2023: Titanic Battle Ahead For APC, PDP In Kwara Central - Mc Ebisco
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2023: Titanic Battle Ahead For APC, PDP In Kwara Central

2023: Titanic Battle Ahead For APC, PDP In Kwara Central

Next year’s Kwara Central senatorial race is likely to be a titanic battle between former Youth and Sports Minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and former All Progressives Congress (APC) national chairmanship aspirant, Mallam Saliu Mustapha. Though the two contestants have been very active in Kwara politics, this is the first time they will be vying for an elective position. Correspondent ADEKUNLE JIMOH reports

The stage is set for the battle for the soul of the Kwara Central senatorial seat at the upper legislative chamber. It is going to be a titanic battle between former Youth and Sports Minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, who is the candidate of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and philanthropist and former All Progressives Congress (APC) national chairmanship aspirant, Mallam Saliu Mustapha.

There are other candidates in the race representing some fringe parties, such as Abdul Aiyelabegan of the New Nigeria Peoples’ Party (NNPP). The NNPP flag bearer is equally a philanthropist, but he is a less-known figure in the politics of Kwara State.

Though the two mallams have not held any elective position either in the state or at the national level before, they have distinguished themselves in the areas they had previously held forte.

Mallam Abdullahi, an ace journalist, with the gift of oratory has been appointed several times into executive positions. Having served as a special assistant, special adviser and education commissioner under the then Governor Bukola Saraki, Abdullahi capped it all as a minister at the federal level under former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The PDP senatorial candidate hails from Ilorin West Local Government Area; one of the four local governments that make up Kwara Central. Other local governments in the district include Ilorin East, Ilorin South and Asa.

Many political observers believe Mallam Abdullahi has a higher chance of winning the election than his APC challenger. But, his closeness to the Saraki dynasty, which was demystified during the last general elections, may not work in his favour this time.

BJ, as he is fondly referred to by his supporters and admirers might not be able to match his opponent’s money for money, as he has often decried the monetisation of politics in the country.

However, the internal wrangling in APC before, during and after the primary might work in favour of the PDP candidate’s aspiration. The APC crisis has led to a mass migration of some of its members to the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which incidentally does not have a senatorial candidate.

Mustapha (APC):

Though Mallam Saliu Mustapha is an associate of President Muhammadu Buhari, having been a member of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), his philanthropic gestures and good nature have endeared him to not a few Kwarans.

Mustapha, who is the Turaki of Ilorin, is also a businessman with a deep pocket. His readiness to use that resource in helping others in need is legendary.

Little wonder, the astute politician recently announced a sum of $500 each to members of the Kwara United Football Club when it wanted to take on AS Douanes of the Niger Republic in a continental encounter.

He also promised a reward of $10,000 to the club if it scales through the group stage of the CAF Confederation Cup.

The philanthropist promised, “a more generous prize if they win the tournament”.

Also at the request of Kwara United FC management, the politician sponsored gate fees for supporters and football enthusiasts in Kwara State to watch for free the team’s final home game against Mountain of Fire FC in the 2021/2022 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).

The APC candidate said: “In addition, I have directed my team to make adequate transportation arrangements, in collaboration with the Kwara United Supporters’ Club, for those who may be willing but unable to attend the match live in Lagos. Regular tickets will also be made available for free to the contingents.

“This is my modest way of supporting Gov. Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq’s vision of always elevating Kwara through sports and other endeavours. I expect that this financial reward will motivate the Kwara United FC team to achieve greatness, which has been their hallmark for many years, and to represent Kwara and Nigeria in the continental competition.”

Since his emergence as the APC senatorial candidate, scores of people in the Ilorin Emirate have been offering prayers for him.

Even as an APC chairmanship aspirant, at an event, the chief missioner of Ilorin Central Mosque, Imam Yakubu Aliagan recalled Mustapha’s contributions to the maintenance of the central mosque. Imam Aliagan prayed to God to grant the politician’s heart desires.

Also speaking, an Ilorin High Chief, Baba Isale of Ilorin, Alhaji Abdullahi Sadiq expressed confidence in the ability of Mustapha to deliver if given the mandate if emerge victorious.

He hailed Mustapha’s outstanding philanthropic gestures and immeasurable contributions to the development of the Ilorin Emirate.

An Ilorin son who did not want his name in print said that Mallam Mustapha is kind-hearted and God-fearing, exuding confidence that the electorate would not ditch him when it matters most.

He added: “We will come out and vote en mass for this kind and good-natured man. Without being in government he has been using his resources to assist the less privileged in the emirate.

“I can attest to his philanthropy. He single-handedly bought the transformer we are using in our community. Before his intervention, every household in the community had contributed a sum of N5000 to replace the ageing transformer. When he intervened, he directed that each household’s money be returned to them.

“Right now, in our community in the metropolis, it is the song of Salihu Mustapha everybody is singing. We will canvass massively for this large-hearted politician.”

Unfortunately, however, the outgoing Senator Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe is still ruing the outcome of the APC Kwara Central senatorial primary that produced Mustapha as the party’s flag bearer.

Senator Oloriegbe’s utterances and disposition have shown that he is aggrieved. He vowed not to leave the party, but his body language shows he might direct his supporters to vote for another party during the election.

He said: “I am not leaving the APC, but I will hearken to the voice of my supporters during the governorship and other elections in the state.”

He added that despite the charade during the APC primary, he remains a bonafide member of the party because of Tinubu and the interest of the party. He added that his support for Tinubu stemmed from the fact that the APC presidential candidate possesses the qualities of leading the country aright.

Oloriegbe added: “Despite all that happened to me during the primary, I remain a member of the APC. Since 2010 my focus has been on the progress of Kwara and I have been in that struggle.

“I believe that I have to stay in the APC to join forces together in correcting what is happening in the party. More importantly, shortly after the primary, I had a meeting with Asiwaju Tinubu and his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima. We analysed what happened at the primary and we agreed to put that behind us.

“I am a stakeholder in the Nigerian project. At this particular time, if you look at capacity and ability to change, Asiwaju Tinubu is the best candidate. As such, I along with my supporters will mobilise and work for Tinubu and Senator Shettima in the 2023 elections.

“Asiwaju Tinubu has been supporting our cause in Kwara. In 2011, I was an Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) senatorial candidate and Tinubu was our leader. In 2018/2019, he was a major supporter of the Otoge movement and I am a beneficiary of the struggle. Why will I now say whatever has happened to me personally because of the primary, I will leave Asiwaju because of selfish interest? Never!

“My support for Tinubu is based on his capacity and ability. I am also supporting him for the benefit of my state because if Nigeria is good, Kwara will be good. It is not borne out of ulterior motive.”

A visibly angry Oloriegbe said Governor Abdulrazaq’s action during the APC primary amounted to treachery. He added that the governor does not appreciate loyalty. The medical doctor turned politician accused the governor of selfishness. He added: “The leader of the APC in Kwara does not pay good for good.

“On January 16, 2021, 30 members of the National Assembly signed an undertaking to support the governor, but now only 14 are with him. In Kwara Central, eight out of the nine of us endorsed him. Out of the eight today, it is only one that is returning to the National Assembly. This is because we have a leader that cares more about himself. That is unfair.”

However, a vast majority of the constituents appear to be against the Oloriegbe style of politics. A keen watcher of Kwara politics who does not want his name in print said: “He (Oloriegbe) did not bother about stomach infrastructure. He always claims he cannot be doling out money to anybody. His biological daughter is his personal assistant. If Oloriegbe had emerged as the candidate for the APC in Kwara Central, it would have been a disaster for the APC. The PDP candidate who is equally popular will have had a field.

“With the candidacy of Salihu Mustapha, the coast is clear for the APC. People will look at the personality of the APC candidate. I am cocksure that some PDP members will cast their votes for him.”

Former Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Salman Jawaondo (SAN) believes the late Dr Olusola Saraki’s style of picking candidates is far better than that of Governor AbdulRazaq. He said the imposition that the Saraki dynasty was known for was often with a semblance of a human face, “unlike the flagrant disregard for party members in the imposition of candidates by the Abdulrazaq-led APC”.

Jawondo said the late Dr Olusola Saraki picked Dr Oloriegbe to repay the numerous good deeds of his father. He added: “That was how Oloriegbe was embraced 100 per cent as the anointed candidate. Now, what the present leadership is doing is a total disregard for all others; they’ve called the bluff of others without creating avenues to appease them and that’s only a recipe for crisis.

“Nobody can force us to accept impositions. Kwarans would never ever vote blankly as we did in 2019, Kwarans are wiser now. We did Otoge not because of a single individual. My only disagreement with the Sarakis is purely on governance issues. Therefore, we won’t abandon the ship we built. Yet, we would refuse to keep quiet when our Otoge brothers are going against the principles of Otoge.

“Kwara must be wary of creating another Saraki. The party’s constitution expressly states that the House of Assembly primary should be conducted via direct primary, yet we did indirect primary, that’s enough ground to approach the court and ensure the party doesn’t have any Assembly candidate. But, that will be tantamount to joining them to spoil the Otoge struggle.

“I have vowed to work for the success of our party. However, I’ll do everything within my powers to oppose the House of Assembly candidate they imposed; someone who joined the party in May and enrolled as a voter the same month she got the ticket. I’ll work against such impunity with everything within my powers.”