As the 2019 gubernatorial election gathers momentum in the state with the conclusion of party primaries expectedly this week, there is insinuation that the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state is highly considering flying the ticket of Dele Belgore (SAN) for the race. HEAD POLITICS, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM further examines the issue.
Recently, reports went viral especially on the social media space that the Kwara state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in conjunction with the Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu leadership wing of the party has reportedly concluded to use former Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate in the 2011 gubernatorial election in the state, Dele Belgore to prosecute the 2019 governorship project.
According to the report which some top members of the party in the state expressed divergent views to Pilot Politics, the party’s national leader and former Lagos Governor, Tinubu reposed huge confidence in Belgore and believed the former gubernatorial aspirants possessed the ability to actualise their major project in Kwara which is to crumble the long standing dynasty of late Olusola Saraki. According discussion from top members of the party, the scheme to capture Kwara from the scion of the dynasty and Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki must be achieved by any means possible.
Although not yet official, the recent response of the Minster of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, about his 2019 calculation has made many watchers of political events in the state to paint a repeat of the 2011 scenario. But APC apologists have continued to boast that the result will be different this time around from how it played out eight years back when their candidate succumbed to the political firepower and Sagacity of Saraki.
While speaking on the issue, the minister, in a statement he personally issued in Abuja said the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari must win Kwara state in 2019 adding that there is no going back on that project.
“With the recent gale of defections, the APC members and supporters in Kwara were determined to strengthen the party. We would open our doors to hordes of those willing to join and reposition it ahead of the 2019 general elections as the wheat had been separated from the chaff.”
“The issue of my membership of the APC, as well as my contributions to the growth of the party in Kwara and indeed in Nigeria as a whole, is settled and not subject to any contestation.
“For those who may be engaging in mischief over this, the massive turnout of APC members and supporters to welcome me during my trip home this past weekend for a stakeholders’ consultative meeting should serve as ample confirmation”, he added.
But since the news surfaced on the social media about the federal government or better still the Tinubu’s camp in the presidency to puncture’s Saraki political influence back home, some top members of the party have also advanced the narrative with the position that Asiwasju who has become the defacto decision maker for the defectors from Kwara has also agreed to fly the Belgore ticket with the former embattled PDP factional chairman in the state, Iyiola Oyedepo as likely running mate.
What dominated the decision in the selection of the supposed candidate of the opposition in the state this time around appears to be based on the level and degree of hatred for Saraki and not on merit or competence to deliver improve governance in the Kwara.
A look at their possible emergence vis-a-vis their acceptance in the state, both Belgore who has never been tested with any appointive or elective positions at the highest level of governance in the state or at the federal level and Oyedepo whose own narrative the last time out while he was still in the Saraki’s camp need a lot of rebranding before such combination can fly with the masses.
And in addition to that is that fact that Belgore is presently being dragged before the EFCC to account for over N450m campaign funds that was allegedly distributed as part of the arms deal by former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki during former President Jonathon’s administration. Moreover, the experience the last time out during the 2015 election where his “popularity” nosedived after series of accusation from party members that he was the stooge of billionaire Business women, Hajia Biola Shagaya has done more damage than good to his personality within party officials and electorate.
And with the way the narrative seems to be going, the Tinubu’s camp interest in the Kwara Project, analysts say, portends there is the possibility of the product of the APC emerging as governor taking orders from Boudillion to run the state and have asked whether the people are ready to swap that with the current scenario with Saraki who is an indigene and from the emirate.
For Oyedepo, although, his numerous radio and television programme have given him some level of popularity in the state, juxtaposing that with his electoral value is however a different ball game altogether.
Just few months back following his comments in one of his radio programmes that the PDP is dead in Isin and Kwara state, his kinsmen disown him over that statement and pledge their support and unflinching loyalty to the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki.
Numbering in their hundreds from the entire eleven wards in Isin, they stormed the Mandate Constituency Office of Saraki to pledge their allegiance and maintained that the PDP is very much on ground contrary to the utterances of Oyedepo and promised to deliver the local government for the Senate President.
They assured that the PDP chairman will be defeated in his polling unit adding that Oyedepo has no political value in the local government except on radio.
Led by Chief Michael Oyinloye and Hon Ayo Idowu, former Isin local government chairman and state House of Assembly member respectively, the visit was a major boost for the Saraki political dynasty in the local government
Speaking at the ceremony, Idowu said the Isin PDP members decided to stay back in the party with Saraki as their leader because of the latter’s outstanding performance as former governor of Kwara state and as the Senate President.
“I want to assure you that 95% of PDP members are with the Senate President. We shall deliver 100% vote to PDP and our leader in 2019.”
In his remarks, Prince Michael Oyinloye debunked insinuations that PDP was dead in Isin with the defection of Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo to the comatose All Progressives Congress (APC).
“We are the ones behind Oyedepo and we have refused to follow him to APC because we believe in Saraki’s leadership”, he said.
Mrs Juliana Adebara who spoke on behalf of the women, also corroborated the position of other stakeholders adding that the people of Isin remain in PDP and shall work for the success of the party and Saraki in 2019
The Director General of ABS Constituency Office, Alhaji Musa Abdullahi, noted that the dynasty is happy to receive the good people of Isin local government into Saraki’s camp.
According to him, “We are particularly delighted that people from Isin, where former PDP chairman, Oyedepo comes from have come to Ilorin to pledge their allegiance to our leader, Dr Bukola Saraki’ he added.
Another APC Governorship candidate who is still being rumoured to have been detailed for the Senate all things being equal by the Lagos axis in that arrangement is the former senatorial aspirant from Offa, architect Lola Ashiru whose political rating and presence has dwindled in the last couple of years now that he has pick a senatorial ticket allegedly on the support of Tinubu.
Although, the boss of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) was reportedly in the Tinubu narrative for Senate, his entry into the gubernatorial race has changed the dynamics unless there is another change in strategy.
The last time out, Modibo come under heavy attack and criticism over his comment on Saraki. He was tongue lashed by some senior editors and lawyers for spewing spurious propaganda against the Senate President.
According to online news medium, Premium Times, Mr Kawu’s bilious rants were apparently aimed at consoling himself and other supporters of Buhari and the ruling APC for the recent political event in the country where the APC lost scores of state and federal lawmakers allegedly under the influence of Saraki.
According to a political analyst, Lilian Eronini which the paper also spoke to over the issue yesterday, she said “A public official who has been going about preaching against hate speech and imposing heaving fines against journalists and media houses should not be seen doing this.”
Ms Eronini, a Lagos-based lawyer, also slammed Mr Kawu’s excoriation of Mr Saraki for allegedly adding “Abubakar” to his name in order to widen his political appeal in a predominantly Muslim Kwara State.
She said Mr Kawu lacked any moral justification to accuse anyone of modifying their name because he also added “Modibbo” to his name allegedly to ingratiate himself to the northern elite.
Kawu was formerly widely known as Olanrewaju Kawu throughout his formation years and well after he had graduated from the university. It was when he became a professional whose activities were largely concentrated in the north that he added “Modibbo” to his name, those familiar with his background reveals.
As things stands now, the remaining days will no doubt unfold many political intrigues and permutations in relation to who emerge the governor of the state in the APC. But whether the party is still scheming to foist the Belgore/Oyedepo alleged ticket on Kwarans for the 2019 race and the attendant reaction that is expected to follow remains to be seen especially now that the Peoples Democratic Party has settled for the chairman of House Committee on Judiciary, Hon Razak Atunwa.