By Adebayo Abubakar
Whoever thinks 2023 is still far off from now, would have another think coming, especially, if the report of recent mass defection from the ruling, All Progressives Congress, APC, to a yet-to-be-announced political party in Kwara State, is anything to go by.
The defection, I learnt, is not a one-way traffic, as some people from other parties are also defecting to APC.
Ordinarily, one would expect any serious political horse-trading not to have been taking place now, until, at the earliest, next year or later this year, but circumstances that culminated in the defections, particularly, the out-bound ones from the ruling party, is as old as the mandate with which the party is in power.
The factionalization and polarization of the party, along the lines of “The AA group (pro-Governor), and BOB Groups, started in the misty morning of the administration, when there were reports of the Governor not carrying along, the party executives, the chieftains, and the party’s apparatchiks, in matters of political appointments.
For the sake of clarity, for those who are not so familiar with the crisis within APC in Kwara State; the AA group are those who are loyal to Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, while the BOB group, style themselves “APC Loyal”.
The crux of the matter between the two groups varies, depending on who is looking at what. There are as many explanations as there are, analysts, at every point in time.
It was reported that, the Governor and his legion of loyalists, see the other group, loyal to the party’s chairman, Honourable Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa, popularly known as BOB, as a threat to the administration in the Governor’s quest to deliver on his electoral promises, and possibly, secure a 2nd-term ticket, and are therefore, doing everything humanly possible, to neutralise them, politically.
Meanwhile, the other group sees the Governor as an ingrate, who, without any political structure, was helped into victory by the party, but would later turn around to bite the fingers that fed him.
The Governor’s camp on the other hand, going by the utterances of key members in the media, see them as a bunch of rent-seeking opportunistic lots who want the common patrimony of the State to shared among a privileged few.
The matter took a new dimension, when the APC’s National Executive Committee, NEC, dissolved the National Working Committee, NWC of the party, led by Adams Oshiomhole, appointing the Yobe State Governor, Mai Malla Buni as the Chairman, Caretaker/Convention Committee.
Similar thing happened at every level of the party structure; State, Local Government and Ward.
Initial report had it that, Bolarinwa was retained as the party’s Caretaker Chairman, pending the conduct of a proper convention, which formed the core of the mandate given to Mai Mala Buni-led caretaker committee.
But in a counter move, Alhaji Abdullahi Samari who was uptil then, was the deputy to Bolarinwa, was announced as the Kwara APC caretaker chairman, thus creating a situation of parallel excos.
Ever since then, Kwara APC has been rolling with two people parading themselves as the party’s caretaker chairman. There has been little or no peace in the house.
This marked the begining of a no-love-lost relationship between the two groups, which had even, in some cases degenerated into physical confrontations and assaults against party members.
A video went viral early February this year, when BOB was physically attacked by a group of thugs, believed to be loyal to the Governor. But the Governor, in a swift reaction, came out to condemn the act in an unequivocal term, and denied any involvement or any link, whatsoever, with the thugs who assaulted the party Chairman.
The stalemate continues, as I pound my keyboard. Even the just concluded party membership revalidation and new members registration exercise came to deepen the rift, as the “APC Loyal” group alleged being disenfranchised.
Some prominent members of the the party in the State, like the Minister of information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki alleged being denied access to registration materials, along with their supporters. They alleged that the AA group, with the indulgence of Governor Abdulrazaq (and perhaps, Senator Danboi) hoarded registration materials to the detriment of members belonging to the rival group.
But a shock reminder of the grave consequence of a divided ruling party on the eve of an election year surface surfaced last weekend, when aggrieved members of the party were seen in a viral social media video, tearing their membership cards and burning the party’s symbol – broom.
Those aggrieved members of the party have left to form a new political group known as the Third Force. If there was any hope for a political armistice between the two faction before, it all evaporated with this defection.
The Group, reportedly led by Yakubu Gobir, a former governorship aspirant, include APC senatorial chairmen, ward chairmen, local government chairmen, women leaders, youth leaders, as well as other party stalwarts in all the 16 local government areas of the state.
Spokesperson of the group, the former state APC senatorial chairman for Kwara Central, Abdulfatai Abdulrahman, while explaining the rationale behind their defection said, it is impossible to achieve the developmental goals they aim for Kwara, under the present leadership of the party.
Politics, like the saying goes; is a game of number. The more the merrier. But the APC National Secretariat has done little or nothing to reconcile the two warring factions, acting as if it is none of it business. Little wonder it degenerated into something sort of an existential threat to the party in the State.
As at today, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq is up against all the opposition forces in Kwara State, both within APC and the major opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
Do not forget that, a former Governor of the State and the immediate past President of the Nigerian Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, is gradually coming back from his self-imposed holiday from politics; and going by the mammoth crowd that welcomed him, the last time he was in town, he left no one in doubt as to his still being a force to reckon with.
This is coupled with the fact that, those who matter most in his political clan are still very much with him. That is talking about the likes of his successor in office as a Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatai Ahmed, (a two-term Governor); the immediate past speaker of the State House of Assembly, Right Honourable Ali Ahmad, the PDP gubernatorial candidate, Honourable Razaq Atunwa; former APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi; other members of both the State and federal legislature and a retinue of political appointees.
With this scenario, I’d want to believe that, Governor Abdulrazaq is not unaware of the magnitude of work he has to do, to get a re-election, come 2023, as he seems to be in control of the party structure, thus making the acquisition of the party’s ticket a forgone conclusion, even though members of the BOB-led exco have not announced their defection from the ruling APC.
There are other formidable chieftains within the ruling APC that are not on the same page with the Governor and are not likely to be on his side, when push comes to shove, even though, they are not known to be in overt opposition to the Governor.
The likes of Alhaji Yakubu Gobir the Wazirin Kasar Hausa; Alhaji Lukman Olayiwola Mustapha, Iyiola Oyedepo, Alhaji Ahman Pategi among others are some of the known prominent APC members with whom the Governor does not have a “sọ-cordial-relationship”.
All things being equal, the election is going to be determined by a popular vote, not by “Electoral college”; it is therefore, not going to be totally accurate, to think that, with this array of political big wigs not being in the same camp with the Governor, would translate to an electoral loss.
That is not to say that, these guys are not “crowd-pullers” in their individual respects. They have their respective legion of supporters who, come rain come shine, listen to their dictates, and would vote in line with the dictates of the leaders.
So as the 2023 general election begins to draw nearer than ever, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, the Third Force and the Political direction the State would assume, might just have been revealed.
Adebayo Abubakar Writes from Ilorin.