The recent appointment of an ex-diplomat, Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, as the new Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari may be the much-needed elixir for prompt resuscitation of the highly polarized the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) party in Kwara State. Kwara APC, solidified by Otoge! movement against the ageless political rulership of late Olusola Saraki dynasty one and a half years ago, lacks clear-cut leadership straddling its affairs.
It was a ‘battle’ blindly fought from all fronts with the Otoge mantra even when many proponents of the change did not understand the reason or clamour for it. Before the emergence of the incumbent governor of the state, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, who had recently dropped the prefix ‘mallam’ to his name, preferring instead to be addressed without any honourific title, Alhaji Layiwola Mohammed, as the Minister for Information and Culture, occupied the highest political office among the members of the movement in the state. But his leadership toga was not a widely acceptable one for reasons not clear to most.
Perhaps, the statement of Chief Wole Oke, the Asiwaju of Shao, and a Third Republic leader of the state’s House of Assembly could help resolve the reason for the crisis of leadership within the local party.
According to him, “We were simply members of the same political ideology. We believed that our common political enemy was Saraki’s dynasty. We had no leader as it were. We were just fighting the common ‘foe’ according to our capabilities.
“So when the victory was won, we lacked direction. Each member saw himself as a victor, having fought from his own angle. For instance, how would I call the honourable Minister (Mohammed) my political leader? I had been in the forays of political struggles for almost three decades now! I think, this is where the problem emanated from. We don’t have a clear-cut leader.”
Oke, the Secretary of Kwara State chapter of Egbe Afenifere, the Yoruba Socio Cultural group, however, noted that the emergence of the governor should have put paid to the crisis of leadership within the party in the state.
“But sadly enough, some people still believe that the leadership should be elsewhere. That is where we are now.” Sources disclosed to The Guardian that the major cause of dissatisfaction of some members of the party with the governor remains his attitude to apportioning of political offices to members and his strict financial discipline.
“Many of us are used to getting political appointments after electoral struggles and victories,” a source said. “But with Governor AbdulRazak, nothing like that is happening. Instead, members who were not visible are daily being appointed into offices. Many of us are left with nothing. We are being jeered at by members of the opposition party.”
In the same vein, another source opined, “we know that not all of us could be given political appointments, but others should be taken care of financially. Why are we in politics if we can’t enjoy little financial benefits?”
But a political aide of the governor under condition of anonymity said, “the governor believes in spending government’s money only for government’s projects. He said this is the best way to compensate the voters that voted them to power.
“Besides, he is a technocrat who will not ordinarily put people into positions of power based on party loyalty but on competencies. Unless those complaining now can fault any of those put in positions, then can their criticisms of his style hold waters?”
This situation rages on in Kwara polity under AbdulRasak. It has therefore caused ripples between the camps of those loyal to him tagged as ‘AA’ group and the camp said to be under the control of the minister known as ‘Lai’s group’.
The state’s party Chairman, Bashiru Omolaja Bolarinwa, alias ‘BOB’, a gentle politician but full of political exposure and maturity, having once represented a Lagos Constituency as a House of Representatives member, is said to be clamouring for the supremacy of the party in crisis within the party.
Bolarinwa was alleged to have used all the intrigues within his political arsenal to no avail to resolve the imbroglio. He told The Guardian of his love for the party and his aspirations to run its affairs in a way that it would become a party to beat in subsequent elections in the state. He added, “I have decided to keep many things to myself on the issues surrounding our party. But I know that history will favour us due to all our efforts at making it one of the best locally run parties in Nigeria.”
In the midst of the brewing crisis within the party was a recent tantrums by one Musbau Eshinrogundo from Ilorin against the governor. Eshinrogundo among others, had in an audio message, which had already gone viral, alleged his “abandonment” by the governor after having worked for his electoral victory at the last governorship election in the state. Eshinrogundo’s outburst as it were could just be the voice of one brave man among many others alleged to have been sidelined by AbdulRazaq after emerging victorious at the poll.
Senator Makanjuola Ajadi has, however, urged members of the APC nurturing notions of being sidelined by the governor to jettison same, noting that the governor was in the last first year of his administration trying to lay a solid foundation for the state, “before doing some other things politically.” Ajadi, the Asiwaju of Babanloma in Ifelodun LGA of Kwara was a single term, Fourth Republic Senator.
Besides, the former chairman of the APC in the state, Chief Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, had since dissociated himself from the position of Ehinrogunjo, who had in the said audio, linked the politician with his views on the governor. Oyedepo, the leader of Kwara State House of Assembly in the fourth republic, Chief Rex Olawoye, a former council Chairman, Femi Yussuf and Honourable Yekeen Alajagbusi were the quartet who used the means of local radio stations to mount ceaseless campaigns against the continued political hegemony of the Saraki dynasty.
But Oyedepo from Isin LGA of the state said, “several calls have been put to me on Comrade Esinrogunjo’s audio recording. The last time I saw Esinrogunjo was 31 January 2020. That was the day I unveiled my Nations Leadership Institute. The Speaker of Kwara State House of Assrmbly, Rt. Honorable Danlad Yakubu, did the unveiling. Esinrogunjo was one of the invitees.
“When the young man complained about his frustrations about the government, I told him about the brewing intra-party crisis which I said could be worse than inter-party crisis.
“This has been my view about unreasonable intra-party crisis that has engulfed APC Kwara chapter, shortly after our party and our government assumed office. This same view I had aired before the Governor of Kwara State when I, along with six elders of our party, were before him before the close 2019.
“This same view I aired before the brother of the governor, Dr. Alimi Abdulrazaq and five others sometime in the month of January, this year. I stand by my view that intra-party crisis should not be our main programme after our landslide victory of 2019.
“I am not a politician of violence as I do not have that record. Killing a governor for whatever reason should not be contemplated by anybody. I am not in the habit of any outburst against this government, despite the opposition’s provocation to do so.
“I am of the view that the governor should be left to run his government as he pleases. Future is the acid test of values; it is time that will tell whether the governor had been right or not. I did not participate in liberation politics for personal benefits.
“I am already fulfilled now that we have redefined Kwara politics. Generations to come, I am sure, will hail my stand and contributions in Kwara politics. That is bigger and greater than holding an office. I really do not want anybody to intrude into this my dignified silence. Whatever is between the governor and Comrade Esinrogunjo is really not my concern.”
Already, the governor has proved to every doubting Thomas of his vision for a better Kwara, especially in the areas of road construction and quality health services. All the road networks constructed or under construction by his administration within its first year on the saddle are rated first class in terms of quality of the work done. The drainage system is well planned, allowing free flow of water during heavy downpour.
Besides, he had recruited many medical doctors and other needed health workers into all the existing state-owned general hospitals across the 16 local government areas of the state. His direct supervision of facilities for COVID-19 patients in the state could also attest to his inclinations to provide quality health services for the people of the state.
However, with the emergence of Gambari, a no-nonsense diplomat as a person arguably holding the highest political office in the state at present, APC in Kwara may at last have found a father figure and rallying point that would resolve the existing silent rifts within it. Sources say the Ilorin-born Professor of political science was not a member of any of the factions of the party in the state, “but an age-long friend of President Buhari.”
His wealth of experience may urgently come into play to reunite the factions, as he would not want to be a member of any political office, with his sensitive appointment, that is crisis-laden. However, the world is watching and only time will tell whether the new CoS is indeed a great manager of the people just as Kwara APC beckons for his sagacity.