By Demola Akinyemi

IN every democracy lawmakers play very critical roles in delivering dividends of democracy to the citizenry. In fact, the legislature provides a platform for the people to be part of governance as stakeholders are invited to air their views on issues through public hearings. And bills are passed on crucial matters to make life better for the people.

Saheed Popoola
Saheed Popoola

In Kwara, christened the State of Harmony, the situation is not different. Since the creation Kwara in 1967, the state has had its own share of robust assembly with many of the heads coming from the northern part of the state.

Kwara North, which accounts for 20 per cent of the electorate is a minority compared to Kwara Central which has about 50 cents of the electorate, and Kwara South that has about 30 per cent.

Consequently,  more often than not the governorship seat oscillates between Kwara Central and Kwara South senatorial districts, leaving the North with the speaker on many occasions.

However, the zone produced the governor in the Third Republic when the strongman of Kwara politics, late Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki, who used his political machinery to make Alhaji Shaaba Lafiagi governor. Since then, Kwara North has not produced the governor on account of the population disadvantage. But it has had a good share of speakers.

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During the days of National Party of Nigeria, NPN, and Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, between 1979 and 1983, the first speaker of the state was produced by the NPN under the political guidance of Dr Olusola Saraki. In 1983 before the democracy was truncated by the military after three months, Barrister Ishmaila Sadiq was the speaker during the tenure of Chief Cornelius Adebayo as governor.

In the botched Third Republic,  Alhaji Issa Gomi from Asa Local Council in Kwara Central was the speaker because  Lafiagi (Kwara North) was the governor.

In 1999, Pastor Issa Benjamin Ezekiel was the Speaker, while Alhaji Mohammed Lawal from Kwara Central was the governor.

Ezekiel was followed by Hon Razaq Atunwa (from Asa in Kwara Central) while Dr Bukola Saraki also from Kwara Central was the governor.

The outgoing Speaker, Dr Ali Ahmad, is from Kwara Central while the outgoing governor Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed is from Kwara South.

Following the election of Alhaji Abdulraham Abdulrasaq of the All Progressives Congress, APC, from Kwara Central as governor-elect, the speaker in the next dispensation may come from Kwara North.

While the zoning factor takes precedence, the issues of House Rules and loyalty of the contender to party leaders will play critical roles in who will eventually emerge as speaker.

Currently, the contest for the speakership is between Hon Saheed Popoola, who is representing Balogun/Ojomu constituency (Kwara South) in the outgoing assembly and Hon Haliru Danbaba from Kaima constituency in Kwara North.

Popoola’s game plan

Popoola was the only legislator who disobeyed the directive of Senate President Bukola Saraki and stayed back in the APC while the others ditched the party for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP before the 2019 polls.

Thus, he is banking on his loyalty to the APC and experience as a lawmaker to clinch the plum office.

He is also banking on his rich political background during the days of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, which he popularized in Offa as a one-man riot squad and later elected as  Chairman of Offa Local Council. Popoola was also at various times appointed a special adviser to the governor and later a commissioner for Sports.

Danbaba backs on zoning

On the other hand, Danbaba from Kwara North, and relatively new in the legislative business is banking on the current zoning formula. The Governor-elect, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq is from Kwara Central while his Deputy, Mr Kayode Alabi hails from Kwara South.

Currently, political gladiators are divided on who to support between the duo.

A chieftain of the party and former Chief Whip in the state assembly, Chief Iyiola Oyedepo, in an interview with Vanguard, favoured zoning in the determination of who becomes the next speaker, even though he is also from Kwara South as Popoola.

Oyedepo, who recalled his days in the assembly said that the speaker then, Pastor Issa Benjamin, was a greenhorn in legislative business but so far, has remained the best speaker the House has ever produced.

However, a political group, the Kwara Youths Democratic Alliance, KYDA, urged the leadership of APC in Kwara State to consider Popoola as the next speaker of the state house of assembly, by allowing core legislative and political experience and  rules of the House to guide them in the emergence of the leadership of the 9th assembly.

Speaking at a news conference in Ilorin, the Spokesperson of the group, Mallam Yakub Bello, said the consideration of Popoola as the next Speaker has become imperative in view of the need for merit and loyalty because of the high expectations of Kwarans from the incoming administration.

According to him, “the expectations of all Kwarans in this forthcoming administration are enormous and the only way to articulate the yearnings and aspirations of the residents is to have a capable, experienced and competent speaker that would help the governor-elect to achieve all the needs and aspirations of the people of the state.’’

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