In this write-up, SUCCESS NWOGU, takes a look at the fierce contest for the three senatorial seats in Kwara State
The contest for the three senatorial seats in Kwara State has been characterised by intrigue, suspense and surprise. The three senatorial districts are Kwara-Central, Kwara-North and Kwara-South.
A former Governor of Kwara State, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who presently represents Kwara-Central senatorial district, and another former governor of the state, Alhaji Shaaba Lafiagi, who currently represents Kwara-North senatorial district, are working assiduously to retain their seats at the upper legislative chamber. While Saraki is the leader of the All Progressives Congress in Kwara, Lafiagi is also a chieftain of the party.
The candidate of the APC for Kwara-South senatorial district, Dr. Rafiu Ibrahim, who currently represents Ifelodun/Ofa/Oyun federal constituency in the House of Representatives and the three senatorial candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party are contesting to occupy the senatorial seats for the first time. The PDP candidates are Mr. Lola Ashiru, who is eyeing the Kwara-South senatorial seat; Alhaji Yinusa Yahaya, who is contesting for Kwara-North while Alhaji Abdulrahaman Abdulrasaq is slugging it out against Saraki for Kwara-Central.
Ibrahim of the APC hopes to occupy the Kwara-South senatorial seat currently being enjoyed by Senator Simeon Ajibola, who is now the Kwara State PDP governorship candidate.
The contest for the Kwara-Central senatorial district appears to be the most dramatic with regard to Abdulrasaq of the PDP.
Abdulrasaq had during the PDP senatorial primary contested against Alhaji Yinka Aluko who is a former security adviser to Saraki as well as that of the current Governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed.
Aluko had polled 83 votes to defeat his closest rival, Abdulrasaq, in the keenly contested senatorial primary for Kwara-Central. The chairman of the PDP panel for the primary, Alhaji Mustapha Abdulwahab, after the primary, had declared Aluko as the PDP’s candidate for the Kwara-Central Senatorial election having scored the required number of votes.
According to him, Aluko polled 83 votes of the 172 total votes cast, while Abdulrasaq scored 81 votes and Bilikisu Gambari garnered 5 votes. Three votes cast according to Abdulwahab, were invalid.
However, Abdulrasaq became the PDP candidate for the Kwara-Central senatorial district after Aluko was chosen to be the running mate to Ajibola who is the PDP governorship flag bearer in the state.
Abdulrasaq who is a wealthy oil businessman, will consequently slug it out with Saraki who is regarded as the political leader of APC in Kwara State.
Observers of Kwara politics opine that it is not going to be an easy contest with Abdulrasaq against Saraki who appears to have mastered the political ropes in the state, having benefited from the political tutelage of his late father, Dr Olusola Saraki, fondly called ‘Oloye’ during his lifetime. Oloye had dominated the political landscape of the old Kwara which comprised the current Kwara and Kogi states and parts of Niger State. Oloye, because of his political sagacity, conquest and domination of Kwara for over 40 years, was a former Senate leader, who was widely regarded as the ‘Strong man of Kwara politics.’
Saraki later rivalled his father politically by enthroning Ahmed as his successor against Oloye’s desire that his daughter, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, should take over from Saraki after his eight years of as the Kwara State governor.
However, Saraki has maintained a mastery of Kwara politics and has held sway in the state. He has also been politically prominent nationally, having been a former Chairman of the then influential Nigerian Governors’ Forum and currently, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Ecology and Environment. Saraki, who then was in the PDP, had aspired alongside a former Vice-President, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, and others to be the PDP presidential candidate of the PDP for the 2011 election.
On his own part, Abdulrasaq had tested the political waters of Kwara, having contested against Ahmed in 2011 as the then Kwara State governorship candidate of the now defunct Congress for Progressive Change. He is a wealthy man who has the financial muscle and capacity to match Saraki money for money. Kwara residents say it may be a tough battle for him to upstage Saraki, who emerged the unopposed APC Kwara-Central senatorial candidate. Saraki, though a sole aspirant had won the senatorial primary for the Kwara-Central constituency with a total of 1,540 votes cast by delegates to the primary.
Another interesting senatorial contest is that of Kwara-South senatorial district where Ashiru, an architect and Ibrahim will trade political tackles.
Ashiru was a financier and a major pillar of the then Action Congress of Nigeria in Kwara State which later merged with CPC, All Nigerian Peoples Party and some members of the All Progressive Grand Alliance to become APC.
Ashiru was by then seen as a preferred Kwara State governorship candidate of the party until a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Dele Belgore, emerged as the ACN governorship candidate.
The aggrieved architect was said to have left the ACN and defected to the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria; a party that was said to have been formed and registered by Olusola. Ashiru later joined the PDP, following the directive of Olusola to members of the ACPN to join any party of their choice after ACPN’s Kwara State governorship candidate, Gbemisola, could not win the 2011 governorship election.
The wealthy architect has since been a political rallying point in the Offa Local Government Area of the state and had been seen as a very influential and charismatic politician who is blessed with money and is regarded as a grass roots politician.
He emerged the PDP Kwara-South senatorial district candidate in the primary held in Omu-Aran, after polling 132 votes to defeat other aspirants like Alhaji Yekeen Alabi who garnered 64 votes; Alhaji Bashir Oni who polled 16 votes and Sola Adedoyin who got 11 votes.
Ashiru will contest against Ibrahim who appears to have been compensated with the APC Kwara- South senatorial ticket because of his political loyalty to the Saraki dynasty and his perceived commitment to the welfare and empowerment of his constituents as a member of the lower chamber.
Ibrahim who was the sole contestant in the primary had polled 2,463 votes at the primary held in Omu-Aran, Irepodun Local Government Area of the state.
The banker-turned-politician had cut his political teeth as a member of the Kwara State House of Assembly and was later elected to represent Ifelodun/Offa/Oyun federal constituency. He has since then been a member of the Committees on Banking and Currency; Constituency Outreach; Finance; National Planning and Economic Development; Navy; Rules and Business and Rural Development.
In Kwara-North, Lafiagi will be contesting against Yahaya in the bid to retain his senatorial seat. Lafiagi has been a prominent politician in Kwara State since he was elected the governor of the state on the platform of the then Social Democratic Party in 1991.
He was, however, removed from office by the military administration of the then Head of State, General Sani Abacha, during a coup in November 1993.
Lafiagi was seen as Olusola’s protégé as the late ‘Strong man of Kwara Politics’ had helped him emerge as the governor in December 1991. But he later parted ways with Olusola when it became apparent to him that Oloye was backing Alhaji Mohammed Lawal of the All Nigeria Peoples Party for the Kwara governorship in 1999.
Lafiagi was, in April 2011, elected the senator representing Kwara-North. He was returned unopposed as the APC Kwara-North senatorial candidate for the forthcoming election in a gesture many Kwara political observers say is a compensation for his loyalty to Saraki, having remained with him when Saraki and other former members of PDP defected to the APC.
Yahaya, the PDP Kwara-North senatorial district candidate polled 108 votes during the PDP senatorial primary to defeat Manzuma Mammah who scored 101 votes.
He is a former Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Works as well as a two-term lawmaker for Edu/Patigi/Moro federal constituency between 1999 and 2007.
Yahaya said his chances of winning the Kwara-North senatorial seat are very bright, as according to him, his political structures that brought him to office in 1999 when the PDP was in the opposition had not been abandoned and still remained intact .
He also said that the PDP has better chances of electoral victory as the party now controls the Federal Government. He added that consequently, it would not be possible to use security agents against them.
Yahaya said, “If we could win an election when we were in the opposition party, and now that we hold the Federal Government position, and all political gladiators in the state are in the PDP, we are bound to win.”