The just concluded by-election in the Irepodun/Isin/Oke-ero/Ekiti federal constituency of Kwara State has generated a lot of comments and outburst among people of the state and beyond. The ruling Peoples Demoractic Party (PDP) in the state lost the election to the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Abdulraheem Tunji Olawuyi as winner.
A lot of factors are said to be responsible for the fate of the PDP in the by-election. According to political analysts, the main factor is that the people of Kwara seem to have gotten tired of the Saraki dynasty; hence the agitation to dislodge them from the politics of the state. And they want to achieve that as soon as possible.
It is said that the people of Igbomina are tired of allowing the Ilorin zone rule over the state as they have done for many years, yet the development of the state is retarded.
An observer in the by-election told Daily Trust on Sunday that he saw some Atiku Abubakar's supporters from Igbomina who voted for the APC candidate because “they wouldn’t want be slaves to Ilorin people anymore.” He said the people of Igbomina would rather want to assert their political freedom.
The people of Kwara are said to be disenchanted over the underdevelopment of the state, unpaid salaries of local government workers and pensioners.
Furthermore, the condition of the College of Education, Oro, is making the indigenes angry at Saraki, who allegedly determines what goes to the state for development. The school, which is the only government-owned higher institution in the area, has become a shadow of itself because of neglect by the state government.
Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, who is also from Igbomina and has lived all his life in Lagos, contributed to the victory of the APC at the poll. He allegedly mobilised Kwarans from Lagos, not only to register at home but to also vote.
The election also witnessed what people said had never happened in the history of the state as it was highly policed, a situation that some analysts say made it impossible for PDP members to go out to vote, for the fear of being intimidated, while the activities of political thugs were also noticeable.
Also, despite the challenges of their primary elections, APC stakeholders and members in the state have been able to form a united force against their perceived common enemy, who is believed to be Saraki.
It was also alleged that the Labour Party mobilised their supporters to vote for the APC in the poll.
It is also a known fact that Kwara South has always been in the opposition. That senatorial district has never been Saraki's stronghold. Oke-ero local government is usually a tough fight between Saraki and the opposition. Three other local governments - Irepodun, Isin and Ekiti - have also been against Saraki's political philosophy, it was gathered.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed attributed the victory of the APC to the will of God and people's determination to be freed of Saraki's political stronghold.
He said, "One thing I requested from President Muhammadu Buhari before I left Abuja for the election was the provision of adequate security. And the security agents discharged their duties professionally. This accounted for the peaceful conduct of the election. I have been participating in elections in the state since 2003, and this was one of the most peaceful.
"Some PDP members were peddling rumours that I was going about with security agents to intimidate opponents. There is no truth in that. It was the will of the people that prevailed. God has turned the seemingly political impregnability of Saraki's dynasty to foolishness. It was because all of us trooped in large numbers to cast our votes. The APC is God-ordained for the state and the country.
"With this victory, you have broken the Berlin wall, and the same thing will be repeated in the 2019 elections."
Also speaking, the state chairman of the APC, Bashir Bolarinwa, said the victory of the party was a danger signal for the PDP in 2019. He added that the PDP was crying foul because it was defeated. "Kwarans have spoken. They are tired of enslavement," he added.
Meanwhile, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and the PDP have faulted the conduct of the by-election, saying it will challenge its outcome at the tribunal.
In his reaction to the result of the election, the governor said reports available to him from the four local government areas where elections were held indicated widespread harassment, arrests and intimidation of PDP members and supporters by security personnel. He, however, commended PDP members and supporters across the federal constituency who came out to exercise their franchise "at the risk of intimidation and arrest.” He said the heightened fear, orchestrated by intimidation against PDP members and supporters by security agents, led to voter apathy and poor turnout in the areas that are traditional strongholds of the party.
The PDP, therefore, rejected the result of the election, describing it as daylight robbery. They argued that the outcome of the election did not reflect the will of the people.
Addressing a press conference in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, the state chairman of the PDP, Kola Shittu, an engineer, further described the election as a charade and direct assault on the nation's democracy.
Shittu noted that the party raised some concerns prior to the election, including "the importation of thugs and heavy deployment of security personnel, which manifested during the exercise." He alleged that the poll was characterised by ballot box snatching, widespread irregularities and illegal arrest of members of the PDP, before and during the election. He, therefore, called for an outright cancellation of the result “because it fell short of the expectations of the people of the constituency."
But an observer noted, "The by-election was a protest vote against Saraki as the people of Kwara South wanted something different. We don’t want anybody that has any affiliation with Saraki, and that will play out greatly in the general elections. Kwarans want freedom from Saraki and we shall get it, with God on our side."