Kwara Gubernatorial Aspirants Battle for Space

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Governorship aspirants in Kwara State are discreetly building structures and trying to outdo one another ahead of the 2019 elections, writes Shola Oyeyipo

Despite the fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) timetable is yet to officially permit politicians to commence campaigns governorship aspirants in Kwara State are already putting structures on ground and trying to outdo one other.

They also appear to have ignored the advice or is it warning of and Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki that the race for Kwara State governorship has not started and that aspirants should shield their words.

During a meeting at the Great Hall, Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, some weeks ago, where he spoke on gubernatorial aspirations in the state, Saraki told party loyalists that he had yet to give directives on when aspirants should flag off campaigns. He even threatened sanctions against anyone who contravenes the directive.

However, the situation on ground shows that the aspirants are not heeding Saraki’s advice. The aspirants are already engaging in activities aimed at bringing them closer to the electorates. While they claim they are merely testing the water, a closer look however reveals that they are doing more than that.
Knowing fully that their fate will likely be determined by the Senate President, each of the aspirants is trying to impress him (Saraki) that he is the man for the job.

Apparently to show Saraki their levels of acceptance and preparedness, some determined aspirants have already put together teams to reach out to leaders of thoughts across the state. Although, some have openly denied their aspiration but they have continued with their campaigns discreetly .

In fact, Saraki doesn’t need to look far to see who is doing what. Right in his constituency, Ilorin West, the surrogates of some key aspirants are already engaged in a battle of wits to get the support of key stakeholders.

Names of some of the coordinators in the leader’s backyard include Risi Abdullahi for Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, Kabiru Omodara Alakuko for Hon. Rasaq Atunwa, Ismail Asukuti for Hon. Moshood Mustapha, Ganiyu Mahmud for Hon. Ahmad Alli and Wasiu Araoyo Abdulkareem for Alhaji Kawu Baraje.

Aspirants from the north however seem to have little presence in the emirate but they are nonetheless serious about their aspirations as well.

The known and speculated aspirants have different strategies for the realization of their ambition. For some, their backbone is the political class, for others it is the interest groups, especially the youth groups.

Baraje’s campaign is being spearheaded by Hon. Agbo Ismail former Chairman, Ilorin South and a notable leader in Ilorin South and Chief Bisi Oloruntoba former Commissioner and former Chairman, Isin LGA. An influential female stakeholder, a former commissioner and former state assembly member, approached directly by the aspirant himself, declined to join the team, preferring neutrality in the guber race.

Hon. Moshood Mustapha’s strong base is the political class. His team includes Alh. Raheem Adedoyin former national officer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former two-time cabinet member in Kwara State, Hon. Isiaka Mogaji, a two-time member of the state House of Assembly from Kwara Central), Hon. Adamu Sabi, former House of Assembly member from Kwara North and Hon. Ahmed Ayansola a two-term member of Kwara State House of Assembly.

The coordinators for Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi include Hon. Bamidele Aluko (former member, Kwara House of Assembly), Mr. Ayansola Atolagbe (Commissioner 2, Kwara State Local Government Service Commission, KWLGSC) and Hajia Risikat Abdullahi (Commissioner 1, KWLGSC).

He is also relying on some youth groups in politics to canvass support for his candidacy. The former minister has also enlisted the support of key stakeholders in Moro Local Government whom he met recently at his residence in Ilorin. He is switching from his Ilorin West, Kwara Central base to Moro, Kwara North because of the clamour for a Kwara North governor.

Speaker Ahmad Ali is more fluid in his strategy. His coordinators include the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Matthew Okedare and three coordinators per ward in Ilorin West whose job has been to lobby stakeholders in Alli’s Ilorin South Local Government for the governorship ticket.

Working for Alli discreetly are Hon. Rasaq Atunwa, Hon. Abubakar Kannike and some other prominent members of the Governor Ahmed Abdulfatah’s cabinet. They have been keeping their teams away from public glare.

The key aspirants are Alh. Shaba Lafiagi whose coordinators include Mr. Timothy Jiya of the Public Complaints Commission and Mr. Kawe Manzuma;
Hon. Zakari Mohammed a member of the federal house of representatives member, seemingly rejected at home, is nonetheless holding strategic meetings to realize his ambition. He held the last one at his residence in Ilorin where he met with some youth groups recently.

Hon. Aliyu Ahman-Patigi started strongly but has mellowed down even before Saraki’s directive. His major campaigner is Alh. Ayinla Alarape and some emirate stakeholders.

While no aspirant seems to be flouting the leader’s order directly, not many have abandoned their governorship aspirations as their teams are still reaching out for support for their principals.

As things stand in Kwara presently, the most visible aspirants are already building strong bases to launch their aspirations as soon as INEC and Saraki give the green light. It is obvious that those who will make the greatest impacts are those already on the ground.

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Saraki doesn’t need to look far to see who is doing what. Right in his constituency, Ilorin West, the surrogates of some key aspirants are already engaged in a battle of wits to get the support of key stakeholders.