Politics is no arithmetic. That is why pollsters and strategists keep shifting the aces until the ballots are counted. That scientific permutation works quite well in developed democracies.
In America, for instance, candidates place much premium on exit polls when making permutations on likely winners of electoral contests. In Nigeria, politicians often rely on a mixture of manipulation, thuggery and influence of money.
Bookmakers are at work as Nigerians prepare to choose new leaders from across 91 registered political parties on February 16 and March 2. Indeed, a few states such as Ogun, Oyo, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi and Kaduna are set for titanic battles between emergent forces and 'established' politicians. Not so for Kwara State where the voters are determined to dictate the direction of power flow.
The wind of change is pregnant. Kwarans are yearning for a new order and they are prepared to put their ballot where their heart directs them. For those who refuse to be sold on sentiments and pre-conceived notions of political hegemony, the odds are in favour of progressivism and people-oriented politics as depicted by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Deep in the hearts of Kwarans, the era of political dictation is over. Citizens, high and low are yearning for a leader; a father-figure who listens, who is accessible, humble, compassionate and altruistic. Across the country such leaders are few. But, with nostalgia, many remember the late Oloye Olusola Saraki, on time senate leader and perhaps the most consummate politician Kwara ever had. Omo eni oba joni (Why don't we have a son like his father) many are wont to say.
Kwara today is singing the dirge of the Saraki political dynasty. The message is simple: O to ge, enough is enough. Let's have a new political leader. For those not directly involved, this is not about hatred or bad belle. It is simply time for change. What are the indices for change and power shift, one may ask?
While he held sway in Kwara, Oloye Saraki played politics with deep deftness. While he had favourites for political patronage, he often consulted widely and allowed elders, in various communities mostly his acolyte, to have some say in who gets what, especially for elective positions. Perhaps, he often worked to arrived at pre-determined answers. Nevertheless, the people respected his choice, in most instances. But, Saraki's bread was always buttered as long as he stayed within the confines of the ruling party and enjoyed the federal might.
Oloye Saraki's son, Bukola has long jettisoned the political skills inherited from his father. He has lost bearing owing to his inordinate lust for political power; by all means he wants to be president, no matter who and what gets destroyed. First, his strategy is to use those who work with him as pawns, while also ensuring no one gets to rich and too powerful to challenge him. Next ammunition is to amass wealth by all means, especially using state resources.
For sure, Kwarans have seen beyond the façade of Omo Oloye. Bukola simply lacks the qualities and political dexterity of his father. It is inconceivable that Kwarans will boo and stone Oloye Saraki. Now Bukola is fast becoming a political pariah, even in his supposed homestead at Agbaji quarters in Ilorin. For those still in doubt of his diminished political power, check out the results of elections into local councils held in November, 2017. For the first time in more than a decade, many wards within Ilorin metropolis voted against candidates backed by Bukola.
Saraki’s real political demolition came a year later during the bye election for the Ekiti/Irepodun/Isin and Oke ero Federal Constituency. Saraki’s candidate in PDP lost woefully, to signpost his final rejection by Kwarans. But, like a cat with nine lives, Bukola can still boast of having some political muscle. That was why he deluded himself in splashing millions of dollars on the PDP presidential primary in Port Harcourt. He came back badly bruised and poorer!
Back home, he has faced still and open rejection. Across all senatorial zones, his campaign train has been booed, stoned and ambushed by agitated youths who are regretting the support that gave to Bukola and his political machinery, especially his anointed successor- Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed; more of a lame duck than an executive governor!
In Kwara South where Gov. Ahmed belongs, the bye election to the federal constituency mentioned above must be seen as an absolute rejection of Saraki and a damning testimonial on the lackluster performance of Ahmed. Yet for doubters, an incumbent governor has been so disgraced by withdrawing the senatorial ticket earlier doled to him by the senate leader. What a mess!
In Kwara North, the PDP campaign team led by Bukola has been stoned thrice. This is a zone that holds so much potential for wealth creation and employment generation through agriculture and solid minerals deposits. The only semblance of development is the phony Shonga Farm project now completely privatized by Saraki and his business partners; so brazenly executed without minding that huge state resources were sunk in to the scheme. And what did the owners of the land got as benefits? Their sons, mostly farmers, food processors and marketers, after losing their lands to foreigners, have been forced to Okada riding.
The frustration of Kwara North is more deep seated, beyond economic deprivation. Since 1999- twenty years at a stretch- the zone has not produced a Governor. Bukola had promised that that after eight years of incumbent governor, the mantle will shift to the zone. That was a promise never meant to be kept. The zone has been asked to wait for another eight years, possibly. Will the people of Kwara North bite the bullet once more? It is unthinkable that Bukola will again get away with his political subterfuge.
In Kwara Central, where the battle will be between Saraki and the blue-blood Ilorin indigenes, the outcome of the coming elections will finally give a face to the o to ge the movement. In the senatorial election, Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe is set to give Bukola a bloody nose by taking the senate seat. But the February 16 election has also stacked the odds in favour of President Buhari and the APC.
As the people of Kwara get set to choose a new governor, one thing will be paramount in making that choice – now, our ballot can actually give us the government with deserve; a government that will be accountable, equitable, just and people-oriented. That choice is symbolized by the APC candidate, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq.
The APC candidate prides himself as an "original" Ilorin man, who had is formative education in the city, attending the Demonstration School, in MagajinGeri, Ilorin. Despite his success in the business world, he disagrees that he was a silver spoon child. He has identified poverty and youth unemployment as two evils plaguing Kwara owing to what he describes as a visionless dynasty. “We have a dynasty that has no sense of where Kwara should be going. Each one of us in our families in Kwar has become a local government onto himself because you have to provide healthcare, water and all other services for yourself and the extended family," Abdulrazaq was quoted in a recent interview.
Specifically, the APC candidate has promised to pursue a six-point agenda anchored on modernised agriculture, quality education and massive infrastructure, employment for the youth as well as empowerment for the women. He also pledges to boost the morale of workers through prompt payment of wages, allowances and requisite training.
“My vision is to see a state where we are no longer dependent on statutory allocations from Abuja, where we use our enterprise to generate enough funds to run the state, where we reduce unemployment, where our women have free maternal care, where our women are empowered to achieve what they want to do. Where students have a good environment to study and can pursue what they want with government assistance either through scholarship or free education," he said.
His determination must have been informed by the fact that many Kwarans feel that state resources have not been prudently managed. “Between January 2011 and August 2018, the Kwara State government has received roughly N300bn in federal allocations. In the same period, the 16 local governments have received more than N500bn. This means that this state has received an average of 40bn naira annually from the federal accounts while the local councils have taken over 27bn naira annually between 2011 and 2017. Yet Kwara has one of the worst social infrastructures in this country," said Abdulrazaq.
He has also set his vision on modernizing agriculture by tapping into the state’s huge potentials. "Kwara has a comparative advantage in agriculture. But our farming communities don’t have facilities that will encourage investment. So we will concentrate, basically, on building infrastructure such as roads, health facilities, schools and opening up our communities to the world through stable electricity and internet connectivity,” he noted.
While asked to sum up is strategy for enthroning good governance, Abdulrazaq said: "Basically, Kwara requires urgent dismantling of the current political mercantilism which stifles development, encourages laziness and thuggery and dehumanises our people. This will free up resources to serve the people."
Kareem, a former Chief Press Secretary in Kwara State, wrote from Abuja