October 26, 2021

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Kwara APC crisis defies interventions, threatens 2023 chances

The crisis rocking the Kwara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has defied several interventions by relevant authorities of the ruling party. Our correspondent reports that the crisis is threatening the chances of the party in the state ahead of the 2023 elections.

 

The recent decision by some top shots of the Kwara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress to form a “Third Force” has worsened the protracted leadership crisis in the party.

For the state chapter of the party, it is crisis everywhere. It has been a herculean task since the party took over the baton of leadership as there have been dissenting voices among the forces that converged in 2019 to sack the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) under the leadership of former Senate President Bukola Saraki. The climax of that symbolic defeat was encapsulated in the “O to ge” mantra.

Two years after that crushing defeat, the inauguration of the chief beneficiary of that struggle, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq as governor and “leader” of the party in the state has not brought about unity of purpose among party members.

There has been war of supremacy between the governor and some other major stakeholders across the three senatorial districts that hitherto worked for his election, including those holding strategic positions in government at the centre, over his style of leadership.

Such opposing gladiators include the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of State for Transport, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, former chairman of the Federal Character Commission, Professor Shuaib Oba and former chairman of the PDP, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, among others.

According to insiders, the war now threatening to tear the party apart started shortly after the governor emerged as its gubernatorial candidate. After the governor’s swearing in and sensing opposition to his politics, Abdulrazaq moved to consolidate hold on power and build clout to muzzle internal opposition to his position within the party. Politicians said to be loyal to him formed a group called AA Forum, with “overriding powers.”

Expectedly, this did not go down well with many aggrieved opponents, but he soldiered on. The governor initially pushed for the emergence of Prince Sunday Fagbemi, a close ally, as Kwara APC chairman, but the effort failed. Amid intrigues and politicking, Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa (BOB) emerged. Undeterred by the outcome of that power tussle, the governor trudged on, pitching himself against some “power brokers.” Meanwhile, the battle shifted to the party’s registration exercise.

The crisis within the party took an ugly turn days to the commencement of the membership revalidation and registration exercise following disagreements among party bigwigs and the governor.

Insiders said the governor had earlier written a petition intimating the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party of the need to end Bolarinwa’s continued leadership as caretaker chairman. He opted for his deputy, Alhaji Abdullahi Samari, another ally with supporting groups.

In the heat of the crisis, the party’s leadership in Abuja referred the matter to the zonal headquarters; but Governor Abdulrazaq’s outsmarted his opponents and was endorsed by the Niger State governor, Sani Bello. This led to the chaos in the distribution of logistic materials for the exercise, prompting the John Danboyi committee to convene a stakeholders meeting that would later result in mayhem and brigandage, with numerous party members harmed in the process.

Conflicting tunes

The mayhem notwithstanding, the registration exercise continued at the governor’s Idi Igba ward in Ilorin west. According to the governor, the exercise was important to expand the base of the party and allow the influx of new members who voted for the party in the last general elections. At the time the governor was emphasizing the need for the registration exercise to continue, Lai Mohammed was holding a press conference in his hometown, Oro, rejecting the exercise.

Mohammed accused officials from Abuja of violating the procedure set by the party and warned that guidelines regarding distribution of materials for the exercise were flouted and demanded the cancellation, an allegation that the governor and his supporters denied. The exercise would later hold, but the division brought by the crisis has culminated in the supremacy battle between the two warring camps over who leads the party ahead 2023 polls.

Recently, the decision by one of the aggrieved camps reportedly loyal to a former gubernatorial candidate, Yakubu Gobir, to form a “Third Force” signaled another interesting angle to the whole scenario. It was the first time any faction within the party would openly denounce the “marriage” that peaked their struggle, and even burned the broom that represent the party’s symbol.

The above development followed the “eviction” of the APC from its secretariat by Gobir, which he had earlier donated, and appears to be a pointer to the permutation expected to follow.

Politics of 2019 campaign funds

Last week, another dimension was added to the already volatile situation in the party as the governor and embattled factional caretaker chairman, Bolarinwa, traded accusation on the campaign finances. While the governor insisted he didn’t collect a dime from the hundreds of millions of the funds donated by governors and ministers to prosecute the governorship election in Kwara, Bolarinwa called him out to account for the over N1 billion collected from the party’s national secretariat during the period.

As the opposing sides continue to bicker, analysts and some party faithful in the state have expressed concerns about the division. Some members believe that if the APC is interested in sustaining its leadership of the state, non-aligned party bigwigs with considerable influence have a major role to play in mending broken fences. But such process must starts with the governor himself as the “leader” of the party.

According to two of the serving lawmakers on BOB’s camp, Saheed Popoola (Offa) and Mohammed Guyegi (Edu), the governor holds the ace in calming frayed nerves. Popoola, in one of his public submissions on the crisis, had said, “The governor is the leader of the party. All the tension now can be doused once he is ready. Let him call a meeting of all the stakeholders and rally everybody together, then openly denounce overzealous supporters that abuse aggrieved party leaders claiming they have governor’s support.” But whether the governor is prepared and ready to do that and if those he genuinely invited would heed his call is another kettle of fish.

Until recently, Gobir was also touted in that firmament to bring some equilibrium by replicating his 2019 electioneering “magic” when he mobilised massive resources and about 100 buses to support the second term bid of President Buhari in Kwara, aside donating a befitting party secretariat to the APC after the governorship primary election. But that is no longer the case.

Some have also pointed their binoculars to President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC national leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu to quench the flame in Kwara.

Talks have also centered around erstwhile deputy national chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and now candidate for the party’s national chairmanship, Mallam Saliu Mustapha to cement the crack.

Regarded as one of the party’s bigwigs with a unifying aura, Mustapha even “boasted” that he had the capacity to align conflicting sides and build consensus. While the likes of Oyedepo, a firebrand politician and member of Bolarinwa’s camp has welcomed Mustapha’s intervention, it remains to be seen how he goes about playing his kit at this stage for it not to boomerang.

Can Mustapha and others who have been tipped really pull up Kwara APC from the present mess so that it can return to its pre 2019 election status with such force and potency that defeated Saraki and the PDP?  Time will tell.