By Demola Akinyemi
74-year-old Barrister-at-law, Kunle Sulyman, a native of Ilorin, has surely paid his dues in Kwara politics considering his political adventures which spanned well over forty years. Speaking with Saturday Vanguard at his Agba Dam road, GRA, Ilorin, residence, Mr Sulyman recalled with nostalgia his many successes and failures.
A founding father of Peoples Democratic Party in Kwara state, Kunle Sulyman, as the party chairman campaigned for the elder brother of the current governor, Alh Alimi Abdulrazaq who was the party’s gubernatorial candidate.
In this interview, he spoke about the current crisis rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress [APC] in the state, saying that the crisis was there before, during and after the primaries that produced Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq as the flag bearer of the party. He said the aggrieved members only shelved their political swords to fight the common enemy, which was the Sarakis’ political dynasty.
Why has the political crisis within the party persisted after one year in government?
It’s not everything that can be said in the public but the one that is clear is that the Minister of Information and Culture, Alh Lai Mohammed had issues with Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq. If the two of them end their differences today, the crisis in the party would be over.
Why has it been difficult for the elders and leaders of the party like you to reconcile them?
The crisis had been on before the elections but everybody sheathed their swords for the purpose of defeating the Sarakis. Before now, I spoke with the two of them individually but it has been impossible to resolve the crisis because I couldn’t bring them together. At that time, election was approaching, so there was no time.
What really caused this crisis?
When Dr Bukola Saraki was sent away, there was vacuum because Kwara was used to having one leader. Alh Lai Mohammed was the Minister and Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq was just a candidate.
Is it true that Alh Lai Mohammed installed Governor Abdulrazaq either directly or indirectly?
No, he didn’t. Alh Lai Mohammed didn’t support him during the primaries. After the primaries, all other ministers went back to their states to lead campaign, but throughout our campaigns in the sixteen local government areas of the state, Alh Lai Mohammed never followed us, he only came home for the presidential campaign at the Metropolitan square in Ilorin. And also, throughout our campaigns in Kwara North as well as Kwara Central, our state chairman, Alh Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa who was installed by Alhaji Lai Mohammed didn’t follow Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq. He only followed us to some local governments in Kwara South because that was his zone.
There were insinuations that Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq may not get second term ticket because of the crisis?
If Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq performs very well and I believe he is already performing very well and he will still do more, nobody can stop him. When we talk about the ticket, we are old in the game. They said so before he picked the ticket that he would not get it because he had nobody. I looked at them and laughed, he got it, all to the glory of God. The strategy for 2023 is already on, let them plan their own, we will plan our own and we will meet on the field for the primaries and the actual election. Both the state chairman, BOB, and Alh Lai Mohammed belong to the legacy group, but there are other groups in the party, are we not working together? Legacy group alone cannot stop us.
You said one year of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq is better than the 16 years of Saraki and Ahmed in Kwara, what are your facts?
I said so. When you are looking at performance, you must examine how it directly affects the lives of the people. Within one year, there is no local government that the governor has not touched. There is a Museum in a Esie, the neighbouring town to Oro, the hometown of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed but the road had not been motorable for many years.
The governor has done it, likewise other township roads in Oro. He is already inviting investors to various tourist centres in the state where he had made the roads to these centres passable. Go to Offa, Kwara North and even in Kwara Central, our people are not blind, they are grateful.
Tell me, for 16 years, when did we have that? I live in Adewole area of Ilorin for 10 years, there was no water but today, I can drink government water in my house courtesy of AA and somebody will come and tell me he hasn’t performed when I knew a government which spent billions of Naira on water reticulation and I didn’t get water for 10 years.
People are not honest, and this is my problem with them. What about Education, there is no school across the three senatorial districts that he has not rehabilitated, all these schools are now conducive for the pupils and the teachers and somebody will now say he hasn’t performed, are they blind? Somewhere in Yashikira in Kwara North, they used to have light but for about seven years, they didn’t have light and the governor provided Solar Energy for them.
They should go there and tell the people that the governor has not performed, they will stone them. What about health, and even our judiciary, the courts have been upgraded. What about various counterpart funds that he paid that enabled the present administration to have access to more funds?What about the workers?They used to be paid half salaries but he has normalized their salaries and some categories of workers who were owed eight months or one year salaries by the last administration have been paid. Workers in Kwara today are not owed, they are being paid regularly. I can go on and on. All these propaganda cannot work because what we are talking about touch the lives of the people directly and even indirectly.
What is your message for your people in All Progressives Congress?
I’m appealing to them to give peace a chance,we need to prevent those we sent packing from coming back.
You believe the Sarakis can come back if there is no unity in your party?
I don’t believe they can come back at all. In political history, tell me where such has happened, that you were in power for 16 years and you were thrown away and after four years you came back?The era of Saraki has gone and gone for ever.
Everybody has his own time, use your time, finish it, then someone else moves in, it’s the law of nature, so they can’t come back. But it would be better if we come together so that they won’t even raise their heads. The reality on the ground is that Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq had long prepared what he wanted to do for Kwara state. He had been contesting close to twenty years during the CPC days to become the governor and at a time he contested for the senate until now that God answered his prayers.
Abdulrahman is a money bag, so he is not coming to steal government money, he is very clear about what he wants to do to make the state far better. He was born into a political family, his father was a minister, his elder brother had contested to become the governor, his younger brother is also into politics, his immediate elder sister, Senator Khairat Gwadabe also contested and became a senator. Just like the Sarakis, Abdulrahman was born into politics and nobody can push him around.
But the truth is that this crisis is a distraction to the government and we don’t want distraction. All these have been happening before the election but when members of our party are playing the role of the opposition to destroy the work of somebody we all laboured to install, then somebody has to talk. We discovered that the PDP is not the opposition in Kwara but it’s the APC led by BOB.
Otherwise, in the one year anniversary of the government, the chairman of the party went on air to say that as a party he didn’t see anything that the government had achieved. The second day, his deputy went to the government house to present Excellent Card of performance to the governor and on the third day, the Public Relations Officer of the party called for his removal. Can’t you see that BOB can not even hold the party together? Let’s be truthful, I stand for the truth and truth only, I don’t care whose ox is gored. At my age what am I looking for? Who am I afraid of? So,there is nothing to fear and when you have nothing to lose, you continue to say the truth.