Issues As Kwara Goes Into Two-Horse Electoral Battle
The presidential and National Assembly election held, penultimate Saturday, has created an upset in the political arrangement of Kwara State. As declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was defeated in the election as all the six seats of the House of Representatives and the three senatorial seats in the state were won by the All Progressives Congress (APC). PDP national leader who is also the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, was roundly defeated, even as the presidential candidate of the party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, lost in the state.
While PDP Kwara called for the cancellation of the election, alleging that its outcome does not reflect the wishes of the people, the main opposition party in the state, APC, claimed that the people have spoken through the results of the election.
However, political analysts in the state have observed that the declared result of the election has brought up salient issues, even as it has thrusted APC with the upper hand in the political arrangement of the state. In the view of a founding member of the party in the state, Alhaji Adebayo Azeez, there is an urgent need for members of the party, irrespective of political groupings, to be united ahead of the governorship election coming up on Saturday.
Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune in Ilorin, Alhaji Azeez said the party can attain victory in the governorship and House of Assembly election only in unity. He said the prevalent situation whereby various support groups of the governorship aspirants still hold separate meetings would not augur well for the party in the coming elections, adding that a common and united front was needed to ensure victory.
"To fight and win the battle ahead, we should be united. It is in unity that we can free ourselves from the prevailing underdevelopment. There is nothing we will gain when we go about strategising in our separate ways. I think when we merge all the groups together as one united entity, there will be uniformity of purpose", he said.
Just as the political battle in Kwara State shifts to the governorship and House of Assembly election on Saturday, the newly-elected APC candidates in the state have been advised to ensure they do not deviate from principles of commitment to the people that helped them to win the presidential and National Assembly election.
Speaking with newsmen after a victory rally in the Ilorin metropolis last Thursday, members of the Buhari Osinbajo Project 2019 warned that they would work against a non-performing APC government, much as they did against PDP in the state in the last election. The state secretary of the organisation, Ayo Obisesan, who led the rally, said the masses in the state were tired of PDP and its leadership, hence they came out enmasse to vote them out of governance in the last general election.
He said a similar fate awaits any APC-led administration which failed to implement people oriented programmes. Incoming government will have to perform well. We must remember that the 'O To Ge' movement came about because people were tired of the government in power. It is not that people in APC are better than those in PDP, but the people believe that they will not have many hindrance to perform unlike PDP, since there will be no more anything like godfatherism. But if they too begin to govern badly, the people will also come together and vote them out," he said.
Obisesan expressed confidence that APC would win the governorship and House of Assembly election on Saturday, declaring that it is going to be a walkover for the party. He also celebrated the recent victory in the presidential and National Assembly elections, saying that the opposition APC won landslide for the first time in the state.
Also, state chapter of the Buhari Support Organization (BSO), a campaign/mobilisation group for the reelection of President Muhammadu Buhari, has said that the victory of the president in the election is a tacit approval of the APC programmes by the generality of Nigerians.
Speaking in Ilorin last Wednesday, the state coordinator of BSO, Tajudeen Asunnara, described the victory as a hard-won battle, assuring that the president would not let people down. He however said the president›s victory would only be meaningful when both the executive and legislative arms of Kwara State government are piloted by an APC-government, urging members to vote for the party’s candidates in Saturday's election.
"We thank all Kwarans for standing firm and showing love to President Muhammadu Buhari›s second term bid. Victory at the national level for President Buhari will only be meaningful if Kwara state government -executive and legislative are being piloted by a APC government. We, therefore, implore you all to come out enmasse to vote for our governorship candidate, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq and all the Kwara State House of Assembly candidates of APC," he said.
As the governorship and House of Assembly election draws closer, intrigues and politicking are being deployed by the leading political parties towards ensuring good showing in the state. Just after the announcement of the result of the February 23 elections by INEC, some sympathisers of APC in the state went to town on the social media, saying the PDP governorship candidate, Razaq Atunwa, has withdrew from the race.
The PDP media machinery in the state promptly came out to counter the message, asking the public to disregard the fake online report. The state chairman of the party, Kola Shittu, said his party's governorship candidate is still very much in the race, and to win. "The report is totally false, mischievous and misleading. Atunwa remains in the race and will emerge victorious by the grace of God and with the support of Kwara people," he said.
Also, politicians across party lines in the state have expressed their preparedness to participate in the election to elect candidates of their choice. Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune, many of the political actors and supporters said the election would finally determine political future of the state.
According to some people in the opposition APC, the election would bring about change in the political arrangement of the state, if their governorship candidate, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, wins the race because the ruling PDP has been in political control for more than 40 years. PDP supporters, on the other hand, said the election would further consolidate the party’s hold on the state, based on what the party the structure had been able to achieve for the state and its people, adding that it is not over until it is over.
Meanwhile, majority of the people in the state, especially members of APC that voted to cause political upset as witnessed in the last month election, have set a target of one year for the new political leaders in the state, saying they would be voted out just like those recently defeated, if they do not show seriousness in performance.
A social commentator and a lecturer at the University of Ilorin, Dr Abubakar Aliagan, speaking at a thanksgiving prayer for the APC victory in the last election, said it is expedient for people to set target and monitor the new political leaders just for a year, adding, «We will be the first to uproot them if they derail. And these new set of people are very easy to be uprooted.
"We have been in this struggle for social justice of our community for the past 30 years that I have been a preacher on both print and electronic media. What we are calling for is the welfare of our people. You can’t compare Kwara State with other states in Nigeria. A state that was created in 1967 that somebody used eight solid years [to rule and] that his only achievement is to fill potholes. That, to me, is uncalled for. So that is the reason why I said we gave the incoming government one year. Initially, I said six months, but I am aware that the government will face a herculean task.
"We have done a lot on this struggle. We were the lone voice, with all sense of humility, when everybody was silent and we were calling for social justice. We were calling for the liberation of our people from oppression, injustice and inept leadership. So, the people are looking unto us on what we are going to say...All I want to say is that the incoming government is just fortunate.
It is not that they have anything to show the community, to show Kwara State what they have done. Nothing! It was a struggle that started long time ago. People will be looking to see rapid changes. We know it is not going to be easy, but at least they should know that they are being closely monitored. The success of this struggle is not for the incoming government. The success is for the entire citizens of this state."
Indeed, the election, coming up in Kwara State, nay most part of the country, on Saturday, is a litmus test for PDP in the state which has to revive its dwindling fortune and the main opposition party which is fast gaining political ascendancy in the state in the aftermath of the ruling party's shocking loss in the presidential and National Assembly election.