By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor and Omezia Ajayi
The senatorial quest of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State has turned into a subject of controversy following claims that he was under pressure to step down his bid.
The pressure on Governor Ahmed’s hold on the Kwara South Senate ticket was reportedly instigated by stakeholders in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP following penultimate Saturday’s bye-election in Ekiti/ Oke Ero/ Irepodun federal constituency.
The governor and some of his associates, however, say that the pressure is coming from a section of the senatorial constituency, specifically the Ibolo division which has the incumbent senator, Dr. Rafiu Ibrahim who is serving his first term.
The Ibolo are contending that the Ekiti/Igbomina division of the constituency had in the past produced senators who served two terms and that Ibrahim should serve a second term.
Governor Ahmed who is from the Ekiti/Igbomina division acknowledged the pressure and that consultations were still ongoing on the issue.
However, there was confusion last night as to whether the PDP still has an opportunity to change a candidate given the fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC had put November 17 as the last date for candidates for the presidency or National Assembly to withdraw themselves.
However, Section 35 of the Electoral Act stipulates that a candidate can withdraw before 45 days to Election Day.
Noting ongoing consultations yesterday in a press statement issued on his behalf by his senior special assistant, Dr. Femi Akorede, Governor Ahmed said:
“The Governor said, on the contrary, consultation had been going on before the November 17 elections within the political family to consider the request by the leadership of the Ibolo division of Kwara South, from where the current Senator hails, for a second tenure at the Senate
“Furthermore, he said that the ongoing consultation was based on the view that the Igbomina and Ekiti divisions had successfully served two terms in the Senate as opposed to the Ibolo division whose representative had served only one term in the Senate.
“While describing the last by-election as a farcical exercise marked by voter intimidation, widespread disenfranchisement and the use of security agencies against PDP supporters and members, Ahmed said the result of such a disputed election could, therefore, not have formed the basis of a review of his candidacy for the Kwara South Senatorial elections. He assured that PDP will win the general elections in the state as the people of Kwara have resolved never to allow such harassment by security agents again.”
The publicity secretary of the party, Tunde Ashaolu in a statement also gave vent to the ongoing consultations on the Senate ticket.
“The attention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara State has been drawn to a misleading media report insinuating that there is panic in the camp of Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki and that Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed is under pressure to withdraw from the Kwara South senatorial race as a result of the aftermath of last Saturday’s by-election in Ekiti/Oke-Ero/Isin/Irepodun federal constituency.
“This is totally untrue, ridiculous and a deliberate mischief orchestrated by some unscrupulous elements and political jobbers who are bent on causing confusion within the party and among our leaders. For the avoidance of doubt, there is no tension whatsoever within the fold of the PDP in Kwara State and there is no pressure on Governor Ahmed to drop his senatorial ambition because of the outcome of the recently held bye-election in the state.
“The party however, notes that there are ongoing consultations and pleas by leadership of the Ibolo axis of Kwara South, where the current senator representing the senatorial district, Dr Rafiu Ibrahim hails from, for the party’s senatorial ticket to be retained in the axis in the interest of fairness and equity in the distribution political offices within the district.
“It is instructive to note that these consultations and pleas preceded the November 17 by-election and are based on the understanding that the Igbomina and Ekiti divisions of Kwara South had produced senators who served two terms in the Senate as opposed to the Ibolo division whose representative had only served one term.
“This was the sole observation raised by the stakeholders during all their consultative meetings with the national leader of our party and Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and other leaders of the PDP in the State.
“It is, therefore, ridiculous for anybody to think that the outcome of an election that does not reflect the will of the people, as it was marred with widespread irregularities including intimidation of voters, ballot box snatching and illegal arrest of PDP members, could lead to the withdrawal of Governor Ahmed from the senatorial race.
“The party thereby urges members and supporters of the PDP as well as the general public to disregard the fake report which was sponsored and planted in the media by unscrupulous elements and fifth columnists.
“Ahmed is a prominent leader of our party and has always placed the party’s interest above his personal interest. More so, he has provided exemplary leadership since he assumed office in 2011 and has created enduring legacies that have placed Kwara on a path of sustainable development.
“Among the enduring legacies of Governor Ahmed, which are products of foresight and vision, are the establishment of the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS) and the Kwara Infrastructural Development Fund (IF-K). Without doubt, these initiatives have had great impacts on the development of the State.”