KWARA SENATE RACE:Waiting for the kingmaker
By Demola Akinyemi
There are three senatorial districts in Kwara State otherwise known as the state of harmony. The senatorial districts are Kwara North, Kwara South and Kwara Central covering the sixteen local governments of the State.
Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki the head of the Saraki dynasty is the kingmaker who has over the years almost unilaterally determined the course of most of the political campaigns in the State.
Oloye as he is fondly called by admirers along the pattern of his usual tradition of choosing whoever he wants as the governor in more than thirty years has extended his influence to the senate and all other elective offices in the State.
Today, there are mainly three political parties existing in the state, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, the Action Congress of Nigeria [ACN] which fielded aspirants and effectively contested elections in the previous republics and of Congress of Progressive Coalition [CPC] which is just coming up with little or no structure.
It should be noted that the three senatorial districts namely Kwara North, South and Central are being controlled by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party through Senators Mohammed Ahmed (North) Simeon Ajibola of (South) and Gbemisolat Saraki (Central). Each of the trio have spent two terms in the Senate.
Peoples Democratic Party.(PDP) aspirants: Kwara Central
In the ruling party, the age long tradition to wait for those to be ‘’anointed” by the strongman of Kwara politics is strictly being adhered to now, but with a new development. The incumbent governor Dr Bukola Saraki unlike any other existing governor his father had installed according to sources is asking for certain percentage of the nominees to the National Assembly.
Informed sources confided in Vanguard that even candidates for the forthcoming local government election were chosen along the same pattern as the governor had large input in those contesting under the ruling party. Long before now, there were speculations that Governor Bukola Saraki might be interested in going to the senate through Kwara Central to replace his sister who has been endorsed by their father to replace the brother as Governor.
The governor’s current hot contest for the PDP presidential ticket has altered all such permutations.
It is as such no surprise that all eyes are now on the elder Saraki.
Vanguard investigations revealed that intensive lobbying and political horse trading are going on and there is expectation that if sister Saraki succeeds in her bid for the Government House that brother Saraki could well be asked to name her successor as Kwara Central Senator.
Such permutation gives fillip to the ambition of some close aides and associates of Governor Saraki.
Among those in hot contention for the Senate seat are:
Barrister Rasaq Atunwa-
He has been a commissioner since the inception of the outgoing administration and one of the closest aides of the governor. Atunwa 1 as he is fondly called by the politicians is from Efue, a village in Asa local government. He was commissioner for information, then commissioner for works and currently commissioner for finance.
Barrister Lanre Dayibu-
He is the outgoing chairman in Ilorin south and one of the core loyalists of the governor. Already, his office has been allotted to one of his friends, Dr Adebayo Ishola who has just resigned his commissionership appointment as commissioner for lands to enable him contest the local government. Lanre Dayibu, a native of Ilorin is a lawyer while his wife is a Judge in the state. He is one of those being mentioned for kwara central senatorial seat.
Kwara North Senator Mohammed Ahmed
The incumbent will be spending eight years by 2011.He is one of the core loyalists of the elder Saraki who had been instrumental to his previous appointments as commissioners and Secretary to the State Government in past administrations.
Senator Ahmed is not known to have impressed his people in terms of giving them dividends of democracy. His loyalty and commitment is generally believed to be focused mainly on the elder Saraki. Though he was rumored to be interested in the governorship race but the general belief that it is the turn of Kwara South has largely discouraged aspirants from the North from contesting.
Hon Yahaya Ahmed Yinusa
He represented Edu/Moro/Patigi in the .House of Representatives between 1999-2007 on the goodwill of the elder Saraki.
After his second term he returned to his farming business during which he combined farming with nurturing his political following among his people. Hon Yinusa is widely seen as a grass root politician and most talked about by the people of the area because of his remarkable achievements of delivering the dividends of democracy to the people while in office which they still refer to till today.
Though his posters expressing his interest for the Kwara North Senatorial seat in the next election have littered the constituency and indeed the state capital, but curiously enough, the posters do not bear the logo of PDP which he belongs to.
Investigation by Vanguard however showed that, it was a deliberate act as Hon Yahaya who suspects that he might not be anointed might decamp to another political party to pursue his ambition, relying solely on the strength of the electorates on the field who he believe will stand by him. Whether this will demystify the clout of the elder Saraki, is just a matter of time.
Alhaji Shaaba Lafiagi-
Alh Shaaba, as he is fondly called is a grassroots politician and a former governor of the state from the area. He was installed as the governor by Dr Olusola Saraki and held forth for two years during the ill-fated third republic era. He initially fell apart with the elder Saraki immediately after office, but for sometime now, he has remained one of the very close allies and advisers the elder Saraki largely depend on.
Informed sources confided in Vanguard that, if the kingmaker is persuaded by the homegrown opposition to Senator Ahmed, he might endorse Lafiagi as a replacement.
Lafiagi is presently a member of the PDP board of trustees alongside other federal appointments.
Kwara South Chief Simeon Ajibola
He is the incumbent, who was fielded against Senator Makanjuola Ajadi of the then ANPP during the political crisis the Sarakis had with the late Governor Mohammed Lawal
With the present political development in the state, it is most likely that Senator Ajibola who is seen not to enjoy the needed popularity commensurate with his status as a Senator might not be retained for a third term. His performance in office is not generally regarded as impressive.
Chief Joel Ogundeji
The current Deputy Governor, Chief Joel Ogundeji, who has been in the saddle for about eight years, Vanguard reliably gathered has been found to be loyal, dedicated to the cause of the Sarakis and politically matured to assume the office after his current experience. He was a classroom teacher, before he was called for the current political appointment
Chief Bode Oyedepo
Popularly known as ‘’Bode the Way”, he has remained a solid member of the party and a close and loyal friend of the governor, Dr Bukola Saraki .He is a native of Oro. He is also said to be keenly interested in the senate. But the fear is that Oyedepo who is an international business man may not be anointed by the Sarakis because of his exposure and enormous wealth. There are suggestions that if given political powers, he might be uncontrollable and might be a suicidal option for the Sarakis.
Engineer Kola Shittu
He hails from Offa, in Offa local government area of the state. He was once a member of the House of Representatives before he was appointed as Special Adviser by Governor Bukola Saraki during his second term administration. He is currently commissioner for works, and one of the confidants and eyes of the governor in Kwara South. He is among the possible candidates, the governor is said to be considering for the senate in kwara south.
Action Alliance Of Nigeria(Acn)
From the days of Alliance for Democracy up till Action Congress, the party till today has remained the only opposition party in the state with visible structures and political machines. Alh Lai Mohammed, a native of Oro in Irepodun local government area of the state and the present National Publicity Secretary of the party established the authority of this party with his contest for the governorship in 2003 when he came third. Governor Bukola Saraki emerged, and the then incumbent came far second.
In Lai Mohammed’s first attempt, he polled over 100,000 votes unprecedented in the history of the opposition parties in the state. Since then, the party has remained a factor to reckon with in the state. The recent entrance of Alh Dele Begore into the governorship race this time has further revived the popularity of the party.
Alh Ishmael Agboola a former chairman of Ilorin south between 1999 and 2003 during the administration of Alh Muhammed Lawal in the ANPP days was once a board member of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board and is currently in his private business. He is contesting for the Kwara Central Senatorial in the forthcoming election. His posters have flooded the state capital, and he is showing enough seriousness that he wants to slug it out with the ruling party. He is the only one so far and he will likely get the nod of the party leadership to contest the race.
Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo-He is a grass root politician, from Ijara Isin in Ifelodun local government area of the state. He is a former chief whip in the state assembly and commissioner for agriculture and natural resources during the administration of the late Governor Lawal. He has remained an unrepentant critic of the Sarakis.
Mr Aanu Ibiwoye- He is a native of Esie, a banker by profession is making a brand new entrance into the contest for political office in the state. He was an aide to the former Minister for Women Affairs, Princess Olufunke Adedoyin who was in the Olusegun Obasanjo cabinet.
So far, no candidate has shown interest the senatorial district apparently because the party does not have much support from the area.
Congress Of Progressive Coalition
CPC is making remarkable entrance into Kwara State. The party is being popularized by Alh Nurudeen Mohammed, a former finance commissioner who served several military administrations prior to 1999.
Hajia Bilkis Tinuola Gambari is a popular politician who has added strength to the party. She, angrily left ACN for the party because her political ambition was being threatened there by forces said to be beyond her control. Bilkis who made her maiden entrance into Kwara politics in 2007 hotly contested for the Kwara Central senatorial election against her childhood friend Senator Gbemisola Saraki.
Bilkis, a princess of the Illorin emirate made a good show of that election as it took the elder Saraki to personally campaign for his daughter before she could win that election. Hajia Bilkisu who firmly believed that the election was rigged against her did not give up until the court finally settled the matter against her plea.
Unlike then, Bilkisu Gambari, who could be said to be frustrated out of her former ACN is only seen on the posters as CPC senatorial candidate as she is not putting the usual vigor into the race.