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Dissecting AA’s Romance With Kwara APC

By Umar Sanni

The most appealing to me of all definitions of what politics is, was the one offered by Harold Lasswell, in his famous work “Who Gets What, When, How?” (1936), where he viewed politics as the study of changes in the distribution of value patterns in the society, and due to the fact that distribution largely depends on power, while the focal point of his analysis is power dynamics. He defined values as the desired goals and power as the ability to participate in decisions and conceived political power as the ability to produce intended effects on other people.

The State of APC before the Primaries

What is now known as the All Progressives Congress (APC) Kwara State chapter, was a mix bag of strange bedfellows whose aim was to supplant the hegemony that has held the grip of power, determining “who gets what, when and how” for over four decades as far as Kwara politics was concerned. The major opposition elements then from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who hurriedly left the umbrella to grab the broom as their new symbol of liberation; were also divided amongst themselves even before they changed gear.

There were two factions namely: Chief Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo leading other combatants like: Chief Rex Olawoye, Alh. Yekini Alajagusi, Prof. Oba Abdulraheem, Mallam Lukman Olayiwola Mustapha etc. while the other camp was headed by Chief Fagbemi, whose faction had a seasoned politician such as Bar. Kunle Suleiman and the present Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazak as the main financial backer.

More so, the third category of those who make up the APC before the party’s gubernatorial primary election, were composed of those who fell out of the Saraki structure, whom from the outset or before the 2015 general elections were APC members like Hon. Moshood Mustapha, Alh. Gani Cook Olododo, and the last category was the Lagos caucus, represented by Hon. Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa, whose loyalty was agreed by all to be aligned with the interest of Alh. Lai Muhammed, and remains the number one-point man of the National Leader of the party, Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

This was the composition of the APC before the primaries, and despite their political differences and divergent views, they were all hoping to work together to achieve the unimaginable, where over ten aspirants who jostled to clinch the ticket of the party embarked on aggressive grassroots mobilization across the State.

The Nature of Emergence of AA

AA’s emergence as the APC’s flagbearer came to some many as a surprise except those with privileged information either from Abuja or their local surrogates. During the build up to the 2015 gubernatorial election in Kwara State, as he was not quite visible or touted to be the axe that will cut down the big Iroko tree that has stunted all other trees in the forest. As a serial contester and loser as well, most political watchers didn’t take him seriously. Unlike other candidates who were visibly mobilizing the populace, bill boards, radio and television jingles etc. to woo the electorates, AA was busy with his underground work in Abuja unknown to many.

Meanwhile, perusing the script of how AA emerged as the APC flagbearer, and the flawed electoral processes of the election day cannot be quickly forgotten. With all sense of superior evidences in accordance with the principles of electoral engagement, the primary election falls short of International best practices and standard operating procedures when it comes to the serious matter of free, fair and credible contest. This blemished election opens up the avenue for other contenders to lay claim to the sole ticket, even when the victorious and the losers in the race failed to show any proof that validated their claims. To further inflame the suspicion and shoddiness that characterized the exercise, the election result was announced from Abuja after days of anxiety.

The aftermath of AA’s declaration by the Abuja power bloc as the authentic guber candidate, the announcement was accompanied by intense protests from party stalwarts who felt schemed out of the race and those who felt they were the actual winner. I used to wonder within me whether APC as a party deserves to be called a progressive party? Having participated actively in the primary and equally being a good student of election management, I came to the conclusion that it is only when electoral integrity is guaranteed, by ensuring that internal democracy exists within the various political parties in Nigeria that democracy could be said to have been deepened.

How would you explain a scenario where a political party decides to adopt the direct mode of election without a credible party membership register? Better still, how would convince the people that a particular aspirants won an election without presenting the breakdown of results from units and the ward levels clearly written on an authentic party election result sheet? The election represented a terrible scenario which could be best described as the ‘commoditization of votes’, where election results were bided for, negotiated and bought brazenly just like we buy guguru and epa in an open market, multiple voting amidst insecurity, in connivance with some party executives and leaders across board. This level of absurdity and crookedness that characterized the primary election changed my perception about the suitability of the model as a vehicle of direct participation of the citizenry in the selection of their choices.

What Made It Possible for AA’s Emergence

One thing that is still generating a lot misgiving amongst party leaders, members and particularly the APC guber aspirants, was the allegation that huge sums of money were made available to them. AA as a man with deep pockets and an ally of PMB in the 2011gubernatorial contest in Kwara State, was able to meander his way into the hearts of the National leadership of the APC. The State leadership of the APC was also not spared of this yet to be verified claim of receiving largesse from the governor.

One thing that remains constant as the northern stars is that, money plays a vital role in any electoral contest and politicking. It is a common place for most political gladiators in Nigeria to actually act in that manner, if money is still the currency of the game of politics. However, the amount of money that changed hands is what we couldn’t really decipher but the truth of the matter is that some of them may have received some mobilization fees. And I want to agree with some political watchers that the APC was never fair from the outset to all aspirants.

Was it possible that Hon. Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa (BOB) being the Chairman of the party was not aware of APC’s plan to pick AA as their preferred candidate? Why were other aspirants deceived with the promises of being fair to all by the leadership, allowing them to waste their energy, time and resources when you already have your preferred candidate? That is why I do not share in the sentiments of some of the party leaders lamenting of being sidelined by AA’s government. In fact, I was told about a week to the primary by one of the aides to the State Chairman that AA was going to emerge. I argued and doubted the story but now I know better.

They are the architects of their present predicaments and deserve to pay the ultimate price for covert favoritism. Therefore, all evil unpunished is not evil condoned, but evil given a chance to reform. They are on trial by the mercy of God, what they call ill-omen is a just punishment for their ill-deeds and that punishment rest with God only.

The Implications of the Primary on AA’s Administration

One direct implication of the outcome of the primary on AA’s administration is the fact that, the very moment the gladiators came together with their might and main to support AA to win the 2019 Kwara guber pools, without resorting to any form of litigation to challenge his eligibility due to the sham electoral processes earlier stated, is to me a worthy sacrifice. For their destiny became one with the hope that their interests would be realized. Including the spoils of war. Don’t ask me why? Because politics is all about interest.

It is however a natural law that “he who sows shall reap”, and no one would want to labor in vain. The narrative that some political figures who were asking for their fair share of the booty in AA’s administration are selfish or at best leaches, who are only interested in sucking dry our treasury dry, is to me the lamest kind of excuse and lack of proper understanding of our own brand of politics where agreements are not usually honored. The type of politics that is devoid of basic principles and tenets of democracy where political actors exhibiting same in both spirit and essentials.

It is not also correct to say that every politician who are at crossroad with AA particularly some notable figures during the O-to- ge struggle were demanding for money or do not always think about the masses and their plight. Just like we have different human beings, the same way there are differences in what they fancy most. But the inability of the party to identify or aggregate various interests of major stakeholders that made the revolution realizable, to reach a concrete social contract and coming up a workable manifesto that would guide the politics and governance.

We should not get it wrong, the spoils of war may not necessarily be money, some may be: recognition. The current crisis that have engulfed the APC, Kwara, is the kind of price one pays for hurriedly coming together under a political platform without properly studying the political behavior of every actor. As at the time the alliance was formed, their mission was to supplant the Saraki Dynasty by putting aside their personal aspirations, if going by the words of one the guber aspirants Mallam Lukman Olayiwola Mustapha, who was the first major contender for the ticket to publicly declare his support for AA even before the result was announced from Abuja. This type of sacrifice would always demand for some sort of recognition or other things that human beings crave for after winning a battle, not really for the gladiators to be direct beneficiary, but for their teeming supporters. That is why we would always refer to that alliance as “strange bedfellows” that is not bound by any concrete ideology.

It is also the failure of APC leadership to study AA’s personality or political behavior, perhaps they misconstrued him as a political neophyte due to the fact that he hardly talks, and would be susceptible to manipulation. But they all got it wrong. The last time I checked, AA was a shrewd business man and would hardly spend money recklessly even when most admirers call him the dollar man.

Lessons from Late Lawal’s Administration

While I admire AA for not allowing himself to be tele-guided over how to allocate resources, determining who gets what, when and how? Chiefly, not encouraging prebendalist kind of politics or ‘grab and eat’ politics, lacking key ingredients of democratic norms, that characterized the previous administration, by ensuring that infrastructural development is spread across the State which the blind could easily testify to. But can a year assessment of AA in office be enough to qualify him to seek reelection? To put it mildly, will his performances be enough to make him victorious in 2023, if he decides to seek for a second term in office?

We have seen hypes and encomiums being showered on AA in recent times by persons who are hell bent in ensuring that he returns back to Ahmadu Bello government house after the 2023 Kwara guber contest. We consider it as a hasty voyage, an unprepared one at that, at best the height of political jejunity. Not even at this time that political intrigues have engulfed the ship that once conveyed AA to the power land. They must be told the political truth that, the O-to-ge ship have since developed acute mechanical and technical fault combined, which requires a quick fix or total overhaul before thinking of embarking on a similar journey of unpredictability.

We have also not seen in recent years, a situation whereby the State chairman of a party and a sitting governor who was elected under the same platform, will not be on the same page. What is usually obtainable for the better part of the 4th Republic is that, the latter automatically becomes the overall leader bankrolling all the activities of the party. The chairman only becomes his stooge and equally enjoying every political patronage. In the present scenario, is it that AA does not have the requisite political skill-set to put the party machinery under his control? or he chooses not to play ball and ready to damn the consequences?

Is it that BOB having played a major part in AA’s emergence feels too big, in addition to his inspiring political credentials to subdue himself to the dictates of AA? Or is BOB attempting to bring back the old dictum of party discipline or supremacy which has eluded our polity in recent years? BOB should wake up to the reality that such practices only exists in Nigeria’s past political history literatures, i.e. during the first, second and third republic, where party chairmen were so powerful. But now we have those who pays the piper dictating the tune. I mean they provide the resources for parties to function effectively. Or is it an ego battle between and among all stakeholders at the middle of the crisis? Only time will tell and the behaviors of various political actors in the rofo-rofo fight.

Whatever the case may be and if democracy still remains a game of number, these elements are still very important in AA’s political journey, except if he is no longer interested in seeking reelection, that is when the present schism in the party will not be a matter to worry about. But the application of the principles of dialogue, conflict resolution and diplomacy will resolve some of these conflicts of interest. The present brouhaha is the house of APC is however giving some strengths to the arguments of the ousted dynasty supporters. In their view, “it has shown that APC is a confused party that cannot move Kwara to the next pedestal and the crisis they are bedeviled with, will ultimately be the springboard for the PDP’s eventual return to power by 2023. But can a house divided against itself be said to be bound for any real future success? The answer is no.

Therefore, reminiscing about some of the mistakes made by Late Governor, Rear Admiral Muhammed Lawal, during his administration between 1999 and 2003. Some scholars agreed that Late Lawal was not mindful of so many battle lines he created and relying on the deceitful words of his supporters. It was those battle lines that eventually consumed him, hence the need for AA to work towards mending some of the broken fences, so as not to allow agama lizard to creep in.

Moreover, AA has three moves to make that will determine his future political aspirations.

The first option is that AA should adamant by refusing to settle the disagreements between him and the leadership of the party, and some notable politicians in the party that he has severed relationship with, by focusing on delivering the public good to the citizens and refusing to seek for reelection come 2023. By doing this, he automatically becomes a hero of democracy of some sort. This will definitely make headlines, for he had set the record of becoming the first incumbent governor in the political history of Nigeria to shelve the idea of seeking for reelection even when he has the constitutional right to do so.

More so, by opening up an olive branch for true reconciliation amongst the party rank and file, including some gladiators, and apology tendered where necessary. Inviting all aggrieved members to a roundtable discussion to settle their differences and certain concessions may be granted or compromises reached, with a view to progress together as one entity in service to Kwara State. Perhaps this would guarantee a smooth ground for his reelection bid.

Thirdly, is for AA to jettison all entreaties and shunning the first and the second option, by beginning to nurture a new structure under a different political party, where there will be no godfathers or political gladiators to contend with. All he need to do at this point, is to rely on his goodwill and support from the masses which emanates from his developmental strides across the state. He could actually use his scorecard or performances to woo the electorates to have him back at the helms of Kwara State affairs, if the electorates would use his deliverables as a yardstick in determining his reelection bid come 2023.

Umar Sanni is a Political Scientist and an Election Management Practitioner, writes from Ilorin. Could be reached via:

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