... Exercise leaves Kwara APC in three-sided battle
There are indications that ongoing political imbroglio within the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara State might lead to realignment of forces before 2023, as top political juggernauts in the state plot each other’s downfall. Initially, the crisis started like a child’s play only to snowball into a ball of fire as hostility flares from each of the warring blocs amid invectives.
Governor AbdulRahaman AbdulRazak, Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed and Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemi Saraki, seem to be entangled in a three-sided power play. There are fears that the imbroglio involving the troika might stoke internal fissures. Ordinarily, the existing camps within Kwara APC include Governor AbdulRazak (AA), Lai Mohammed, Gbemisola Saraki and Sunday Fagbemi, but AA and Fagbemi have come together as a group.
The real cause of the rift could not be officially disclosed but sources linked it with alleged refusal by some chieftains of the party to release to AbdulRazak for campaign, raised funds by “APC friends” during his quest for the seat of Governor.
"He, (AbdulRazak) as the Governorship candidate, had to use his private funds for the campaign and election proper. He was denied access to the money. But, because of the people's love for him, and his strong capital base as an industrialist, he solely bankrolled his campaign before his emergence. Again, some people want him to start seeing them as his godfathers, a proposal he had since rebuffed.
"Afterwards, those who deprived him of the funds started putting on Babanriga and obsolete suits savouring the victory they never participated in. Put yourself in the shoes of the Governor, will you be at peace with such people? In fact many of them did not give him any chance but not with God,” said, a source from the state government house, Ilorin.
Besides, it was alleged that the same fate of deprivation of raised funds befell the entire 24 member APC House of Assembly candidates forcing AbdulRazak to come to their aid financially. The entire 24 but one eventually cruised to victories in the polls.
A House of Assembly source, speaking anonymously said: “This show of insincerity to the lawmakers' candidates of the party, led them to be in the lurch until the intervention of AbdulRazaq. That is the main reason the State House of Assembly is lending its supports to 'AA' group in such a time like this.”
In all this, the governor refused to openly speak on the development, before and after his electoral victory. But, his body language suggested his outright rejection of Bashiru Omolaja Bolarinwa as the chairman of the party in the state. This did not go down with other groups within the party, which felt that the governor, already in control of both the Executive and Legislature, could become too powerful for them to tackle in future.
However, Governor AbdulRazak was said to have outsmarted them by securing the removal of Bolarinwa, the alleged lackey of Mohammed, as the party chairman, as well as facilitating his replacement with his Deputy, Alhaji Abdullah Samari.
While that was happening, some outsiders to the squabble accused the governor of sidelining the party from affairs of his government. But, Senator Makanjuola Ajadi, who is seen as the governor’s lackey, could be waiting for an opportunity. The development could have led to the recent emergence of Samari as the acting party chairman in the state.
Lai Mohammed took an exception to Bolarinwa’s removal just as the group led by Oyedepo, as they promptly organised press conferences by themselves or proxies and sharply criticized the "calculated attempt by the governor to hijack the party structure."For Oyedepo, the alleged exclusive control of the party structure was not part of the ideologies of the ‘O To Ge’ movement that uprooted the age long political hegemony of Kwara State, under the dynasty of late Olusola Saraki.
He told The Guardian: "We are open to peaceful moves, there is no doubt on that. But, what will guarantee peace is the return of Bolarinwa. The national body should urgently intervene to save the soul of the party in the state."
Similarly, Dr. Rex Kolawole Olawoye, a pharmacist turned politician said, the solution "lies with the governor. He is number one member in Kwara APC, he should therefore call all the aggrieved to a round table conference and for once proffer amicable solution to the raging crisis. If this is not resolved before the next general elections, the APC should forget about retaining power in the state."
One other recent event that revived the rift in the party is the membership registration. Those opposed to the ‘AA’ group have called for the outright cancellation of the exercise in the state. And the Minister of Information and Culture, while justifying the clamour for the cancellation, cited alleged non-compliance with the laid down procedures of the party.
Mohammed at a press briefing at his Oro, Irepodun Local Government Area (LGA) of the state conceded to the polarisation of the party in the state, but said only a section of what formed the entire membership of the party was unduly favoured in the exercise.
The Minister alleged that the exercise, which started in the state on Tuesday February 9, this year and scheduled to last for the next two weeks was devoid of diligent attention by the officials to the members as according to him, "many of the officials appeared just once" since the beginning of the exercise.
But reacting to the allegations, the interim state chairman, Alhaji Abdullah Samari, said the fact that Mohammed could be captured at his polling unit, 'PU 006, Oro Ward 2,' for the re-registration, "it means all the allegations are baseless as the exercise is not only credible, but a huge success."
According to the Minister, "we had sent out our people to monitor the process to ensure compliance with the guidelines stipulated by the party. The reports from our monitoring teams are out, and I wish to inform you, gentlemen, that sadly, the whole exercise did not comply with the stipulated guidelines.
"The guidelines stipulate consultation with all stakeholders by the Registration Officials from Abuja. After the botched attempt to have a meeting of stakeholders, due to orchestrated violence, the Registration Officials failed to consult with all stakeholders before the commencement of the membership registration exercise, opting instead to work with only one of the four tendencies here in Kwara, the Fagbemi Group to which the Governor belongs, thus excluding the three other tendencies – The Akogun Group, the Gbemi Saraki Group and the Lai Mohammed Group, without which the ‘O To Ge’ Movement would not have succeeded.
"Ironically, the Fagbemi group, which is seen as the weakest of the four tendencies. Out of the 193 wards in the state, the group has only nine ward chairmen and does not have even one local government chairman. Even at the state EXCO, the Fagbemi group has only four members. Also, the recruitment of officials for the registration has been a one-sided affair and indications are that the handpicked officials are under strict orders 'from above' as to how to carry out the exercise. We have evidence to corroborate this.
"The guidelines are also clear on how registration materials are to be handed over and distributed. It says officials for the assignment are prohibited from handing over registration forms, other materials inclusive of registration data in a manner not prescribed by the exercise to unauthorized persons, and that the materials (forms, registers and others) are to be distributed directly to the Registration Officers, and records of the distribution are to be captured and reported accordingly. Well, I regret to say that these particular provisions of the guidelines were not complied with.
"When the Registration Officials from Abuja landed in Ilorin, they simply handed over the registration materials to an individual, not recognized by the provisions of the guidelines, who has decided to hoard them instead of distributing them to the wards (we also have evidence to back this up).
"The implication is that the registration is being carried out without Party Membership Register, while temporary membership slips, to be signed and detached from the forms after registration, are not being given to those who have purportedly registered."
He went on: "According to our findings, since the commencement of the registration, over 80 per cent of the registration units do not have either membership register or membership registration slip. In the few places where they are available, they are kept in private apartments of some political office holders.
"In Baruten, the registration materials were handed over to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, who is from there. In Oyun, the materials were given to one Olayiwola Ojo, a member of the State House of Assembly. In Shao, in Northern Kwara, the registration materials were taken to the police station, where the DPO of that station presided over membership registration, in contravention of the party guidelines.
"It was only when the people mobilized against the use of the police station for registration that the illegality was stopped. What happened in Shao is the clearest indication yet that the police and other security agencies may be complicit in the mess being made of the membership registration in Kwara State.
"Gentlemen, instead of membership registers, conniving registration officials are using exercise books or foolscap sheets to register members. Even senior Kwara government officials and State House of Assembly members were made to write their details in the exercise books or foolscap sheets, in clear violation of the guidelines. We have pictorial and video evidence of this."
"Meanwhile, members across the state who have complained about the non-compliance with the guidelines have been arrested and threatened with prosecution, while many have been beaten up. At the last count, over 100 of our members have had to been bailed from police stations."
He alleged that since the arrival in Kwara State, of the seven-member APC Membership Registration Committee for Kwara, led by Senator John Danboyi, the committee had allegedly ignored other factions of the party.
He said, "they have not had any useful interaction with lawful members of the State EXCO as well as party leaders and other stakeholders, including Local Government Chairmen and their executives and Ward Chairmen and their executives. These are lawfully-constituted party executives that the registration guidelines stipulate should not only be consulted but carried along during the exercise.
"It is clear, from what I have enumerated above, that there seems to be a policy to massively disenfranchise/de-register APC members in Kwara State. This has left many members disillusioned. Based on the communication that I have received from APC stakeholders across the state on the report of the monitoring teams, and the glaring non-compliance with the stipulated guidelines for the membership, we, the critical stakeholders of the APC in Kwara State, hereby demand the following: "Immediate cancellation of the APC Membership Registration Exercise in Kwara State and the putting in place of a process to ensure the conduct of a credible and fair exercise that will enjoy the support and confidence of all.
"The Immediate disbandment of the Senator John Danboyi-led Membership Registration Committee for Kwara State. A vast majority of the APC stakeholders in the state have lost confidence in the committee. The constitution of a fresh Membership Registration Committee that is truly independent, non-compromised and sensitive to the delicate diverse interests in the party. A thorough investigation into the botched membership registration exercise by the Senator John Danboyi-led committee and that these demands are the irreducible minimum requirements for peace and progress in the Kwara APC.”
Reacting to the accusation of Mohammed, especially linking a Police DPO with the registration exercise, Chief Woke Oke said the minister was allegedly in a delirious state while making the fallacy allegation, stressing: "My attention was drawn to the text of a press conference held by the Honourable Minister for information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed at his home town, Oro. He raised many issues in the said press conference in respect of the ongoing revalidation and registration of members of the All Progressives Congress in Kwara State.
"Among issues raised was what he referred to as irregularities in the process of the exercise, citing a number of areas of the alleged irregularities. The Honourable Minister, relying on the report submitted to him by his "followers" in Shao, alleged that the Divisional police officer in Shao was the one who was presiding over the APC membership registration in the town.
" The Minister believed his follower’s report which also added that they (his followers) in Shao were denied registration. To say the least, any reasonable leader, worth his leadership status would have done thorough investigation into such a sensitive matter like, the indictment of a public officer of the status of the DPO whose integrity is being assailed, muddied and besmirched.
Already, many political analysts in the state have criticised the alleged usage of the Official Twitter Handle of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture by the minister to drive home his call for the cancellation of the membership registration exercise in the state.
For Oyedepo, "I am on the same page with the Minister on his call for outright cancellation of the exercise in our dear state. The registration is seriously flawed. It was slated to commence on February 9, this year but it didn't start until two days after. Besides, after two days of the exercise, many designated centers were closed.
"To get registered, I had to visit my country side two times. It was a sham. I don't know why membership registration should raise issues. It is an event in which we should have mobilised people to register. But the reverse is the case here. The governor wants the endeavours done to the exclusion of others. The registration should be cancelled, if not, it will lead to the end of the party in the state."