By Ibrahim Sheriff .A. (Gold)
For a year and some seven months, I had been away on an assignment that morally barred me from owning up to personal views on some issues, publicly. Especially, with respect to politics and governance, considering the kind of environment we operate in. A slippery one, characterized by deliberate mischief and misinterpretation, from within and beyond.
It was a worthwhile experience. For the first time, managing the image and strategic communications of elected political personality. In 2015, I coordinated Media and Public Relations for the PDP House of Representative candidate for Ilorin East/South Federal Constituency, Tunde Akanbi Oniyo; in 2019, I was a part of Media Team for a foremost APC gubernatorial aspirant, Lukman Mustapha which was later fused into the media team for AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq Campaign Organization (AACO), under a Directorate headed by my good friend and partner, Abdulrasheed Akogun.
At the different times, I was involved in media handling for opposition figures. So, my last engagement exposed me to another dynamic of Media and Public Relations. In all, time comes and go, but memory of events we make out of them endures forever. Indeed, it was such a historic moment working with a fine, gentleman who sees me beyond just a ‘Media Aide’. Maybe I am lucky to always work with good people.
One of those events that dominates public discourse in recent times is the rancorous Kwara APC house. There are claims and counterclaims over wide range of issues. However, some lines of argument which often appears to me as ‘ludo joint’ political arguments are now finding their ways on airwaves and even pages of national dailies. As a part of OTOGE struggle, which used the APC as a vehicle to hatch revolutionary cause by Kwarans, I feel duty bound to lend my voice to some of the discourse, recall our memories and agitate discerning minds.
I read carefully, the opinion by Bashir Ibrahim Olaitan (PhD) published on This Day Newspaper, where he obviously made efforts to prove the political strength of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara state, in a bid to nullify the political vulnerability assertion of the Governor by those he referred to as “wannabe analysts”. Smiles… This is particularly coming barely a week after the renowned TVC Analyst, Babajide Kolade Otitoju tilted his xray of the ongoing political imbroglio in Kwara state towards the direction Bashir sought to argue against. This piece will be guided by some of these claims and counterclaims.
While I will not attempt to overblow the political ego of the Governor like Dr. Bashir did, or deflate his political strength like same Dr. Bashir attempted against other major APC gubernatorial aspirants in the last general elections, I deem it expedient to fact – check some of his claims.
It is no harm pushing suitable narratives to suit personal sentiments, especially in a politically tensed atmosphere like this. But, some of us are proponents of Martin Luther King’s assertion that ‘we are not makers of history but made by history’. As such, we should never allow disciples of George Santayan who believes ‘history is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren’t there’, to distort our own political history before our very eyes.
Visibly, the writer believes who wins 2023 elections could be more about political calculations and sentiments, other than political performance and decided in his own wisdom to start whipping the sentiments there and then. The race for 2023 must have really began. It is no crime, but some of the sentiments he tried to curry are conflicting with available facts.
Before 2019, the struggle for Kwara liberation was alive. It was not based on the hatred for the face of Bukola Saraki, but every malaise his political leadership represented. Political ineptitude and arrogance, psychological effect of long standing hegemonic family dominance in the State, maladministration, corrupt practices among others were the phenomenon rejected about the past and as at today, these phenomenons are still evidently present in Kwara political space. Although, a discussion with facts and figures for another day.
So, the discussion in Kwara at the moment should not be whether or not Kwarans would be willing to take back Saraki, but whether or not the people will accept all of those things rejected about the past, which Bukola Saraki represented. While alluding that Saraki will play significant role in the 2023 general elections, the assumption that Kwarans may not be willing to return to his political folds should not motivate any politician to make lords out of themselves that they become what was rejected in Bukola Saraki. The people have the liberty to reject anybody. This is more reason why our politics must henceforth, be built around ideals, not people.
The writer’s claim that nine of ten of those allegedly against the Governor today ‘never really supported him’ in the run up to the poll, ‘but gave him a Senator Suleiman Ajibola 2015 treatment’ is not only outright falsehood but an ungrateful insult on the personalities of all of these people (gubernatorial aspirants) and their supporters. Assuming that his claim is veracious, what support can even be greater than accepting to not challenge the sham that characterized the Kwara APC gubernatorial primaries, which would most likely land us in Zamfara situation? No grateful fellow would have ever taken that for granted.
It is on record, that after the primaries, of about twelve APC gubernatorial aspirants in Kwara state, no fewer than eight, including Amb. Yahyah Seriki, Lukman Mustapha, Mashood Mustapha, Prof. Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem, Waziri Gobir among others actively supported the campaign and other activities leading to AbdulRazaq’s emergence as Executive Governor of Kwara state. Many of these people committed personal finances to mobilization and other logistic for their followers in support of the course, notwithstanding their physical efforts, too.
While the assertion that the Governor is now politically stronger compared to 2019 is absolutely correct, owing to his control of State resources which several of those lurking around him are more interested in, it is not true that the Governor is not interfering in the Party crisis. The Governor’s position at a stakeholders meeting at the instance of Governor Buni-led CECPC that he cannot work with Bashir Bolarinwa as State Chairman is a public knowledge and suffice to his interference from inception. The handwritings are clear on the wall.
For the elected representatives declaring support for the Governor (by electing to back Samari) in the party crisis. It is a customary practice known to our political landscape in Kwara, signalling nothing has changed. We also had elected officials in the past, including those who couldn’t show anything for their performances, abandoning their statutory duties to attend Bukola Saraki’s CCT trials in the name of loyalty. The question is if these actions signals loyalty to people’s cause, or individual’s aspiration?
The writer, who initially claimed the Governor never interfered in the party crisis, contradicted himself by concluding that the elected representatives resolve to back Abdullahi Sanmari as the new party Chairman was a vote of confidence in the Governor. This speaks to the truth that the Governor is indeed the content in the bottle called ‘Gin’. It should however be noted, that Bukola Saraki had almost 100% support of elected officials, including a sitting Governor aside been a Senate President, yet, floored by the proverbial political ‘noise makers’.
While the writer hinged his bias on the treatment meted on Governors Ambode and Obaseki, the case in Kwara is totally different. Against established godfatherism which Lagos and Edo practice(s/d), what forms the current Kwara APC is a rainbow coalition. It is not only crude but unfair for Governors to gang up against other well meaning Kwarans to avoid a sitting Governor being ‘edged out of relevance’. Perhaps, a Governor believed to be so politically strong. A strong and popular politician will not despise due process and fair play if genuinely, the support base is strong.
Again, just like an untested hypothesis, the argument of the Governor’s political strength against that of former governorship aspirants remains vague at the moment. Any attempt to judge their popularity will be subjective. But if the Governor himself is not afraid of their strengths politically, back home, all the shenanigans and tactical exclusion of some people believe to be loyal to some of these people from party registration would be needless. That amounts to disenfranchisement in the process that will actually reveal who is actually popular within the State. After all, they are not in control of State’s vault and thus, have lesser resources. Let the ‘mighty’ play fair against the ‘weak’.
While the growth or erosion of the Governor or his adversaries goodwill cannot be measured accurately, I imagine which statistic guided the conclusion that ‘three in five persons who listens to Akogun Oyedepo are convinced he is not the ‘progressive’ he wanted them to believe he is. We all listen to some of these radio programs, including the State sponsored ones and we knew what people are saying. The radio shenanigans on both sides is also a talk for another day.
If the conclusion that a lot of those seen as fighting the Governor”are already wasting their political capital in a bid to fight dirty and win public sympathy” is anything to go by. What do we say about huge investment of public funds on political jingoism, both on radio and prints media by the government? In public’s interest? I recall vividly, at the build up to 2019 elections, we criticized the Governor Ahmed administration for floating about 7 or 8 radio programs a week as wasteful.
While agreeing that the likes of Iyiola Akogun are radio generals, it is self deceit that would make anybody agree they are political featherweights. More so, their radio warfare is unarguably one of the factors that arouse public consciousness about the ills of the past, hence, unbefitting of any sincere beneficiary, actor or observer of the OTOGE struggle to deride their persons.
If the likes of Dele Belgore (SAN), whose ranking among the 2019 APC gubernatorial contest was among the least can be rated as one of ‘Top former governorship aspirant with solid presence in the state’, it speaks to the undisguised bias of the writer. It is a common knowledge that Dele Belgore (SAN) only had a good outing in the Central in 2011. In 2015, he could not even clinch the gubernatorial ticket. He was nowhere on ground in 2019.
The likes or Alhaji Jani Ibrahim, as at 2019 was not even anywhere in the APC OTOGE struggle. It was unclear, whether or not he left the PDP in 2018. The last time he showed up actively in Kwara political space was in 2015, when he was milked dry by some of those loitering around the Governor now. Perhaps, they are the ones that just brought him on board. Anyone with pictures of either Dele Belgore (SAN) or Jani Ibrahim at any of Governor AbdulRazaq campaigns is dared to bring same to public glare.
Overtime, there is unsubstantiated claims by the Governor’s apologists, that the whole noise is about some persons either wanting to pocket the Governor or seeking a power sharing arrangement in a most ‘predatory, arrogant, and daring manner’. They even went as far as telling tales of people demanding access to the State’s vault. In the spirit of patriotism, it is about time Kwarans challenge these claimants to mention publicly, names of those making extraneous demands on the alter of politics, their demands and evidences to substantiate same. Otherwise, these lines of argument will continue to be seen as mere blackmail. An attempt to call dog a bad name. Probably, to garner public sentiments which the writer feels will determine 2023 elections.
It would also be in public’s interest, if the writer explains “what he knew of the pre-2019 poll” and categorically mention the acclaimed saboteurs of the OTOGE campaign and how they attempted to sabotaged Kwarans collective struggle, for us to know how to place them appropriately. While rumor could emerge from personal illusions or some inferiority complex, the rumor mongers may wish to tell Kwarans the specific moves that informed the alleged godfatherism posture of Lai Mohammed. Maybe that will help Kwarans profile him, stop his alleged antics and place him rightly.
As long as we reject any form of hegemony or godfatherism in Kwara state, we should also be decent enough to speak to verifiable claims, understanding rumors are usually projection of the individual that started them.
What is uncontestable is the fact that the Governor is the leader of the party in any State, and that of Kwara state is not an exception. However, position of authority places one as a leader but how that authority is exerted determines to what extent such individual commands respect as a leader. Honour is not demanded, it is earned.
While we watch as events unfold, it should be noted that the fallout of the APC brouhaha would go a long way in further exposing the individual and collective traits of our political actors. It is however divine that victory attained by crookery is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary. Anyone who wins fraudulently will continue to feel defeated, not even after victory. It is therefore honorable to be fair and just, to win or loss honorably.