Kwara: Who takes over from Ahmed in 2019? By AHMED 'LATEEF
The climate of politics in Kwara State is taking a new shape with horde of heavyweight politicians literally battle ready to slug it out and take over the mantle of reign of Ahmadu Bello Way Government House, Ilorin come May 29, 2019. AHMED 'LATEEF, in this report, looks at the chances of some aspirants and how far they can pull strings.
It is no longer news that there is sharp dichotomy in the politics of Kwara State; and for anyone who is just coming to terms with the reality, a straight political fight is imminent between the existing structure and an opposing camp who sees the need to rein in the structure.
The existing or what sometime referred to as dominant political structure under the aegis of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is doing all it could to retain and maintain its winning streak and avert seeming political disaster on one hand while the opposing team operating under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is unrelenting in its cynicism and vitriolic against the former on another hand.
The widespread belief in the political circle therefore is that the forthcoming general elections, which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fixed to commence by February 2019 would determine the fate of the two warring teams.
While the APC and dominant political structure led by the President of the Senate, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, appears un-nervous with subterranean plot to whittle down its influence in public perception, the opposition PDP has continued to deploy every arm in its armoury all in the bid to end the status quo.
The November 18, 2017 election conducted across the 16 Local Government Councils of the state by Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission was an eye-opener for both former and the latter.
For the ruling APC, the outcome of the poll still amplified its dominance in the politics of the state but the PDP viewed the election, which it alleged was manipulated in favour of the party in powers, as a means to the impending defeat of the APC.
The opinion in the PDP camp was that if the election were to be undertaken and supervised by INEC, it would have been a different ball game and the APC's claim that it controls political structure of the state would have been consigned to the dustbin of history. But the APC held that the PDP was only playing to the gallery with the hope that time will tell.
However, the incessant brickbats between the ruling APC and the opposing PDP seems to be a blessing in disguise going by heightening political awareness. As the duo hold each other by the jugulars through various media platforms so also members of the public get more educated and sensitised.
If not on traditional media outlets, it would be on social media windows where criticisms have become order of the day. For instance, hardly would a week pass by without the policies and programmes of the ruling APC being subjected to public scrutiny unlike before when such criticism from the opposing side was non existent.
On account of rising political awareness, there are designated programmes on Radio Stations in the state for political issues. While some were designed by management of radio stations, others enjoyed the sponsorship of both the ruling and opposition parties. Through them, members of the public are getting more informed and enlightened.
The level of awareness in the polity may have apparently given birth to the huge number of political giants seeking to succeed the incumbent Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed when he completes his second term in May 29, 2019.
Barring any dramatic change, the political fight over who takes over the reign of leadership at Ahmadu Bello Way Government House, Ilorin, is largely seen to be a straight fight between Kwara Central and Kwara North Senatorial Districts. The incumbent Governor Ahmed, a Share born banker cum politician, is from Kwara South Senatorial and would be completing eight years in office by May 2019.
The common belief is that any candidate from the current ruling Senatorial District is not likely to succeed him.
In recent times however, the political landscape of the state has remained unsettled as to whether the next Governor would come from Kwara Central or North. Those, in public perception, known to be giants politically are already warming up and mounting social and political structures in a subtle way to realise their individual ambitions. By forming structures, they are seen as having what it takes to govern the State of Harmony when time comes.
From Kwara Central alone, the list of gubernatorial aspirants is growing day by day. Initially, those believed to be nursing the ambition for the state apex political seat included a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Moshood Mustapha; a one-time Acting National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje; the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi; and the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Dr Ali Babatunde Ahmad as well as Chief of Staff Government House, Ilorin, Alhaji Yusuf Babatunde Abdulwahab.
New aspirants in the gubernatorial race are former Chief of Staff, Government House, Ilorin, Alhaji Mohammed Toyin Sanusi; former Chairman, State Universal Basic Education Board, Alhaji Ladi Hassan; a member of the House of Representatives, Dr Abubakar Amuda-Kannike and Ambassador Abdulfatai Yahaya Seriki Gambari.The aforementioned aspirants from Kwara Central, which comprises of Ilorin West, East, South and Asa Local Government Areas, are believed to be preparing for the race under the banner of the APC.
Those who are believed and touted to be oiling their machineries for the covetous job from Kwara North include a member of the House of Representatives for Edu/Moro/Patigi Federal Constituency, Hon. Aliyu Bahago Ahman-Pategi; his counterpart from Baruten/Kaiama Federal Constituency, Hon Zakari Mohammed; a one-time State Commissioner for Rural Development, Mr Usman Adamu Bawa.
For the PDP, quite a number of aspirants have also emerged preparatory not just to test political waters but ultimately win the governorship race by leveraging on the recurring height of political awareness in the state. With the turnover of event and the conviction that Kwarans are capable of determining the next captain of their ship, they have also been making secret moves to wrestle political power with the ruling APC leadership in the state.
The likes of the Chairman of Sobi FM Radio Station, Mallam Lukman Olayiwola Mustapha and a retired police officer, Alhaji Mohammed Ibrahim Ajia, are said to be eyeing the gubernatorial ticket of the PDP and eventually become the sole candidate of the party. It remains to be seen the length within which the aspirants go in actualising the targeted ambitions.
What stand the aspirants out individually are their antecedents, pedigree, uniqueness, experience, wealth and followership.
In the APC, candidate to be looked out for among the lot is someone with requisite experience, loyalty to the political structure and perhaps an unassuming politician whose emergence would take pundits by surprise.
The recruitment into the governance of the state through the dominant political structure has always been unpredictable, the same game that played out ahead of the 2011 general elections.
It is being speculated that the race for governorship ticket of the party is among Kawu Baraje, Bolaji Abdullahi and Ali Ahmad. The trio are believed to be enjoying the strong backing of the status quo.
But on account of early warning signal of likely backlash from the state political structure, they have decided, like others, to make their aspirations secret. Some of them, it was learnt, had set up socio-political groups to canvass and mobilise support for them ahead of the primaries of the party, which would come up later in the year.
ABUBAKAR KAWU BARAJE
Baraje is a one-time National Acting Chairman of the PDP. He was elected National Secretary of the party but rose to chair the party in acting capacity when the seat became vacant.
Employed in his early stage of life as a teacher, the Ilorin born politician later metamorphosed from teaching profession to mainstream civil service where he eventually rose to the top as Permanent Secretary in the State Civil Service.
As a result of crisis that engulfed the PDP following what was termed "impunity", the experienced politician moved with other aggrieved members of the party to form New PDP (nPDP) until the merger talk was consummated with the then APC leaders and they moved to the APC after the success of the talk.
Baraje is believed to be loyal, dedicated and possesses what it takes to be entrusted with the mantle of leadership of the state. His personal relationship with the state leader of the APC, Dr Bukola Saraki, is said to be a major asset for him if he eventually made it to the primaries of the party.
He is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the APC.
Young and vibrant in look, Abdullahi, the incumbent National Publicity Secretary of the APC, is seen as a major politician to watch taking over from Governor Ahmed. A journalist of repute with This Day Newspaper, the signs that the future would be bright for him began after his appointment as Special Assistant to the then Governor Saraki on Communication and Strategy; Chairman, Budget Monitoring and Implementation Committee; Special Adviser on Policy and Strategy and then Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology.
Though the incumbent Governor Ahmed is known as a seasoned banker and financial expert, Abdullahi on another hand is revered as a policy formulator and master strategist. He used his expertise, acumen and experience to deliver on the tasks assigned him by Saraki while presiding over the affairs of the state.
After completing his assignment at the state level, Abdullahi was made Minister of Youths Development and later moved to the Ministry of Sports where he won laurels for the country. Within the period of his ministerial position in Sports sector, national teams lifted African Nations Cup and female world cup in what was seen as unprecedented in the annals of sports in the country.
Seen as a die-hard loyal and associate of Saraki, Abdullahi's loyalty cost him the plum job during ex-President Goodluck Jonathan's administration. He was expected to renege his loyalty and throw jibes at Saraki at a political gathering in Ilorin with Jonathan in attendance. His refusal was the only offence that saw him being sent packing from the Federal Executive Council.
What has remained incontrovertible about him is his administrative credentials, which had seen him deploying his magic wand in education sector at the state level, Youths and Sports at the national stage as well as other spheres of governance he held sway.
A Mass Communication graduate from the prestigious University of Lagos, Akoka, Abdullahi has shown anyone who looks onto his side that has has garnered the requisite experience to preside over the affairs if given the opportunity in the impending political transition.
Another staunch ally of the President of the Senate, Moshood Mustapha is believed to be one that has enjoyed his confidence. As a former member of the House of Representatives, Mustapha is never a pushover when it comes to politics of Kwara State.
As a retired Immigration Officer, he has everything working well for him before his foray in politics. He started his political career in 2003 as Special Adviser (Local Government) to the then Governor Bukola Saraki from where he became Commissioner for Land and Housing and later Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Fondly known as MM, he also served as the governor's Special Adviser (Special Duties), a position that provided him considerable political leverage and in 2011, when Dr Saraki moved to the National Assembly as Senator, MM moved with him as a member of the Federal House of Representatives.
He is the Special Adviser (Inter-parliamentary Affairs, Special Duties and Protocols) to the Senate President Bukola Saraki. He is known to have vast business interests with investments in Kwara State. He appears serious with his ambition to govern the state come 2019 and unlike aspirants, who have decided to keep ambition to the chests, Mustapha has never for once denied seeking the plum job. He was the first person to have set up what can be called a strategic structure with coordinators in the three Senatorial Districts of the state to mobilise and canvass support for him.
Pundits believe that Moshood Mustapha has the expansive war chest to deploy when the time comes. Although he has not officially made his intention known to the public, his handlers are doing that on his behalf. When the politician celebrated his 55 Birthday last week, his loyalists used the opportunity of the prayer session organised to commemorate the day to beseech Almighty Allah to grant his desire to succeed Governor Ahmed.
ALI BABATUNDE AHMAD
Widely acclaimed to be an astute varsity don, Ali Babatunde Ahmad is the Speaker of the State House of Assembly. Prior to his election into the State Assembly in 2015, which culminated in his becoming number three citizen, Ahmad was a member of the seventh House of Representatives between 2011 and 2015 where he chaired the House Committee on Justice.
His representation in the lower arm of the National Assembly availed him the chance to exhibit his dexterity by sponsoring highest number of bills. Within his four years stint in the green chamber, the Kwara Speaker etched his footprints in the political landscape with his Administration of Criminal Justice Bill, which principally canvassed seamless and timely trial of criminal cases before law courts and quasi-judicial organisations. The bill saw light of the day in the green chamber and was subsequently assented to by former President Jonathan at the twilight of his administration.
The effectiveness of the law has seen drastic change in the trial of criminal related matters in the courts unlike in the past that such cases would suffer series of adjournments. The feat alone won him respect and accolades among his colleagues, who see him as an asset.
For almost three years that he has been presiding over the affairs of the state legislature, Ahmad, a one-time Special Assistant, Chief of Staff and Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, has effected major changes in the life of the legislative arm of government, which sometime created certain impression that the eight legislature can never be a stooge of the executive.
In spite of his speakership, Ahmad has not been swayed by the prestige and paraphernalia of the office he is holding. Talking and chalking on board remain intact. As an Associate Professor of Law, the Kwara Speaker still goes to classrooms to take Postgraduate Students of University of Ilorin along the journey of law courses.
Although he has maintained his denial of eyeing the governorship seat, he is believed to be an ally of the President of the Senate and state APC leader and could be considered to fly the flag of the party whenever the coast becomes clear.
In Kwara North however, despite the reported ambitions of Ahman-Pategi, Zakari Mohammed and Adamu Bawa, only Ahman-Pageti appears to have demonstrated the readiness to succeed Governor Ahmed owing to his conviction that it is the turn of his Senatorial District to produce the next Governor.
Ahman-Pategi is currently serving his third term in the House of Representatives. By virtue of this alone, he can be referred to as a Senior Legislator. He is chairing the House Committee on Water Resources, and recently, he made a giant stride with his proposed Ahman-Pategi University with permanent site located in his ancestral town of Patigi in Patigi Local Government Area of Kwara State.The take-off of the University is considered as a deft move that would improve the standard of education in Patigi on one hand and Kwara North on another.
Though he has not formally declared his ambition to be next Governor of Kwara State, permutation and secret talks with those who matter in Kwara North politics had begun in earnest because of the seriousness he attaches to the project. He is keen in securing the ticket of the APC anytime the party leadership set the primaries for the aspirants.
In the Peoples Democratic Party, aspirants are also warming up for a battle to grab the governorship ticket of the party during the primaries. Lukman Mustapha, Mohammed Ibrahim Ajia and Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq are eyeing the gubernatorial flag.
LUKMAN OLAYIWOLA MUSTAPHA
He is a foremost banker with some years of experience in the banking industry. As a financial manager, Mustapha, a son to Alhaji Usman Mustapha, a former Commissioner for Finance in Kwara State, has not hidden his intention to clinch the apex seat of power in the state in the next political dispensation. He is planning to realise the ambition on the platform of the PDP.
Before now, he is perceived as a diaspora politician, but with his establishment of Sobi FM Radio Station in the heart of Ilorin city, Mustapha has been enjoying some attention particularly among the youths.
Going by the current alignment and realignment of forces within the opposition and the effort to hijack the powers from the APC, Lukman Mustapha is unrelenting in grabbing the governorship ticket of the PDP. He is believed to have constituted a powerful youth wing to commence subtle mobilisation for him as part of strategic moves to actualise the gubernatorial ambition.
MOHAMMED IBRAHIM AJIA
He is a retired police officer, who rose to the post of Superintendent of Police before he called it quits. An Ilorin born police officer cum politician has begun discreet plans to realise his governorship ambition under the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Sources said he deliberately retired from service as a young officer to pursue what he has always desired.
With certain years of experience in the force, Ajia, a young and intelligent officer, believed he has the requisite skills to govern the state, albeit with no formal declaration. The seriousness with which he attached to the project was demonstrated at the recent programme organised by Ilorin Emirate Youth Development Association (IEYDA) where informed the gathering that he has set up different empowerment initiatives to better the lot of youths and cater for the aged and the less privileged in the society.
Without any doubt, the forthcoming 2019 general elections are going to be a litmus test for the dominant political structure on the platform of the APC to continue his winning streak and for the opposition led by PDP to prove its mettle of taking over the mantle of leadership in the affairs of the state.