Council poll indicates new direction in Kwara politics
But for keeping to the tradition of sweeping victories for ruling parties, results of the recent Kwara State council poll, according to observations and allegations from opposition, would have been different from what was announced. The message of the election is however not lost on a “winning” party that is already making moves to address the situation.
Although the November 18 local council election held in Kwara State, as usual with such exercises conducted by ruling parties in states across Nigeria, gave a verdict of sweeping victory for the All Progressives Congress (APC), the conduct and underlying tones of the exercise showed a rejection of the status quo.
Indeed, the election conducted by the Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission (KWASIEC) indicated that the people might have commenced opposition to a dictatorship by a particular dynasty since the creation of the state 50 years ago. In the exercise, the people jettisoned the voting lethargy of the past and turned out in their large numbers to vote for the party of their choice even though the outcome of their efforts allegedly did not reflect the aspiration of majority of the voters.
It was one election in which the leadership of the APC underrated the determination of the voters to vote against their candidates, citing alleged bad governance and insensitivity to their plights. There were strong allegations of discrepancies in the results collated at some polling centres and the results declared by the Chairman of KWASIEC, Uthman Ajidagba, under a tight security.
According to a source, a particular party won over 70 percent of the poll at each of the centres but Ajidagba allegedly went ahead to declare those results in favour of the ruling APC, adding, “it is a norm because that is what is obtainable all over Nigeria. No opposition party can win council election in Nigeria under the present Electoral Act that places the conduct of that election in the hands of the state government.”
Announcing the results the second day, Ajidagba said the APC swept all the chairmanship seats in the entire 16 LGAs of the state and that the party won in 181 wards leaving only 8 seats for the leading opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He added that the elections were inconclusive in parts of the three councils of Ilorin West, Moro and Edu.
Because of the heat generated by the announcement of the results, which many sources confided in The Guardian, were “dictated by those who paid the piper,” spokesman of the state’s Police Command, Ajayi Okasanmi, issued a prompt statement warning “would be trouble makers to sheath their swords or be prepared to face the wrath of the law.”
The command later sent out its men to do random arrests of suspected members of opposition parties who might lead a protest over the results. Many of the arrested are still cooling off in some of the Police cells across the state as at the time of filing this report.It was disclosed by sources that many stalwarts of the APC in the state lost their polling units during the elections and many were allegedly booed by the voters.
The leader of the party in the state, Senate President Bukola Saraki was said to have convened an emergency meeting of party faithful at his Ileloke, Iloffa Road residence in Ilorin, few hours after the announcement of the results.
Conducting a post mortem of the exercise, Saraki was said to have expressed his displeasure with reports that supposed supporters openly booed some of his political foot soldiers. Attempts by Saraki to hear the immediate and the remote causes of the hostilities did not yield any fruit as many of his inner circle disciples kept mute apparently to avoid incurring more fury from the leader.
However, one Alhaji Oniwa was said to have belled the cat, telling Saraki some of the supposed reasons for the jeers.Speaking in an atmosphere of pin-drop silence, Oniwa allegedly listed some recent decisions of the ruling party that he described as “anti party activities” as responsible for the hostilities of the voters.
He was said to have cited increments in tuition fees of some of the state’s owned higher educational institutions and introduction of additional taxation considered as anti masses among others.
The Guardian source at the meeting said, “the mood of every member at the parley was bad. It was a bitter moment for us all. After the Moslem Rabana prayers that signaled the end of the meeting, the usual end of meeting banters could not hold. We all vanished from the venue almost immediately.”
Since his days as governor between 2004 and 2012, Saraki had made it compulsory for all political office holders in the state to embark on periodic empowerment programmes for members of their constituencies to provide succour for the less privileged ones. But it is not certain if the programme is being sustained under the present dispensation.
However, Publicity Secretary of the APC in Kwara, Alhaji Sulyman Buhari described claims of results’ manipulations as false saying, “it is a usual thing for politicians to cry foul after electoral defeats. As you are aware, there is no opposition in Kwara politics so what could have warranted alterations of elections’ results?
He also denied the “rumour” of any moody session at the meeting with Saraki noting that, “we merely gathered in the house of our leader to congratulate one another over the sweet victories.”In the same vein, Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, Alhaji Abdulwahab Oba cautioned the press against “making a mountain out of a mole hill over a council poll that was excellently conducted,” adding, “even if there were pockets of hitches at the beginning, they were later corrected. Despite that, there is no 100 per cent success in any election anywhere the world over.”
But sources told The Guardian in Ilorin that Saraki may replace some of his foot soldiers considered as disloyal and those who have lost touch with modern systems of Kwaran politics to regain people’s confidence in a political dynasty he inherited from his late father, Dr Olusola Saraki.
Besides, in the proposed replacement exercise by Saraki, some members of the cabinet in the government of Ahmed may have been penciled down for sack. Sources said the delay in the announcement of the much expected cabinet dissolution could not be divorced from the need for some of the members to firstly defray the car loans given them by the state government.
In his reaction to the election, Chairman of Kwara State PDP, Chief Iyiola Oyedepo said the exercise would remain a watershed in the history of the state.According to him, “even Maurice Iwu’s 2007 election adjudged by both national and international observers to be the worst in the history of this country takes a back seat on issues of unprecedented electoral frauds and manipulations as witnessed in the Kwara LGA election. Government obviously was not out to conduct elections but was rather out to manipulate the process.
“If after 14 years of absolute political hold on Kwara, this is all the APC Kwara can do, then this state ought to be pitied indeed. Special Advisers, Commissioners, House of Assembly members became ballot snatchers and ballot stuffers. Contestants, their sons, daughters, wards etc became election presiding officers.
“Traditional rulers became agents of ruling party in committing electoral offences to put in charge of our councils their usual worst materials.”The Kwaran experience in the conduct of the council poll may just be the microcosm of what will happen in many states of the federation, especially if the nation’s hard earned democracy is not truncated.
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