The waves that swept over the political terrain of Kwara State some two years ago were strong enough to pull down the Saraki political dynasty built over some three decades.
Couched in Yoruba lexicon, ‘O To Ge’ (enough is enough) coalition, politicians of strange bedfellows came together and faced their perceived common enemy, Bukola Saraki, inflicting collateral damage on the dynasty.
However, the tea party soon became a tumultuous gathering as the ‘victors’ soon realised their fraternal political differences, just as the splinter groups that came together and bolster the profile of the local All Progressives Congress (APC), soon went their separate ways.
It would be recalled that before the 2019 elections, APC in Kwara State was under the tutelage of the incumbent Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. Whenever the Oro, Irepodun Local Government Area (LGA), born political gadfly spoke, others down the pecking order, including the governorship candidate of the party, now the state governor, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq listened.
But post elections, APC saw the baton of the leadership handed over to AbdulRazak, in line with the party’s constitution that makes the governors the political leaders of their states.
This development snowball into crisis of ego as members retraced their steps and allegiance to their old splinter groups before the ‘O To Ge’ movement. There was no longer a General Officer Commanding, but platoon leaders, displaying their different traits.
AbdulRazak was an old member of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which was also the political party of President Muhammadu Buhari. Over 90 per cent of those in the party before it formed an alliance with the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and others remained loyalists of the governor. Expectedly, the ACN “members” expressed their allegiance to the Minister. There was also a group loyal to the Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemisola Saraki, an old member of the PDP.
This development created mutual suspicions among the APC members in the state but rather than facing the reality, the leaders of the splinter groups continued for long crying wolf over the alleged refusal of the governor to bankroll the party.
According to Chief Wole Oke, a staunch supporter of AbdulRazak, who also holds the chieftaincy title of Jagunmolu of Shao, an ancient Yoruba town in Moro LGA of the state, “the Governor would not fund those who are not willing to bow and submit to his leadership of the party”.
Sensing a likely revolt against his leadership of the party, the governor had to rejig the structure and install in the process his own cronies as officers of the party.
This led to the removal from office of the erstwhile chairman of the party, Bashiru Omolaja Bolarinwa, (BOB), a crony of Lai Mohammed with the emergence of Alhaji Abdullahi Sanmorin as his replacement.
However, BOB is believed to have tried his best to disabuse the mind of AbdulRazak against him, especially in the area of where his loyalty resides. According to Alhaji Moshood Mustapha, a former governorship aspirant of the APC in Kwara, “Bolarinwa personally brought AbdulRazak to my Abuja abode without my prior knowledge to appeal to me aftermath the post primary misunderstanding between us”.
For Mustapha however, aggrieved members of the party in the state must submit to the leadership style of the governor, in the overall interest of the party and the people of the state.
He said it is the convention of the APC to cede the leadership cadre of the party in the states to their respective governors.
Addressing Reporters at his Ilorin residence, Mustapha said, “the major problem of our people today in Kwara APC is lack of understanding of what the party’s convention stands for. The convention of the party had since put the power of governance at the state level on the governor. He is the leader of the party and not someone else.
“As for me, I can’t say the governor is not carrying us along. One other thing we need to let our people know is that you should not attack your leader but you should rather consult with him. We must obey and submit to the authorities at all times. The governor has his own method. We all voted him to power. We should not rock the boat due to his different approach to politics.”
It would be recalled that a section of APC in the state had for sometime alleged that the governor runs exclusively the affairs of the party. Besides, the group alleged that AbdulRazak had starved the party of funds necessary for the running of party’s affairs.
But Mustapha said, politics should not be seen as a profession but a vocation, just as he believed that the governor should have a right to his chosen method of governance.
The former House of Representatives member, (Ilorin/West, East and Asa Federal Constituency), encouraged his embattled colleagues to sheath their sword so that uninformed members of the party would not develop ill feelings toward the party.
On allegations levelled in some quarters against the governor that he absconded with a sum of one billion naira, given to the party by the national leadership of the APC for “logistics” ahead of the 2019 polls, Mustapha said such insinuation could only come from uninformed members of the party.
According to him, “the said money was not handed over to an individual. It is the right time to debunk the wrong insinuation. The then chairman of the party had put a call across to me that the said money had been released to the party from Abuja. It was logistics for the election and we were told that the money should be shared in line with the template sent along side the money.
“The governorship candidate, all the three senatorial candidates, three out of the six House of Representatives candidates, the local secretary of the party, one national officer of the party, and one person per senatorial districts were all there for the sharing. So I can say publicly that nobody went away with one billion naira as being rumoured.”
He is taken aback that, Alhaji Lai Mohammed would again drop a fresh bomb in his capacity as the leader of his faction of the party in Kwara that there would not be party congress in the state come July 10th, until all party members are allowed to validate their membership.
It was alleged that the governor had earlier stage-managed previous exercise in the state to the exclusion of party members loyal to the minister.
Lai Mohammed disclosed this in Ilorin, Kwara state capital, while addressing APC members during the commissioning of their new factional party secretariat, located along Reservation road, G.R.A Ilorin.
In his words, spoken in Yoruba language, “I alongside with Professor Oba AbdulRaheem, Tajudeen Makama met with the caretaker committee chairman of the party, Mai Mala Buni at the party secretariat in Abuja, and he made it known clearly to us that Kwara case is special, and there will not be party congress in the state, until all members are validated and registered”
On the alleged diversion of the campaign funds by some cabals during 2019 elections, the minister claimed that he singlehandedly, through family and friends raised all the funds deployed for prosecution of the elections in the state, including the House of Representatives by-election for Irepodun/Ekiti/ Oke-Ero constituency which preceded the 2019 general elections.
Mohammed was responding to Governor AbdulRazaq’s recent allegation that some cabals within the party who received hundreds of millions of naira as donations for the Kwara struggle did not deliver a kobo to him.
“I never diverted APC 2019 general elections campaign funds for my personal use as alleged by the governor. I singlehandedly with the support of friends and family raised all the monies for the Oke-Ero/Isin/Ekiti/Irepodun Federal Constituency by-election of November 2019 that brought Hon. Tunji Olawuyi to the House of Representatives”
“I challenge anybody here to say he gave the party one penny apart from what I gave them. I challenge anybody here to say he gave logistics support to the party. I did that by the grace of God. I distributed 500 motorcycles and 20 vehicles. And many of the beneficiaries are here today”
“I want them to explain to Nigerians what happened to the N70 million that Hon. Olawuyi kept that the governor refused to give us during the by-election. When we raised money to prosecute that November 2019 by-election and gave them but, to our biggest surprise, like two days to the election, we could not reach them through their phones again to release funds we raised.”
“I had to go to friends to raise another N150 million to prosecute that election. I remember very well that there are 42 wards in that constituency. We thank God today that was the beginning of our success.”
“When elections proper came, we did not see our governorship candidate. We could not wait. I say without any fear of contradictions that by the grace of God with the money raised from friends, colleagues and associates we financed the four elections and we scored 100 percent”.
“But they got there today and forget the people that put them there. If we did not give money to the party, how did he think the party won?”
Among those present at the event where the minister spoke are; Member Federal House of Rep Gani Cook Olododo; factional chairman, Hon. Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa; Professor Oba AbdulRaheem; Member, State Assembly Hon. Saheed Popoola; Alhaji Tajudeen Makama; Chief Akogun Oyedepo; Rex Olawoye; Dr. Ezekiel Oyedepo; Hon Saka Raji, Dr. Iyanda; Alhaji Adebayo Adisa; Comrade Rahoof Bello, among others.
Meanwhile, Hon Olawuyi has debunked claims by Mohammed. In the same vein, twenty one out of 24 members of Kwara State House of Assembly had in Ilorin debunked claims by the minister that he sponsored their elections in 2019.
The lawmakers at a press briefing led by Speaker of the House, Right Honourable Yakubu Danladi-Salihu (Ilesha-Gwanara Constituency), asked Mohammed to publicly mention any of the members he allegedly rendered financial help to before, during or after the polls.
The lawmakers said, “our attention has been drawn to an odious lie recently told by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed claiming that he supported and or financed the campaign and election of the 24 members into the Kwara State House of Assembly in the last general election in 2019.
“We ordinarily should have ignored the minister and take it as another lie from Lai Mohammed, but for the unsuspecting members of the public and posterity, the record needs to be set straight.
“Lai Mohammed did not give any support in any form to members of the 9th legislature during the campaign and election; if he did, he should name who and what he gave out. Could the minister be mixing things up on account of his old age?
“For God knows reason, Lai Mohammed did not participate in any of our campaigns and did not also contribute financially to it. It was the then governorship candidate of our party, the APC, who supported our campaigns all through.
“For the records, all the twenty-four members of the House of Assembly received financial support from the governor for the purpose of prosecuting the House of Assembly election, so Lai Mohammed should please stop telling lies to the people.
“Apart from the governorship candidate, the other support was the sum of N500,000 each that we received from the national headquarters of our party, APC.
“Other than that, it was the governor who funded our expenses including logistics, souvenirs, posters and other campaign materials. Even so, at no time did the governor go about telling anyone that he funded our campaign.
“It is also laughable that Lai Mohammed could claim to have personally raised money to finance the 2019 general elections in Kwara State. The question that would readily come to mind is: What is Lai’s contribution to his own Ward, Local Government, District and Kwara in general to have earned him respect and reputation for people to trust him and donate money to him?
“We, therefore, wish to implore Alhaji Lai Mohammed to please count us out of the problem or squabble he may have with the governor and focus on his assignment as a minister while we concentrate on ours as lawmakers.
“At the level of the state government and as lawmakers, the people of the state can point to the positive differences we have made in their lives. We have facts and figures to justify our stewardship.
“Kwarans are counting how many months are left for Lai Mohammed as minister and how many federal government’s project he has brought to his own village, Samora, Oro Kingdom, Kwara South and Kwara State in general.
“We state unequivocally that we stand with the governor. We are comfortable with his humility, his kindness, his team spirit, his commitment to a greater Kwara State, and his measured and peaceful approach to issues in the face of provocations.”
While the battle line is drawn now between loyalists of the two groups, they are looking up to the national leadership to intervene.
According to Chief Iyiola Oyedepo, a former majority leader of the State House of Assembly, the crisis has degenerated to the level beyond what the two groups could amicably resolve without the intervention of “the third party”.
Oyedepo, a loyalist of Lai Mohammed’s faction told The Guardian in a chat in Ilorin said, “we have not exhausted all the available options to resolve the crisis. We had reported the matter to the highest authorities of the party at the national level but as we speak, there has not been any concrete solution to it.
“We learnt that the national body is sending down persons to intervene. It has gone beyond what we can settle internally now. We suddenly discovered that strange bedfellows were behind the ‘O To Ge’ movement about two years ago.
“I was not satisfied with the leadership styles of the two former governors before AbdulRazak; Bukola Saraki and Abdulfatah Ahmed. I told the people of the possibility of a change. But AbdulRazak was imposed on us as a candidate; he was never the popular choice. At this stage, without any intervention from the national body, I Chief Akogun of Igbomina land and AbdulRazak can no longer be in the same political party beyond this point.”
For Oke, the national intervention would be a welcome one but noted: “the national body had recognised Sanmari and his Secretary as the authentic officials of the party. But should Mohammed as the Minister come to Kwara and rock the boat?”
While crisis persist the opposition PDP is lurking and awaiting the outcome and subtly praying for a favourable result ahead of the 2023 polls in Kwara.
According to Engineer Koka Shittu who is the chairman of the PDP in the state, “we mind our business but we have not closed our door either to any likely alignment and realignment of membership”.
Political analysts in the state are, however, of the view that if the APC should remain polarised ahead 2023 polls, the Sarakis may stage a comeback.
But a former Senator who represented Kwara south senatorial district between 1999 and 2003, Alhaji Makanjuola Ajadi thinks differently. “There is no political party today in Nigeria that is free of political squabble. The ‘O To Ge’ movement is bigger than any political party. It was a weapon in the hands of the voters. And seeing the good works of the incumbent governor, the feat will once again be reenacted in the state,” he said.