End of a Romance?
There are indications that all is not well with the All Progressives Congress in Kwara State as GovernorAbdulfatah Ahmed’s rumoured return to the Peoples Democratic Party is generating controversy and fuelling intrigues
Party stalwarts in both the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Kwara State were on tenterhooks last week following reports of a growing rift between Abdulfatah Ahmed, the state governor, and Bukola Saraki, his predecessor, senator de facto political leader of APC. Sources say that Bukola may have decided to back a different candidate for the governorship ticket of APC for the 2015 election. It was also learnt that either Kawu Baraje, former acting secretary of PDP, chairman of the factional wing of the party, new PDP, which later fused into APC, or Bolaji Abdullahi, former minister of sports, are in contention for the senator’s approval to clinch the ticket. Ahmed is said to be ill at ease at this turn of event because, according to sources close to him, the governor believes he has earned the right to a second term ticket based on his loyalty to Bukola. While the state governor has maintained outward calm and has publicly denied any tiff between him and the senator, there has been growing unease in the APC who fear that a rift between the governor and Bukola may not augur well for the party next year.
The tension is more palpable in the PDP. Insiders in the party insist that Ahmed has begun making overtures to return to the fold with a view to being endorsed as the governorship candidate, a move many consider as a volte-face. There was a reported meeting between the governor and Gbemisola, Bukola’s sister and rival. There have also been reports of the governor meeting with other PDP stakeholders in the state. Even more confounding are remarks from the party leadership in the state that seem to be pregnant with meanings. “There are body languages (sic) that may suggest that there is truth in all these reports. But nobody has come to me about the party ticket. Whoever wants to win the PDP party ticket must submit to party procedures and forget about any godfather anywhere,” explained Iyiola Oyedepo, chairman, PDP, Kwara State chapter.
So could Ahmed’s body language have suggested that he wanted to go back to the PDP? But Femi Akorede, special adviser of media to Ahmed, debunks such insinuation. According to him, there is no iota of truth in the reports that there is an ongoing rift between the governor and Bukola. “Governor Ahmed still enjoys a warm and cordial relationship with Bukola who we all see as our political leader,” said Akorede. According to him, PDP is responsible for the reported rift targeted at causing disaffection between the governor and his mentor. But as to whether Ahmed will enjoy Bukola’s backing for a second term, the aide stated that it was still premature to make any comment. “APC has a procedure for such. This is still 2014, and election is next year. The governor is focused on delivering on his mandate and would not be bothered about such matters,” concluded Akorede.
While much of the claims and responses on both sides of APC and PDP are speculations, there are indeed reasons for anxiety over the politicians involved in the game. Going by political antecedents in Kwara State, Ahmed may have a reason to fret as 2015 approaches. The governor is not unaware that Bukola is a scion of Olusola Saraki, the late strongman of Kwara State politics. Political analysts contend that the late politician maintained his stronghold on Kwara politics by not allowing political office holders consolidate on their strength. One way of doing this is to ensure that any governor of the state gets only one term. For instance, late Adamu Attah, former governor of the state in 1979 under the platform of National Party of Nigeria, NPN, allegedly fell out with Saraki after he insisted on going for a second term against Saraki’s wish. Of course, he was defeated in 1983 after Saraki gave his support to Cornelius Adebayo of the United Party of Nigeria, UPN in 1983. It was a similar scenario in his relationship with Mohammed Lawal in 2003. Despite being a founding member of the All Peoples Party, APP (later All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP), under which banner Lawal ran for governorship, Saraki rallied his political machinery to defeat Lawal and installed his son, Bukola, as governor. Many are worried about whether Bukola is not acting out the script he inherited from his father.
There is need for the PDP in Kwara State to celebrate this development with caution. However, political gladiators in the state have begun subterranean moves to clinch the party ticket ahead of 2015 election. Oba Abdulraheem, chairman, Federal Character Commission, FCC, and Samuel Ajibola, a senator, are leading contenders in the race to winning the party tickets. If Ahmed eventually decides to return to the PDP fold, the party hierarchy in Abuja may well decide to allow him have the ticket. After all, the fact that he is the incumbent governor may just be the edge the PDP needs to win the polls.
However, other party members are entertaining some fears. “Suppose the purported rift between Ahmed and Saraki is a mere ruse meant to re-embed the governor into the PDP?” asked a top party chieftain in Kwara. The party source, who would not want his mention, believes that Saraki’s game plan might be to control PDP and APC from behind the scenes before the 2015 election. According to him, if Ahmed is handed the party ticket in PDP and wins the election, it is unlikely that he will shake off Saraki’s hold on him. Even so, the former governor, having pocketed the party machinery of APC, will have influence on both parties in the state.
Ahmed and Bukola: Believed to have fallen out
Oyedepo: Nobody has come to me for the party ticket
Akorede: Debunks claims of rift between Bukola and Ahmed