Ojo Maduekwe writes that the Peoples Democratic Party in Kwara State is determined to close ranks and head into the 2019 elections in one accord. The cost of losing is not lost on all those involved, especially the triune of Senator Olusola Saraki, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and Senator Rafiu Ibrahim
Last week, without protest, the governor of Kwara state, Abdulfatah Ahmed, relinquished his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senatorial ticket to the incumbent senator representing Kwara South, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim.
Barring this last minute pull-out, Ahmed was on his way to representing the PDP in the February 16, 2019 National Assembly election.
There is unsubstantiated allegation that his action was precipitated by the loss of the November 17 Kwara state House of Representatives by-election by the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Some news report painted a picture of a possible rift between the governor and his political godfather, Senate President Bukola Saraki, as the reason why Ahmed stepped down his ambition for Ibrahim.
Both Ahmed and Ibrahim are proteges and loyalists of Saraki, and as governor and senator respectively, they owe their current position to the senate president. Ahmed’s stepping down his ambition for Ibrahim would be more out of loyalty to Saraki than the existence of a rift.
Ahmed’s loyalty to Saraki has seen him before now make a volte face. For example, last year (when he and the senate president were still members of the APC) he granted an interview, saying he and Saraki were “unlikely” returning to the PDP.
In July, barely a year after, he joined Saraki to defect to the PDP, proving to be a diehard loyalist of the senate president and in extension the political structure that gave him the platform to be a two-term governor.
Except he intends to play the spoiler, observers argue that Ahmed knows he cannot move against his benefactor and the PDP stakeholders that have accommodated and supported him notwithstanding his crisscrossing between the party and APC.
There are also claims that Saraki does not want to take chances with the governor who couldn’t deliver in the election. It is being insinuated that Ahmed does not have the clout to win next year’s election.
Giving credence to the allegation that Ahmed’s pull-out was due to the defeat suffered during the by-election was the zonal primary that took place in October, in which delegates from the seven local government areas of the district, unanimously endorsed Ahmed for the ticket.
Observers said Ahmed’s volte face after winning the primary, and in a matter of days after the by-election was suspect. But then, linking his U-turn to the by-election would be reaching too far, since Ahmed allegedly owes his two term gubernatorial victory to the influence of Saraki.
Ahmed, the Kwara state PDP and Ibrahim deny that the allegations the governor relinquished the ticket following the loss of the by-election have any substance. They’ve gone ahead to dismiss the election as rigged and as such was not a true reflection of the will of the voters in the state.
They all insist that the November 17 by-election was characterised by rigging, harassment and intimidation of voters, and that in a free, fair and credible election come 2019, PDP would win.
In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communications, Dr. Muyideen Akorede, Ahmed described the allegations as “politically motivated mischief.”
The leadership of the PDP in the state said the rumours were “totally untrue” and “a deliberate mischief orchestrated by some unscrupulous elements and political jobbers” to cause confusion within the party.
Senator Ibrahim said the decision of Ahmed to cede the senatorial ticket to him followed the pleas by Ibolo elders, and went ahead to commend the governor for being “an advocate of fairness, equity and inclusion.”
There appears to be a gentleman agreement to promote equity by rotating the senatorial slot among the three divisions that make up the district of Kwara south, namely, Igbomina, Ekiti and Ibolo divisions.
Beginning from the new political dispensation in 1999, the Igbomina and Ekiti divisions have served two terms in the Senate, while the Ibolo division as represented by Ibrahim, is serving their first term.
The governor’s decision to withdraw was said to have followed consultation within the PDP and the Saraki political structure to consider the request by the leadership of the Ibolo division for a second tenure at the Senate.
Although Ahmed, the PDP and Ibrahim deny any direct correlation between the U-turn and the PDP’s loss to the APC at the by-election, it is alleged that the loss of the election has a lot to do with the volte face.
Those who insist that Ahmed’s U-turn has everything to do with the by-election, believe that if the PDP in Kwara could lose the election even as a united party, they wonder what would happen if it goes into the 2019 elections disunited. Now is not the time to be in disarray, they say.
The PDP’s insistence that the election was rigged for the APC by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in cohort with the security agencies, if true, is the more reason the party has chosen to close ranks and head into the 2019 elections in one accord.
PDP stakeholders in Kwara are worried of an onslaught by the ruling APC. The national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, is bent on dismantling the Kwara PDP and the Saraki political structure.
Reacting to his party’s win in the by-election, Oshiomhole said he was happy that Saraki suffered a “humiliating defeat” and that the Kwara people were “determined to dismantle” the senate president’s structure.
Commenting further on the possible hope of a dismantling of the Saraki political dynasty, Oshiomhole said, “I am sure Saraki would be politically retired by the good people of Kwara that he has mismanaged their economic and political rights over the years.”
The cost of heading into the 2019 elections as a disunited party and losing is not lost on all those involved, especially the three of Saraki, Ahmed and Ibrahim. To win is as much a test for Saraki and the political structure that he heads as it is for Governor Ahmed and Senator Ibrahim.
To guarantee their continued influence in the state and the PDP, the three politicians understand that they must ensure the PDP’s victory in all the elections next year and that the Saraki political structure remains long after the 2019 national elections may have been won and lost.
It is for this reason that Ahmed’s relinquishing of the ticket to Ibrahim is for the sake of equity as it is for continuity and political relevance.