The emergence of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed from Kwara South in the 2011 election has apparently calmed frayed nerves among agitators for zoning of the governorship position to the senatorial district.
The decision by former Governor Bukola Saraki to back Ahmed as his successor then has not only addressed the perceived injustice and marginalisation of the zone, but also pacified the aggrieved who believed then that it was the turn of their senatorial district to produce the next governor.
However, three and half years after and with all eyes on next year’s general elections, the agitation has again resurfaced from the three districts of Kwara Central, South and North with each zone laying claim to the position.
From the incumbent Governor Ahmed to those aspiring to take over from him, the agitation has been very vociferous. The loudest cry has emanated from the governor’s zone with stakeholders arguing that the district should be allowed to complete its eight years, arguing that Kwara Central had ruled the state consecutively for 12 years beginning from 1999 to 2011 during Bukola’s eight years and late Mohammed Lawal’s four-year tenure.
Those in the south senatorial district insist that in the spirit of justice and fair play, they should also be allowed to rule for eight years before the table is turned to another zone.
Though, the emergence of Governor Ahmed who is now a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was said to be hinged on an internal arrangement to spend one term, people have already been pleading with Saraki, the APC leader in the state who is believed to hold the ace as to who becomes the APC flag bearer, to field Ahmed for second time. Various bodies and unions have made a case for Ahmed’s second term even as the voice of his kinsmen in Kwara South has been louder even though the governor has not made a statement about whether or not he would be contesting for second term.
However, the agitation for a southern governor in next year’s election has gathered more steam in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) following the interests shown by multiple aspirants from the zone. As at last count, no fewer than seven aspirants have emerged from the zone with each of them banking on the sentiment that the south should be allowed to complete its eight years.
Among the aspirants from Kwara South are Senator Simeon Ajibola representing the senatorial district in the National Assembly and the only PDP federal lawmaker from the state; Presidential adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Mokanjuola Ajadi, an industrialist and chairman of LUBCON, Alhaji Jani Ibrahim, Chief John Dara, a delegate to the just concluded National Conference and former special assistant to ex-defence minister Gen. Theophilus Danjuma; Engr. Sunday Babalola, a petrochemical engineer and former commissioner for information, Mr. Ben Duntoye.
The Coalition of Youths in the state chapter of PDP, while endorsing Engr. Babalola as the preferred candidate for the party, urged the PDP to consider the choice of a Kwara southerner as a candidate, saying “The choice of Kwara South candidate for our party will go a long way to guarantee victory in 2015 in view of the yearnings, aspirations and desires of Kwara and indeed southerners and northerners in Kwara state”
The group made their position known at a press conference addressed by President of the coalition, Mr. Adedeji Adekunle and Secretary, Adegoroye Adeniyi.
But this calculation may not work out as thought as the Central and Northern senatorial districts are equally angling to take the shot, Kwara North also insists that in fairness to it, the zone deserves the slot this time around.
The northern part of the state only ruled for 10 months when Alhaji Mohammed Shaaba Lafiaji and current Senator representing the north senatorial district was governor. Since Nigeria returned to civil rule, the zone has not produced the governor.
“Now that the South has done one term, it is only fair and just to allow the North to also produce the governor. In any case, north is the most marginalised among the zones”, said a PDP aspirant from the North who pleaded not to be named.
Observers opine that the southern agitation in PDP may be further hindered by the fact that the current State’s PDP chairman, Chief Iyiola Oyedepo is from Kwara South senatorial district making it improbable to have the governorship candidate from the same zone with the chairman.
But the southern agitators in PDP seem not to be looking towards this direction even as Kwara Central, which usually determines the votes in the election is equally warming up to return to the seat of power.
Already, the likes of Mr. Dele Belgore, Senator Gbemisola Rukayyat Saraki, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, among others have indicated interest in the race. With the surfeit of interests and aspirations, analysts predict a tough primary in the PDP which if not carefully handled, could be its greatest undoing in the desire to recapture the state from the ruling APC.
Again, the question that has agitated the minds of keen watchers of events in the state is whether the governor would be given second term ticket in the APC notwithstanding the avalanche of endorsements from various quarters.
However, investigations show that the candidate to be nominated by APC would be largely dependent on the choice of its arch-rival, the opposition PDP, given the strong sentiment and agitation across the three senatorial districts of the state.
Speaking with our correspondent, Chief John Dara who recently declared his intention to run under the PDP dismissed the fear that the presence of multiple aspirants in the southern senatorial district would create discord within the party, saying it only shows that PDP is a viable platform for any aspirant to actualize his ambition.
He said, “I think it is good for PDP that we have many aspirants. It is to show that there are many people who see PDP as a viable platform. Actually, a good analysis of the situation of things in Kwara State shows that whoever becomes the flagbearer of PDP in Kwara State is surely going to win the general election.
“All we need to do is to ensure that we have good quality candidate that has no blemish because we have seen in some of the recent elections that when you have a candidate that has some blemish, the strength of the political party may be undermined by the quality of candidates. So all we need to do is to carefully look at the options and make a good selection in the primary and I believe that the choice for PDP is almost obvious”.
The presidential adviser on National Assembly matters assured that the party would conduct a free, fair and transparent primary that would be acceptable to all candidates, saying once the nomination process is credible, all the aspirants would support the chosen candidate.