Power play, religious card and Offa APC debacle. By AHMED 'LATEEF
Chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Offa Local Government Area of Kwara State seemed to have declared a war against one another on account of political calculation for 2019 general elections, which had been triggered by the choice of chairmanship candidate of the party in the forthcoming council polls. AHMED 'LATEEF writes on issues dominating discourse on politics of the ancient town.
The announcement by the Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission (KWASIEC) for the conduct of the local government election November 18, 2017 across the 16 council areas in the state has practically set the ball rolling for grass root polity and resurrected seeming dead horses.
Apparently, the declaration was long overdue in view of the completion of the three year tenure of the former council chairmen since November 2016, which ordinarily should have paved way for another round of election to usher in new helmsmen.
The state electoral umpire, could however, not proceed with the election as was the case previously due to lame resources at its disposal and other cogent reasons advanced by the commission. The high expectation that surrounded the conduct of another local government election by the political class was discernible, for council areas in the state had been enjoying seamless transition of elected council officials unlike other states that persistently installed caretaker committees.
As the announcement was officially made in August that council polls had been scheduled for November this year, expectant politicians quickly returned to their arsenal, picked up their gauntlet and began to lubricate their machinery for major battle.
Going by the electoral guidelines rolled out by KWASIEC, parties kicked started the process with series of meetings, all in the bid to prosecute council election. Although about 30 political parties had declared interest to partake in the polls, according to the electoral commission, two major parties known to be pulling the strings in the state political scene were the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Just like what was playing out in other states of the federation, the two parties have continued to hold each other by the jugular with incessant claims and counter-claims on actions and inactions of the government.
In Kwara State however, the APC, basking in the euphoria of the announcement for the conduct of the local government election, commenced own process with sales of intention forms after which the aspirants, especially for chairmanship seats underwent some stages of screening.
Unlike the apathy displayed in the past over the age long impression that the party in power might have selected its preferred flag-bearers and kept at bay, the process recorded huge turnout of party chieftains, who indicated interest to vie for the apex seat of powers in their respective local government areas. This good showing, some pundits believed, was apparently accentuated by the ongoing agitation for local government autonomy, which had already gathered momentum.
Sensing danger that such development could provoke bad blood within its fold, the state leadership of the APC, at an emergency meeting held in Ilorin last Friday night, which dovetailed wee hours of Saturday, opted for consensus candidates, and the arrangement scaled through in 14 out of the 16 local government areas.
The adopted candidates at the meeting were Umar Sanda Yusuf for Edu, Yinka Dallas (Ekiti), Abdullahi Abubakar Bata (Kaiama), Fatai Adeniyi Garba (Ifelodun), Omodara Aromoke Aminat (Ilorin West), Mumeen Lar (Ilorin East), Funmi Salau (Ilorin South), Risikat Opakunle (Asa), Eleyele (Moro), Muyiwa Oladipo Kanu (Irepodun), Oni Adebayo (Oke-Ero), Omole (Isin), Salihu Jibril Garbi (Patigi) and Joshua Omokanye Jalala for Oyun council areas.
In Offa and Baruten local government areas, attempts to reach consensus building proved futile as aspirants, ostensibly acting the script of some political gladiators in the two councils, stood their ground.
The APC leadership, which insisted that it had no preferred aspirants among those scheming for the chairmanship seats, ordered primaries in the two councils. While Saidu Yaro Musa emerged as the party's chairmanship candidate in Baruten after the primary election, that of Offa was aborted following invasion of the venue of the mock election by gun-wielding hoodlums.
Some stakeholders of the APC in Offa were said to have opposed zoning of chairmanship seat to Ojomu/Balogun Constituency while others insisted on it as directed by the leadership of the party and this development pitted the chieftains against each other.
It was further learnt that the controversy surrounding the zoning of the chairmanship candidate might not be unconnected with the political calculation for 2019 general elections.
Influential APC chieftains were said to be eyeing the seat of the Ifelodun/Offa/Oyun Federal Constituency of the House of Representatives currently occupied by Danlad Tope Olayonu.
The chairmanship aspirants in the shadow poll were the incumbent chairman of Transitional Implementation Committee (TIC) in Offa council area, Akeem Olatunji; Jide Jato, Wahab Salau, Ibikunle Waheed Olabisi and a former Special Assistant on Sports to the former Governor of the state, Jare Olatundun.
An unconfirmed report had it that most of the first set of delegates in the primaries voted for Jare Olatundun, which allegedly heightened fear within the rank of the APC gladiators that he might win the mock poll if nothing was done to truncate the process.
Independent investigation revealed that the debacle in Offa local government APC was largely fueled by power play and some sentiments, of which religion was inclusive.
Beside Ilorin known and widely acclaimed to be the political capital of Kwara Central Senatorial District, Offa in Offa Local Government Area was also in a vantage position on the political strength of Kwara South Senatorial District. Without any prejudice, Offa was believed to be second largest town in Kwara State after Ilorin.
Perhaps because of its sophistication in terms of civilization and population, the town has incontrovertibly assumed a major entity in the political block of the state. Many citizens of the town, apart from holding stake in virtually all business opportunities be it academic or entrepreneurship, they also formed a bulwark politically.
This might have been responsible for their recognition when it comes to political matters. Before now, the ancient town of Offa was seen as largely dominated by opposition, thus pitted it against the state political structure. Examples abound with series of elections conducted in the past where opposition figure usually carried the day.
But the narratives changed in 2015 polls when citizens of the town massively voted for the APC, which ousted the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It was a decision that altered and broke the wall of opposition in the ancient town.
However, what could be likened to a power play had taken centre stage in the discourse among political gladiators in the local government. Surprisingly, the power play became more pronounced over the dilemma on who flies the APC chairmanship flag in the forthcoming council polls in the state.
The chieftains of the ruling party tried to undo each other and could not collectively rally behind a single person among the aspirants for the council apex seat and opted for primary election while other local government areas agreed on consensus candidates.
Although the leadership of the party had finally announced one Abdullateef Gbadamosi as the chairmanship candidate, the political gladiators had reportedly returned to the drawing board and currently planning and re-strategizing on how to work out modality to ensure victory at the poll.
Even with the emergence of the chairmanship flag-bearer, different camps in the rank of the APC were allegedly aggrieved and could be planning to outsmart one another in the event that no reconciliation was initiated.
Available information showed that some stakeholders, who had since collapsed into one camp, had been holding marathon meetings in the quest to alter the current political status quo in Offa area.
One of the problems that had remained albatross to Offa APC and now rearing its head again was the issue of religion.
Politicians, who were apparently not on the same page with another set of political class on account of religious difference were said to be hiding under the sentiment to throw the card of religion.
Some of them were said to be prevailing on certain religious organization to wade in because of the simmering plot to edge them out of the political and power block of Offa, which was said be a major power broker in the politics of Kwara State.
Despite the announcement of the chairmanship candidate for the APC in Offa for the forthcoming council election, there were skepticisms as to whether the decision would be a soothing balm for the political class in the local government, who were reportedly playing hide and seek game. Whatever the case might be, time will tell.