Kwara 2019: Who flies APC guber flag? By AHMED 'LATEEF
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, political comradeship and intrigues had begun in earnest among likely contenders for governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara State not minding the peculiarity of the state polity. AHMED 'LATEEF takes a look at the antecedents and strength of each of them
When the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) few weeks ago announced its readiness for the 2019 general elections and laid bare timetable for each of the elective offices, it appeared like an unexpected explosion that literally sent phobia down the spine of members of the political class.
To some observers, the announcement was too early and wondered why the electoral umpire would be too hasty knowing full well that the incumbent government still has two years more to spend in office. But other pundits were of the notion that it was a good omen that Nigeria electoral system, hitherto scornfully despised as not measuring up to the international standard, is making way into historical book. The belief in this school of thought, is that the system that was dismissed in the past as below global standard, is approaching a sophistication.
This therefore presupposes that victory or defeat in a particular poll is temporal, and expectedly, those who won and those who suffered defeat should be prepared for another round of election in no distant time.
For the voting populace, election is basically a rare opportunity to seal own fate. It is either to weed out the incumbent and install new one in place or allow ship captains to continue paddling and sailing.
In Nigeria for instance, the outcome of the 2015 general elections will not go without being documented in the book of history. It was a period Nigerians, irrespective of religious differences and faiths, though with political inclination, took decision that ousted the immediate-past government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the national level, some States inclusive and paved the way for the government of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The period was indeed a decisive year for those that went for or against each of the two major political parties.
While the APC presidential candidate (now President) Muhammadu Buhari won through popular will by defeating ex-President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP, the voting populace in Kwara State returned the incumbent Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, for second term in office, thus trounced his major challengers of the PDP and Labour Party (LP), Senator Simeon Ajibola and Dr Mike Omotosho, respectively.
Despite the fact that the gubernatorial poll had been won and lost with business of governance expected to follow in succession, intense politicking has not departed the scene. The PDP, which assumed the role of major opposition in the State, has not ceased taking up the state government on its policies and programmes, albeit the party is sharply polarized along two factions.
With gale of criticism by the opposition, the state government has not been deterred, working tenaciously in accordance with the mandate of the populace.
The unabated politicking also saw some chieftains of the APC in the State warming up for the apex seat of power in the state. Although the peculiarity of the state politics has made it an arduous task for them to publicly declare their interest in the plum job when the incumbent Governor completes own tenure in 2019.
But while they are yet to make public their intention on who succeeds Abdulfatah Ahmed, they have adopted subtle strategies to realize their ambitions, thanks to social media that has provided a market-ready space for them to win sympathy of the electorate.
In Kwara today, it is hardly impossible not to see some social platforms created for political purposes to promote and project the candidacy and personality of some of the prospective aspirants that are currently warming up whenever the stage is set.
Independent investigation conducted revealed that the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi; Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Dr Ali Babatunde Ahmad; former acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and now APC stalwart, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje; Special Adviser to the Senate President on Special Duties, Hon. Mashood Mustapha; Senator Representing Kwara North Senatorial District, Alhaji Mohammed Shaaba Lafiagi; and member representing Asa/Ilorin West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Razak Olatunde Atunwa, are interested in the apex seat of power in the state.
Others are a member representing Ilorin East/South Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Dr Abubakar Amuda-Kannike; his counterpart for Edu/Moro/Patigi Constituency, Hon. Aliyu Bahago Ahman Patigi; his counterpart for Baruten/ Kaiama Constituency, Hon Zakari Mohammed; Chief of Staff, Government House, Ilorin, Alhaji Yusuf Baba Abdulwahab; his predecessor, Alhaji Mohammed Toyin Sanusi and Special Adviser to the State Governor on Political Matters, Alhaji Usman Bibire Ajape.
Among aspirants reported to be nursing the governorship ambition, Ajape had denied such plan but an aspirant believed to be serious about his ambition is Mashood Mustapha should power shift to the Kwara Central.
Going by the purported zoning formula in place, the incumbent Governor Ahmed is from Share, Ifelodun Local Government Area, a council within the precinct of Kwara South Senatorial District.
The popular view in some quarters is that the completion of the tenure of the current occupant of Ahmadu Bello Government will automatically cede power base to either Kwara Central or Kwara North.
If the zoning arrangement favours Kwara North in the political equation, Shaaba Lafiagi, Ahman Patigi and Zakari Mohammed, according to our findings, are already positioning themselves to fly the APC flag.
In the event that power returns to Kwara Central, Baraje, Ali Ahmad, Bolaji Abdullahi, Sanusi, Abdulwahab, Amuda-Kannike, Atunwa and others yet to be unveiled, would likely test their strength and acceptability in the political arena.
The antecedents and strength of each aspirant are analyzed below:
He is a former Minister of Sports and Chairman, National Sports Commission. He also served as Minister of Youth Development in the cabinet of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Before his ministerial appointment, Abdullahi served as Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology in Kwara State, although an adjustment had since been made on the nomenclature of the Ministry, which now bears, Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development. He also served as Special Assistant on Communication Strategy.
His commissionership was historic ditto ministerial. For Kwara teachers, hearing of Bolaji's name as popularly called, was beginning of wisdom. To the lazy teaching staff, the name sent down jitters down their spine.
The state education sector witnessed major transformation following what was initiated to be "Education Reform Agenda". Part of success story of the reform was "Every Child Counts" policy he formulated and implemented with support of top hierarchy in the Education Ministry. The policy provided a ready-made opportunity for every school age child to be educated, regardless of societal status. In line with Bolaji's commitment, the policy witnessed massive enrollment in schools, especially at basic level. The policy later became a blueprint at national level.
To some pundits, his feat in the education sector did not take them aback. His antecedents as a Journalist, a prolific writer and columnist, sufficed to determine his achievements in public office.
His uncanny sense of responsibility perhaps paved the way for his nomination for ministerial slot by power that be in the state and his eventual assumption of office as a member of the Federal Executive Council. During his stint as Minister of Sports, Nigeria won many laurels and lifted trophies at both continental and international level, the rest is history.
On what was widely considered to be political difference, Bolaji Abdullahi, was relieved of the Ministerial job, until his recent emergence as National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Although, the APC spokesman hails from Ilorin West Local Government Area, he has not made his intention public. All eyes are on him to formally throw his hat in the ring. It is believed that his closeness to the power that be may work in his favour.
MM as fondly called is from Alanamu Ward also in Ilorin West Local Government Area of the State. He is a former member of the House of Representatives for Asa/Ilorin West Federal Constituency. Mustapha, a retired Immigration Officer, served as Commissioner and Special Adviser during the tenure of Dr Bukola Saraki as Governor of the state.
He is currently serving as Special Adviser to Saraki (now Senate President) on Special Duties in the National Assembly.
Even while other interested aspirants for the governorship seat come 2019 are trying to be evasive, MM has not hidden his intention to take over the mantle of leadership of the Ahmadu Bello Government House, Ilorin when the time comes.
He had reportedly constituted a high-powered strategic team comprising current and ex-political office holders to realize his ambition. Mustapha is an ally of the Senate President, the acclaimed political leader in the state.
ABUBAKAR KAWU BARAJE
Baraje is a retired Permanent Secretary in the State Civil Service. He hails from Baboko Ward in Ilorin West Local Government Area. Politically, he appears to be one of the most experienced among other likely contenders, having served as National Secretary and acting National Chairman of the former ruling PDP.
When the PDP was embroiled in a crisis, which culminated in the division of the party into two factions of old and new PDP prior to the 2015 general elections, Baraje was made the National Chairman of nPDP and consequently led a merger talk with the then opposition APC until the nPDP alongside others collapsed into the APC that later transformed into the ruling party.
In terms of politics, the retired seasoned bureaucrat is known to be a master-strategist, who is well groomed in the art of politics. His antecedents as a senior civil servant might have aided his political prowess, which he garnered over the years considering his decades of service to Kwara.
As a political personality that has assumed the role of veteran politician, Baraje is believed to be a grass-rooter, who has not only exhibited leadership but showed those who care to look onto his side that attaining political height does not take away humility and cordial relationship with your immediate community.
Less than two years to the conduct of the another round of general elections, political pundits are watching with keen interest when he would formally declare his intention to run for the governorship seat of Kwara State.
Though he issued a statement in Ilorin recently where he made cautionary words to would be aspirants for the apex seat of government in the state come 2019 to tarry awhile, he did not deny the possibility of him showing interest as soon as the whistle is blown.
To him, aspiring for the forthcoming elections is distracting, and could derail business of governance for the incumbent Governor.
The statement partly read, "In Kwara state, Dr Bukola Saraki, the Senate President is still our leader. I respect him and still queue behind him and when the time comes all of us shall sit down together and the system will bring out the best candidates for governorship and other elective offices that will be beneficial to the people of our state.
"For now, I think we should allow the sitting governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, to continue the good work he is doing. The governor is doing his best to serve the people of the state in accordance with the principles and policies of our great party, the APC. It is public knowledge that the governor has been going round the state flagging off various projects as well as empowering the vulnerable members of the society.
"To those nursing gubernatorial ambition, I advise them to be patient and cooperate with the political leader of the state."
However, it is widely believed within the political circle that his closeness to the political leader in the state might work in his favour among other aspirants, who are also not leaving anything undone to realize the lofty dream of governing the State of Harmony.
RAZAK OLATUNDE ATUNWA
He is member of the House of Representatives for Asa/Ilorin West Federal Constituency, currently chairing the House Committee on Justice. Atunwa "One" as fondly called by admirers, is the immediate-past Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly.
A British trained lawyer, Atunwa served as Commissioner in various Ministries in the state such as Information and Home Affairs (as then called), Works and Transport and Finance.
The former Speaker, who hails from Efue/Berikodo in Asa Local Government Area of the state has never hidden his ambition for the plum job in the state. His intention to succeed Saraki in 2011 did not materialize but later vied for the seat of Owode/Onire Constituency in the State House of Assembly and went ahead to become Speaker of the legislative arm.
He seems to be silent on his next political ambition, but available report showed that he has not bellied the ambition of becoming the Chief Executive of the State when time comes.
Known for his quintessence wherever he finds himself in political office, Amuda-Kannike is seen as an emerging politician, who has also carved a niche for himself politically. He is from Ilorin East Local Government Area of the State.
His foray in Kwara politics began with his appointment as Special Assistant on Agriculture during the tenure of Saraki. By providence, his status was elevated as he was later appointed Commissioner for Water Resources and Sports and Youth Development.
However, as a man of destiny he is, Kannike fondly referred to as "Kariababu" was also appointed Commissioner for Works and Transport during the first term of Governor Ahmed, and currently a member of the House of Representatives for Ilorin East/South Federal Constituency, who was elected in the 2015 polls.
He is also said to be warming up to succeed the incumbent Governor on account of his well acclaimed closeness to the Governor.
MOHAMMED TOYIN SANUSI
To refer to Sanusi as an ally of the President of the Senate is not too weighty. He served as a Chairman, Ilorin West Local Government Area from where he was appointed Chief of Staff, Government, Ilorin during the first tenure of Governor Ahmed.
He is believed to be a kitchen cabinet of Saraki political caucus, and also wields great influence. His closeness to the power that be is dated back to when the strong man of Kwara politics, Dr Olusola Saraki, bestrode the State political scene like a colossus.
YUSUF BABA ABDULWAHAB
Abdulwahab is the incumbent Chief of Staff, Government House, Ilorin, who succeeds Toyin Sanusi. Before his present appointment, he had served as Director General Bureau of Lands. Though humble, gentle and unassuming, Abdulwahab is acclaimed to also possess gamut of influence in the present administration. He is from Oju-Ekun/Zarumi Ward in Ilorin West Local Government Area.
MOHAMMED SHAABA LAFIAGI
A soft-spoken Senator representing Kwara North Senatorial District in the National Assembly is reportedly eyeing the apex seat of power in the state. Shaaba Lafiagi, a one-time Governor of the State hails from Lafiagi in Edu Local Government Area of the State. He is said to be positioning himself to succeed the incumbent Governor at the appropriate time. He is known to be an ally of the President of the Senate.
ALIYU BAHAGO AHMAN PATIGI
As last name of the above suggests, Ahman Patigi hails from Patigi Local Government Area of the State. He is presently representing Edu/Moro/Patigi Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
Being a third termer in the National Assembly, he is believed to wield an influence in the politics of Kwara North and may declare his intention any moment now.
Like all other members of policital class in the state, Mohammed fondly called "Mai Jamaa", can be referred to as a man of destiny, having risen from obscurity to limelight politically. His sojourn in politics began with his appointment as Special Assistant during the tenure of Dr Bukola Saraki.
The Gure born politician in Baruten Local Government Area of the state thereafter served as Commissioner for Sports and Energy respectively before his election in 2011 as a member representing Baruten/Kaiama Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives under the then ruling PDP.
On account of satisfactory performance, Mohammed was re-elected in 2015 general elections on the platform of the APC.
Speculations had heightened in recent times that should Kwara North be considered to produce the next chief executive of the state on the APC ticket, he stands a good chance to clinch it due to his closeness to the powers that be in the state.
It was also reported that he is also warming up to take over the baton from the incumbent Governor anytime the whistle is blown for the race to commence.
However, as the crop of the politicians, known to be members of the Saraki political family, are desperately eyeing the seat of power from the two senatorial districts, pundits believe only those who have unmatchable credentials could stand tall among them. Some of the qualities include competence, leadership ability, integrity, loyalty, astuteness, rational thinking and ability to deliver.
With another round of general elections in the offing, only time will tell who emerges new Kwara Governor come May 29th, 2019.