By Demola Akinyemi
The battle for the soul of Kwara State, otherwise known as the State of Harmony, promises to be interesting in 2019 and the war has begun in earnest.
Over the years, and since the period when Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki, popularly called ‘Oloye’, Second Republic Senate Leader and father of current Senate President Bukola Saraki, held sway as the strongman of Kwara politics, the political battle had always been fierce but he (senior Saraki) conquered all.
The Sarakis had always fought those who fell out with the political dynasty. For instance, there was the Second Republic battle by Alhaji Adamu Attah, a former protégé of the senior Saraki, for second term as governor of Kwara which he lost to Chief Cornelius Adebayo.
Also, the senior Saraki installed Alhaji Mohammed Alabi Lawal as governor in 1999 only for them to be estranged following which ‘Oloye’ fielded his son, Bukola, to contest the 2003 election in the state against Lawal which he (Bukola) won.
Meanwhile, the political developments in Kwara since 2003 and later when the senior Saraki passed on show that Bukola Saraki is in firm control of the state politics.
Aside installing the governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, in 2011 and 2015, he also installed all the councillors, the sixteen local government chairmen, all the lawmakers in the state House of Assembly, all the six members of the House of Representatives and the two other senators from Kwara. Remember that he is the third senator from the state.
And ahead of the 2019 polls, so strong is his political structure in the state that it does not appear as if the opposition is positioned to upstage him yet.
Consequently, it is safe to conclude that whatever party he chooses to support will win the 2019 elections in Kwara. Lately, speculation is rife that Bukola is poised to move his political structure from the APC to the PDP.
This is not the first time the Sarakis would change political party in the face of irreconcilable differences with associates and still win elections, even in a landslide manner.
Recall that ‘Oloye’ of blessed memory abandoned the defunct All Peoples Party, APP, and joined the All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, when he had problems with Lawal while Bukola dumped PDP to join APC.
ANPP and APC won subsequent elections obviously because of the enduring political structures the Sarakis have in place.
The political upset the APC suffered late last year during the local government elections in Kwara, which saw the opposition PDP winning two councillors in Ilorin West local government, the first in the political history of the state, was attributed to the challenges Bukola was facing at a time he was being tried at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for alleged false assets declaration.
While it could be a Herculean task removing Kwara from the grip of Bukola Saraki in 2019, getting the needed 25 per cent of votes for President Muhammad Buhari’s second term bid in the state is possible.
This is simply because the APC in the state is in two factions, one under the national chairmanship of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the other whose godfather is Bukola Saraki.
Sunday Vanguard investigation revealed that members of the faction loyal to Oshiomhole and vicariously Buhari are though, conscious of the fact that they cannot win the gubernatorial election in 2019 because of the structure deficiency, they are not leaving any stone unturned to ensure that they get the 25 per cent the President needs from Kwara for his second term re-election.
This agenda is the more realisable if this faction goes into alliance with members of PDP who are already angry that Saraki might re-join the party and pull out, a development that would create a realignment of forces in the state ahead of the 2019 elections.
The pro-Buhari group in Kwara, now building a consensus across party divide against Saraki’s political interest, comprises of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; a former Special Assistant on Special Duties to the Senate President, Alhaji Moshood Mustapha, who fell out with his erstwhile boss over irreconcilable differences about his 2019 governorship ambition; a former SSG in the Saraki administration as governor, Alhaji Ganiyu Cook Olododo, and several others who are not relenting in their efforts.
With the backing of the Presidency and the understanding of the way politics works within the Saraki political dynasty, for those who have worked with him and are willing to use same strategy against the Senate President, getting the required percentage of Kwara votes for Buhari’s second term might be a reality after all.
While the unfolding political developments will be interesting in the couple of days ahead, the political battle between Saraki and his opponents, partly from the APC and the PDP, will be a battle of the titans and a clear departure from previous political battles in the state.