Different forces within the All Progressives Congress (APC) closed ranks to oust a common enemy in Kwara State in 2019. But two years after achieving this feat, the structure is gradually collapsing.
‘O to ge,’ a moniker from the Yoruba translation of “Enough is Enough”, was formed in 2019, ahead of the general election, to dethrone the Saraki dynasty in the state. The dynasty was founded by the Second Republic Senate Leader, Olusola Saraki, and sustained by his son, former Senate President Bukola Saraki.
The four main groups that formed the coalition were: Legacy group led by the minister of information, Lai Mohammed; Akogun group led by a former Chairman of the PDP, Iyiola Oyedepo; Gbemi group, named after the minister of state for transportation, Gbemisola Saraki, and the AA group championed by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq.
The clan led by the late Olusola Saraki had dominated the state’s affairs for over a decade.
The late Saraki’s son, Bukola, served as the governor of the state for two terms between 2003 and 2011. He was succeeded by Abdulfatah Ahmed, a loyal supporter of the dynasty.
To underscore the influence of the Sarakis beyond party politics, Mr Ahmed won the first governorship election under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but was re-elected under the APC after the Saraki team formally moved to the APC.
Nevertheless, the O to ge movement pulled a game-changer in the 2019 election.
The coalition led to the victory of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, defeating Mr Saraki’s anointed candidate, Rasaq Atunwa, by a landslide.
Needless to state that most candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party fielded for elective positions in the state, including Mr Saraki, who participated in the senatorial contest, lost by a wide margin.
But shortly after the APC coasted home to victory, a crisis, an offshoot of its governorship primaries, brewed.
Prior to the election, the movement had skirmishes regarding the emergence of Mr AbdulRazaq in the primaries.
It was believed that the governor’s group influenced the conduct of the direct primaries and the disqualification of some contestants.
In fact, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC had to apologise to two of the party’s governorship aspirants, Saliu Mustapha and Moshood Mustapha, over the erroneous announcement of their disqualification during the direct primary.
The party, according to its erstwhile chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, regretted the “embarrassing mischief directed at the governorship aspirants.”
Interestingly, none of the aggrieved parties challenged the outcome of the primaries. “We believed that it was not healthy for the group. We needed to be united to achieve the major goal,” Mr Oyedepo recently told PREMIUM TIMES.
‘Appointment without the party’s input’
For six months after the election, Mr AbdulRazaq ran the affairs of the state without a cabinet. He was criticised by some people while others felt he was taking his time to make the right decisions.
However, when he named his cabinet members, he was openly criticised by members of the party including the suspended party chairman, Bashir Bolarinwa, for not consulting the party.
The other three pivotal groups have since then withdrawn their support from the governor.
But the governor, on the other hand, objected to their claims, insisting that the party stalwarts wanted him to play the puppet and lavish funds based on party affiliations.
The appointments, according to him, were in the best interest of Kwara.
Controversial removal of Bolarinwa
The ruckus within the Kwara APC was, however, heightened by the removal of Mr Bolarinwa as the caretaker chairman of the party in the state.
Mr Bolarinwa was replaced with Abdullahi Samari by the Mai Mala Buni-led APC Caretaker Committee.
Although Mr AbdulRazaq said it was a decision from the national body, observers and members of the party see his hands in it.
The removal divided the party across two lines – one for the governor and another against him.
Although the national body and executives of the North Central zone of the party have intervened in the matter, they have yet to achieve reconciliation of the warring members.
Meanwhile, Mr Bolarinwa, when contacted through his media aide, insisted that he occupies the office of the state chairman of the APC.
Revalidation exercise turns sour
While the furore surrounding the removal of Mr Bolarinwa was yet to be resolved, the party’s nationwide registration and revalidation exercise began but ended in a fiasco in Kwara.
A meeting scheduled ahead of the exercise was violently disrupted after supporters of Mr AbdulRazaq clashed with those of Mr Bolarinwa.
In the heat of the crisis, the information minister, Mr Mohammed, demanded the cancellation of the membership registration exercise.
Mr Mohammed, who addressed a press conference at his hometown, Oro, said the committee in charge violated the procedure of the party, adding that some guidelines regarding the distribution of materials were flouted.
Commenting on the crisis rocking the state chapter of the party, he alleged that the registration and revalidation committee sidelined major ‘stakeholders’ who worked for the election of Mr AbdulRazaq.
Instead of membership registers, conniving registration officials were using exercise books or foolscap sheets to register members, he said.
However, PREMIUM TIMES independently gathered that even some lawmakers and the governor’s aides were made to write their details in the exercise books or foolscap sheets, in clear violation of the guidelines.
‘Interference in local government administration lack of transparency’
The AbdulRazaq-led administration, two years into office, has been accused of some of the infractions that the O to ge movement typically said ‘enough is enough’ to.
One is the failure to conduct local government elections, which has been seen as an opportunity for the governor to usurp power at the local level.
A Kwara government official, who does not want to be quoted, said the election of the local council chairpersons is stalled by a pending lawsuit regarding the constitution of the Kwara State Electoral Commission (KWASEC). But the critics countered that the government could have found a way to resolve it as it did by going ahead with the recruitment of teachers despite a suit challenging the constitution of the Kwara State Education Board.
Also, PREMIUM TIMES reliably gathered from official sources that the federal allocations for the 16 local governments are pulled together for payment of local government workers.
As such, the local governments have no influence on how the funds are spent. This, critics say, negates the promise of local government autonomy promised by the movement at inception.
Recall that after one year in office, Aishat Pategi, who at the inception of the administration served as Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs but was redeployed to the Ministry of Special Duties, resigned.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that her resignation was connected to a face-off with the Commissioner for Finance, Olasumbo Oyeyemi, over control of local government finances.
Ms Pategi claimed that N300 million was diverted from the state’s local government fund, an allegation the state government denied vehemently.
In place of substantive chairpersons, Governor AbdulRazaq’s government has started the process of appointment of local government transition committees in the 16 councils.
Recently, a group under the auspices of Concerned APC Youths in Kwara petitioned the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation over the appointment of local government transition committees by Mr AbdulRazaq.
They condemned the recent constitution of the Transition Implementation Committee (TIC) for the 16 local government councils in the state.
They described the TIC as illegal and unconstitutional and called for the intervention of the AGF, Abubakar Malami, in the matter.
The document, signed by 36 youth drawn from the 16 local government areas of the state, declared that Mr AbdulRazaq acted illegally in the constitution of the TIC.
According to the petition, there were judgments of the Supreme Court against the appointment of TIC in local governments.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on several occasions lamented the usurpation of local government powers by state governments, noting its inimical effects on the development at the grassroots.
Political watchers believe that the crisis in the party, if not resolved by the national body of the APC, may escalate further and spell doom for the party in forthcoming polls in the state.
Also, the gale of defection that has begun to rock APC Kwara poses a serious danger to the reelection of Mr AbdulRazaq. Recently, some aggrieved members of the party left to form a new political group known as the Third Force.
“Even the governor cannot be sure of a second term,” said Mr Oyedepo.
He warned that the national body does not have the luxury of time to address the lingering issues, urging it to intervene as a matter of urgency.
“The national headquarters does not have beyond this year to intervene. By the middle of next year, primaries will start,” he further said.
He said the governor should be the one to initiate reconciliations as the leader of the party.
Asked if some members of the party might go back to the ousted PDP, he responded; “Well, there is that danger. Politics in Nigeria is seen as too broad. It is a possibility. That is if the national does not act. I still cannot see anything in the PDP that is so attractive. Many people are criticising our party but they have not forgotten 16 years of PDP in Kwara.”
But the spokesperson of the party who is also a special adviser to the governor, Tajudeen Aro, described the defection as insignificant, promising that the crisis will be laid to rest shortly.
“It’s a minor slug. Their number (the defectors) is insignificant. We shall come out of the crisis very soon. We are working on it,” said Mr Aro.
“At the just concluded Democracy Day here in Kwara, our world-acclaimed performing governor and leader, Governor AbdulRahaman AbdulRazaq, received over 3000 PDP decampees from across the state to APC,” Bashir Adigun, an aide to the governor countered the defectors.
Mr Adigun announced the governor’s readiness to call a truce.
“Governor is the leader of all. He is open and ready for resolution of disagreement within the party. I am sure all issues will soon be resolved.”
Also hopeful of a peaceful resolution is a former governorship aspirant in the state and an aspiring National Chairman of APC, Saliu Mustapha.
“The Oto gé struggle was a battle cry of the people of Kwara State. It was a revolution that saw the light of the day. It was an unusual collaboration between the elite and the masses that produced results beyond imagination.”
Mr Mustapha said although the crisis is unfortunate, it was blown out of proportion by the media and a few political hangers-on, on both sides of the divide.
“It is not a crisis that is beyond the collective capacity of the stakeholders to resolve. It will only take good political sportsmanship and understanding. Where we need to forgive, we forgive. Where we need to forgo, we forgo. Where we need to forget, we forget. It boils down to a genuine willingness to give and take; a willingness to admit that everyone matters in the party and should be accorded deserved respect,” he said, assuring that efforts are underway to settle the crises.
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