Kwara bye-elections: Is Saraki losing it?

Although the November 17, 2018, Ekiti/Irepodun/Isin/Oke-Ero Constituency bye-elections held across the four councils in Kwara state have been won and lost, it appears that it is not yet uhuru as
gladiators are shining their armours ahead of a bigger political battle. In this piece, KEHINDE OSASONA revisits what transpired and the renewal of hostilities and asks whether or not President of the
Senate Bukola Saraki is no longer in control of the state.


Defeat foretold

Blueprint Weekend recalls that shortly before the election, the State Chairman of APC, Hon. Bashir Bolarinwa, had urged the party members to be united and work for the party’s victory.

Bolarinwa was quoted as saying: “The election will be a test case for APC in the state. It will also afford us the opportunity to show Kwara people and Nigerians that in 2019, APC will take over the government.”

Similarly, in an interview granted two months ago, Suleiman Ajadi, a former senator and erstwhile (Late Olusola Saraki, Baba Oloye) protégé, promised to deliver his Kwara South senatorial district to
the All Progressives Congress in 2019.

Ajadi, who was in the red chamber from 1999 to 2003 on the platform of the defunct ANPP, laments that a huge deficit had been created in Kwara state due to ‘poor long years of representation.”

On the bye-election, he said: “The APC stands a chance of defeating any candidate presented by the PDP, and I am already mobilising the electorate.”

Similarly, another chieftain of the APC in the state, Dr. Rex Olawoye, said: “What the people want is change. They are tired of one style of politicking that has not lifted them out of poverty and retrogression over the years.”

Before then, as a warning signal too dangerous to be ignored, despite the fact that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) under Saraki’s stronghold won all the 16 chairmanship seats in a result
declared by the Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission (KWSIEC) in the 2017 Kwara local government council polls, the party found it somewhat herculean to record a clean sweep of the 193 wards councillorship positions as had been the tradition since 1999. The PDP then caused some upset to the political class in the state as some of the chieftains, including the Senate President, lost their polling units and wards. They lost in Ibagun ward and Zango ward in Ilorin-east local government where the APC Women Leader, Hajia Sarat Adebayo, and other chieftains of the party, including Alhaji Bibire Ajape, hail from.

It was not a different story in Kwara south, where PDP (the then opposition) also won councillorships seats in Oke-Ero, Edu local government, Lafiagi Ward 4, thereby making a total of eight councillorship seats out of the 193 won by the party, a feat described as “gradual loss of the grip of power by the ‘leader’ as Saraki is fondly called by his faithful and foot-soldiers.


Renewed hostilities

This time, the bone of contention was the vacuum left by the Late Funke Adedoyin, who represented Ekiti/Irepodun/Isin/Oke-Ero Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.

Filling the vacant position, therefore, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Mr. Raheem Olawuyi, and his biggest opponent, Mr. Saheed Alatishe, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), slugged it out after which the former was declared winner.

Announcing the result, the Chief Returning Officer, Prof. Abimbola Adesoji, declared that Olawuyi polled 21, 236 to defeat his closest rival, Saheed Damilare of PDP, who polled 18, 095. It turned out to be a painful defeat for Saraki’s PDP.

Considerably, it was indeed the first time in recent time that the Saraki political machinery would be so mauled down by the opposition with little or no resistance. Even at that, the APC has not stopped aligning with other parties and groups in order to consolidate on its hard-earned victory and demystify Saraki, just as PDP continues to rue their losses and pointing accusing fingers.

Meanwhile, the question on the lips of keen watchers of political happenings has been is ‘has the Empire that has outlived decades of political wars on the verge of total collapse?’

But as the victory rhythm is yet to wane, political observers have described the renewal of hostilities by gladiators in Kwara political firmament ahead 2019 as acid test for emerging political actors and
aggrieved elites who are hell-bent on crumbling the Saraki dynasty.

What political observers in the state found baffling however is the level at which erstwhile political allies out-smarted and defeated Saraki’s PDP despite his acclaimed stronghold of Kwara with little or
no help from the ruling APC in Abuja.

Akinola Oyediji, a political Analyst and concern Kwaran told Blueprint Weekend during an interview that the imminent political battle in the state would separate the chaffs from the grains, saying that it could likely change the trend of event perpetually, after decades of rhetoric.

Oyediji further said the President Muhammadu Buhari factor that helped Saraki and the then Kwara APC to snatch victory in 2015 did not allow Kwarans to determine who actually own Kwara.

He said “there has been consistent agitation by aggrieved Kwarans that the crops of leadership saddled with responsibilities in past years have allegedly drawn the state back economically and have plunged it into eternal debts.”

He added that “in respect of the current development, therefore, I will implore our political players not to turn Kwara South or Kwara state as the case may be to a theatre of war in the course of
outwitting one another.”


Saraki, Ahmed protest

But Senator Saraki and Governor Ahmed have alleged that the elections were marred by intimidation of voters by security officials. While Ahmed describes the House of Representatives by-election as a contest between PDP and security agents, Saraki alleges that it was the first time that elections in the state would be held under such charged, tensed and militarised conditions, adding that they are signs of things to come in 2019.

A statement by Governor Ahmed Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communications, Mr. Muyideen Akorede, stated that reports available to the governor from the four local government areas in which elections were held indicated wide-spread harassment, arrests and intimidation of PDP members and supporters by security personnel.

He argued that the heightened fear and intimidation orchestrated against PDP members and supporters and abetted by security agents led to voter apathy and poor turn-out in the areas that are traditional strong-holds of the party.

Saraki re-echoed it, saying it was the first time that elections in Kwara State would be held under such charged, tensed and militarized conditions, adding that “they are signs of things to come in 2019.”

“We had INEC officials complaining about their own safety and PDP supporters were brazenly intimidated, which resulted in low turn-out of voters,” Saraki allegedly tweeted.


Oshiomhole, Lai, Presidency boast

Meanwhile, as the battle for the soul of Kwara rages, the National Chairman of APC, who is also the arrow head of ‘Saraki must go campaign’ Comrade Adam Oshiomhole drops a bombshell recently when immediately after the victory he said: “Kwara politics has taken a new direction.”

Reacting in a statement through Malam Lanre Issa Onilu, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Oshiomhole said it clear that the sweet victory by the APC House of Representatives candidate, Alhaji Raheem Olawuyi Ajuloopin, in the bye-election has hit the overrated federal lawmakers from Kwara badly. He added that the PDP was not pretending to have learnt any lessons from its past anti-democratic practices.

Firing another salvo, he said “the usurpers occupying the Senate leadership seat have no altruistic intentions other than to manipulate state institutions to pursue personal interest and massage battered

While commenting on attempt to coerce the Senate on the matter, Oshiomhole, said: “Turning the Senate into an electoral tribunal only showed Nigerians that the PDP had not changed from its odious practice of compromising the system to promote illusionary ambitions.

“The Nigerian electorate had tasted the benefits of good governance in the last three and half years of President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC government and would not go back to the PDP’s 16 years of waste and misrule.

“Elections have been won and lost. A new and progressive Kwara state beckons, through their votes, the Kwara electorate have spoken clearly on the new political direction in the state.’

“Kwara state has suffered enough of the selfish machinations of a self-appointed leader. The will and wishes of the good people of the state must prevail now, in the 2019 elections and beyond,” he added.

Describing the the humiliating defeat the Senate President suffered in the hands of the people of Kwara state as the “most out-standing victory,” Oshiomhole boasted that Saraki would be retired from
politics next February.

“I am sure Saraki would be politically retired by the good people of Kwara that he has mismanaged their economic and political rights over the years. So, I’m very excited about that and we think that this is
something worth celebrating and we took time to celebrate it today.”

Also reacting to the victory, the Minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the All Progressives Congress (APC) had broken the “Berlin Wall” of Kwara politics following its victory in
the state’s bye-election.

He noted that the political landscape of Kwara had been controlled by Senate President Bukola Saraki, and before him, Olusola Saraki, his late father.

He said: “It was the will of the people that prevailed. God has turned the seemingly political impregnability of Saraki’s dynasty to foolishness. APC is God-ordained for this state and the country.

“With this victory you have broken the Berlin Wall and same will repeat itself in 2019 elections.”

Speaking in the same vein, the Presidency said the APC victory in the three states had shattered any assumptions of PDP’s return to power in 2019.

Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, in a statement, said: “By voting overwhelmingly for the ruling APC, Nigerians have shown their confidence in the Muhammadu Buhari administration, and their willingness for continuation of this government and its policies.

“This clear show of support can only be a synopsis of what Nigerians should expect in the forthcoming elections, at all levels.

“I would like to use this opportunity to remind Nigerians that there will always be a winner and a loser in every election, an individual and a party with the highest votes and another with the lowest.

“That is what democracy is about. Therefore, all aspirants should approach elections with the mindset that they could either win or lose.

“I thank Nigerians all over the country for believing in this government and in its determined effort to pull our nation out of the mess left behind by 16 years of PDP government, and into the greatness that is our destiny.”


Turn of events

Adducing reasons for the turn of events in the state, a public commentator, Idris Al-Hassan, from Kwara North, notes that internal bickering among Saraki’s followers is responsible for the open revolt, adding that more of such is still coming because the aggrieved party men’s anger is yet to diminish.

Checks have also revealed that issue bothering on pensions, unpaid salary, Governor Ahmed’s inability to deliver the dividends of democracy coupled with allegation of ‘Saraki doing third term in
proxy’ among other reasons allegedly led to the systemic desertion of the embattled Saraki by the Kwara electorate.

As a way of fortifying the party strenght, Senate President, Saraki has tactically compel the incumbent governor and candidate for the Senate, Dr Abdulfatah Ahmed to relinquish his ambition for the
incumbent Senator Rafiu Ibrahim so that the party can maintain its winning streak in Kwara South.

It was also reported general restructuring cutting across the three senatorial district which has led to some candidates of the house of representatives and State house of assembly too shelving their
ambition for a more acceptable and popular aspirants.

Not done yet, Saraki is reportedly toying with the idea of meeting the teeming voting populace of aggrieved youths from Ilorin Emirates and eleven other local government areas in the state in other to persuade them to sheath their swords and vote for his party.


Kwara South as New Bride

As part of his reconciliation effort, it was also gathered that the some of the Obas and Chiefs due for gradings in the State are being reached out to in order to pacify their wards and subjects ahead 2019 elections.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ajayi Mathew, a politician and stakeholder in Kwara South Senatorial zone, has told Blueprint Weekend that although Saraki is still a big factor, the fact that leadership for some years now has not translated into any form of development or an enduring project is considered as monumental waste by Kwarans.

On plans to grade Kwara Obas and Chiefs, Ajayi describes it as Greek gift, saying that it adds no value to the people, neither will it replace quest for development.

“Grading is an Oba personal thing. If the governor likes, he should give all of them first class, it is their entitlement but let him know that the Obas have just one vote and at most that of their families,”
He explains.


The die is cast

When contacted, a former commissioner and chieftain of the People Democratic Party in Kwara South Senatorial district, decline to comment. He said:”I do not want to comment on the November 17
elections now,”

Similarly, effort to make the Rep-Elect, Mr Raheem Olawuyi Ajuloopin comment on his victory was abortive as he also decline to comment, promising to respond at the appropriate time.

He said: “I’m in the middle of a crucial meeting now. I will reach out to you,” was all he could mutter when our reporter insisted on getting his reaction.


‘Berlin Wall’ broken?

While dismissing APC victory recently, former press secretary to Saraki during his tenure as governor, Alhaji Masud Adebimpe, was quoted as saying: “We should not forget the importance of having a
great political leader in Kwara. He must command the respect of many other leaders across the nation. I am yet to see one like that today outside Saraki.”

Yet, with the new Lexicon ‘The Berlin Wall of Kwara Politics Broken’ now introduced in Kwara politics in the build-up to 2019 elections, the question is, will the new development translate to the emergence
of new breed politicians and the much-craved for political independence in Kwara?

Has Saraki lost it actually? Obviously, the show of strength in Kwara foretells expected pictures of the 2019 elections in the state.

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