By Chukwudi Nweje
The political atmosphere is upbeat across Nigeria and Kwara State is not an exception. Expectedly, the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) is keen on retaining its control of the state for another four years. Quite significantly, among other factors, Kwara APC appears to be banking on the influence of certain factors to compliment the achievements of the party in order to shore up its winning margin in the 2023 polls.
To many critical observers, although only political parties and their logos will be on the ballot on election day, the victory of a party usually rests on the shoulders of personalities whose influence counts at the polls.
These influential personalities could either come across as the candidates, godfathers, elder statesmen or party chieftains.
Notably, for nearly two decades in Kwara’s political landscape, the backing of the late Olusola Saraki was all a candidate needed to win an election, irrespective of the political party.
Politicians were trooping in and out of _Ile L’oke_, Saraki family’s political headquarters in Ilorin for the late Saraki’s blessings because a nod from him would pave an easy access to power.
Former Kwara State governor and former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki also continued in the steps of his late father, exerting the same influence until 2019 when he was hit by a political tsunami.
The APC in Kwara displaced the opposition Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) and by extension Saraki’s dominance of the political space in the state in a landmark victory in the 2019 general election.
The ruling party, with its Otoge (enough is enough) campaign, ruptured the Saraki’s influence to win the governorship seat and the overwhelming majority of the state and federal lawmakers’ seats.
However, Kwara APC did not enjoy the spoils of war long enough before a factional crisis split the party into two.
A faction led by the minister of information, Lai Mohammed and another by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq went into political war after the party coasted to victory in 2019.
Following the lingering crisis in the party, Kwara APC leaders engaged one another in a battle royal with accusations and counter-accusations on their roles in upstaging the PDP in the state.
The Minister and some other pivotal members of the APC that played a major role in the ousting of the Saraki hegemony in the state have accused Governor AbdulRazaq of sidelining them in his administration of the state.
The governor, on the other hand, said he would not use state resources to buy party loyalty as allegedly expected by some APC members. He said he would concentrate more on infrastructure and provision of basic social amenities for the general populace.
In the heat of the crisis, political observers predicted that the ruckus, if unresolved, would destabilise the party and consequently blow Governor AbdulRazaq’s chances of securing a second term.
So, as the election day draws near, the governor is faced with this reality and he has been working assiduously to ensure that he leads the party to victory in 2023.
Saliu Mustapha to the rescue
Analysts have noted that while the the governor performed incredibly well in his first term, with some laudable achievements to his name, he may need more to win an election.
For instance, for the first time since 1967, Kwara, under Gov. AbdulRazaq-led administration, had a general hospital with necessary facilities and the accreditation.
Also, among other empowerment initiatives, the administration introduced the Kwara State Social Investment Programme, initiated by the governor which is the largest and most transparent safety net by any subnational government in Nigeria today.
However, these achievements, analysts say, would be insufficient to get the governor the anticipated victory without necessary alliance within the party that can boost the winning chances come 2023.
They noted that the governor needs someone who wields enormous political influence and enjoys a teeming grassroots support to complement the achievements recorded in his administration.
This, sources say, explains the romance between Governor AbdulRazaq and the APC Kwara Central Senatorial candidate, Saliu Mustapha.
Mustapha, who is also the Turaki of Ilorin, enjoys overwhelming support of the people through his commitment to developmental issues in the state and unsparing generosity.
In the Kwara Central senatorial primary election held in June, Mustapha defeated two major contenders including the incumbent Senator representing Kwara Central, Ibrahim Oloriegbe, by over 50 percent.
“Oloriegbe performed excellently. However, when he won the primary in 2018, he contested against weak aspirants like Esho and Esinrogunjo. This time around, he contested against Saliu Mustapha and Yahaya Seriki, both of whom were major contenders in the 2018 gubernatorial primary,” a public affairs analyst commented in a post-election analysis.
Also, because of his posture to matters concerning the Emirate and closeness to the Emir of Ilorin, Dr Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, Mustapha is believed to be backed by the traditional institution.
Beyond the massive support at the grassroots, Mustapha’s stint in national politics, pundits say, is an advantage to Kwara APC.
Recall that Mustapha was one of the leading APC national Chairmanship aspirants who stepped down for the party’s consensus candidate, Abdullahi Adamu. This created the notion that he is a thorough-bred politician who believes in party supremacy and respects political order.
Many believe that if Governor AbdulRazaq will eventually win, Saliu Mustapha’s factor would play a most significant role.
But analysts including a political science lecturer based in Kwara, Aliyu Hassan, believes that Mustapha being the rallying point for Kwara APC, may affect his senatorial ambition.
Hassan says Mustapha, who is contesting against the PDP’s Bolaji Abdullahi, will be the target of incendiary attacks, blackmail and propaganda for coming all out for the party.
“The opponent of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq would attack Saliu. In fact, the opponents of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu would as well because they feel he is one individual strengthening the party in Kwara ahead of the very significant 2023 election,” said the don.
He added: “If you check well, the candidates for other positions across the state may face no hurdle. Look at it from Kwara North to South. This is why it is easy to see that the attacks against Saliu go beyond his aspiration to represent the good people of Kwara Central in the Senate. It is most definitely because of his being the poster boy for his party in Kwara.”
Also, the spokesperson of a socio-political group, the Kwara APC Frontiers (KAF), Comrade Mashood Alaiya, stated that the party is united ahead of the 2023 polls and is committed to deliver every part of the state.
“The governor and Mallam (Saliu Mustapha) are like Mercy and Ronaldo of the APC. Imagine having Mercy and Ronaldo in the same team? That’s what the opposition are afraid of.”
“Ignore the insinuations from the opposition. The two frontline candidates of our party are working well together. They are not bothered about who is doing too much or less because they both believe in collective efforts.”
Commenting on attacks from the group’s opponents, the spokesman said the APC candidates will not be deterred by the moves of the opposition.
“Like I said, what is on the minds of the two of them is to deliver the state for the party 100 percent. We are too busy working to notice attacks from the opposition,” he said.
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By Chukwudi Nweje The political atmosphere is upbeat across Nigeria and Kwara State is not an exception….
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