Kwara State opposition parties in limbo as factionalisation cripples PDP
Kwara is perhaps one of the few states in the country where the ruling party All Progressives Congress (APC) is enjoying 100 percent control of the elective posts. These include: three Senatorial districts, six Federal Constituencies, and 24 Stateís House of Assemblies seats.
Before the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) crisis, the united body was unable to win a single Local Government Area (LGA) out of the existing 16 in the state. The party with such calibre of leading politicians like former Minister for National Planning Olanrewaju Abubakar; former Minister for Sports, Ibrahim Bio; former Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters to ex President Goodluck Jonathan, Senator Suleiman Ajadi; former Chairman, Federal Character Commission, (FCC) and Talba of Ilorin, Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem; former Chief Whip of the state House of Assembly, Chief Iyiola Oyedepo; a successful business woman, Hajia Bola Shagaya; a self-acclaimed billionaire, Rahaman Abdulrasaq; and Senator Sule Ajibola, failed to unnerve the APC.
At present, the PDP in Kwara is factionalised. While Oyedepo is leading a group, Sunday Fagbemi is leading the other.
A keen observer and social critic based in Ilorin, Alhaji Abdulkarim Olola-Kasum, believed that the opposition parties were hapless politically and that it might take a long time for the opposition to become relevant in the state.
According to him, the parties have not been able to assert themselves neither are they taking measures such as meetings, mobilization, sensitisation or activities to check the excesses of the government in power.
"It appears that Kwara state is indeed jinxed politically and I can't see any serious threat coming in the year 2019 against the ruling APC. The PDP is indeed at present not showing any sign of seriousness as a party ready to play a role of a credible opposition," he stated.
Chief Rex Olawoye who is the state publicity secretary of PDP blamed the development on continuous in fighting within the national PDP with a backlash effect on Kwara. He said "some people within our party in the state are at war with one another over positions thereby leading to formation of parallel executives."
But the Labour Party (LP), the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the United Peoples Party (UPP) hold contrary view on the matter contending that the situation in the state is now different as the opposition parties are better organized internally.
The governorship candidate of LP in the 2015 election, Dr. Mike Omotosho argued that the electorates are now more matured on the need to vote for ideologies and party's programmes adding that once that was done the opposition would have a brighter prospect in future elections.
Omotosho who diligent toured the 16 LGAs of the state before the election said that if it is Godís will, he would one day be given the opportunity to serve the people as governor or through any other capacity.
For Musa Kolawole the flag bearer of the AD during the elections, "We are already in talking terms with people of like minds. We must wrestle Kwara from the jaws of those milking it. By the grace of God we shall do this with the cooperation of the people come 2019."
Speaking on the development, Oyewumi Ajibola of the Action Alliance (AA) said that the people have "learnt their bitter lessons now, and ready to give room for a true change because any failure in this may spell doom for us all."
"We are preparing well and we believe that the era of bad governance will definitely allow the people of this state to have a rethink on who should be their leader come the year 2019. We have new ideas on how to move our dear state forward. We should therefore be allowed to implement these ideas," added Comfort Kayode of the United Progressives Party (UPP).
Similarly, Oyedepo cautioned against underrating the opposition, maintaining in an interview with The Guardian that any political pundit who underrated the strength and plans of the PDP in the coming polls would be doing that at his or her peril. He argued that the party has found itís bearing in the state and was ready to play the role of a virile opposition party.
"It is good for us that the ruling party believe that there will not be an opposition against them in the year 2019. But I am assuring the people of the state of a grand plan to spring up an opposition party never known in the history of the stateís politics. The ringleaders are assembling themselves. In fact people are already tired of the non- performance of the APC as a party and a party forming the government.
He contended that the opposition parties have learnt their lessons after the defeat in the last elections stressing that they have come to the realization that there could be no credible opposition without unity among them. This, he noted necessitated the subtle building of a powerful and credible opposition ahead of the race.
"Besides, we are holding a radio programme every Thursday in the state for one solid hour. It is my pleasure to let you know that we literally shut down the state for the one-hour duration of the programme whenever it is broadcast. Even the state civil servants are ready for the future polls; therefore nobody should delude himself with the wrong notion that there will not be a credible fight from the opposition in the elections. Kwara state is going to be one of the states to watch out for in the elections,Ē " he stated.
On whether his faction of the PDP, which is loyal to the Ahmed Markarfi-led group, would be a party to the alleged planned mega party ahead of the elections Oyedepo said: "We are not into any agreement with any mega party. We are PDP to the core and we are not changing our name like a chameleon would do."
In the same vein, Fagbemi said: "we are preparing for the elections and we are sure of our success during the polls. We want the people of this state to see us as the credible alternative to the ruling APC. Our aim is to form the next government and by Godís grace, we shall do that."
The recent history of opposition politicking in Kwara can be traced to the Offa-born late Josiah Sunday Olawoyin of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). As a governorship candidate of the UPN in 1979 polls, Olawoyin was a thorn in the flesh of Alhaji Adamu Attah of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Although, Attah won the elections it was not on a platter of gold.
In 1983, Chief Cornelius Adebayo of the UPN eventually emerged victorious reaping the fruits sowed by Olawoyin some four years earlier. Attempts by Alhaji Mohammed Lawal to play the role of an opposition to the existing political hegemony of the state led by the doyen of the stateís politics, late Olusola Saraki, was unsuccessful in the 2003/2004 polls. Ever since, pockets of opposition against the Saraki dynasty has always been crushed.
The spokesman of the APC, Sulyman Buhari described the development as "a great acceptance of the policies and manifestoes of our great party and belief in the philosophies of our astute and pro-active political leader, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Senate President."
"Opposition or what? I don't know of any opposition in a state, the APC has 100 per cent control of the state. They (the opposition) are mere noisemakers or whom other people will simply describe as paper tigers. We will meet them at the polls."
Nonetheless, while the opposition is groping in the dark on how to get his acts together, The Guardian learnt that some persons have stood out among the likely successor of the incumbent Governor Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed who is in his second term in office. They are: former Minister for Sports and national spokesman of APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi; former House of Representatives member, Moshood Mustapha; and a serving member of the House of Representatives, Zakari Mohammed.
But by the antecedents of the President of the Senate, it may be difficult to zero in on any of them yet. Saraki's style is to conceal his candidate's identity until the eleventh hour. He did this for the incumbent (Ahmed) when all eyes were on the biological sister, Gbemisola, some six years ago.
As events unfold ahead the 2019 elections, the people of Kwara are keen to know who and which party would govern them in the next dispensation. But will the seeming political passivity in the state be beneficial to the people or enhance the socio-political and economic growth of the state?