MINISTERS, GOVERNOR ABDULRAZAK BATTLE FOR SOUL OF KWARA APC AS BATTLE LINES ARE DRAWN

AbdulRazaq, Lai Mohammed, Gbemisola Saraki

AbdulRazaq, Lai Mohammed and Gbemisola Saraki

TUNDE OYEKOLA writes on the internal wrangling in the Kwara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress

The Kwara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress has been enmeshed in leadership crisis and internal wrangling since the conclusion of the 2019 general elections.

The problem is getting messier, instead of abating and findings from party insider indicate the crisis may not be over anytime soon.

In 2019, the party wrested power from the dynasty of a former political warlord, Dr Olusola Saraki, who had political grip on the state for close to five decades.

While in control, the former senate leader was able to install his son, Bukola, who ruled for eight years as the governor. Bukola later became the president of the senate in a very controversial manner.

However, despite the success of the APC, it has been unable to unite itself as party members who fought tooth and nail to gain control of power are no longer ready to work together. Already, some members of the APC in the state have defected to other political parties.

As things stand, the governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, seems not interested in working with two ministers who also hail from the state: the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; and the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki. Gbemisola, a former member of the senate, is a daughter of the late Saraki.

Before the current party crisis, Abdulrazaq, Mohammed, Ms Saraki, and other party chieftains had come together to wrest power from the Peoples Democratic Party using the Kwara State APC’s ‘Otoge’ (Enough is enough!) campaign. ‘Otoge’ then meant enough of the control of the state by the Saraki family.

A former Chairman of the APC in the state, Bashir Bolarinwa, believed to have largely contributed to the party’s success in the 2019 general elections, has been unceremoniously removed and replaced with his deputy, Alhaji Abdullahi Samari.

Several other chieftains of the APC have also been technically removed from the party during the recently concluded party registration/revalidation exercise as they could not reregister their membership with the party due to alleged dirty politics.

In the midst of all these, the question that comes to mind is: What are the causes of the polarisation of the party between the Abdulrazaq and Bolarinwa groups?

Party insiders said the problem started not too long after the primary that produced the party’s governorship candidate.

Sources close to the governor told Saturday PUNCH that some party executives and stalwarts, especially Mohammed and Ms Saraki, did not attend the campaign rallies nor contributed to the funding of the 2019 elections.

“That is also the reason the governor did not consult them when he was assembling the people who would serve as commissioners in his cabinet,” a source said.

Going by the utterances of key members in the media, the governor’s camp perhaps sees those opposing their principal as a bunch of attention-seeking opportunists who want the common patrimony of the state to be shared among a privileged few.

Presently, Abdulrazaq reportedly has 22 members of the state House of Assembly on his side save for two members, Saheed Popoola, representing the Ojomu/Balogun Constituency, and another legislator from the Kwara North Senatorial District.

On the other hand, the Bolarinwa group sees the governor as an ingrate, who without any political structure, was helped into victory by the party, but would later turn around to bite the fingers that fed him.

Bolarinwa, who was allegedly removed by the governor in January this year, said although he had the power to stop the governor’s candidacy after the party’s primary in 2018, he did not do so because of the interest of the party.

“Then, I was fully in charge and I knew what happened during the party’s primary. As a result of his emergence as the party’s candidate, I became the enemy of other aspirants and today, he doesn’t want to see me in the party that we all worked to make a ruling party in the state,” he claimed

Bolarinwa said four groups – the Integrity Group led by the Information and Culture Minister, Mohammed; the Akogun group led by Chief Iyiola Oyedepo; Ms Saraki’s group; and Sunday Fagbemi’s group – merged to form the APC in Kwara State and subsequently worked together in the election that produced Abdulrazaq as the winner of the governorship poll.

However, Bolarinwa alleged that the governor was only dealing with the Fagbemi group, neglecting the other three groups that toiled for the party’s success in 2019.

“Apart from doing all sorts of things to frustrate us, the governor, during the recent registration/revalidation exercise, did not allow us to register and revalidate our membership of the party. He made sure that the materials sent to the state by the National Caretaker Committee of the APC were not available in areas where the members of the other three groups are strong,” Bolarinwa further alleged.

Meanwhile, the party has since January this year when Bolarinwa was removed had two people parading themselves as the party’s caretaker chairmen and there has been little or no peace in the party.

This marked the beginning of a no-love-lost relationship between the two groups, and in the past, members of the two groups have had physical confrontations and attacked one another.

Even Bolarinwa was in February this year allegedly attacked by a group of thugs at a meeting organised by Senator John Danboi, who headed the party’s registration/revalidation committee from the APC National Secretariat. But the governor, in

Recently, the Abdulrazaq and Bolarinwa groups held separate rallies to celebrate the second anniversary of the party in power.

Whils celebration at the Banquet Hall opposite the government house, the Bolarinwa group held its own at the open field of Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority at the same time on the same day.

A few days after the event, the governor’s group received over 3,500 defectors from some political parties.

Among those who defected were the governorship candidate of the Labour Party during the 2019 elections, Issa Aremu, and the presidential candidate of the defunct Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, Alhaji Ganiyu Galadima.

In the meantime, the APC in the state has reportedly lost about 20,000 members, who defected to form a socio-political association tagged Third Force, led by Alhaji Yakub Gobir, a former governorship aspirant in the state in the 2019 elections.

The defectors, according to findings, include the APC senatorial chairmen, ward chairmen, local government chairmen, women leaders, youth leaders, as well as other party stalwarts in all the 16 local government areas of the state.

The group’s spokesperson and the immediate past APC Chairman for the Kwara Central Senatorial District, Abdulfatai Abdulrahman, while explaining the rationale for their defection, said, “It is impossible to achieve the developmental goals we aim for Kwara under the present leadership of the party.”

He said, “As you are all aware, the Kwara State APC has been enmeshed in one crisis or the other almost immediately after the party’s primary, stretching into the campaign period and lingering up to date.

“The crisis has got to its peak with the recently concluded APC membership revalidation and registration exercise in the state which was flawed with deliberate policies and grand orchestration to deregister and disenfranchise selected members of the party.

“The success of a political party is anchored on its popularity, intra-party membership, cohesion, integrity and sincere commitment to the service of the masses. All these are glaringly diminishing in the Kwara APC.

grand design that denied the majority of party members the opportunity to register and revalidate their membership across the state is a 2023 permutation agenda. We can never cross our fingers and watch the game from the sidelines.

“The deliberate inaction to address the lingering crisis in the Kwara APC has become obvious to all discerning minds that the agenda to deregister and refusal to revalidate thousands of members across the state was a grand plot that has the backing of the National Caretaker Committee of the party.”

However, the Chairman of APC Caretaker Committee in the state, Alhaji Abdullahi Samari, said, “As much as I don’t want people to leave the party, as few people are defecting, many others are coming into the APC and they are people of substance and are full of ideas.”

Samari also said no one was prevented from joining the APC nor stopped from renewing their membership during the recent registration/revalidation exercise, adding that he had received no complaint from anyone.

Notwithstanding the defence, the governor’s group and the rival camp are clamouring for a review of the registration exercise.

The party, in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Tajudeen Aro, last Sunday appealed to the National Caretaker Committee led by Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, to extend the registration by at least one week so that those who recently defected from other political parties to the APC could have the opportunity to register as party members.

This is as Bolarinwa, the former state chairman of the party, said that the National Caretaker Committee had assured him that it would make special arrangements to ensure that members that were denied registration in the state were fully registered.

However, the APC National Secretariat is said to have done little or nothing to reconcile the warring factions even as a former governor of the state and ex-Senate President, Saraki, is said to be gradually returning from his self-imposed political vacation from the state.

Going by the mammoth crowd that welcomed him to the state in December 2020 when he came for the remembrance prayers of his late father, he left no one in doubt as to his still being a force to reckon with in political calculations in the state.

With this scenario, many believe that Abdulrazaq, as the leader of the party in the state, should be aware of the magnitude of work he has to do to get a re-election in 2023 and move the party forward in the state.

Political observers in the state also stated that the governor should embrace other political stalwarts in the state, including Mohammed and Ms Saraki.

As the situation continues to unfold, it is difficult to predict how the APC crisis will play out in the days ahead.

Copyright PUNCH