Although the battle for governorship tickets of Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is straightforward in many states, the battle to be on the ballot in Kwara State is interesting because it pitches loyalists of the national leader of the party, Senate President Bukola Saraki, against one another
Although there about 10 aspirants seeking to pick the party’s ticket in the state, it is seen by many as a straight battle between two key loyalists of Mr Saraki. The two are the immediate past spokesperson of the ruling APC, Bolaji Abdullahi, who left the party to join the PDP following the footsteps of his political godfather and the Speaker, Kwara State House of Assembly, Ali Ahmad.
Mr Abdullahi, a former sports minister, defected to the PDP in August, about 24 hours after Mr Saraki also defected to the opposition party.
Explaining why he left the APC, Mr Abdullahi said his loyalty was constantly brought into question and his views second-guessed due to his political affiliations.
That was not the first time Mr Abdullahi was leaving a top position because of his loyalty to Mr Saraki. He was fired as minister of youth and sports by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 on account of his loyalty to Mr Saraki, who at the time left the PDP for APC.
Mr Abdullahi, a journalist, has garnered political experience under Mr Saraki that has arguably prepared him for a governorship seat. He has served as commissioner in Kwara, minister, and a ruling party spokesperson. However, he lacks the political structure to actualise his ambition, because like most Saraki loyalists, he is part of the “Saraki Dynasty “and often gets whatever is given by their leader.
Ali Ahmad was a member of the House of Representatives in 2011 representing Ilorin East/Ilorin South Federal Constituency. Because of his educational background and for being an associate professor of law before venturing into politics, his time in the House of Reps where he served as chairman of the judiciary committee was eventful. According to his profile as published on his website “Indeed he is reputed to be NO. 1 legislator who sponsored the highest number of Bills in the 7th Assembly. DR. Ahmad also broke another legislative history in this country as someone who successfully lobbied the House of passing ten of his bills in one sitting, a feat that has never been recorded since Nigeria’s Independence.”
Despite this achievement, Mr Ahmad chose not to return to the House of Representatives, but to become a state lawmaker in Kwara.
A source, knowledgeable with the politicking of the state, said Mr Ahmad returned to Kwara to run as a state lawmaker on the prompting of Mr Saraki “who was grooming him to succeed Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed.”
Although like Bolaji Abdullahi, Mr Ahmad relies on the structure of the senate president to actualise his aspiration, he has a little edge over the former APC spokesperson because many local groups have identified with his aspiration and offered him their support.
A source close to Mr Saraki said he allowed his loyalists to throw their hearts into the ring and is determined to ensure that “they sell themselves to the delegates on their own because he is willing to support anyone who emerges.”
That perhaps explains why, apart from the two aspirants mentioned above, other Saraki loyalists such as Mohammed Lafiagi, a senator, and Zakari Mohammed a member of the House of Reps, have also signified their intention to run.