Since the assumption of Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq as the Governor of Kwara State about two years ago, the party has been enmeshed in various wrangling and war of attrition. The simmering crisis which has been raging for over seven months now has snowballed into a full-blown one as it has split the party into three camps in the state.
The crisis dates back to the period before the 2019 general elections. Immediately after former senate president, Bukola Saraki’s defection from the ruling party to the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, the politicians who felt disenchanted with the political hegemony of the Saraki dynasty, came together to edge him out of power in the state. There was a popular political protest in Kwara with the tag “Otoge”, and shared purpose brought political enemies together.
The force was formidable and victory was delivered in the end. However, instead of savoring the victory at the polls, a war of supremacy began to brew between the Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and other stakeholders. The stakeholders are Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed, Minister of State for Transport, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, Prince Sunday Fagbemi, and Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo.
All other key players have constantly pointed accusing fingers at Prince Fagbemi’s group of putting the interest of the governor ahead that of the party. The governor’s camp has equally been railing at the other camps, specifically the Lai Mohammed group, of controlling the governor.
As this cold war continued, both camps pretended as if all was well in the party but keen watchers of the state chapter knew that it was a matter of time for the crisis to manifest openly. December 2020 was the deadline for every state chapter to pick its caretaker committee members ahead of the party June 2021 national convention.
AbdulRazaq, buoyed by his supporters and loyalists, pushed for the chairmanship of Prince Fagbemi, his long-time political ally. But the proposal did not sail through. Eventually Bashir Bolarinwa who was the chairman when the Otoge movement dismantled the 40-year political stranglehold of the Sarakis emerged victorious. The emergence of Bolarinwa brought evident division to the party in the Kwara State as the governor’s loyalist plot to remove him from office.
Before the 2019 elections, a source had disclosed that Bolarinwa was the key player who fought tooth and nail to ensure that Abdulrasaq wins the election against the hegemony of former Senate President.
It was gathered that before the elections, Abdulrasaq does not leave Bolarinwa’s house. A close source disclosed that Abdulrasaq at some point would sleep in Bolarinwa’s living room when the campaign exercise became tough.
Bolarinwa had muted the idea of contesting in Lagos to Asiwaju, who told him he should go to Kwara and deliver victory to the APC and ensure that Abdulrahman wins at the poll: a task he reportedly delivered judiciously.
The crisis deepened during the party membership revalidation and registration exercise. Governor Abdulasaq had written a petition informing the national working committee of his displeasure with the idea of Bolarinwa continuing to oversee the exercise as the caretaker chairman. Instead, he opted for Bolarinwa’s Deputy, Alhaji Abdullahi Samari. This caused a major division within the caretaker committee as Samari and some other members of the Bolarinwa’s executives pitched their tent with the Governor Abdulrasaq.
As the caretaker chairmanship crisis raged on, the national headquarters referred the matter to the zonal headquarters and Governor AbdulRazaq’s candidate was endorsed by Niger State Governor Sanni Bello.
The materials and logistics for the revalidation and registration were handed over to Samari and the seven-man committee led by Senator John Danboyi was received at the government.
Sensing that there is a looming crisis, the Danboyi committee convened a stakeholders meeting, perhaps to calm down frayed nerves. But, the meeting was truncated by mayhem, fisticuffs, and throwing of chairs. In the process, no fewer than five members of Bolarinwa’s camp, including some executive members, were injured.
Some alleged loyalists of the Information Minister led by Bolarinwa was accused of being behind the pandemonium and the needless breaking into the venue of the party’s stakeholders meeting, an allegation that was quickly diffused by the minister.
The integrity group who are predominantly elders and leaders of the party said that the ongoing crisis in the party will not dissuade its members from participating in the registration and revalidation exercise.
The group’s spokesperson, Umar Shabbat said that the group was out to prove that it enjoys majority support in the party among other stakeholders. He believed that what government’s team is out to achieve is to frustrate other members outside the space of his loyalist.
Shabbat foreclosed any reconciliation with the governor, saying he (the governor) was not in any position to call them for any meeting after failed attempts to reconcile their differences. Shabbat who holds the traditional title of the Wakili Lafiagi said the committee members are unfit to do any meaningful party registration and revalidation in the state, and also maintained that the APC Caretaker Chairman, Bashir Bolarinwa did not arrive at the venue of the failed stakeholders meeting in the company of thugs or cultists.
Bashir Bolanrinwa was a one-time Councillor, local government Chairman and Federal House of Representative member at a point in time too. He ran for the governorship of kwara state in 2011. He is from Agunjin Ward in Ifelodun Local Government. He is a staunch loyalist of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
There are also reports that the Abdulasaq-led government did not want Bolarinwa in Kwara because of his close nexus with Asiwaju in Lagos as he’s seen as Asiwaju’s boy.
At an event recently, Governor Rahman saw Asiwaju and approached him. He told Asiwaju he needed a brief moment with him and Asiwaju refused to grant him the audience. Asiwaju told him point-blank to route his message through Bolarinwa, if he had anything to discuss with him.
The Emir of Ilorin is also reported to be at loggerhead with the governor, because of his style of administration. The rift was revealed to the public when the Emir’s daughter got married recently, the governor did not attend the event, but Bolarinwa was visibly seen as a special guest at the wedding. However, Bolarinwa seems to have gathered a wider base of supporters, despite the attempt to remove him as the Caretaker Chairman.
Some stakeholders loyal to Bolarinwa led by Hon. Iyiola Oyedepo had kicked against the purported removal of Bolarinwa as the chairman of the party in the state. The other party stakeholders led by Hon. Kunle Sulyman had thrown their weight behind the appointment of Alhaji Samari Abdullahi as the acting chairman of the party in the state
Both parties have been carrying out their duties in parallel as acting chairmen.
So far, 9 out of the 16 local government council chairmen of All Progressives Congress(APC) in Kwara State pledged their support and said they were accountable to Hon Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa as State Caretaker Chairman in accordance with the APC Constitution. While the 7 others pledge their support for Gov. Rahman’s choice.
The nine APC LG Chairmen that signed the resolution are, APC chairmen in Ifelodun LG, Hon. Mohammed Shilo Awobimpe; Ilorin East, Elder. Babatunde Kolawole Asanlu; Asa, Ahaji Hassan Abdullahi; Irepodun, Hon. Aransiola Oyeyemi Samson; and Isin, Hon. Bamidele Ogunbayo.
Others include; Ahaji Monsuru Ademola of Ilorin South LG, Hon. Taiye Olaniyi of Oyun LG, Hon. Yusuf Abdulganiyu Kehinde of Offa LG and Engr. Muhideen Shittu of Oke Ero LG.
While justifying their position, they argued that the Hon. Bolarinwa piloted the struggle to liberate Kwarans from the People’s Democratic Party and won 100 percent in the past election, which made it a historic victory not only in Kwara but across Nigeria.
While Governor, Rahman is a Lagos-based elite why played big in the private sector, Bolarinwa has been a political mobilizer for many years, even before the 4th republic. His follower’s base in Kwara is second to none, which is why Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu recommended him to lead the campaign for Governor Rahman at the time.
It was reported by a source that the same Bolarinwa knelt down in public to apologize and beg other aggrieved aspirants on behalf of Gov. AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, so that they all work together to achieve the success that they cannot handle today.
The protracted crisis has broken the party into three factions and pitted Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq against the third force in the state Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, in a struggle for the control of the party.
Mr Bolarinwa, who is loyal to the minister was removed by the Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni-led national caretaker committee of the party last Tuesday and replaced with Abdullahi Samari. While the faction loyal to the governor swiftly lauded the development, party members on the side of Mr Mohammed sees the hand of the Governor in it and has been made even angrier.
Until the recent dissolution of APC executives at the state, local, and ward levels, it is the position of the majority of party stakeholders in Kwara State that the caretaker committee led by Bolarinwa had overstayed its welcome and a new one was required in the interest of fairness and justice.
The caretaker committee, constituted over two years ago in 2018, was a special purpose vehicle that had since outlasted its purpose. It was therefore welcome and just when the NEC of the party dissolved it along with others across the state.
it is, however, not clear how the polarised party structure intends to sustain state power amidst the power tussle that has fallen things apart, while the PDP continues to build bridges and mend fences within its party in the state and also poaching aggrieved members of the APC and other political parties ahead 2023.