By DEMOLA AKINYEMI
The political razzmatazz and glitz at Nupe road, G.R.A,Ilorin, the secretariat and headquarters of the ruling party PDP,in Kwara state capital penultimate weekend was indeed intimidating and quite instructive. The beginning and end of the lengthy road was filled with canopies under which the faithful supporters of the party and decampees were seated.
The setting was understandable because the acting chairman of the ruling party,Alh Abubakar Kawu Baraje is from here.Moreso, the newly emerged political leader in the state, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the immediate past governor, whose political influence across the country is now spreading like a wild fire in the harmattan were not taking anything for chances by ensuring that they consolidate heavily on the achievements of PDP in the last elections in a way that would put other existing opposition parties in a permanent cooler in the future elections .
Vanguard checks revealed that the ruling party and indeed the two gladiators were thoroughly embarrassed and at best shocked by the inroads the Action Congress Party of Nigeria[ACN] made into the political platform of the state in the last elections by coming far second to the ruling party on scores aggregate.
Particularly, the political statements that Muhammed Dele Belgore SAN,the gubernatorial candidate of ACN who was alleged to be heavily bankrolled by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu,brought into the contest, that made him to garner overwhelming votes in some parts of Ilorin emirate caught not a few by surprise.
The contest was so keen in some areas to the extent that the inability of some commissioners in the immediate past administration to deliver their wards, and local government to the ruling party inspite of their closeness to the Dr Bukola Saraki cost them such plum office in the new dispensation.
National chairman of the PDP Alh.Kawu Baraje (second left), Senator Bukola Saraki and Chairman of Kwara State PDP Alh. Fulani , during the presentation of PDP Flag to the former ANPP gubernatorial Candidate Alh. Bolaji Khaleel at the PDP’s secretariat Ilorin, Kwara state recently
Further investigations by Vanguard particularly showed that the political turmoil that split the political dynasty of the Sarakis who had been ruling the state of harmony with political fiefdom, over the gubernatorial ambition of Senator Gbemisola Saraki in the last election was largely responsible for the impact of the ACN in the last elections.
After the reconciliation between Dr Olusola Saraki and his son, the former governor,Vanguard checks revealed that the duo and their sympathizers realized that the energies and huge resources which the ruling party are now dissipating before the tribunal to sustain the victory of the governor, Alh Abdulfatah Ahmed and indeed other candidates of the party, would not have been necessary and indeed avoidable, if the elder Saraki had not directed his loyalists to pull out to the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN)to work for the gubernatorial ambition of Senator Gbemisola Saraki Ruqqayat.
Towards this end, shortly after the election, the Khalifa of Saraki dynasty, Dr Bukola Saraki according to his father Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki at a press conference in June claimed that he[Bukola] sent several emissaries comprising eminent personalities to beg him for his disobedience in the last election which caused the fatal defeat to the gubernatorial ambition of her daughter which the father wanted as the governor.
The former governor, Senator Bukola Saraki then officially brought the new kwara state governor Alh Abdulfatah Ahmed he installed along, the father accepted the new governor as his son, promised to cooperate with him and urged him to be transparent to him. The rest is now history.
The road to the present movement of ANPP and ACPN who officially joined PDP was therefore charted at that gathering when the elder statesman told the mammoth crowd at his iloffa GRA, country home during the reconciliation meeting that he needed to forgive his son over the outcome of the last election so that those he called strangers would not hijack the state from his dynasty.
Vanguard investigations further showed that the ongoing efforts at mopping up of the opposition parties in the state was necessary and indeed strategic ahead of the outcome of the ongoing gubernatorial election petition tribunal where the ACN is asking the tribunal to cancel the PDP victory alleging electoral malpractices on the part of the PDP and urge the tribunal to announce Dele Belgore as the governor.
The ongoing strategy to gather more support base for the ruling People’s Democratic Party according to investigations was to ensure that in case of any rerun judgment by the tribunal, the PDP will win landslide and more importantly, that the disharmony of the ruling party in the last elections needed to be seriously avoided in order to avoid the experience of that election.
It should be noted that Dr Bukola Sarakis political leadership in kwara state since the advent of the present administration became pronounced and even authorised with the absence of his father Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki in political affairs of the state as he has been permanently out of the state since.
Those things he used to do at times like this, particularly fixing political appointments are now being done by Dr Bukola Saraki who tumultous crowd now trail whenever he was around, attending caucus upon caucus meetings which usually last into into ealy morning of the folowing day.
But the ongoing efforts by the new leader of the ruling party in kwara state Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki who installed literarily all the elective and appointed political officer holders of PDP both in the national assembly and at the state level, even up till the local governments and the ward levels like his father used to do have his own baptism of fire as an emerged political father.
Within the fold of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria [ACPN], the dusk over the directive by Dr Olusola Saraki that all his supporters should return to the ruling party has not settled because Senator Ruqqayat Gbemisola Saraki also a stakeholder in the Saraki political dynasty was not disposed to her father’s decision that they should return to PDP and so she not there at the gathering.
Not only that, her father confessed to journalists that Gbemi is still aggrieved and according to her its understandable. Oloye said in June that it’s a family problem which he will solve. But four months after it seems that the problem was far from being over.Though a large chunk of members of ACPN have fused into PDP but not all as indicated by the state chairman, Alh Abubakar Zubair who went in the air after the ceremony that he was not in support of the fusion with PDP.The general believe is that Senator Gbemisola Saraki was still sustaining those who refused to join the PDP.
Similarly in All Nigerian Peoiples Party[ANPP]the story was not different either as crisis dogged the party day one, its movement to PDP was initiated.
While its governorship candidate in the April poll, Alhaji Khaleel Bolaji in a press statement a week to the ceremony declared his intention to defect with his supporters to PDP, the state chairman at a press conference disagreed.
It would be recalled that early that week, the Chairman of the state PDP, Hon Ishola Balogun_Fulani hinted that members of the ANPP from ward to state levels would on Saturday this week join the PDP.
But speaking at a press conference in Ilorin earlier,the state ANPP chair, Alhaji Taiwo Eleja denied the report, describing it as “misleading information.”
Eleja alongside, National Vice Chairman, North Central Zone of the party, Alhaji AbdulWahab Femi who addressed reporters in Ilorin, the state capital said “it has come to the knowledge of the party that some disgruntled elements out of selfish interest and inordinate ambition are peddling rumours that ANPP is planning to fuse with the PDP.
“We state categorically that the party and its executive did not at anytime take such decision. We hereby implore all the party members to remain calm and continue to give their unalloyed support to the party.
“The party hereby assures its members, teeming supporters and sympathisers that it will continue to play its role creditably as an opposition party by following, reacting and commenting constructively and objectively on the activities of the state government in the overall interest of the state and its citizenry.
“The party has summoned Alhaji Khaleel Bolaji, the former governorship candidate and his campaign coordinator, Alhaji Idris Abdullahi and the state PRO of ANPP, Mohammed S. Lawal to appear before its disciplinary committee.”
But in a swift reaction through a press statement, Alhaji Khaleel Bolaji the party’s governorship candidate said “I as the leader of ANPP and its gubernatorial candidate in the last election in the state wish to inform the general public and our supporters across the 16 local government areas, that am decamping en_mass with my teaming supporters and 95percent of the state executive members to PDP on the 24th September, 2011.”
The ANPP leader who spoke through the party’s PRO, Alhaji Lawal added that “it would be recall that as the official candidate of ANPP during the last governorship election in the state stepped down for the PDP candidate, Alhaji AbdulFatah Ahmed after due consultations with all relevant organs and elders of our party who unanimously endorsed the decision in the interest of our people and our dear state.
“However, this decision has nothing to do with appointment or political patronage but was borne out of our belief in the leadership of PDP in the state and since we are in politics to serve our people and bring our darling state to a greater height.”
He urged his supporters to ignore “any diversionary antics from any quarters and come out en_mass on Saturday to grace the occasion.
The Acting national chairman of PDP Alh Abubakar Kawu Baraje, while formally receiving thousands of supporters of All Nigerian Peoples Party[ANPP] and that of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria[ACPN] to the ruling party said his agenda to return the party to the grassroot within the short spate of period was already yielding dividends.
Baraje at the colorful ceremony deliberately poured encomiums on the former governor, Dr Bukola Saraki he described as his leader, mentor and benefactor for the feat describing it as the demolition of opposition parties in kwara state.
All elected members of the senate and House of Representatives of PDP from the state were all in attendance including all the party chieftains and leaders.
The decamp of ANPP in the state was led by its governorship candidate in the last election Alh Bolaji Khaleel who claimed he was controlling 95% of the party structures and its supporters, while that of the ACPN was led by its chairman, Alh Abubakar Zubair and other leaders across the three senatorial districts based on the earlier directive of the former governor’s father Dr Olusola Saraki.
‘’I am officially here to receive you to PDP.Your coming into our party is significance, it shows that PDP is waxing stronger in kwara,this is what I can aptly describe as the demolition of opposition parties in kwara state, the umbrella will be lifted up higher and higher.There is no political party in Nigeria and indeed Africa that has the political platform to fight for the people than the PDP”he said.
Baraje also tasked the new members to obey the rules and regulations of the party urging them not to see such as victimization, adding that they can aspire to realize their political ambition like the old members as long as the people want them.
The former governor, Dr Bukola Saraki in his remarks urged members to accept the decampees at the wards and local governments’ levels and further asked them to be partners of development in the ongoing efforts to move kwara state forward.
Senator Bukola Saraki particularly urged his supporters not to hide information about the party and his arrival to ilorin from the decampees saying that there is enough for everybody to go round.
The former ANPP gubernatorial candidate in the state, Alh Bolaji Khaleel who pledged his loyalty to PDP said his decision was based not on his personal gains, but on the need to take care of the welfare of his teaming supporters saying that is what democracy and leadership is all about.
In his remarks,the chieftain of ACPN Alh Oba Wankasi who poured encomiums on Dr Olusola Saraki on the reconciliation within the political family cursed whoever that tries to cause disunity again.
More importantly, the absence of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and his Deputy Mr Peter Kisra at the ceremony spurred rumors of disharmony between the governor and his leader which not a few saw as clearly predicted political crisis coming to pass much earlier than predicted.
The keen watchers were particularly worried that at least the deputy governor could have attended the program to represent his boss and possibly give clear indication that all was well as was being misconstrued, instead of the absence of the governor, his deputy and any member of the executives which spurred the controversy.
Meanwhile Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed during the courtesy call on him by Acting National Chairman of PDP,Alh Abubakar Kawu Baraje after the ceremony ,against spreading speculations by the opposition in Kwara state that he has become a stooge of the immediate past governor and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader in the state, Senator Bukola Saraki, particularly on matters relating to governance in the state, described the speculations as baseless.
Speaking when the acting national chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, paid him a courtesy visit in Governor’s Lodge in Ilorin, Governor Ahmed said what exists in the state is a clearly spelt out development programmes of continuity between the immediate past government and his own administration.
“I have heard it said by some people in several quarters that I am a stooge and this and that. I am no stooge to anyone. What they do not know is that we have our political leader here. Senator Bukola Saraki is our political leader and there is no any controversy about that. We also have a clearly spelt out long term plans and programmes of development for the state which was conceptualised by the past administration and which is being completed now with new ones being introduced”, he said.
The governor, who said that the state PDP had to re_strategise during the April elections because the party was caught unawares with an unexpected form of opposition that confronted it, added that “the oppositions were taken for granted but the achievements of the former governor which had impacted well in the lives of the people helped to win in the election”.
He also said that his administration had succeeded to take the state from docile socio_economic environment to a viable one, coupled with secured and peaceful atmosphere, which he said had encouraged investment opportunities and stabilise development.
The governor, who said that the state had limited resources but had only been resourceful, pledged to continue to take Kwara state to enviable height among other states in the country and to continue to provide dividends of democracy to the people of the state.
Governor Ahmed, who said that he welcomed constrictive criticisms from members of the opposition and friends of his administration however, lamented that many of the criticisms he had received were not constructive but only destructive.
He also challenged the national chairman of the party to find ways of solving the issue of fragmentation in some state chapters of the party, adding that the party should work hard to sustain the new strength in Kwara PDP so as to make it a shining example among other chapters.
However, the ruling party’s spirited efforts to muzzle opposition parties in the state was obviously remarkable as members of ACPN, ACN and ANPP are being taken care in the present government of PDP, while efforts are being consolidated to woo others, but does Dr Bukola Saraki and indeed the PDP need to get all members of the opposition parties, to establish their authority? if they chose to mop up all, then, how far can they go?time will tell.