INTERVIEW: Saraki living in the past... PDP not an option in Kwara, says Gbenga Awoyale

Date: 2022-01-10

Gbenga Awoyale, president-general of Orisun Igbomina, a socio-cultural association of the predominant ethnic group in Kwara south, in this interview, speaks on the 2023 general election, the chances of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as well as the possibility of former senate president Bukola Saraki making a comeback in Kwara politics.

What are your thoughts on the fast-approaching 2023 elections?

Without mincing words, the forthcoming general election cannot be as facile or easy as the ones we had in the recent past. The political dynamics are not constant and there is tension in virtually all geopolitical zones in the country due to the spate of insecurity. The security threat in some parts of Nigeria has great implications for our forthcoming elections. Overzealous and desperate politicians might take callous advantage of the ugly situation.

The spate of kidnapping, banditry and civil unrest in some parts of the country is alarming. However, it is a truism to note that President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure these inherited security threats are absolutely nipped in the bud and the results our military formations are getting recently are gladdening. They are decimating these criminals and it is hoped the government will do more to rid our country of enemies within and beyond.

Whichever way one looks at it, you will agree with me that rather than leverage on the problem of insecurity to enrich government officials, President Buhari has committed our national patrimony judiciously to fighting insecurity. We all are not oblivious of the humongous amount of money allocated to enhance the fight against insecurity in the country during President Goodluck Jonathan’s era and how it was allegedly squandered. Probably, if such funds were applied to tackle the problems, it will not escalate to these multilevel insecurity threats we are faced with now.

Notwithstanding the insecurity issue, which I believe to be the only odd against APC, I feel strongly that 2023 will be a horse race with only one starter for All Progressive Progress (APC). There’s no doubt about that.

If you look at the leading opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it speaks volumes of how their touted comeback bid is dead on arrival. Majority of the stalwarts within the party don’t agree to the zoning of the party’s national chairmanship position to the north, because of the personal ambitions of some of the leaders from the north. That’s why you’ll realise despite having a national chairman from the north, a number of them from northern states are still hell-bent on their bids to contest the party’s presidential ticket. Even from the north-central that produced the chairman.

The political permutation and negotiations don’t appear like the party is serious. PDP might have set a time bomb that will explode before 2023, because some of their major contenders are from the north, while those from the south will also not concede the presidential ticket to the north, having zoned chairmanship there.

Ordinarily, as an organised political party, the presidential ticket would have been expectedly zoned to the south to douse tensions within the party. But because of the selfish interests of big guns like former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, that was not done to massage their egos. Although, we are familiar with the style of the likes of Saraki, who uses presidential ambition as negotiation tools.

Out of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria, apparently, the north produced the incumbent President Buhari and the national chairman for PDP. This is a pointer to how infeasible a presidential candidate would emerge from the north again. So, if the likes of Saraki and Atiku can now further their noise about the 2023 presidency, it’d definitely be a complete walkover for APC.

What more does anyone need to be convinced of the emptiness of a political party that made a man without a single political seat in his home state a national leader.

Going away from the north, where are the presidential materials from the south for PDP?

In Kwara, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has been in government for some time. What’s your assessment of his achievements so far?

Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has set developmental milestones since he assumed office on May 29, 2019. He has touched the nooks and crannies of the state with different masses-oriented initiatives. He has completely deviated from the ills and sharp practices that characterised the deposed political dynasty in the state.

It’s in this same Kwara state we had people disporting themselves and their cronies with public funds, at the detriment of building infrastructure and delivering good governance to the good people of Kwara state.

Very recently, the discovery of billions of naira linked to yet to be unidentified persons and a suspicious address speaks volumes of where Kwara was coming from. Till date, no one knows who domiciled the huge amount of slush funds in the bank account discovered by the anti-graft agency.

Kwara has never experienced this spate of development and growth before now and it is not centred just in the state capital but spread across the various communities. Even those who have lost hope in government have now found it under AbdulRazaq.

Do we talk about the impactful Kwara Social Investment Programme (KWASSIP) that has helped to raise and sustain lots of vulnerable Kwarans, fixing of major waterworks like that of Oyun, Igbaja, Lafiagi, among several others, or expunging the state from the black list of Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), which manifested in fixing of hundreds of classrooms across basic schools in the state. It has actually been so far, so good for Governor AbdulRazaq.

When Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq took the mantle of leadership, he earnestly disbursed payment to complete the state secretariat which the former administration abandoned. These are what Kwarans have been yearning for. He also completed some of Governor Lawal’s water and infrastructural projects abandoned by the duos of Governor Saraki and Ahmed for almost 16 years.

So, it appeared comical to me when I heard the Kwara PDP zoned governorship to the same Kwara north they neglected for decades and where AbdulRazaq has concentrated developmental projects to ensure the narratives of their marginalisation is a past tale. I imagined the basis Saraki and his co-travellers will go back to campaign to them.

More so, the same Saraki that believes in equity and fairness in Kwara doesn’t have the same conviction that the north should morally not contend for the 2023 presidency, given that Buhari, the outgoing president, is of the north. That’s selfish.

How would you rate the performance of the state house of assembly?

The set of lawmakers we have in our state house of assembly, as presently constituted, are resourceful and conscious of their legislative responsibilities. These are people working relentlessly with the governor as partners to ensure physical and human capital development. The thorough scrutinisation of annual state budgets has paved the way for administrative creativity and GIGO that used to be operational in the past.

They have also passed several bills with significant impact on social security like KWASSIP. They also have to their credit the Kwara State Sports Commission bill which has changed the structure and tune of sports development in the state and some others like the amendment of public procurement law and enactment of public audit bill to strengthen public institutional transparency and accountability.

Notwithstanding their excellent delivery in their primary functions, we have seen a number of them who organised empowerment programmes for their constituents and also float youths and student support programs. Look at Razaq Owolabi from Share/Oke Ode, he has done no fewer than three rounds of massive empowerment programmes for the youth, women and aged.

The federal lawmakers are also making giant strides. Look at what senator Lola Ashiru is doing in Kwara south. As a senate president, Saraki couldn’t match what Ashiru has facilitated to each of the seven local governments in Kwara south. Kwara north and central senators are not also doing badly. They have actually upped legislative business in Kwara.

With the crisis rocking the APC in Kwara and other parts of the country, do you think the party can attain victory in 2023?

Let me use Kwara state as an example. Those who are at the helm of affairs in APC are experienced and people with integrity. I can assure you they will mend fences and we will come out stronger. PDP that created Nigeria and Kwara’s socioeconomic and political problems can’t feign sainthood or being solution-driven now. Meanwhile, there’s a crisis in PDP. What makes APC crisis more popular is not farfetched, it’s because the party is in power. The opposition will want to ensure they do everything possible to relegate them from power.

In the case of Kwara state, different stakeholders within the party had been consulted by leaders of the party, among them is Professor Oba Abdulraheem, and they’ve made us realise that PDP is not an option for them. Majority of the warring members are ready for reconciliation.

Bukola Saraki did not have anything to offer Kwara, but merely wants to leverage on the internal cracks within the APC and we are getting that settled. Let me quickly remind you that if we are not settling the internal crisis, Gbemisola Saraki will not be among the APC national convention committee.

So, all those gimmicks of coming to Kwara to gather, mistreat and fake popularity only speak to the fact that Saraki still lives in the past, when Kwarans were yet to realise and differentiate between truth and deceit. Now, they know what they want and can’t be cajoled.

PDP is keen on taking over Kwara state. What’s your view on this?

Let me tell you this, the PDP agitation is just mere wishful thinking. It can never work out well after their sixteen years of misrule in Kwara. What has been their achievement when they were in power? This is very essential question we should ask Saraki.

The same Saraki that promised them they’ll automatically get the ticket after his stooge is done with his eight years, only to renege.

What Kwara north wants and desires is development and equal opportunities, and without sounding immodest, since the creation of the state, no government has prioritised development and governance inclusion of Kwara north like this present administration.

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