BIOLA AZEEZ reviews the circumstances leading to the recent decision by Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State, to withdraw from the race for the Kwara South Senatorial seat in 2019
What emanated as gossip from the political rumour mills after the loss of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara state in the last November by-election into Ekiti Oke Ero Isin Irepodun federal constituency in Kwara State, sooner than later, became a reality as the state governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, withdrew from the Kwara South senatorial race.
It would be recalled that the governor had won the ticket to contest Kwara South senatorial seat under the banner of the PDP in a consensus arrangement during the party’s October primaries.
The PDP in the state had lost the by-election to the main opposition, the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which conducted the poll had announced the APC candidate, Tunji Olawuyi, as the winner. According to the INEC returning officer, Professor Abimbola Adesoji of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, who announced the result in Omu Aran, a day after, Olawuyi polled 21,236 votes to beat Saheed Alatise of the PDP, who had 18,095 votes.
Governor Ahmed and the APC leader in the state who is also the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had expressed divergent opinions over conduct of the House of Representatives by-election, the governor described the poll as a contest between the PDP and security agents rather than among political parties but expressed confidence of the party’s victory while the minister, on his part, said that the APC’s victory in the election was the will of God and people’s determination to be free.
Governor Ahmed, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communication, Dr. Muyideen Akorede, said reports available to him from the four local government areas in which elections were held, indicated harassment, arrests and intimidation of PDP members and supporters by security personnel.
Also speaking in his Oro country home during a victory rally organised by the APC supporters in the constituency after the announcement of the election result, the minister said that security operatives only discharged their duties professionally.
Before the tantrums between the two political leaders in the state had died down, the leadership of the PDP in the Kwara South senatorial district mounted pressures on the national leader of the party, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Ahmed, to cede the senatorial ticket of the zone to the Ibolo axis in the interest of fairness and equity in the distribution of political offices in the district.
According to sources close to key political figures in Kwara south, the lobby for the senatorial ticket to be ceded to Ibolo axis begun some weeks before the by-election into the House of Representatives seat won by the APC.
Though, Governor Ahmed had emerged as the PDP senatorial candidate for zone, the stakeholders were persuading him as a leader of the party in the state to grant their request. It was gathered that those involved in the lobbying included a former deputy governor of the state, Elder Joel Ogundeji and a former speaker of the House of Assembly, Honourable Babatunde Mohammed.
These prominent PDP leaders and other stakeholders were of the opinion that Ibolo axis of Kwara South area should be considered for a second shot at the Senate as is traditional in Saraki political dynasty. During their various consultative meetings with both Saraki and Governor Ahmed, the stakeholders reminded the party leaders that the Igbomina and Ekiti axis of the zone had enjoyed privilege of spending two terms each at the Senate.
“It’s therefore necessary to allow our people from Ibolo axis to enjoy the same benefit,” a leader of the lobbying group who did not want his name mentioned said.
It was gathered that the group also met with Saraki and Ahmed at different times after the election to persuade them to grant their demand.
It was learnt that the meetings were fruitful as the two leaders were said to have expressed their readiness to do anything that would ensure total victory for the PDP in next year’s general elections.
Governor Ahmed’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communications, Dr Muhideen Akorede, also denied social media speculations that the Kwara South Senatorial ticket was retrieved from his principal on account of the last House of Representatives by-election results in the state. Akorede described as politically-motivated mischief, the rumours that the governor was asked to step down due to the PDP’s loss of the by-elections.
He said that on the contrary, consultations had been going on within the political family to consider the request by the leadership of the Ibolo division of Kwara South, from where the current Senator, Rafiu Ibrahim, hails from, for a second tenure at the Senate. He clarified that the consultations and request of the Ibolo leaders preceded the November 17 by-election.
He added that the ongoing consultation was based on the view that the Igbomina and Ekiti divisions had successfully served two terms in the Senate as opposed to the Ibolo division whose representative had served only one term in the Senate.
While members of the main opposition party in the state had refused to be convinced of the reason adduced for the governor’s withdrawal from the senatorial race, the APC alleged that confusion had set into the ruling PDP just after it suffered defeat in the by-election. The camp of the opposition said that it was not convinced that the political leader of the PDP had not pressurized the governor to relinquish the senatorial ticket.
“There is panic in the camp of the Senate President following the PDP loss of in the House of Representatives by-election to the APC. It was the defeat that has forced Saraki to return to the drawing board to plot how to win the senatorial election in Kwara South Senatorial District.
One of the options by Saraki was to prevail on Governor Ahmed to drop his senatorial aspiration for the incumbent Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, who is believed to have more clout in the area than the governor, because Saraki was disturbed by the defeat of PDP in some of his strongholds, especially in Ekiti and Oke-Ero local government areas,” a source within the APC said.
However, the PDP in the state has said that there is no confusion in the party over the outcome of the recent House of Representatives by-election in the state. The party insisted that the by-election into Irepodun/Isin/Oke- Ero/ Ekiti was a charade and as such its outcome could not have led to pressure on the state governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, to withdraw from Kwara South senatorial race.
The PDP in a statement by its state publicity secretary, Tunde Ashaolu, debunked the insinuation that there was panic in the camp of Saraki and that Governor Ahmed was pressured to withdraw from the Kwara South senatorial race as a result of the aftermath of recent by-election in the state.
“This is totally untrue, ridiculous and a deliberate mischief orchestrated by some unscrupulous elements and political jobbers who are bent on causing confusion within the party and among our leaders. For the avoidance of doubt, there is no tension or whatsoever within the fold of the PDP in Kwara State and there was no pressure on Governor Ahmed to drop his senatorial ambition because of the outcome of the recently held by-election in the state.
“The party however, notes that there are ongoing consultations and pleas by leadership of the Ibolo axis of Kwara South, where the current senator representing the senatorial district, Dr Rafiu Ibrahim hails from, for the party’s senatorial ticket to be retained in the axis in the interest of fairness and equity in the distribution political offices within the district.
“It is instructive to note that these consultations and pleas preceded the November 17 by-election and are based on the understanding that the Igbomina and Ekiti divisions of Kwara South had produced senators who served two terms in the Senate as opposed to the Ibolo division whose representative had only served one term.
“The party thereby urges members and supporters of the PDP as well as the general public to disregard the fake report which was sponsored and planted in the media by unscrupulous elements and fifth columnists.
“Governor Ahmed is a prominent leader of our party and has always placed the party’s interest above his personal interest. More so, he has provided exemplary leadership since he assumed office in 2011 and has created enduring legacies that have placed Kwara on a path of sustainable development.
Meanwhile, the PDP in the state, through its publicity secretary, Tunde Ashaolu, has commended Governor Ahmed for ceding the party’s Kwara South senatorial ticket to Ibolo axis of the zone. This is just as the beneficiary of the governor’s action, who is also the Senator representing Kwara South in the National Assembly, Dr. Rafiu Ibrahim, has praised the Senate President and national leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Bukola Saraki for granting the request by Ibolo leaders on ceding the party’s Kwara south senatorial ticket to Ibolo axis of the zone.
He described as highly commendable the decision of the state governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, to cede the senatorial ticket following the pleas by Ibolo elders.
This, he said has further affirmed Ahmed’s reputation as an advocate of fairness, equity and inclusion.
The senator who is the beneficiary of the change in the PDP’s candidate for the zone also expressed his profound gratitude to his constituents, party members and advocates for their support and confidence him.
“The decision of Governor Ahmed to cede the senatorial ticket following the pleas by Ibolo elders is highly commendable and this has further affirmed his reputation as an advocate of fairness, equity and inclusion. This is indeed leadership by example.
“Let me also use this opportunity to thank all the leaders of our party in my senatorial district and the state at large for demonstrating quality leadership and for their efforts in upholding the unity of the party. I hereby reiterate my unflinching loyalty and commitment to the entire structure of the party.
“I also would like to thank the good people of Kwara state for their continued support and belief in our great party, PDP despite all the calumnious campaign launched against our leaders and the party by desperate politicians in the state.
“I am confident that with the support of the people of Kwara, our party will triumph in the 2019 general elections.”
With the recent developments in political landscape of Kwara state, some political watchers are of the opinion that the race for Kwara South senatorial seat in the 2019 general elections will now be keener and quite interesting more than anyone could imagine.
One of the reasons adduced for the view is the calibre and pedigree of candidates in the race. The likes of Ambassador Olutola John Onijala, of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), incumbent Senator Rafiu Ibrahim of the PDP and Architect Lola Ashiru of the APC will give themselves run for their money.
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