Can APC Loyalists’ Defection to SDP Change the Dynamics of Politics in Kwara?

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Editor April 17, 2022
Updated 2022/04/17 at 4:28 AM

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  Hammed Shittu

wonders if a Third Force has emerged in Kwara State to alter the present configuration, where the All Progressives Congress is in power, while the Peoples Democratic Party is the main opposition political party

After three years of internal crisis  rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara State over the control of the leadership of the party, the majority of the aggrieved party members of the party have decided to find  solace in another political party so as to seek their political ambition ahead of 2023 general election.

The aggrieved members of the APC  majorly of who are  supporters of the Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed recently dumped their brooms revolution platform and pitched tent with horse symbol of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to contest the next elections in the state.

Also, some of the aggrieved party members led by the former governorship aspirant of the APC during the 2019 general election, Alhaji Shuaib Yahman Songa have joined the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) while others have found their political  space in the Young Progressives Party (YPP) so as to actualize their ambitions.

Although, it has been a long and turbulent  political journey for the aggrieved members of the party having waited patiently to ensure the perceived impunity in the party will be well  resolved in their favour. However, the situation remains the same. Therefore,  they decided to jump ship and take a horse ride so as to actualize their ambitions on the new found platform.

The party members were previously locked in a battle  with the state governor and leader of the party, Alhaji AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq since the party took over the leadership of the state after an electoral victory during the 2019 general election.

It was the first time in the political history of the state that opposition groups came together under the banner of O To Ge (enough is enough) Movement to wrestle power from the Saraki dynasty that has been in the control of the political leadership of the state in the last 40 years.

The movement moved across all the 193 wards of the state and worked as a united front to “sack” the scion of late Dr. Olusola Saraki and former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his party, PDP from control of the state during the elections.

The development however led the ruling APC under the enough-is-enough movement to win all the elective seats from the state to the National Assembly and finally  crowned it with the governorship position of the state which made the Alhaji AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq to clinch the governorship seat of the state.

It would be noted that, the governor has been struggling for the past years in the state to contest in various elective positions especially the senate and governor in different political parties like the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) and PDP without success until the 2019 general election when the opposition groups united together to wrestle power from the Saraki dynasty in the state.

Political pundits believed that the Governor would forget all that transpired towards his emergence, his  election among others and allow the sleeping dogs lie. Unfortunately, a  war of attrition and perceived vendetta started manifesting since assumption of office of his administration and thereby creating serious divisions among some leaders and members of the APC which at the end snowballed into full blown internal crisis in the party.

The crisis has since factionalized the party into two groups in the state which also led to allegations and counter allegations over the funding of the campaigns of the APC elections in the state.

A faction of the party was led by the Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and has Hon. Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa as its state chairman and called the group “APC Loyal” in the state. Its state secretariat is located along Flower Gardens, GRA, Ilorin.

The other faction is led by the governor and has its state chairman, Hon. Sunday Fagbemi and called the group “AA Support Group of APC” in the state. Its state secretariat is located at Commissioner’s Lodge, GRA, Ilorin.

Following this ugly situation in the party, a national  reconciliation committee was set up by the party and headed by former governor of Nassarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and visited Ilorin to assuage the feelings of the two warring groups in the party.

Apart from this, the elders of the party led by the former Ambassador to Malaysia, Alhaji Nurudeen Mohammed also did their best to reconcile the aggrieved members of the party but this failed to yield any positive result.

After the visit, the Senator Adamu now the national chairman of the APC  submitted its report on the issue to the national secretariat of the party led by the former chairman caretaker committee and Yobe State Governor, Mallam Mai Mala Buni for implementation.

At the  end of the day, the national leadership of the party affirmed the AA Supoort Group in the party being led by the governor and  aligned with the conduct  of the state congress of the APC that produced Mr. Fagbemi and his team as the authentic state executive council of the party in the state. Consequently, Mr. Fagbemi was sworn-in as the new state chairman of the party in Abuja  while swearing-in of other executive members of the party followed in Ilorin at a well attended event.

Following this development in the party, the aggrieved members loyal to Alhaji Lai Mohammed embarked on series of consultations across political parties so as to shift their loyalty ahead of the 2023 polls in the state.

The consultations recently yielded positive results as they dumped the APC and joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Ilorin, the state capital. 

Speaking at the event, the former Kwara South senatorial chairman of the APC and now an SDP chieftain who spoke on behalf of the defectors, Mr. Rasak Alabi said  that,  “Without doubt, you are all witnesses to the inhuman treatment we have suffered in the party and how the party hierarchy has finally decided to treat our concerns with levity.

“It is harrowing to also note the lack of responsible leadership displayed  by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq and the national leadership of the party.

“However, it is important to point out here that those that recommended and indeed imposed him on us did a great disservice and injustice to our people. 

“Ordinarily, he would not have won the 2019 election if not only been exhibiting characters that are inimical to the development and growth of the party but has consistently contrived evil against  prominent members of the party”. 

He added, “No one ever disputed the fact that the Governor AbdulRazaq is the leader of the party in the state but that does not equally make him trample on the democratic principles which the party represents. 

“The truth of the matter also is that he cannot run the party in isolation and if he must command the loyalty and the trust of his party members, he must also strongly respect their views and opinions.

“But, we must let you know that while all the crisis was going on, notable persons and party elders had on several occasions approached the governor so that the matter could be resolved and put to an end but surprisingly the governor never yielded”.

Alabi noted that, “Despite our endurance in the face of the unhuman treatment meted us in the party, it will be correct to suggest that the Kwara state governor working in tandem with the former National caretaker committee chairman, Mallam Mai Mala Buni has decided to edge us out of the party against our wish.

“And to matters worse, Senator Adamu Abdullahi who once headed the APC National Reconciliation committee that denied us fair hearing but rather turned himself to Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq ‘solicitor and advocate’ is now the party’s national chairman”.

He queried, “How then can we be hopeful of getting justice in this circumstance? We do not think we have a future in this APC any longer and it would be safer for us to look elsewhere where our democratic views and opinions would be respected?”.

Alabi opined further that, “If the national leadership of the party does not believe that we are politically relevant in the state and we need to make them understand also that the mam they queued behind is also a blown out fuse and not capable of leading the party to any victory in the state come 2023.

“Seated here with us at this press briefing are all the 193 ward chairmen, 16 local government chairmen and all the state working committee members who have jointly decided with our numerous supporters to announce to you today our official defection and mass movement of our supporters and party members from APC to the Social Democratic Party(SDP)”.

Receiving the defectors, the National Publicity Secretary of the SDP, Mr. Rufus Ayenigba who represented the national chairman of the party, Chief Olu Agunloye at the event lauded their gesture.

He said that, the gesture was in line with tenets of progressives adding that, the SDP would take over the leadership of the state and the country during the next elections

Agunloye  therefore urged the members to move inwards into all the 193 wards in the state so as to mobilize more people for the party so as to win the next elections in the state.

Shortly after the defectors dumped the APC and joined the SDP in the state, the Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed appealed to them to return to the party. .

 He, therefore, pleaded with them to return to their “natural habitat”, adding that the national leadership will do the needful over the matter.

 He said: “We have taken the grievances of our supporters to the party’s highest level with cause to believe that everything will be done to address them and unite the party ahead of the 2023 elections.”

While reiterating his loyalty to the APC, the minister said leaving the party was not an option he would consider as “a founding member who has toiled endlessly to build the party and worked with stakeholders to deliver Kwara.

“I am a bonafide member of the APC and I have no intention to leave. All through my political career, I have always remained loyal to any party in which I have found myself. That is not about to change now,” he said.

But in a swift reaction to the minister’s plea, some of the affected members said there was no going back on their decision.

The former spokesman of the group, Mr. Ibrahim Sharafadeen and its former senatorial chairman, Kwara Central, Alhaji Yunus Akorede, noted that their departure was based on wide consultations with conscious effort not to run afoul of the electoral act. “We can’t trust the party again”, they added.

On his part, Hon Saheed Popoola, whose seat was declared vacant over the defection, told THISDAY in Ilorin that “The minister is still our leader. Our decision was a collective one. We will discuss his plea during deliberations”.

But, the leadership of the APC in the state in a tactical reaction to the defectors in the party urged the members of the party to flaunt the achievements of the present administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq to reelect the governor in 2023 general election.

Speaking at the inter faith prayers sessions at Ajase-Ipo in Irepodun local government council of the state, the Special Adviser on Political Matters to Governor AbdulRazaq, Alhaji  Abdullateef  Alakawa, urged the  support for the party in the  upcoming general election , saying   ‘the 2023 general  election should help to consolidate on the gains of 2019 when the great people of Kwara state — North, South, and Central — came together to end the reign of people who turned public patrimonies to their private estate, empowered urchins to unleash violence and commit crimes of all shades, and failed to lay a proper foundation for a brighter future for our children’.

 The Special Adviser who represented the governor at the event also asserted that the ‘O To Ge”(enough is enough) administration’ has scored very high when it comes to achievements adding that the state government under the present administration has executed 268 projects in the Kwara South.

He added, ‘Three years down the road after Otoge, it is so far, so good! Notwithstanding the teething problems that come with every social change, we have definitely started the journey for a greater Kwara on a strong note

“The 2023 general election is the time to consolidate on these gains. The 2023 is the time to tell those who are already plotting a return to hijack the treasury to feather their nests that, whatever the challenges of the social change of 2019, we are never going back to Egypt. We are never going to be subjects to any political demigods again.

“Everywhere you go to in Kwara today, including in the remotest parts of our state, you can now see government presence in various sectors: health, education, road infrastructure, water, and general government support for the silent majority. In Kwara South alone, our administration has executed 268 projects cutting across health sector, water, education, energy, and road construction. 

 “The breakdowns are 188 school development projects; 33 water projects; seven healthcare projects (excluding dozens of interventions); 18 energy projects; and 22 road construction projects. These are either completed or ongoing.

“This is apart from our social investment programmes or government’s job placements which were all done with unprecedented considerations for competence, qualifications, and fairness to every part of our state and all categories of people.  

“We can only beat our own record in service delivery and responses to the yearnings of the people as resources permit. The choice in 2023 is therefore between APC and APC alone. The people of the past that the people of Kwara state rejected have remained adamant that they did no wrongs”.

By and large, with the mass departure of the aggrieved APC members in the state to the SDP ahead of the next poll, the question on the lips of Kwarans now is, ‘will this  horse platform change the status quo in 2023? Kwarans are waiting.

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