2019: Kwara politicians return to drawing board for March
As it was with Michael Gerard Tyson, former undisputed world heavyweight champion, so has it been with the Senate President, Bukola Saraki. Tyson, between 1985 and 2005 was a ferocious boxer who mauled his opponents with ease.
Saraki, until February 23 2019 General Elections was a colossus in Kwara politics, who decided what goes up or comes down.
Saraki was a two-term governor (2003-2011), before venturing into the National Assembly, where is serving his second term, as well as being Senate President.
Saraki's skillfulness at managing the levers of power in the slippery terrain of the Red chamber will be story for another day.
Back home in Kwara, he wielded so much powers that he installed the incumbent Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, whose two terms will end on May 29.
Besides anointing and delivering a governor, Saraki, scion of the Oloye political dynasty, which he grabbed from his late father, Oloye Olusola Saraki, had for eight years produced candidates for all the three Senatorial seats in the state (Kwara North, Central and South) and the existing six Federal Constituencies.
Saraki's political dynasty equally produced all the 24-member of the state's House of Assembly, just as he filled all the 16 chairmanship sloths of Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the state.
These and many other credentials were in Saraki's kitty ahead of the polls of February 23.
More so, his opponent, Dr Yahaya Oloriegbe of the All Progressives Congress (APC) only served as a member of the state House of Assembly between (1999-2003), representing the then All peoples Party (APP). He didn’t come with a lot of capacity.
Therefore, at the start of the race, pundits didn’t see the contest between Oloriegbe, an Ilorin born medical practitioner turned politician and Saraki, a formidable national leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a match of equals.
But when the results were announced, late Saturday night, the development threw many predictions into dustbin and left others flabbergasted. Members of the APC in parts of Ilorin rolled out the drums in celebration of the first ever defeat of Oloye political dynasty since it held onto the political leadership of the state, some 40 years ago.
After a deep silence from Saraki's camp following the announcement, rumour spread in the social media that Saraki had conceded defeat. It was discovered to be untrue, as a few hours later, the Director General of Kwara PDP Campaign Organisation, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman described as "outright falsehood" a report credited to him that the Senate President had conceded defeat.
But the arrow head of the struggle tagged 'Ominira Kwara' (Kwara Liberation Struggle) Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, a man trained in the political school of Baba Olusola Saraki, father of the Senate President, stated that the "victory of the good people of Kwara over the dynasty was won long before the election day."
Oyedepo, who led three others, Rex Olawoye, Yekeen Alajagusi and Femi Yusuff in one of the strongest political propaganda on major radio stations in the state against Saraki for three years until the elections said, “we knew that the good and great people of Kwara lacked facts and figures on the sullen socio, political and economic status of our dear state.
So we commenced the weekly expositions on the ills being perpetrated against them on all the major airwaves in the state.
The rest were the results of the Presidential and National Assembly elections. Indeed, we have chased out the lion from the jungle of Kwara.
"Kwara is in celebration and jubilation mood. An empire that turned Kwara State to a jungle fell on the 23rd day of February 2019. The election that uprooted the dynasty was fair, free and highly credible. There were no ballots snatching and stuffing. There was no violence resulting into killing and maiming of anybody. There were no incidences of manipulated figures.
In the recent history of elections in Kwara State and specifically since 2003, we have never had it so good. People freely decided and voted and with votes, the lion was chased out of the jungle he created.
“I salute the freedom fighters that created this milestone. I salute the Pastors, Imams and other prayer warriors that constantly knocked the door of heaven for the grace and help from Almighty God. Their efforts have moved God to make this history possible. I salute valiant Kwarans that patiently endured the pains of bad governance for years.
“I deeply appreciate the courage of the people of Kwara State that did not allow place of origin or religion to distract us from diligent prosecution of this war of our own time. I salute the traditional rulers that eventually aligned with their people to make this qualitative change of political direction possible. The youths and women of Kwara made a shame of gifts of money and other materials borne out of politics of deception and fake philanthropy.
“The defeat is total as it is for now, nine (three Senators and 6 House of Representatives) to APC and zero to PDP. The outcome of 9th March 2019 is by the grace of God a foregone conclusion. It shall be twenty-six (twenty-four House of Assembly members, a governor and his Deputy) to APC and another zero for PDP.
An aide of Saraki, a former commissioner in the state, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian in Ilorin that, "we were very lethargic reacting to the APC propaganda against us on air.
Initially, we considered their activities as irrelevant and child's play. But by the time we realised the implications of our indifference, it was too late. They had more audience on air than we did, when we eventually tried to counter them. The summary is that, we the Sarakites lost the elections to the propaganda war of the opposition party."
One man, an experienced medical practitioner, an elder statesman and Tafida of Ilorin, Dr. Amuda Aluko, who coined the vocabulary 'O To Gee' (enough is enough) is now christened "the wordsmith of Kwara." Already, that statement has now been replaced with 'O To Pee' (we offer our gratitude).
The Sarakites are regrouping ahead of the Governorship and House of Assembly polls slated for Saturday March 9, 2019.
Emergency meetings were held between Monday March 25 and Tuesday 26 at 'Ileloke', the political enclave of Saraki, between him and some of his die-hard supporters.
Sources said the postmortem parley convened by the Senate President were avenue for frank talks.
Sources at the meeting disclosed that some key resolutions reached blamed the defeat on:
• Poor governance at the state's level
• Communication gap between Saraki and his Kwara-based aides
• Saraki's prosecution at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), that allegedly distracted him from attending to needs of his constituents
• Treachery on part of some of the loyalists who played clandestine roles for the opposition before and during the polls
• Failure to resolve amicably the rift between Saraki and some of his disgruntled "foot soldiers", majority of who eventually allied with the opposition, and in the process revealed the secretes of the Sarakites to them.
Former chairman of Local Government Service Commission and a staunch supporter of Saraki, Alhaji Kayode Suleiman, said; "we are looking backward after the defeat. We have seen our mistakes and we are correcting them ahead of the next round of elections. We have seen a great conspiracy against us but have gone back to the drawing board. The results will be different in the next rounds of elections."
But Femi Yusuf, a vocal youth leader of the APC described Suleiman's claim as "a man just waking up from a deep sleep. We are not relenting our efforts at all. If anything, we want to tell others not to waste their votes again. They should cast such votes to where they would be happy. It is a 'Tsunami' and there is nothing that can stop it because God is in it."
For the Publicity Secretary of the state’s PDP, Tunde Ashaolu, the last elections were fraught with irregularities and excessive use of federal might against their supporters.
"They used the Police, DSS, and EFCC to frighten our people. The population of these officers sent to the state was too enormous. We are reviewing the situation and at the appropriate time, we shall respond. We know that the Federal Government did this to us in Kwara because of the hatred it has for our leader and the national leader of our great party (Bukola Saraki).
Ashaolu, nevertheless expressed high hopes for better result in the next rounds of elections, just as he urged PDP members not to be distracted by results churned out in the last elections. He added that the legal team of the party may soon swing into action.
Three leading governorship candidates: AbdulRahaman AbdulRasak of APC, AbdulRasak Atunwa of the PDP and Issa Aremu of the Labour Party (L/P) vying for seat of governor.
AbdulRasak from Ilorin is the biological son of the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in the defunct Northern Nigeria, A.G.F. AbdulRasak.
Atunwa, a former commissioner, a former member of House of Representatives, and a former speaker of the state Assembly is from Efue, in Asa LGA of the state.
Aremu is from Alapata's compound in Ilorin. He is into labour activism, rising to the position of Deputy President of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).
The pendulum of victory now belongs to the people of the state, as they, especially the eligible voters, will decide where it swings.