The Ekiti and Osun governorship elections have become an eye-opener to parties and politicians who think 2023 is theirs for sure.
And the outcomes of these elections have rekindled hope of others that it is possible for them to make a big impression. In Kwara State, the 2023 governorship election will not only be fiercely contested because of high calibre and large number of candidates, the coalition that brought revolution in 2019 with ‘Otoge’ has been fragmented, making it difficult for All Progressives Congress (APC), to sustain a bragging right.
Although, the contest promises to be a battle of wit as many of the contestants are not new in their quest to govern the state, a few are having a first shot at the exalted seat.
The incumbent governor and candidate of APC, Mallam AbdulRahaman AbdulRazak has been on the saddle for close to four years and is thus one of the experienced candidates, yet his incumbency may not confer serious advantage because of interplay of forces following the outcome of the primary of the major political parties in the state, coupled with intra party squabble in the ruling party.
Some of the candidates who will give the incumbent governor a run for his money include, Yahman Abdullahi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Hakeem Lawal, Social Democratic Party (SDP); Yakub Gobir, Young Progressive Party (YPP); Senator Makanjuola Ajadi, African Democratic Congress (ADC); Professor Shuaib Oba AbdulRaheem, New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) and Abubakar Basambo of the Labour Party (LP).
Leading the forces against the governor is the Oro, Irepodun local council born Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who worked hard to polarise the party in the state. Others include; Senator Yahaya Oloriegbe (Kwara Central), Senator Gbemisola Saraki, Hakeem Lawal (son of former governor of the state, Mohammed Alabi Lawal), Chief Iyiola Oyedepo (the arrow head of ‘Otoge’ movement), Senator Makanjuola Ajadi (Kwara South, 1999-2004), Professor Shuaib Oba AbdulRaheem (former Vice Chancellor, University of Ilorin), Saheed Popoola (a member of Kwara State House of Assembly from Offa) and Bashiru Omolaja Bolarinwa.
The initial plan of majority of these aggrieved politicians, according to sources, was to decamp to SDP being touted as the platform Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was to adopt in case he did not pick the presidential ticket of the APC. But the plan failed and threw them off balance and their next line of action is yet to be known.
But AbdulRaheem has decamped from the APC to pick the governorship ticket of NNPP. In the same vein, Lawal will in 2023 fly the governorship flag of SDP. Gobir is the governorship candidate of YPP. Popoola has equally pitched his tent with SDP, while Ajadi has the ticket of ADC, to pursue his senatorial ambition.
Many are wondering who are those remaining in the governor’s camp that have political value and experience to replace Mohammed, Saraki, Oloriegbe, Ajadi, Gobir, Popoola, AbdulRaheem, Bolarinwa, Lawal and Oyedepo ahead of 2023 governorship election in the state?
The Commissioner for Communications in the state, Bode Towoju, said many of the aggrieved party leaders are not totally against the governor, expressing optimism that communication gap between his principal and the warring faction would be bridged.
In the same vein, the state chairman of APC, Sunday Fagbemi said, he had in conjunction with other leaders of the party taken various steps to resolve the logjam without much success, adding, “but we are not giving up on the need for prompt resolution of the crisis.”
An aide to the governor who pleaded for anonymity said: “Many of them wanted to contest for various political offices but could not achieve their aspiration due to competitive nature of the APC primary in the state. So, their going to other parties could not have been due to any rift between them and the governor as being speculated. We know that many of them will still come back soonest.”
Although some residents of the state have predicted that the election may not be as tough and revolutionary as that of 2019 when the Sarakis’ political hegemony and that of PDP was successfully defeated through ‘Otoge’ championed by the APC, the 2023 election will be a referendum on whatever the governor has achieved and people’s perception of his government.
Many residents of the state believe that Governor AbdulRazak, who shot himself into political limelight in the aftermath of the political revolution in Kwara three and a half years ago, has achieved a lot and redefined governance in the state through prudent management of resources and setting solid foundation for sustainable development, but his critics believe he does not have a formidable political structure of his own to win the election. Many of his staunch supporters still remain those he shared the same ideologies with under the defunct CPC.
Covertly, it is difficult to identify those supporting the governor due to the difficulty in identifying those who are with him based on perceived political patronages they derive from his government and those rooting for him genuinely based on performance.
One unique style of AbdulRazak is his penchant for direct assessment of the needs of every ward in the state. He had severally visited many settlements – rural and urban – to verify their claims or needs.
The chairman of the ruling APC in Kwara, Sunday Fagbemi, said: “our governor does not believe in delegating certain responsibilities to his aides. Rather, he prefers to leave the comfort of his office to trek several kilometres to assess the needs of his people.
“In our political history as a people, no governor had any record closer to this. In the remotest parts of the state, you will suddenly see the governor mingling with the people to verify their needs. Moments after this, you will see him springing to action by meeting such needs within the available resources of the state.”
Many residents of the state are still pleased with the manner the governor upgraded medical personnel and facilities in all state owned general and specialist hospitals across the three senatorial districts of the state. These include: General Hospitals at Omu-Aran, Offa, Lafiagi, Ilorin, Children Specialist Hospital, Igboro, Ilorin and Specialist Hospital, Sobi, Ilorin. This development helped the state to strategically combat the scourge of COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the state’s health commissioner, Dr Raji Rasak, an ideal hospital is one with enough medical personnel and sufficient medical equipment and the governor since his assumption of office made it topmost priority of his administration.
“He started with all the cottage hospitals and then all the general hospitals. Today, statistics at the only tertiary health facilities in the state (University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital) show a drastic reduction in cases of referrals. This is how an ideal health sector should be run.”
One other unique focus of the government is in the area of qualitative roads repair. Rather than constructing new roads that would not be durable, his government ensured the major roads and bypass across the existing 17 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the state are tarred and drainages are deep and wide enough to ensure free flow of flood even during a deluge.
His government has equally ensured payment of minimum wage to all cadres of civil servants, with the resultant effect being harmonious relationship between the government and workers.
According to Mr Issa Ore, the state’s chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), workers are pleased with what the governor has done in the area of welfare. “Even in the area of securing mini buses for many commercial drivers on reasonable loan facilities cannot go unappreciated. We believe that he can still do better, especially by providing affordable housing units for workers,” he said.
Despite his achievements, the manner some APC leaders in the state severed relationships with him leading to internal crisis within the party has become a source of concern to his supporters. The aggrieved party leaders alleged that the governor is excluding them in major decisions affecting the party and government. So, they claimed that the battle line has been drawn and they are already working against his second term ambition.
Kwara Central may hold the ace in governorship election in the state. Ilorin West, Ilorin East, Ilorin South and Asa local councils form the Senatorial District as located here. Incidentally, all the governorship candidates but one, Abdullahi of PDP hail from the senatorial district.
Basambo of LP is also a governorship candidate from Ilorin while Abdullahi is from Edu local council of Kwara North Senatorial District.
The political permutation ahead of the governorship poll is that Kwara Central votes will be divided among the candidates from the district. These are: AbdulRazak (APC), AbdulRaheem (NNPP), Lawal (SDP) Gobir (YPP) and Basambo (LP).
It is not yet clear whether the candidates may at any point before the election reach a consensus for merger. But sources said Ajadi had allegedly been appointed as the rallying point of all the aggrieved members. He may, therefore, decide the direction they may take before the election.
If Kwara Central votes will be divided, then who takes the lion shares of the votes? Chief Wole Oke, the leader of Kwara State House of Assembly in the third republic said: “The governor has firm control of Kwara Central. The results he got some three and a half years ago will still be replicated in 2023. Even more voters this time around will look his way, due to his achievements.”
For Popoola: “Let me take you through an analysis to understand what we are saying. Lawal, with the structure of his late father will have at least 20 per cent of the total votes in his senatorial district. AbdulRaheem will have almost the same percentage here. Let me give five per cent each to both Gobir and Basambo.
“Now out of the remaining 50 per cent, 30 will go to Abdulahi through both Bukola Saraki and Gbemisola Saraki. Abdulahi himself will have five per cent sympathy votes. Don’t ask me who gets the remaining 15 per cent.”
Kwara North remains the political base of the PDP candidate. But it is widely believed in many quarters that the governor’s greatest achievements are concentrated in the region. If the voters will reward diligence, then AbdulRazak may win majority votes cast in this area. But if they will vote according to ethnic background, votes cast may be equally divided between APC and PDP candidates.
In Kwara South, it will be a titanic battle between APC and PDP. Both candidates of the two parties have their running mates from the district. The incumbent deputy governor, Elder Kayode Alabi is from Oro-Ago, while the running mate of Abdulahi, Gbenga Makanjuola hails from Omu-Aran.
Oke, in his analysis of how electorate may vote said: “Electorate in Kwara State understands the governor very well. They know that he is the listening type who meets needs based on available resources at all times. I don’t think that in the last three years of this administration, the governor has failed to reach out to 70 per cent of major needs brought to his attention. On his own too, he has done major interventions unsung to many.
“Some people spent 16 years enriching their pockets. They looted the treasury so much that they could no longer pay correct salary scales of workers. They turned governance into private business or family business without accountability.”
But spokesman of the Kwara PDP, Prince Tunji Morounfoye said, the legacies and giant strides of former governors of the state, Bukola Saraki (2003-2011) and Abdulfattah Ahmed (2011-2018) remain unparalleled in the political history of the state.”
Morounfoye asked: “Let the APC-led government in the state tell us one single big project it has commissioned within its last three years in power?”
For Bashir Adigun, Special Adviser on Political Affairs to Governor AbdulRazak, “the multi billion naira projects across the state, especially, the about one kilometer fly over bridge under construction to decongest ‘Tanke’ area of the town when completed within the next few months, are parts of what will silence the critics of the government. We build and sustain human lives via prompt payment of minimum wages to all our workers.
“The huge debts we inherited are being systematically cleared without noise.” While embargo on political campaigns will soon be lifted, politicians will begin to traverse the nooks and crannies of the state, raising people’s hope by promising many things. But analysts said if the fringe parties fail to reach consensus to square up with bigger parties, the outcome of the 2023 could go to the more formidable party.