Atunwa Versus Abdulrahman: The Rising Star Versus the Dark Sheep

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Abdullahi Babako

This is a tale of two leaders, and it is one that has been told throughout history in many forms. It is a tale of hard work versus exploitation; merit versus nepotism; competence versus ineptitude, and experience pitted against cluelessness.

It is a tale of an achiever, placed side-by-side against a non-starter. It is an account of a people-centred leader, competing against a merciless businessman. It is also a story about choice and human nature. This is Kwara’s story as we head into the March 9, 2019 general elections. Please, permit me to tell you how it goes.

Born on 17th October 1969, Rt. Honourable Razak Atunwa, the candidate for Kwara State Governor on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), served as a Commissioner in five different Ministries between the years 2005 and 2011, following which, he became the Honourable Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly.

A United Kingdom-trained lawyer, Atunwa, who currently represents Asa/Ilorin West Federal Constituency, in the 8th National Assembly, also has a Masters of Law Degree in Public International Law, a distinction that earned him his appointment as the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice, where he has spearheaded several oversight initiatives.

Known fondly by the moniker, “Atunwa One”, throughout his life in the public service, the former Speaker has presented himself as an approachable, inspiring and empathetic leader, who always puts the needs of his constituents above his own.

On the other hand, Atunwa’s opponent, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdulrazaq Abdulrahman, champions his main selling-point as being a son of the first Northern lawyer in Nigeria, Alhaji A.G. F. Abdulrazaq (SAN). An alleged secondary school graduate — whose credentials are still the topic of controversy in the public arena — Abdulrahman came up by utilising the connections of his family to start a petroleum portfolio business that has been involved in several contentious dealings over the years.

Abdulrahman, who presents himself as an oil magnate to the public, acquired his wealth through First Fuels Ltd., a company that was largely stagnant after the 2011 fuel subsidy probes that exposed billions of dollars in corruption in Nigeria’s oil sector. However, after President Muhammadu Buhari came into power in 2015, Abdulrahman’s younger brother, Isiaka Abdulrazaq, became the Chief Financial Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). This development led to the resuscitation of First Fuels Ltd., which, alongside 49 other companies, participated in NNPC’s illegal awards of over $25billion in contracts without due process.

The gap in experience between both candidates is further expanded by the choices of their running-mates in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections. Knowing that the development of Kwara State requires competent hands at all levels, after consultations with party stakeholders, Atunwa chose Hon. Gbenga Makanjuola as his Deputy, while Abdulrahman chose his younger brother’s best friend, Mr. Kayode Alabi, as his own Deputy.

Known as a silent performer who gets things done, Hon. Makanjuola of the PDP, is a two-time Honourable Member representing Oke-Ero/Isin/Irepodun/Ekiti Federal Constituency of Kwara State in the National Assembly. Makanjuola, a lawyer, has also served as the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Senate President and as the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture in the Sixth National Assembly, where he pushed for the creation and establishment of a National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) — in order to guarantee the fundamental right to food of all citizens.

Alabi, who is Abdulrahman’s running mate, has been a close confidant of the Abdulrazaq family for many years, while also serving as the front-man of their fast-food chain, Drumstix. Alabi, a bosom friend of Isiaka Abdulrazaq, the younger brother of Abdulrahman, was selected as the prospective deputy governor, based on a promise by Isiaka to help fund his elder brother’s campaign with at least N5billion. According to credible reports from Kwara APC insiders, Alabi’s selection as running mate to Abdulrahman, created friction in the party, as it nullified the preferred candidates of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, for the deputy governorship seat.

While Atunwa functions on consensus in decision-making, taking into account the varying perspectives of all stakeholders in any process, Abdulrahman, has been called shrewd, unforgiving and vindictive. The whispers of his business-dealings with several notable Nigerians in the oil sector are the stuff of dark folktales, as he is believed to employ underhanded methods to collect bad debts.

As Kwarans decide the fate of their next leaders, the Starboy with the educational pedigree, political and governance experience, and legislative and executive credentials, is up against the dark sheep of a renowned family. Atunwa, the leader who has worked his way up the ladder through distinction, is up against Abdulrahman, the unread son of a scholarly family, who has strong-armed his way to the top of his party’s ticket using his money as a weapon, and his brother’s connections at the federal level as his shield.
The choice of who will lead Kwara, lies in the hands of Kwarans and the choices are as clear as night and day.

Who will it be? Like you, I wonder.
––Babako is a resident of Ilorin