Countdown To INEC’s Deadline: Kwara SDP Takes On APC, PDP

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By ‘Wole Adedeji, Ilorin

The clock is ticking away for the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) June 3, 2022 deadline for candidates of all political parties that would contest in the 2023 general elections to emerge. This is to say, except the electoral body agrees to the calls or bows to the possible pressures “from above”, asking it to shift the date forward, the deadline remains sacrosanct. Even, with the growing number of aspirants in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara State except that of the governorship, INEC has spoken.

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APC though, is believed to be the one which has the wherewithal because it is in government both at the national and state level which possibly gives it an edge to manipulate the umpire abd make it  speak another language, June 3rd is the last day.

In Kwara State, three political parties are holding themselves by the jugular, to be in charge of the next government in the north central state, come the election year 2023. The parties are the All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the raging Social Democratic Party (SDP). This is the party that is now relevant in the state and it positions itself to accommodate all aggrieved members of the earlier two parties. The party is set to clinch power and it is working hard to achieve that. This goal however appears to be yielding gains for it because the squabbles in the ruling APC makes SDP membership to swell by day. The people, the big wigs known long before now to be key players in the politics of Kwara State are moving to the party daily. They were the people known to lead the ‘O to Ge’ struggles that sent the ‘Saraki political dynasty’ packing. No sooner than they succeeded in that project however, than a strange in- house trouble started among them and they were reported to have been consistently rubbished in all forms, by the governor; Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and this has been the story till date. With the growing ugly trend, they in turn have been moving in droves into the SDP. Going back to the PDP which most of them left for APC four years ago certainly could not be the option now because they caused the ridiculous fall of the Sarakis in 2019. PDP is currently in the firm hold of Dr. Bukola Saraki, the former Senate President and so, his party is definitely a no-go area for these politicians. SDP only, is where they can find solace.

Talking about preparing for the dreaded INEC’s June 3rd deadline for political parties to field their candidates for election, SDP appears to be the one that cannot think of a consensus arrangement. Its primary election must hold and it is either through a direct or indirect system. It is now few days to go for this very significant exercise especially, that of the Governorship ticket. All eyes are therefore on the party to make the difference. This is because left to the APC, there can be no other candidate than the incumbent Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. That is a done deal. The reason is simple: all those who can have the liver to challenge him have long been sidelined in the affairs of the party and had left for either the PDP or the SDP. Now that election season is here, they are leaving APC in droves. Their anchor base therefore is the SDP.

Not only that, while the big PDP and APC are yet to be seen as getting set to get acceptable mechanisms to resolve issues surrounding their candidates for elections next year, SDP simply lay ambush to poach and get unsatisfied aspirants in the two parties to fly its (SDP’s) flag, Including the governorship.

PDP is in the hands of the former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki. He decides what happens there. That has become the tradition ever since his father, the late Dr. Olusola Saraki, passed on the baton to him. However, the autocratic practice synonymous with the family in politics appears not to be working this time around. Feelers from the party indicates that the former Senate President, unlike his father who spends huge amount of money to oil politics in the state even when not holding political office or aspiring to contest elections, Bukola only does that as long as he has access to public fund by proxy. The older Saraki was once reported to have said that he had no industry other than politics and Kwara State was his factory. Bukola Saraki today is not ready to spend his personal money on Kwara politics according to feelers from the PDP in the State. With that, the culture of free money, imposing candidates at will because it is a rule of who pays the piper must dictate the tune could have been over. Members of the party now have the large roles in deciding who flies the flag.

For now, zoning and the process of selecting candidates for next year’s general elections is the issue in the party and preparations for 2023 cannot be said to be ongoing. Sources said party members had agreed with Saraki to let governorship slot be reserved for the Northern District comprising Kaiama, Baruten, Moro, Edu and Pategi Local Government Areas of the state, it is yet to be resolved by the affected Local Governments as at the time report on Monday.

The lineup of those known to have interests in their new-found SDP are not new. They are the people known to have thrown their hats in the ring so many times in the past but had at one time or the other been choked out of their dreams by the hefty political muscles of the Sarakis. The Sarakis were the ones who held the political destiny and fortunes of people in their hands until the game changed in 2019. However, from the feelers, the Sarakis are adopting the ram’s fighting style of reversing to gather strength and rush ahead to deal a devastating head butt and claim dominations all over again. However, the long-known enemies of this political warlord family appeared to be ready for this onslaught and they are all in the SDP.

The lineup of governorship aspirants in SDP include:

Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem

 Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin and a regular governorship aspirant. His tenure marked the beginning of serious trade fights in the institution mainly involving the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The issue of the ‘Unilorin 49’ keeps ringing and the people, particularly in the ivory tower never forget nor forgive this academic of repute till now.

Alhaji Khaleel Bolaji

Alhaji Khaleel Bolaji is a renowned management consultant. His outfit, Kha’ab Consultant, was an outstanding consultancy firm in the late eighties up to early nineties covering the South West, North Central, North East and North Western parts of the country. He is today known to be one of the most experienced and active politicians in Kwara State. He was reputed to be a top-notch organiser of workshops, trainings and seminars for government staff at both the Federal, State and Local Government levels. This was part of the instruments that gave birth to the creation of new State and Local Governments under the military regimes.

Khaleel Bolaji was known to be very close to the seat of power at every successive stage both at the centre and in Kwara State. He was a member of the then National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the National Republican Convention (NRC), All Peoples Party (APP), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC) and now, the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

He was a Senatorial aspirant under the NRC, a governorship aspirant under the ANPP, member of the National Conference, Member of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (mni) and the immediate past Chairman of the National Orientation Agency (NOA).

As one of most experienced politicians in the state having been in the game as a young man in Lagos in the Second Republic and later came home in Kwara State be part of it at home too and became a cabinet member in the two military administrations in Kwara State, analysts said Khaleel Bolaji may pick the ticket of the party for the position of the governor.

Arch. Kale Belgore

Arch. Kale Belgore is better described as ‘Mr. Blueprint’. He is the political master planner since 1999 when this republic started for the Sarakis. He was at the engine room of the structures when Saraki brought Late Admiral Mohammed Lawal into politics immediately after Lawal was retired from the. Belgore, the Saraki boy, was said to be at the engine room then. He was a commissioner in the cabinet of Bukola Saraki after serving at the ‘Mandate’ situation office of the campaigns that saw Bukola through to power. He was a governorship aspirant in 2014 under the Peoples Democratic Party. In 2019, he was known to be the brain behind every draft (blueprint) that is today the document of governance of the administration of the incumbent Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. His departure from AbdulRazaq’s team is still kept secret but he had left the APC to join SDP and now a governorship aspirant in his new party.

Engr. Sunday Babalola

He is a staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). He was a governorship aspirant of the PDP in 2014. He hails from Omu Aran in Irepodun Local Government Area of the State. He, along with Khaleel Bolaji, are the two aspirants from the Kwara Southern District. He beat a retreat from politics as soon as he lost out in the 2014 primary elections of the PDP and was into charity work which people said is more noticeable in the southern part of the state where he comes from particularly around Omu Aran, his home town. He is also into pastoral activities until he threw his hat in the ring again, aspiring to become the governor.

Mallam Akeem Lawal

Akeem Lawal is the son of late Governor Mohammed Lawal. He was still in school when his father was in the saddle as governor. In 2014 he came out to gun for the position of the governor under PDP but was considered too young and inexperienced for the topmost job of a governor. A school of thought said the young man should have taken a shot at the National Assembly first, before eyeing governorship of the State. His chances again this time will be known in few days’ time when the SDP holds its primaries.

Alhaji Tajudeen Audu

Alhaji Tajudeen Audu, the Makama of Lafiagi Emirate in Edu Local Government Area of Kwara State was a governorship aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2019. He is a private businessman, an Accountant by training doing his business in Abuja but shuttles between the Federal Capital and Kwara State. People say the calculation of Alhaji Audu is based on the agitation that it is the turn of Kwara North to produce the next governor of Kwara State. This is because the PDP at the instance of Senator Bukola Saraki had zoned the governorship from the party to Kwara North. Not only that, it is zoned to the Nupe speaking people of Edu and Pategi Local Governments. PDP it was said had already picked s choice from Pategi, thus giving Edu the chance to have a candidate from any other party so that large votes would come from Nupeland for him.

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