When the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) drew the curtains on the withdrawal and substitution of candidates for the general elections on December 1, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq was affirmed as the governorship candidate of the Kwara State All Progressive Congress (APC). His running mate, according to INEC, is Kayode Alabi, an entrepreneur and education consultant.
While AbdulRazaq, a Muslim, is from Ilorin in the Central Senatorial District, his running mate is a Christian from Ifelodun local government, the largest voting bloc in the Kwara South District. Both men are in their fifties.
But, sources said there are moves by some stakeholders to replace Alabi with one of his kinsmen from Ifelodun, Olukayode Abogunrin, a former chairman of the local government. To the electorate, these moves are dangerous and APC may well play into the hands of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bukola Saraki machinery, which appear to be losing grip on the north Central State. There are claims that the moves are being spearheaded by a top official of the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, although sources say influential party officials are resisting him to avert the looming danger.
While Abogunrin, in his mid 70s, is by no means a small fry in the politics of the state, party insiders say he is too old and may not be fit for the rigour of governance. Besides, he is suspected to have played some ethnic politics in the past which many believe could make him a polarising figure on the delicate ticket that ought to unite all Kwarans behind the liberation struggle.
But, that is not as important as the legal consequences of changing a candidate after the official window has closed. If the APC swaps the name of a candidate after the official time, any political party may approach the court to ensure the party’s candidature is voided on technical grounds. That the APC is not having governorship candidate in its stronghold in Zamfara is due to technical error that its Kwara State chapter is about to make.
This development comes a few weeks after a social media post revealed that Kayode Alabi had been picked for the slot. Some stakeholders are apparently opposed to Alabi’s candidature for some reasons. But, some party insiders have said the opposition against Alabi was part of the latest moves to replace him with Abogunrin. This camp has claimed that substitution ends on December 17, and not on December 1. What they do not realise is the danger of a backdoor arrangement. Analysts say APC should, learn from Kwara PDP, which had since swapped its candidates, including Governor Abdulfattah Ahmed, before the December 1 official deadline.
The credentials of Alabi and Abogunrin are there for anyone to judge within and outside their immediate constituencies. While Abogunrin was an aspirant for the House of Representatives election, Alabi contested the primaries for the Kwara South senatorial district.
Both men lost, although their records as top members of the Kwara liberation efforts are well known. However, Alabi is believed to be more popular with the elders in Kwara South as well as among the youth which he has always mobilised for the opposition in the state especially between 2011 and 2015.
In a statement announcing its support for Alabi's nomination, Kwara Liberation Movement, a group within the Kwara APC, said: "(Alabi) has been a long standing supporter of the Kwara liberation movement. He has been a strong voice against bad governance in our state.
It added: "Alabi appears to be a neutral face among those seeking this office from imaginary camps and may well be the best choice in the present circumstances of the party in Kwara State.
"An entrepreneur of repute, Alabi has always been a professional in politics. He was a front line Kwara South senatorial aspirant in the last primary. He meets the criteria of being a Christian - since another Muslim cannot be picked when the candidate is already a Muslim -and he comes from the largest voting bloc in the Kwara South senatorial district; Ifelodun Local Government, which, incidentally, has lost top seats to other areas."