•We won’t favour anyone, says Bello
By Adedayo Akinwale
The National Caretaker Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has directed the North-central zone of the party to reconcile aggrieved party members from Kwara State.
Secretary of the committee, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, gave the directive yesterday during a reconciliation meeting in Abuja to de-escalate the crisis rocking the party in the state.
The meeting, which lasted for about an hour, had in attendance the major gladiators in the crisis, including the Kwara State Governor, Mr. Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq, and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, as well as Niger State Governor, Mr. Mohammed Bello.
Bello, who is also a member of the caretaker committee and the Chairman of North-central Governors’ Forum, has been tasked by the party leadership to broker peace since the state falls under his purview.
Abdulrazaq has been at loggerheads with Mohammed and the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, over the control of the party in the state.
The crisis, however, peaked last week when the three prominent party leaders split the party into two factions, with one faction backing the governor while the other faction is supporting Mohammed and Saraki.
The crisis in the state chapter of the party was aggravated by the removal of the state Chairman, Hon. Bashir Bolarinwa, by the caretaker committee of the party and his replacement by his deputy, Alhaji Samari Abdullahi.
The faction loyal to Mohammed and Saraki had alleged that Bolarinwa was removed based on the complaint of the governor who claimed he could no longer work with Bolarinwa.
The development led to a war of words between the two warring factions, causing disaffection among the members of the party in the state.
A group of APC leaders loyal to Mohammed and Saraki had protested the removal of Bolarinwa after a meeting in Abuja with Akpanudoedehe.
The group also kicked against the issuance of a letter of appointment to Abdullahi as the acting chairman of the party in the state.
The spokesperson of the group, Mr. Iyiola Oyedepo, had berated the action of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party and called on the NWC to reinstate Bolarinwa in order to reposition the party.
But in a swift reaction, the governor’s loyalists, which identified themselves as Concerned Kwara APC Elders/Stakeholders described Mohammed and Saraki as paperweight politicians with no electoral value and also declared support for the APC national caretaker committee on the removal of Bolarinwa.
The Chairman of Kwara APC Elders’ Forum, Mr. Kunle Suleiman, while fielding questions from journalists in Abuja had said: “Those ministers and association of failed governorship aspirants can come to Abuja to say nonsense but they are just paperweight politicians. They have no influence at the grassroots. Even a professor like Oba Abdulrasheed who prides himself as a former university vice-chancellor would still have to come to the grassroots to learn.”
At the end of the meeting yesterday, Mohammed, who appeared angry due to resolution at the meeting refused to grant an interview to the press.
But briefing journalists at the end of the meeting, Bello blamed the removal of Bolarinwa on communication gap, which he promised his committee would address.
He added that it was resolved that the zone should look at the issues and report back to the national caretaker committee.
“We looked at the issue surrounding APC in Kwara State and we had a brief submission from some of the stakeholders and it was resolved that the matter should be taken back to the zone.
“So, I hope that by next week, we should be able to resolve the matter at the zonal level and once that is done, we can put our recommendation to the national caretaker committee for further action.
“It was a very short brief meeting that lasted maybe 30 minutes, but I think we achieved a lot.
I can also say that the causes of this conflict are mostly due to communication gap, which I hope we were able to resolve. But whatever decision we will take, we will make sure that there is no bias and whatever decision we take we will make sure that it is in the interest of our great party the APC.
“We have no intention to favour any person, but to look critically at the situation and to advise the national caretaker committee on the necessary steps to take I think that is our audit,” he added.
The Niger governor said that his committee will work out a way that will be acceptable to both parties, if possible.
He, however, clarified that whatever decision the committee arrives at, protecting the interest of the party will be paramount.
Bello said: “Sometimes you have to take some steps to protect the party on some issues as a result of a conflict and sometimes it is difficult to have a resolution that is acceptable to all, but once you do it in the spirit of fairness without any bias and you are sure you took the right decision, there is nothing to worry about.
“Our primary interest is to ensure the survival and strength of the party in Kwara State without having to look at anyone or anyone’s face. I hope that we are able to find a solution that is acceptable to all and we, on our part at the zonal level, we will try our best to accommodate everyone so whatever it is you will see that there will be some fairness and justice.”