2003: Who Will Confront Oloye in Kwara?

Date: 2001-02-09

At the formative stage of the three political parties, the Special Adviser on African Affairs to the United Nations' Secretary General, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, was in Ilorin, Kwara state capital. As an indigene, the professor makes routine visits to his country home.

But on this particular visit, the youths of the state marched to his house to welcome him to town. The youths also used the occasion to urge him to save the state from "political servitude", a veiled reference to the domination of the state politics by Dr Olusola Saraki (Oloye), the leader of All Peoples Party (APP).

Gambari was said to have reflected on the demand of the youths and replied that while he appreciated their appeal to join the political fray, he could only do their wish by doing what is politically reasonable in the politics of Kwara state: taking his turn behind Saraki.

The erudite professor certainly is a successful graduate of the politics of the state of harmony. There are litany of reasons. In the Second Republic, Alhaji Adamu Attah and his brother, the present Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, Ado Ibrahim sought to rule the old Kwara state on the platform of the then National Party of Nigeria (NPN). During the party's primary, Saraki threw his weight behind Attah and he emerged as the NPN candidate. Not just that. Attah trounced the Late Josiah Olawoyin, the candidate of the then rival Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).

The story was to later become more interesting during Attah's struggle for a second term. During his reign, Attah had tried to be his own man, not taking instructions from Saraki who was then the Senate Leader. Oloye would not condone that. Calculatingly, he waited for Attah at the polls.

When his efforts to convince the leadership of the NPN to dump Attah failed, he threw his weight behind Chief Cornelius Adebayo, the UPN governorship candidate in the 1983 general elections. Notwithstanding the incumbency factor which was in Attah's favour as well as the characteristic "landslide victory" of NPN, Adebayo won the election and became governor courtesy Saraki's support. Alhaji Shaba Lafiagi and the current governor, Mohammed Lawal, also won their elections through Saraki's endorsement.

Apparently, Gambari was speaking from the bank of history.

But some Kwarans are set to tread where Gambari would not. For this Kwarans they believe that Saraki's dominance of the state politics need be checkmated.

This however is not a new dimension in the politics of the state. In the not too distant past, DrAlimi Abdulrazaq, the son of the respected AGF Abdulrazag, the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) from Northern Nigeria and a Second Republic governorship candidate,supported by some Turks from the state moved to upstage Saraki.

The Turks rallied support for Alimi who was the governorship candidate of the rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). His candidature was further buoyed by the prevalent demand then that Ilorin which had not produced a governor of the state since its inception in 1967 should take the state gubernatorial slot.

Saraki would later support the demand of the Ilorins as justifiable but certainly would not support Alimi who does not belong to his political horizon. Neither would he support his then political son Alhaji Shaba Lafiaji who was in his APP for a re-election. In line with the popular demand for an Ilorin son, he sprang the present governor, Lawal, who won the epic battle.

Despite these precedents, the Kwara political horizon is thickening everyday on the strategies that would be deployed to hijack the state from Oloye.

Decampment Plot:
Shortly after Saraki endorsed Lawal for governorship, Lafiagi, Oloye's protege, moved to join the rival PDP. He had his reasons. Having served his political father "faithfully" he had expected to be blessed once again with the governorship slot. But Saraki refused. Lafiagi was disenchanted and he opted out of the party. So also was Alhaji LAK Jimoh.

Lafiagi and Jimoh are not alone. Senator Ishaq Salman was a member of Saraki's political court. Oloye, sensing that in the turbulent climes of politics nothing could be certain, gave him (Salman) the senatorial slot to hold in trust while he (Saraki) went in pursuit of presidential nomination of the APP.

When APP in alliance with the Alliance for Democracy gave its nomination to Chief Olu Falae, Saraki demanded for his senatorial slot but Salman shortchanged him. Today, though Salman is a passive member of the APP, he is not in the camp of Oloye. His days of decamping to the PDP are numbered. Salman would certainly not be joining PDP alone as sources told THISDAY that he would be doing so with Senator Makanjuola Suleiman Ajadi (Kwara South).

While it is discernible that Lafiagi, Jimoh, Salman and Ajadi rose to political stardom on the crest of Saraki's formidable machinery, they also served as his foot soldiers. It is on the basis of this that political watchers in the state believe that Oloye would lose some grounds in 2003.

How Far Can They Go?
Lafiagi et al would be joiningAbdulrazaq, the national assistant publicity secretary of PDP, Gbenga Olawepo, Prince Ojo Fadumila, who was deputy governor under Lafiagi, Mr Henry Olaosebikan Senator Shehu Usman, Barrister Sidiq Ismail, Hon Yekeen Alabi, Chief J S Fatoyinbo, Dr Amuda Aluko, Prince Kola Bukoye, Chief S S Ajibola as well as Prince Yemi Isioye among others.

The beauty of this assemblage, apart from their various experiences on the political scene which they acquired under the tutelage of Saraki, is the reconciliation last week of Prince Isaac Adeyemi and Alhaji Amada Jidda.

Both Adeyemi and Jidda were engrossed in a tussle over who was elected the chairman of the state PDP.

However, the gubernatorial ambition harboured by Alimi, Lafiagi, Senator Ajadi and perhaps, Olawepo, sources believed would do the anticipated fortunes of the PDP some harm. Not just that. Many indigenes of the state also believe that the topshots of the PDP in the state are yet to garner the wherewitha required to fight and defeat Oloye in Kwara.

Also, Saraki still wields tremendous respect among Kwarans and his philantropic dispositions particularly among the local natives cannot be easily surpassed by the collective members of the PDP in the state.

Adisa Factor:
Before his exit from the military, Gen. Abdulkareem Adisa had shown more than a passing interest in the politics of Kwara. During the transition programme of Late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, when Adisa was Minister of Works and Housing, he was believed to have "encouraged" some Kwarans who were in the then United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) to the consternation of Saraki who was holding sway in the rival Congress for National Consensus (CNC).

Adisa has also had a running battle bordering on political inclinations with Lawal thereby giving credence to insinuations that he may do battle with Saraki in the race for 2003.

Although he is yet to make a formal declaration, there are strong indications that he may pitch his tent with the PDP. This becomes poignant as he would not co-habit in the same political camp with Saraki. Adisa who is also believed to harbour a governorship ambition would not join APP where the contest has been declared closed. The question is will he make the difference?

With the retired Major-General in PDP, it will give the party some credence but not enough to wrest the control of the state from the hold of Saraki.

AD's Ace:
The Alliance for Democracy (AD) cannot be described as an impacting political party in Kwara state. No other reason could make this manifest than the fact that Afenifere's erstwhile Secretary General, Ayo Opadokun contested the senatorial election in the state on the platform of AD and lost. But there are indications that the party is positioning Chief of Staff to Lagos State governor, Alhaji Lai Mohammed for the 2003 race on the platform of AD. This, too, would not give Saraki's machinery any sleepless night. According to a source, "before Bola Tinubu works out the modalities for Kwara, the 2003 election would have been over".

As a political commentator observed in the week, the quest for controlling the state in 2003 would be fought between Saraki and Oloye.

Lawal Vs Bukola Saraki:
The current gist in political circles in Kwara state is that Saraki has annointed his son, Bukola, as the next governor. Oloye however recently told THISDAY that his banker son, who is presently a special assistant in President Olusegun Obasanjo's cabinet, has no governorship ambition in 2003.

When he was reminded that his daughter, Gbemisola, in the lower house, had no such ambition until she was drafted, a situation many believe could repeat itself for Bukola, Saraki insisted that his son has no such desire.

But since Oloyes son by every standard is an adult, Kwarans may have to wait for him to declare if he has a governorship ambition in 2003 or not. As the waiting game begins in earnest, Lawal may have only Bukola to beat in a contest already declared closed by the Kingmaker of Kwara politics.

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