Saturday comment1

Kwara is waiting to choose between continuity and change, writes Tajudeen Kareem

Shorn of intrigues and suspense, politics will be dull and drab. Take these two ingredients away, Nigerian politicians are like fish out of water.

Welcome to Kwara State where the political calculations are in a state of flux. The major gladiators are tentative, quite unsure of how and when to call the first shot. The people are edgy, expectant, yearning for action as a new year entered stealthily and the countdown to general elections began.

Shortly before Christmas a few misguided people in Ilorin metropolis had exhibited some acts of intolerance. First, they disrupted the yearly gathering of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union when they turned the arena to a campaign ground much to the discomfiture of the emir, the highly cerebral Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari.

After the show of shame, the miscreants proceeded, under the cover of night, to vandalize billboards of the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq. This act of intolerance has been widely condemned by all well-meaning Kwarans.

To be sure, the State of Harmony has enjoyed relative peace, even as the contest for political power promises to be very fierce. Those who have played the opposition and sidelined in the distribution of perks and opportunities are now restive and agitated. On the flip side, those who have monopolized power in the last 16 years are becoming desperate, confronted by the possibility of ‘power shift’ and the dismantling of a parasitic elite group that has held the state by the jugular since 2003.

For the ‘ruling elite’, the emergence of Abdulrazaq as APC candidate is a mixture of sweet and sour. A self-effacing politician of silent mien and solid background, this is one candidate the ruling PDP had derided as a weakling after his emergence from the gubernatorial primary election. Now the reality is emerging fast with uncontrollable furry.

The APC standard bearer has come from behind the mask with the stomach-rumbling slogan, o to ge! This is one innocuous message with punch, deep nuance and nerve-racking indictment of rapacious governance. Translated, it reads enough is enough! The people are asking: have we reached the cross roads?

Kwara is at a junction; waiting to choose between continuity and change. The electorate is waiting, the candidates are rolling their sleeves. What will they sell to Kwara’s 1.2 million voters? How will APC and PDP persuade the electorate when both are yet to unveil their manifestoes?

A swell of goodwill is waiting for the APC to tap. Its candidate, Abdulrazaq comes from a well-known family in Ilorin Emirate. The patriarch of the family is Alhaji Abdulganiyu Folorunsho Abdulrazaq- a well-respected community leader and first legal practitioner of northern Nigeria extraction.

He likes to describe himself as a hard working business man and a politician. “I did a lot of trading. I went into oil and gas trading with NNPC and started exporting petroleum products and crude oil. I was the first Nigerian to export petroleum products and crude oil,” he said in a recent interview.

Abdulrazaq prides himself as an “original” Ilorin man, who had is formative education in the city, attending the Demonstration School, in Magajin Geri, Ilorin. “Growing up in Ilorin in those days was easy. I remember growing up in Ile Karatu in Alanamu before we moved to SurulereI know the whole of Ilorin because I used to walk all over the place.

“From Pakata to Omoda to the old market and the Central Mosque we criss-crossed Ilorin on foot… we used to play football on the streets,” he said with pride and great nostalgia.

Despite his success in the business world, he disagrees that he was a silver spoon child.  “I don’t agree with that because we were not spoilt at home because we did everything the normal family did in those days. We did not live in the GRA, we lived in Ilorin metropolis. We attended the normal school everybody went to,” he elaborated.

He has identified poverty and youth unemployment as two evils plaguing Kwara owing to what he describes as a visionless dynasty. “We have a dynasty that has no sense of where Kwara should be going. Each one of us in our families in Kwara has become a local government onto himself because you have to provide healthcare, water and all other services for yourself and the extended family,” said Abdulrasaq. 

While many party stalwarts are worried on the seeming delay in getting the campaign to full throttle, the APC candidate believes in what he terms “collective leadership” in routing the opposition. “The way the APC is structured is such that every local government has a strong leader, therefore we are all putting hands together; it is a collective leadership,” he said.  

He also expressed optimism in winning the electorate to his side, especially with the resolve of many Kwarans to try a new leadership. “We are very optimistic about winning the next election. Everywhere we go today is O to ge, O to ge. O to ge. The crowd mobbed us, we can’t even do the door- to- door campaign because they won’t allow us; the people are excited, the people are tired of 16 years of inactivity, 16 years of waste, 16 years of a dynasty that has no idea. So, we are very confident we will win the next election,” Abdulrasaq said with gusto. 

Top on his agenda for Kwara after youth and women empowerment are agriculture and industrialization. “My vision is to see a state where we are no longer dependent on statutory allocations from Abuja, where we use our enterprise to generate enough funds to run the state, where we reduce unemployment, where our women have free maternal care, where our women are empowered to achieve what they want to do. Where students have a good environment to study and can pursue what they want with government assistance either through scholarship or free education,” he said.

What is your vision for Kwara, he was asked? A state of harmony where everybody is happy, he said. “We have lined up sincere programmes to uplift our peope… we are launching our manifesto next week, which will lay out our plans for Kwara and our plans to succeed because we do not intend to disappoint the people,” he intoned even as he prayed for divine guidance.