By Mumini AbdulKareem
There is presently no love lost between stakeholders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara State over the fate of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in the next cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari, National Pilot can report.
Mohammed is occupying the sole slot of Kwara State in the federal cabinet and there have been intense lobby from some party chieftains across the three senatorial districts to replace him.
President Buhari is expected to dissolve his cabinet before the handover date of 29th May, 2019 following directive to aides for submission of their hand over notes recently.
It was gathered that a meeting which was held on Sunday at the state secretariat of the party by its leadership to pacify some aggrieved groups over the agitation for portfolios and position at the state and federal level failed to achieve the desired result.
According to a top APC chieftain from Kwara North who attended the meeting, stakeholders from the district openly told the party leadership why they should be considered strongly for the Kwara ministerial slot.
Following recent call by some party stakeholders from Kwara North for consideration in the appointment of minister by the President, a consultative forum of APC members in Irepodun local government in Kwara South where the minister hails from rejected the call from the North and urged the President to retain Mohammed.
The minister has been quizzed by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the anti-graft body recently hinted on his possible arraignment following his role in the alleged N2.5bn fraud involving the Director-General of the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Is-haq Kawu Modibbo.
According to the Consultative Forum led by Dr. Hezekiah Oyedepo, Mohammed worked with other stakeholders to ensure the victory of the APC in Kwara State in the just concluded general elections.
Oyedepo, who led other chieftains of the party at the briefing, pleaded with the leaders of the party to prevail on the President to ensure that Mohammed retains his position in the Federal Executive Council.
“We appeal to the authorities, particularly the President, Vice President, National Chairman of APC, National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and all other authorities concerned to retain our son as a member of a new cabinet to be constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari in the next cabinet”, he added.
But according to a Kwara North APC chieftain who craved anonymity because he was not officially permitted to speak to the press on the issue, giving ministerial slot to Kwara North will justify equity and fairness to the district and it will give the district a sense of belonging in the running of the party at the federal level like other districts. He added that there are feelers that the President may give two ministerial slots to Kwara over the issue.
“We are hearing that Buhari may give Kwara two ministerial slots if he decides to retain Lai Mohammed and the other slot will come to the north. But if it will be one it one, we should be considered.
“The position of Kwara North is clear. Since we have been denied the position of governorship, the compromise is that we should forget about the governorship and take any other reasonable position.
“The South and the Central played on our intelligence and we would resist it. Our position is that we want the Speaker, the SSG and ministerial to be in the decision making body of the party at the national level.
“At the federal, the state Chairman and PRO are members of the National Working Committee (NWC) which means the Central and South are already represented. The governor or deputy can attend Executive Council meetings, now where does that leave the north. The ministerial position is the only thing that will allow Kwara North to have somebody at the national level. With the present arrangement, we are absent at the state and national levels. Our position is clear in terms of justice and equity. But the other zones are so desperate and it will not help even future election if you deny a group that gave you almost 82 per cent of its votes. Enough is enough for them to be playing on our intelligence.
“The minister is a very sincere person and doesn’t take things as do- or- die and will not do anything that will destroy the good relationship of the leadership that God has given to him in the present scenario in Kwara. There are many ways Buhari can compensate him apart from ministerial position, why should you now deny the whole zone. This is the only relevance you can give to Kwara North. At the state executive, the governor and his deputy are the state chair and deputy of the Council, SSG is next and you see the South are also agitating for this position now. I don’t know how people can be so greedy.
“This is democracy but I know the governor-elect understands the game they are playing and will do the right thing. We want to move above 2023 but these greedy people are tying one way of the other as if they are planted among us. This is not about party now but about our disadvantage. So, if the president appoints just one, we are expecting it from the north and if more than, we don’t mind it going to other zone. Today, almost 11 and 3 people from the central and south are lobbying for ministerial positions. There are only using Lai for retention, we are aware of those using this development to push for the position”, he added.
Also speaking on the issue, another top APC stalwart in Kwara North, Senator Ahmed Mohammed however said appointment of minister is the sole prerogative of the President adding that the district will go with any choice Buhari makes on the issue.
“Well our position is that the ministerial position is not one of the offices that we can zone but the responsibility of the President to choose whoever he feels he can work with. Our stand is that as long as that person is from Kwara and the choice of the President, we are going to support the decision. But the issue of the Speaker and SSG is what we can demand from our Governor-elect.
“The Speaker is much less automatic but the SSG is his choice but for fairness and justice, we expect he should choose it from Kwara North in view of our contributions to his victory and that of APC.
“We will always have divergent views. Those (Kwara North stakeholders) who are saying they are for ministerial position have their reasons. But to us as a group, the position can’t be dictated to Mr President, he has the prerogative. If he chooses somebody from Kwara North, we will be very glad and if there is anything we can do to have somebody from Kwara North, all well and good. But we cannot dictate to Mr President, simple”, Muhammed added.
When contacted, the Kwara State Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Tajuden Aro said he was in a meeting. He however did not get back to our reporter.
Efforts to get further comments on the issue by this reporter from some Kwara South leaders last night including Chief Rex Olawoye, former PDP chairman, Iyiola Oyedepo and Prince Sunday Fagbemi were not successful as their phones were switched off.
Text messages sent to their mobile phones were yet to be replied before this paper went to bed last night.