Struggle between old and new order in Kwara 2015 elections
TWO issues are pending in Kwara state ahead of next month’s general elections. These are; whether President Goodluck Jonathan will amass the required 25 per cent of the total votes cast after the polls in the state and whether the opposition parties have the capability of snatching power from the ruling party in the governorship election.
Kwara, created about 48 years ago has been touted as one state that has refused to match its longevity with required socio, political and economic growth unlike some states created after it.
Some political analysts had in the past blamed the seeming snail speed pace of the envisaged development on the political style existing for many years in the state. In Kwara, the political structure is such that once an acceptable political leader emerges, he calls the shots, including making the choice of who runs for whatever political posts.
This was the situation during the political era of late Olusola Saraki who held sway for almost three decades including the years of military interventions in politics. Saraki, a political colossus, who could elevate any qualified man politically, was initially touted to be a multi billionaire until after his demise, when it became apparent that the man in his life time left behind only two houses, one in Lagos and the other one in Ilorin, his country home.
This post-humus revelations, till date; further endeared the man to his numerous political followers and perhaps, it could be the most striking factor in the choice of his biological son Bukola by his admirers as the new leader of the state’s politics.
But at present you have two groups of politicians in the state. Those who believe in the retention of the status quo ante and those radically opposed to it. Therefore, the incumbent Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of the All Progressives Congress (APC) backed by Saraki are on one side and members of the two major opposition parties in the state, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP) on the other side. There is a nexus between the state’s PDP and the LP in the sense that the two parties have adopted Jonathan as their presidential candidate.
But the area of sharp disparity remains the choice of the governorship candidate where Senator Suleiman Simeon Ajibola, from Kwara South Senatorial District is the governorship candidate of the PDP while a young philanthropist; Mike Omotosho is the flag bearer of the LP.
Having laid bare the present political chess board in Kwara, the pertinent question is that what are the chances of the opposition against Ahmed in the forth-coming elections?
Ajibola, a senator for three consecutive terms against all odds had emerged from the blue as the PDP candidate for the election having defeated in a keenly contested primary election, the likes of Senator Makanjuola Ajadi, an aide to President Jonathan, former Action Copngress of Nigeria’s governorship candidate in 2011, Dele Belgore (SAN) former Sports Minister Bio Ibrahim, Professor Shauib Oba AbdulRaheem Chairman Federal Character Commission, Senator Gbemisola Saraki and Deacon John Dara, an associate of former Defence Minister Theophilus Danjuma.
Even though his emergence had generated some ripples among his co -aspirants, as they were properly called then, a prompt reconciliatory meeting convened by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the PDP Chief Tony Anenih in Ilorin the state capital made them to pluck the proverbial Olive branch.
According to the Chairman of the PDP in the state Chief Iyiola Oyedepo, “we are one big family and we are happy going into election with this oneness of spirit.” In the same vain, during the inauguration of the Campaign Team of Ajibola, the Minister of National Planning Olanrewaju Suleiman had opined, “PDP is one in Kwara state. We must vote for President Jonathan and our governorship candidate, Senator Ajibola.”
Despite these assurances, some PDP supporters in the state believed till date that the campaign style of Ajibola does not allegedly portray him as “a true serious governorship candidate.”
Dispelling these insinuations, Oyedepo said the PDP poses a serious challenge to the seat of Ahmed adding that the campaign strategies could never have been the same. “We are serious with our campaigns led by no other person than Dara. We are working very hard on daily basis and we do these based on the available funds at our resources.
When The Guardian spoke with Ajibola on the issue of his alleged apathy to his campaigns in a taciturn way he said, “I have heard you.”
Meanwhile, one of the spokes persons of the Simeon Sule Ajibola Campaign Organization (SSACO) Tajudeen Kareem said its state-wide Local Government Areas (LGAs) campaign tour would resume this week after a brief break necessary to perfect its strategies and tidy up security arrangements.
Besides, the Director General Ajibola campaign team, of the campaign train of the state’s Dara said in Ilorin that in the past two weeks, local government and ward coordinators have been busy on the field “engaging in house-to-house consultation and taking the PDP message of freedom and prosperity to the grassroots.”
Deacon Dara also said that there is no iota of truth in the insinuation that some PDP members are aggrieved because, in line with the PDP flag bearer’s policy, the organization is running an all-inclusive campaign.
“We have deliberately taken care of all interests in our party and that is why all our former gubernatorial aspirants are fully involved in the composition of the campaign team. If you notice, we have an unusually large campaign organization. It is so to ensure that all major stakeholders and all interest groups are involved in the mobilization of our members in all parts of the state,” Deacon Dara explained.
Already, many political observers are thinking the way of Omotosho as a likely alternative. According to Abdulmumeen Onagun, a former Secretary of the state’s chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the LP candidate represents “an ideal choice for the type of governor that Kwara needs.”
Onagun added; “here is Omotosho a trained pharmacist, an industrialist per excellence, one who has no god father but has the true God as his father. He is young, vibrant and widely travelled. If you look at his manifestos, you will see that he is the right man for the job.”
At present, Omotosho has touched the lives of many Kwarans with his scholarship schemes at primary, junior and senior secondary levels. Besides, he has taken his free medical missions to over 50 communities across the state, just as he remains the only governorship candidate in the state with supports for youth development and supports for the aged and people with special needs. He has equally procured over one million cooking stoves for the needs of women across the three Senatorial districts of the state.
Gradually, many Kwarans are beginning to look the way of this Harvard trained professional believed to be passionate about his ambition without necessarily casting aspersions on his fellow governorship candidates or heaping the blames of the slow development of the state on anyone.
He told The Guardian that he would take the state to a sure path of greatness with a promise to spend a single term of one year at the saddle if voted to power.
On his plans for social security he said “I pledge to submit my monthly salary to this noble scheme that shall be implemented with the true sense of service to God and humanity.
Our social security scheme will directly affect three categories of people namely: the aged, the pensioners and the handicapped.
“The administration shall be committed to a monthly allowance to elderly above the age of 70. Kwara shall be the first state in Nigeria in the area of ensuring that those who served the people with the strength of their youth are not subjected to ridicule at old age.
Never in Kwara will any pensioner queue up before accessing what is rightly due to him or her.
We shall ensure prompt payment of pensions and gratuity in addition to other special welfare packages.
“It is my belief that being physically challenged in any way should not make anyone a second rated citizen. We shall ensure adequate protection and proper integration of vulnerable people.
“Before I made up my mind to be the Governor of Kwara state, I took my time to study the challenges on ground in order to ensure delivery so I can come out of government and still remain unblemished. We have put in place a long and short term plan on how to turn Kwara to a worthy 21st century state with a befitting state capital that rightly develops along with every part of the state.
“One of the major problems bedeviling the urban and the rural areas in Kwara state is lack of water supply. The specific solutions we are bringing shall end this within 38 months. Because of the premium we are placing on the development of agriculture, development of rural roads shall be a major focus of our government.
“We have divided our roads into four major categories that shall enhance equal and prioritized attention for even development and wealth creation.
We have also decided to employ the tool of rural infrastructure development to reduce urban migration and promotion of viable economic life in the rural areas.
“The housing deficit in Kwara may not be alarming but we should think ahead as a responsible government in order to secure the future. We have developed a modern scheme of low cost housing that covers all categories of citizenry. The first phase is what we tagged ‘Rent Your Home’. This is a scheme that allows government workers to own a house while payment is made instalmentally as though they are paying rent until full payment. The second phase has been designed to spread across major communities in the state through Public Private Partnership.
“Community development shall be run with the bottom – to – top approach whereby each community is allowed to choose their most desirable project per time and also participate fully in the implementation. This allows the people to own their development and truly be the government in the real sense.
“The tripod of our government is: Accountability and Transparency, Absolute Commitment to Service and Inclusive Governance. We shall promote accountability, transparency and probity by leading by example and strengthening institution for check and balances across board. We shall render financial and performance account every quarter without neglecting the transparent process of public declaration of all income monthly.
“Our bottom-to-top approach to governance is to ensure our responsiveness to the yearnings of the people. Your joy shall be our joy and your needs shall be our priority. Communities shall take ownership of development and the people shall yet rule again. When lives and properties are not secured, development is hampered. We shall make Kwara adequately secured for all in order to create the peaceful environment needed for rapid development and investment.”
Omotosho promised free qualitative education up to secondary school level as well as free specialised education for the physically challenged.
He added that there would be enhanced bursary and scholarship packages, specified skill acquisition in colleges development of technical education to drive micro and small scale manufacturing industries, direct job creation through back to basics initiative to guarantee 250,000 jobs yearly.
Embedded in his agricultural plan is a special loan scheme for farmers, promotion of mechanized farming, buy – back preservation scheme, visibility of extension workers for on-farm assessment, motorable farm roads etc.
For him, “Back to Basics initiative. This program shall accommodate over 250,000 youths with interest in agricultural business for wealth creation annually. The scheme is meant to run simultaneously across the state.
On health care policy he promised free health care for children from ages 0 to 11 and age 70 and above.
He added “we shall take health care to the people via Basic Health Centers at community level, Comprehensive Health Centers at the local government and a well equipped state hospital that is properly meeting the health needs of the citizenry. Our SURE BABY health scheme shall be domicile in all the comprehensive health centres for easy access.”
In Kwara today, the slogan is if the incumbent must leave, the one who must replace him must be the one with better lofty and more pragmatic approach to governance.
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