Mohammed, who was flanked by Chief Wole Oke, and Barrister Kunle Sulyman, expressed their support for the governor’s second term bid.

“We, the elders, after an in-depth, thorough, honest and selfless assessment of the past three and a half years of governance and the administration of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, have no alternative but to give our full, unalloyed and unreserved support for his second term as governor of our beloved Kwara state. This is our unadulterated recommendation to the entire patriotic populace of Kwara state,” Mohammed said.

The party elders, who noted that the state before 2019 had passed through a despicable culture of money politics, where the electorate was treated as purchasable commodities in the hands of a dynasty that reigned for close to five decades, urged Kwarans not to return to Egypt.

“Glory is to the Almighty God, that era expired three and a half years ago via the political will of the populace, who voted against continued political enslavement.

“It was that same strong political will that has resulted in the current positive, progressive change Kwara citizens are enjoying today,” he said.

Who’ll carry the day?

Despite assurances, supports and endorsements the Abdulrasaq-led government has enjoyed it is not yet uhuru for the governor. This is as political watchers have observed that the APC may find it hard to repeat the 2019 feat.

In an exclusive chat with Blueprint Weekend, a political analysts, Oluwole Adeitan, said the popularity and clout of some governorships candidates who are up against Abdulrasaq remained an herculean task for the embattled Kwara helmsman.

He said, “Don’t forget that about three or four of the governorships candidates are from Kwara Central where the governor hails from, that makes it a bit difficult for him because their parties too want to harvest votes from the same district.

“So, how the governor and his party intend to beat the other candidates and garner the expected votes as an incumbent and the ruling party remain to be seen.”

Can the Abdulrasaq-led ruling APC repeat the feat? 2023 will surely tell.

UNI Agric Markurdi
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