Kwara APC Primaries: Controversy everywhere

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The primaries of the Kwara state chapter of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) have come and gone quite alright but it has left in its wake more questions than answers to the various problems bedevilling the party. In this report, HEAD POLITICS, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM examines the myriad of issues which had trailed the elections and whether the party can rise above it in time for 2019.

On Monday, the political situation in Kwara State especially as regards the fortunes of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) took another dimension when the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party declared in controversial circumstance Alhaji Abdulrahaman AbdulRasaq as its Kwara State governorship candidate for 2019.

The announcement, which was made in Abuja via a statement by its national spokesperson, Yekini Nabena on Monday, said the oil magnate and billionaire businessman polled 29,098 votes to defeat other aspirants in the direct primary. Abdullahi Yammah from Kwara North was announced his closest opponent with 22,116 votes.

But after the announcement, the party had continued from where it stopped pre the exercise following complaints from major aspirants of outright disenfranchisement and alleged allocation of imagined figures to the declared winner.

Prior to the declaration of the result, the situation in the party was so tensed and serious due to the agitation for justice by affected aspirants that the APC failed to meet the INEC stipulated deadline for the submission of names of candidates.

At the Savannah Hotel venue where the results were supposed to be announced Sunday night, journalists waited in vain through the night as agents of candidates scuttled the process and reportedly chased the national officers out of the hotel over alleged plans to impose an unpopular candidate.

From the lenses of watchers of political events in the state, the process that birthed AbdulRasaq as the party’s candidate has been dogged by too many controversies, which might rub off negatively on its fortunes going into 2019. From the mode of primary to the actual date, which suffered many postponements and uncertainties to the eligibility of some of the candidates, it has been one crisis after the other and the vibes in the aftermath of the whole exercise suggest all is not well for now with the APC in Kwara.

Reports of disqualification and some contestants being alleged to be moles of certain individual in other parties were rife especially on social media and the party did little to put the record straight for clarity.

If anything, the way APC handled the issue in Kwara has led to accusations and counter accusations from some of the aspirants who had committed billions of naira to the campaigns. But they were however disqualified in very curious and controversial circumstances that is now threatening the unity of the party which it should have leveraged on to prosecute the 2019 electoral battle.

For some of the aspirants, the final results across all levels of contest were nothing but allocation of spurious figures that has heavily dented the change mantra of the APC which was the case in most of its primaries across the country.

First, it was Hon Moshood Mustapha, the former aide of Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki who fired the first salvo accusing the leading member of the party in the state and Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed of orchestrating his disqualification several hours into the election following his impending emergence.

According to Mustapha, who is popularly known as MM, he was coasting home to victory before the minister allegedly used his influence on a federal radio station to make the “satanic announcement”.

“I have done my own as an experienced politician by building strong political structures in all the 193 wards in the state. I visited every local government in the state to solicit for party members’ support ahead of primary election. MM became headache to some people who were plotting to impose unpopular aspirant on the party.

“I got wind of the plot by some stakeholders led by Alhaji Lai Mohammed to impose governorship candidate. They have tried three aspirants but we frustrated their efforts because of my popularity among party members.

“I contributed my resources and time to make the party formidable and stronger in the state. Lai Mohammed was trying to impose candidate on us, he is just like other stakeholders in the party and we won’t allow that to happen. I am a major stakeholder in Kwara APC and nobody can push me out of the party. I therefore called for cancellation of the primary election and the conduct of fresh poll to pick the party flag bearer because I was winning the election before the illegal disqualification”, he added in a statement that was released by his aide, Kayode AbdulAzeez. He had insisted on this position at an emergency press conference on the night of Saturday at the NUJ Secretariat, insisting that he be declared winner otherwise.

MM was however not a lone ranger in the complaints of impunity and imposition. For Saliu Mustapha, another governorship aspirant, it is very strange that some certain forces in the party will try to change the rules at the middle of the game unilaterally to achieve a sinister motive. He went further to accuse the electoral officials from Abuja of compromise.

In a press conference held at NUJ Press Centre, Mustapha (not any way related to MM) noted that all efforts made to establish who authenticated the report of disqualification at the middle of the exercise pointed to the leader of the team of the electoral officers.

“I called the Minister, Lai Muhammed and the party’s national publicity secretary but they said they were not aware of it. I am not a mole and I don’t regret working with Senate President, Bukola Saraki when he joined us in the APC and now that he has left, we have parted. I have been a foundation member of the party and even was formally in the CPC with the president.

“I believe the party will do the right thing at the end of the day”, he noted. What will however be the right decision in this instance is likely to attract another round of criticisms in the light of the present development and it is yet to be seen whether the party will not be worse for it.

But for the Sobi FM boss, Lukman Mustapha, the whole exercise was fraught with irregularities of unimaginable proportions and nothing but a show of shame.

According to him while addressing journalist in his campaign office at Stadium road, Ilorin on Monday, “It is a fact that the exercise was fraught with several avoidable and artificial irregularities, which is a clear negation of our much flaunted democratic and progressive credentials. Our party must put in place machinery to guide against future reoccurrence of such show of shame.

“I stand here today in the full glare of the world to affirm that the exercise was laced with sharp practices, lack of organisation, faulty and embarrassing process thereby depriving us of victory as we were clearly the most popular aspirant with wide acceptance, especially on the street”, h added.

The way things are now and due to how the party handled the issue, every aspirant is ascribing victory to himself except perhaps the party’s declared winner. But whether the APC will be able to move out of these festering crises that had bugged it down to better position it for the 2019 election remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the issue of which  of the Basher Bolarinwa-led executive and Hon Balogun Fulani’s faction is the authentic one in the state is still a subject of litigation. If the court stands by the latter at the end of the day, then it will be aurevior, apologies to the French, for the party in the final analysis as regards the 2019 general elections in Kwara.

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