Will Popoola escape speaker’s gavel this time around?

The leadership crisis rocking the Kwara State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) resonated during last week plenary of the House of Assembly writes ACTING EDITOR, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM.
For the Kwara State House of Assembly, the ripples of the wave of the leadership crisis rocking the State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) may have already started spreading into the hallowed chamber if the event of the last plenary on Tuesday is anything to go by.
Hitherto the legislature has always been seen as a strong supporter of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq with exception of one of the leading O to ge proponent, Hon Saheed Popoola. The legislator representing Balogun/Ojomu constituency has come under the mallet of the Governor’s apologists who accused him of using his popular radio programme “Ifokanbale Kwara” held on a federal radio station in the state to criticize and attack the Governor.
Popoola belongs to the faction of the Minister of Communication and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed which is solidly backing the caretaker chairmanship of Bashiru Omolaja Bolarinwa (BOB) against his former deputy, Abdullahi Samari who was recently announced by Governor’s group as the new chairman. But despite the intervention of the Mai Mala Buni led national caretaker leadership of the party, Bolarinwa and Samari from Kwara South and North respectively have both continued to lay claim to be the authentic chairman of the party in the state which has split the ongoing registration/revalidation exercise of the members of the APC in the state.
It was gathered that the radio programme being handled by Popoola which is aired in the federal radio station in the state is allotted one of the highest time duration yet for any political programme whether sponsored or otherwise with a cumulative broadcast time of a whooping three hours per week on Tuesdays and Saturdays. According to some insiders in the radio station, the programme which is coming based on “orders from above” under the auspices of Alhaji Lai Mohammed who supervises the station in his capacity as the Communication Minister in the country has not only rattled many of the Governor’s supporters who see it as the “Hands of Esau but voice of Jacob” situation.
Many of them have described the programme as one of the weapons of the Minister’s group which also comprised other aggrieved leaders in the party who cut across the three senatorial districts in the state like former Chairman of the Federal Character Commission (FCC), Prof Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem, former chairman of the State’s PDP, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, member of the Federal House of Representatives for Ilorin East/South, Abdulganiy Cook Olododo, former APC gubernatorial aspirant, Waziri Gobir, former Minster of Transport, Alhaji Bio Ibrahim, founder of Sobi FM, Lukman Mustapha, Chief Sunday Oyeniyi ex-governorship aspirants, Mallam Salihu Mustapha, Alhaji S.Y Yammah and Alhaji Tajudeen Audu among others.
Familiar Terrain
Although there have been several accusations leveled against and Popoola since the programme started, what was considered that last straw that broke the camel’s back were the two editions held preceding the “suspension” and the episode that followed it where Popoola reportedly took the governor and the legislature to the cleaners. But this will not be the first time that Popoola will find himself in a similar situation. During the 8th legislature, a similar scenario also played out when the lawmaker remained in the APC despite the decampment of the remaining 23 members to the PDP. Popoola recounted the circumstance then during one of the radio programmes.
According to him, “I regretted my return as a lawmaker under the 9th Assembly. If I had known that this is the kind of legislature I am coming into, I will never have collected the form to vie for the seat in the first place”.
“I stayed in APC because of the yearnings of my people in Offa and I will like to appreciate and salute the maturity and unbiased politics of former Speaker of the 8th Kwara Assembly, Dr Ali Ahmad, House Leader, Hassan Oyeleke and all the other members of that legislature for not (unlawfully) suspending me from the house even though they have all the machinery to do that while I was the only lawmaker who refused to decamp along with them to PDP.
“I will never go to the Government House even if I am invited and if the members of the 9th House of Assembly decide to suspend me because of my position (and utterances) now, I am ready to go but I can assure them that I will collect all my dues and entitlements to the last kobo as an elected lawmaker because they don’t have the right to sack me. It is only my constituents who can decide to recall me if they feel I am no longer representing their interests”, he noted.
He further blamed the Governor for the protracted leadership crisis that has plagued the APC since inception of the present administration in 2019. Describing the two factions as “parallel lines”, the lawmaker who noted that the party is heavily fragmented at the moment added that any hope for reconciliation may have already been foreclosed because of the failure of the Governor to genuinely work for the resolution of the crisis since the crisis began. He said it is regrettable that despite the opportunity presented by the emergence of the APC as the ruling party in the state, it is unfortunate that there is so much noise in the party which is unnecessarily arming the opposition.
Heated Plenary
But when Popoola resumed plenary on Tuesday, expectations were high that his recent radio utterances will not go unnoticed as members who may have bottled up a lot in their stomach for long over the way Popoola is going about the issue might raise reservation about it. However, everything was calm and going on smoothly until far later when Popoola raised his hand to contribute to the debate of the N35bn bond that the governor sought the permission of the legislature to access from the stock exchange. Although the legislator later also supported the Governor on the issue, he said the Governor should have listed the projects that he intends to use the bond to for in the state.
However, his colleague and one of his key supporters during his failed speakership bid but now a very strong supporter/ally of the current speaker and chairman of the House Committee on Health and Environment, Hon Olatunde Razaq Owolabi will hear none of it and attacked him over the issue. Owolabi who raised a point of order said Popoola after casting aspersions on the 9th legislature and its members cannot come to the same House to contribute to anything on the plenary
Shouting on top of his voice during the plenary, Owolabi said “…. How can you come here to say you want to speak in the House after you have said you are ashamed to be part of it in the public? We are proud of our constituency, our union and our Governor and for you (Popoola) to stand here today and want to make contribution; I don’t think it is necessary for now Mr Speaker. I Razaq Owolabi, I stand on my feet concerning this issue.
Speaker, Clerk timely intervention
But for the maturity displayed by the House Speaker, Engr Danladi Yakubu Salihu and the intervention of the Clerk, Hajia Halimah Jummai Kperogi, the issue would have degenerated to something else the way Hon Owolabi was going about it. After the speaker and the Clerk succeeded in dousing the tension to allow Popoola to continue with submission, Owolabi appears displeased and was seen discussing with some members over his position on the issue.
According to the Speaker, “Thanks Hon Owolabi for the contribution and for speaking your mind, the 9th Assembly is a respected institution which every one of us holds in high regards. For Hon Saheed Popoola standing up to make his contribution, I think we should hear his view because he is talking on behalf of Balogun/Ojomu state constituency and we should not deny him that. The issue you (Owolabi) raised is one of concern and by His grace; it’s a thing we will resolve amicably. Please we should take it as a family affair. Hon Popoola, you have the floor”, the speaker submitted.
While the drama was going on at the plenary, the Clerk frequented the Speaker’s chair to have some consultations, an action that was believed to have assisted and guided the Speaker on the handling of the issue.
For now, while Popoola himself has raised the issue of his likely suspension, the House in the light of the recent development and utterances of the Speaker may not be thinking towards that direction but many are of the opinion that it may get to such level if the status quo is maintained at the various APC factions in the state as the 2023 politics gets underway in Kwara. Although Popoola has described the two camps as “parallel lines” that could never meet, 24 hours in politics is unpredictable. But for now, the relationship between the lawmakers and their estrange colleague appeared to be that of a cat and mouse with both sides guiding their backs and watching their footsteps.

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