Kwara Gov’ship: How Parties, Candidates Stand

Date: 2022-12-30

The atmosphere in Kwara State is full of politicking as political parties and their candidates have intensified strategies towards winning next year’s general elections.

The electioneering campaigns in the state come in forms of town halls, talk-shows, debates and rallies.

This is especially as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had lifted the ban on public campaigns on September 28, 2022.

While these activities are going on, analysts say the race is a straight battle between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) while the Social Democratic Party (SDP) would form the third force in the state.

For the residents and many political observers, next year’s governorship race will present an interesting scenario away from the circumstances that played out in 2019.

It is imperative to state that both the APC and PDP are not free from internal crises. While the PDP has suffered a gale of defections of its top members, the APC is risking defeat in next year’s polls following unresolved issues in its fold involving power brokers.

It is gathered that some APC bigwigs in the state who collaborated to birth the current administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq are now planning to scuttle the re-election bid of their ‘former principal.’ Many, however, say the SDP has been the greatest beneficiary of the APC crisis.

Despite the present scenario, pundits believe the forthcoming contest is going to be a straight fight between Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and the PDP candidate, Alhaji Abdullahi Shuaib Yaman, a former Otoge apostle.

How parties/candidates stand

The APC has found it difficult managing the party’s historical victory that defeated the Saraki dynasty after the last governorship election despite ‘efforts’ by the governor to mend the crack.

At a recent function, Governor Abdulrazaq assured he was already in talks with one of his biggest antagonists in the party and current Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

Realities on ground are however not in sync with this assertion that, “I and Alhaji Lai will work together come 2023.”

Rather, some of the key aides and foot soldiers of the minister are finding shelter under the PDP umbrella and mounting the SDP’s horse rather than sweeping the debris leftover by the aggrieved leaders with the APC’s broom.

As a result, analysts are of the view that while the PDP appears to be stronger in Kwara North because of its candidate who hails from the district, the SDP is more visible in Kwara South while Kwara Central is going to be the “battle ground.”

Strengths/weaknesses

Apologists of the APC believe the party’s greatest strength lies in the “performance” of the governor and his ability to connect directly with the masses.

But critics argued that such a political strategy is a disadvantage. For the PDP, supporters believe the party has the structures to deliver their candidate who, himself, is expected to use his credentials as a former Otoge leader to benefit his new party.

They claimed that the APC won on propaganda and has reversed the development gear of the state without completing any major project in its over three years in office.

But the ruling party not only continues to flaunt the governor’s scorecard; the governor has consistently said that the PDP grounded the state during the 16 years of its reign.

Polls outcome unpredictable

A member of the APC who preferred not to have his name in print said, “The election cannot be predicted because of the internal wrangling in the APC unless the governor is able to make truce with some aggrieved leaders yet to leave the party.

“More than 80 per cent of the aggrieved members have concluded plans to work against the governor. He (Governor) can still have his way through, if the opposition refuses to work together.

“It’s left for the electorate in Kwara North to decide whether their own son can offer better than what the governor has offered them so far.

“In Kwara South, the SDP has a better chance as it inherited the bulk of the aggrieved Otoges from the APC. But the Igbomina/Offa versus Ilorin sentiment is still there. They see the defeat of Saraki as a freedom from Ilorin and may not want a return to the status quo. I am from Ilorin and understand what I am talking about.”

The APC official however noted that, “Kwara Central is going to be the battleground. No candidate will likely have a hundred per cent of the votes among SDP’s Akeem Lawal, Yakubu Gobir of YPP, Prof. AbdulRaheeem Shuaib Oba of NNPP and Basambo of Labour Party who may not really have the strength to cause any upset.”

He said although “the governor has tried, his performance has not really been spectacular with what we have seen so far. AbdulRazaq is between two lines and how he is able to cross them will determine his fate.”

He added that the PDP needs to do more as an opposition if it wants to profit from the APC’s internal squabbles and dislodge the ruling party in the state.

We’ll win across board – PDP

But the state chairman of the PDP, Hon. Babatunde Mohammed, said the party is working vigorously to come stronger in 2023.

He said, “With God and support of the people, PDP will become stronger in 2023. We are working very hard and vigorously with all like-minds to win all elective seats.

“What happened in 2019 was a temporary setback. There is no party in the entire Kwara that has the kind of support PDP has and even those aggrieved members that defected from the APC are ready to work with us.

“I don’t harbour any fear at all as a politician. We have been in this game long enough to understand the dynamics. APC came in 2019 with lots of propaganda and wrongly Kwarans fell for it but now, it is clear that this is not the type of government they expected and that is why they are looking forward to the PDP to form the next government in 2023.”

Opposition not a threat – APC

But chairman of the APC in the state, Prince Sunday Fagbemi, told Daily Trust yesterday that opposition parties were not a threat to APC’s chances of winning, saying reconciliatory efforts were still ongoing.

He said, “For those that left, politics is freedom of association and so many people from the other parties have also joined APC. We can’t hold or tie anybody down.

“We will however not relent and by God’s grace, we will win the election with a better margin than the last time. We still plead and welcome those that might have a rethink. Another person’s house should not be more attractive than the one we built together. APC’s strength is our work which is speaking for us.”

Asked if he is afraid of other parties working together to defeat APC, Fagbemi said, “APC remains the party to beat.”

SDP party to beat – Spokesman

The Kwara State Publicity Secretary of the SDP, Barrister Ibrahim Sharafadeen, said his party would beat other parties in the race and clinch the governorship seat.

“The SDP has the brightest chance to win the gubernatorial election because we have been with the people for long and worked for the emergence of the governor during the Otoge era. The majority of our members in SDP were responsible for that victory.

“While I will agree that the stronghold of the SDP is in Kwara South, that doesn’t mean we don’t have acceptable candidates in the north and central to sell the party. Apart from Yaman, all the other gubernatorial candidates are from Kwara Central which makes the district a keenly contested one. All the governorship candidates will have their share of votes with little difference. Kwara South is the only district without a gubernatorial candidate and I see the SDP coming on top”, he added.

“Decision rests with the citizens”

But the Executive Director of Community Outreach for Development and Welfare Advocacy (CODWA), Comrade Taiwo Otitolaye, said next year’s election has a lot to do with the people.

“No doubt APC has been depleted to the advantage of PDP, SDP and NNPP among others. But it’s a matter of choice. Campaigns this time around should be issue-based. Citizens must engage in self-evaluation as to what they have benefited in the governance of Kwara from 1999 and stop collecting money to vote because things are getting worse. It will continue this way if we don’t vote for the right person that can deliver,” he said.

Otitolaye who is also the National Coordinator, Publish What You Pay (PWYP), added that, “The people have to decide whether they are content with the status quo or not.”

‘Election can go either way’

In his appraisal, national secretary of the Nigerian Political Science Association (NPSA), Dr Adebola Bakare, said the election can go either way.

“The opposition will split their votes because they are not united, which may be to the governor’s advantage. Otherwise, it would have been possible to defeat him.

“But on the other hand, the vote will likely come in blocks for the SDP in Kwara South and PDP in Kwara North; the governor may win Kwara Central where about four others from the region are also in the contest.

“But whether such votes and the others he may get from the two other districts will be sufficient for his emergence remains to be seen. And should it go into a runoff, such development might not be to the advantage of the governor because then the opposition will be forced to work against him unless they shoot themselves in the foot again,” he said.

Bakare said the absence of the Otoges who would have helped garner votes for the governor is a very delicate situation “which he needs to resolve between now and election period. Whoever tells him that those who left will not have implication in his reelection bid is not sincere with him.”

In terms of strength, the political scientist said, “APC is the ruling party and will ride on the popularity of the presidential candidate, Tinubu, and the performance of the governor to some extent especially with the fact that he simplified governance.”

He said, “For the SDP, the bulk of those who are not happy with the governor are majorly from Kwara South and they have already moved en masse. They might not win the governorship, but there are chances that they will produce some federal Reps, state assembly and even senatorial seats.

“For the PDP, their strength is that the people of Kwara North are already clamouring for the seat and are likely to rally round their son this time around.”

He added, “I think the situation is better like this, especially for the electorate. It will give them the opportunity to pick choices and options unlike before. It is better this way.”

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