Biola Azeez of The Nigerian Tribune, writes on the quest of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) quest to wrest the governorship seat from the All Progressives Congress in Kwara State and their game plan.
MANY political parties had always presented governorship candidates during general elections in Kwara State in recent time, but the real contest had always been between two major ones the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Currently in the state, the APC is the ruling party, just as the PDP is the political party in the opposition. While the ruling party will always say that there is no opposition party in the state, leadership and members of the opposition party, through their media activities, have constantly put the ruling party and government on their toes.
Political analysts believe that the opposition party has continued to serve as agent of political education and enlightenment though constant criticisms, which many supporters of the ruling party believe are calculated to mislead and misinform people in the state.
With this development, especially with the rather unsettling performance of the ruling party in the last local government elections held last November in the state, where it lost eight councillorship seats to the PDP, the opposition party is going to town with feeling of popularity among the populace.
With the issue of local government elections gone and concluded, members of the opposition party are said to have been more determined to test the popularity in the 2019 governorship election perceived. But there is a big huddle ahead. According to political observers, the dream of having a good showing in 2019 elections may be a mirage for the opposition party if the party cannot settle perceived intra party friction within its fold.
A PDP congress which produced Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo as the state chairman of the party is yet to unite all factions that had hitherto been in the fold.
Though the congress produced party executive officers from the two main factions, findings revealed that it has not been a united house since inauguration of the new executive of the party in November 2017, as a leader of one of the factions, Chief Sunday Fagbemi, took the outcome of the congress to the party’s election appeal tribunal, calling for cancellation of the congress.
There had been intra-party squabbles in the state chapter of the PDP leading to factionalisation of the party prior to the congress. The mid-November election was the second in 2017, but the Oyedepo faction appeared to have the upper hand. The other faction is led by Chief Fagbemi, said to be a friend or former friend of Oyedepo.
The new chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara State, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, who is not oblivious of the task ahead, said that the task before the new 31-member executive is daunting but not insurmountable.
Akogun Oyedepo, who said that the agenda of new executive of the party in the state is to win all elections and be in the Government House come 2019, therefore, called on the executive members, PDP members, leaders and supporters of the party in the state to be prepared to work assiduously for the success of the party in subsequent elections.
Oyedepo, lamented perceived low level of development in the state, said that the PDP in Kwara State was determined to return to power come next election. The PDP chairman urged members and supporters of the party to come together to forge a common cause to dislodge the APC-led government from the Government House, saying that, “People of Kwara are yearning for change; they want us to effect the change of government in the state, We are going to change the government by God’s grace.
“The change can only be possible if all of us work together as a team. Let us forget the past and build PDP to become victorious,” he said.
Oyedepo said he would set up a reconciliation committee that would go round the party leaders and seek their cooperation and support.
“The work before us is so much that we need to enlist the support of everybody, most especially the aggrieved members of the party,” he said.
Among those elected were Chief (Akogun) Iyiola Oyedepo as chairman; Mallam Lateef Alakawa as secretary; Gabriel Olatunji, treasurer; Chief Sunday Oyebiyi, Mallam Isowo Mustapha and Mr. Ashaolu Gabriel as vice chairmen for the North, Central and South Districts of the the state respectively.
Others were Chief Rex Olawoye; publicity secretary; Alhaji Yekeen Alajagusi; assistant publicity secretary; Mallam Razaq Alade, legal adviser, Mustapha Saliu, financial secretary; Buhari Olugbon, Toyin Jimoh, Khadijat Ibrahim and Babatunde Jonathan as ex-officio members respectively.
Also speaking, one of the members of the PDP executive, Alhaji Abdulazeez Abduljeleel, who hitherto belonged to the Sunday Fagbemi faction, argued that the party is united more than ever before, with only about 30 per cent of members not presently associating with the opposition party.
“We are waxing strong. PDP is doing well in the state now better than before. In fact, aside PDP, which is the main opposition party, there are other opposition political parties in the state like the Labour Party, KOWA, AD, APD, and the rest.
“We know the antics of members of the ruling party not to see us united. We are aware of their moves to constantly cause disunity among us. What I can assure our people and the entire populace of is that we have our agenda and we’re focused. We are not also in the dark about the moves by key leaders of the ruling party in the state to use the national executive of our party to cause disaffection among us.
“Talking about our new executive, there is nothing stopping the national leadership of our party to see the issue of Kwara State chapter as germane and come out to settle it once and for all. Whatever the plan of the enemies, we’ve resolved to keep PDP alive in the state and cause an impressive showing come 2019.
“It is true our matter is still at the tribunal. For instance, I am a member of Sunday Fagbemi faction and I’m one of the people he took to court. We are united. Let’s say only about 30 per cent of those that participated in the Congress are yet to be with us now.
Aside the issue of efforts to unite members of the party, political analysts also believe that the issue of selection of governorship candidates among the aspirants preparing to contest could further polarize the party.
Members of the faction that produced the incumbent party chairman are said to be working towards producing the next governorship candidate for the party, while other members are already spoiling for war.
The same scenario purportedly led to the poor showing during the 2015 governorship elections in the state, where the party’s candidate, Chief Simeon Ajibola, lost woefully to incumbent governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed.
The PDP leadership in the state, which said that no one among its members had indicated interest to run for governorship race come 2019 added that those that come forward with letter of intention would be recognised. However, some members of the party who were said to be nursing the ambition to contest in the PDP governorship primaries come 2019 in Kwara State include the son of the late governor in the state, Alhaji Akeem Lawal. Alhaji Akeem, is trying to use his father’s popularity in the state 12 years after his death. He out in 2015 and could not get the party’s flag. People are expecting a more impressive outing this time around.
Alhaji Suleiman Abubakar, the former minister of National Planning in Jonathan administration, is also said to be gearing up for the 2019 governorship contest. Political pundits however see his matter with the anti graft agency in the aftermath of 2015 presidential campaign as capable of affecting his chances.
Dele Belgore (SAN) had contested governorship election in 2011 under Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), where he placed second behind the incumbent governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed. He also contested governorship primaries under the PDP in 2015 and lost to Chief Simeon Ajibola.
PDP members in the state attest to it that he remains a staunch member of the opposition party in the state, and that he is eyeing governorship seat in 2019. Just like the former National Planning minister, he has also had issues in the anti-graft agency since after the end of the 2015 elections.
Professor Abdulraheem Oba is a stalwart of the PDP in Kwara State. The former vice chancellor of the University of Ilorin was the transition implementation committee chairman during Bujola Saraki administration as governor of the state. He was also PDP governorship aspirant in 2011 when Abdulfatah Ahmed clinched the ticket.
In 2015, when the Saraki structure left the PDP for APC, Professor Oba contested PDP governorship primaries and lost to Chief Simeon Ajibola.
The former chairman, Federal Character Commission, with his vast knowledge in politicking, is said to be interested in 2019 governorship race, and he plans to test his political astuteness among the electorate in the state come 2019.
Also, another personality rumoured to likely indicate interest in Kwara State governorship race, though not known to be a card-carrying member of PDP, is the chairman of a new private radio station, Sobi FM, located in the Ilorin metropolis, Alhaji Lukman Mustapha. He is a new entrant to politics and he’s said to be eyeing Kwara governorship position in 2019.
Speaking with journalists in Ilorin recently on his rumoured intention to aspire for governorship position in 2019, Alhaji Mustapha, a brother to Special Adviser on Interparliamentary Affairs to the Senate President, Alhaji Moshood Mustapha, did not give a definite answer.
Mustapha, a banker, only said that those spreading such speculation must have seen some qualities in him for which they believed he was good for the job. However, many people in the state are expecting his declaration of intention soonest, just as some people believe that he established his radio station for his political ambition.
He also debunked insinuations in some quarters that some opposition figures were behind the establishment of the radio station to pursue certain political interests ahead of 2019 election, arguing that plying opposition role was good for democracy.
“In a country where there is no opposition, government will tilt from democracy to autocracy”, he said.
With the present political situation in the state, political pundits are unanimous in their views that the Kwara State chapter of the PDP has what it takes to enter 2019 governorship contest with the ruling APC. Some of the favourable factors on ground highlighted by the pundits include political awareness among electorate, impressive showing in the last local government elections in the state and expected campaign strategy among the aspirants and the party leadership.
They, however, said that the issue of unity and common front should be worked on to cause an upset, believed in some quarters to be in the offing in the state.