The results of the recent Kwara State local government elections indicate that the firm dominion of Senator Bukola Saraki over the state can no longer be taken for granted. By Demola Akinyemi The much-awaited local governments elections in Kwara State has come and gone, but not without leaving some ripples and political developments that have kept the stakeholders clearly guessing about what might likely happen in the 2019 elections in the state of harmony .
President of the Nigerian 8th Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki Protest rocked Ilorin, the Kwara State capital on Sunday, November 19, a day after the local government election, as scores of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP poured out into the streets in rage against alleged manipulation of the results of the election by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
The demonstrations were immediately countered by the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Isiaka Gold that day as he condemned the protesters and called on all citizens and residents of the state to remain calm and law abiding and await the official results of the elections. Alhaji Gold who commended the peaceful conduct of the elections urged all law-abiding citizens to calmly await the release of the official results of the elections.
His assertions of tranquillity in the election were immediately countered by the chairman of the PDP in the state, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo at a press conference that Sunday afternoon who displayed scores of ballot papers seized from APC members across the state. He affirmed that the rigging by the APC was an attempt to cover what he described as the diminished popularity of APC chieftains in the state including the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki who according to him were roundly defeated in their respective wards.
Oyedepo who called for the release of his members from police detention poured scorn on the results he said were cooked up by the Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission, KWASIEC.
No fewer than 54 members of the party were hauled into custody by the police for participating in the demonstrations against the alleged rigging that Sunday. The Kwara State Police Command on its part alleged that the 54 suspects arrested were apprehended while allegedly involved in different forms of electoral malpractices during and after the elections. Among the suspects held is the Assistant Publicity Secretary of PDP and a collation officer among others. The commissioner of police, Lawan Ado, accused them of destruction and burning of ballot papers.
The police boss also said that some of the suspects were arrested by security operatives attached to Kwara state independent electoral commission (KWASIEC) office for disorderly conduct within the vicinity of the KWASIEC during collation of the final election result. "They were arrested singing war songs, trying to intrude into the KWASIEC office and going from street to street to cause breach of peace", he said.
He said that others were arrested around Taiwo Road, Adeta area and Laolu Unit in the Ilorin metropolis, adding that some other suspects were arrested at Alapa and Morakinde compound in Oyun local government for electoral offences including snatching and destruction of election materials.
The police commissioner, who said that all the suspects would soon be charged to court, assured that the command would continue to provide security, peace, and stability for the general public. He, therefore, charged people in the state to live within the ambit of the law, urging anyone with a grievance to seek redress in the court of law.
Following the restoration of peace at the collation centre at the KWAISEC premises, the commission’ chairman, Dr. Usman Ajidagba announced the results declaring that the APC won all 16 chairmanship positions and 181 councillorship seats.
The PDP he said won eight councillorship positions, a record for an opposition party in the state. The outcome of the election was the worst for the Senate President whose dominance of the Kwara political setting since 2003 had seen his party win nearly all positions in local government elections.
The results of the local government election according to some sources may have thrown spanners into the political permutations of the kingmaker. Vanguard reliably gathered that an estimated 70% of Saraki's political foot soldiers lost in their polling booths.
Further checks showed that many aggrieved APC members actually voted for the opposition PDP in protest against their sufferings in the hands of the ruling party.
It was further believed that the PDP could not have generated the record it had given the bitter factionalisation of the party which has seen PDP members work at cross purposes. Vanguard gathered that the outcome of the local government election was largely caused by angry APC members in the state who had over the time complained of being neglected by the leadership in the state.
Also the continuous protests for days running to the elections by the students of Kwara State polytechnic over the alleged increase in the school fees by the state government was said to have worked against the interest of the party as many of the youths and the students were said to have seized the voting cards of the aged women who are die hard supporters of Saraki and prevented them from voting. While Senator Saraki navigates the difficult political landmines in Abuja, the message from home seems to be a call on him to come patch the leaking roof at home.