UMAR BAYO ABDULWAHAB examines the ‘upsets’ caused by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the just concluded council elections in Kwara state and its implications for the 2019 general elections.
For the first time in many years, the political atmospheres in Kwara state penultimate Saturday took a new dimension as the people trooped out to perform their civic responsibility in the just concluded local government elections in the state. The election was conducted in all the 16 councils of the state with a voting pattern that many watchers of unfolding political events in the state described as ‘‘wake- up from slumber”
Some analysts have argued that the voting pattern, which saw some popular chieftains of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) losing their wards, was a ‘‘protest votes against bad governance and choices of some female chairmanship candidates in the Ilorin emirate’’.
Perhaps, the last time the state witnessed the kind of charged atmosphere during election was in 2003 when the late former governor, Muhammed Lawal, and late Dr. Olusola Saraki, fondly called Oloyee slugged it out in an election that brought in the late Oloyee’s son, Dr Bukola Saraki, as governor of Kwara State. He spent his two tenures of 8 years as governor and he is now President of the Senate.
How it started
What eventually snowballed into ‘what some termed as ‘‘rejection, protest votes and sympathy votes’’ started like a mere advocacy on weekly Radio programme sponsored by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where they continued to speak about the ‘‘wrongs ’’ of the ruling APC government and political leaders elected under it platform.
As disorganized as the PDP appears to be, it sustained the radio advocacy through which it was able to win some sympathy votes in the just concluded council poll. Among the ideas sold to the electorates on the weekly radio phone- in programme included issues of backlog of unpaid salary areas being owned local government workers, those in parastatals, SUBEB, the deplorable state of infrastructures in the state and issues of high taxations, among others.
The large listeners, which the programme had gathered, forced the ruling APC to sponsor similar programme on the same radio, which comes up immediately after that of the PDP, where the APC chieftains who featured on radio struggle to debunk allegations and accusations made against the ruling party.
But the move seems not to have totally salvaged the situation as the ruling party for the first time lost eighth councillorship seats to the opposition.
How APC, PDP stand in November 18 LG poll
Apart from the fact the Kwara local government council polls held on Saturday November 18, 2017 witnessed a huge turnout of voters in most polling units, it was observed that youths constituted the largest chunk of voters and were to displace elderly women who hitherto had always dominated the atmosphere on election days. And the result of the youth vibrancy culminated in the opposition party winning 8 councillorship for the first time since the APC came into existence.
Although, the ruling APC won all the 16 chairmanship seats in a result declared by the Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission, (KWSIEC), it could not record a clean sweep which it had boasted of in the last 16 years in the 193 wards for the councillorship position.
This time around, the opposition PDP caused some upsets for the ruling political class and political office holders in the state as some of them including the senate president lost some polling units in their wards.
While Saraki won convincingly in his Opobiyi polling units, the PDP won two councillorships seats in Kwara central where Saraki represents at the Senate namely; Ogidi and Oloje wards both in Ilorin West local government which is Saraki’s local government.
The PDP for the first time also recorded similar feats in Ibagun ward and Zango ward in Ilorin-east local government where the APC Women leader, Hajia Sarat Adebayo, and a chieftain of the party, Alhaji Bibire Ajape, are from.
In Kwara south, the story was not different, the PDP also won councillorships seats in Oke-Ero. In Edu local government where a the house of a former senator was touched and three people killed, in a pre election eve crisis, the APC lost councillorship seat in Lafiagi ward 4 in Kwara making a total of 8 councillorship seats out of 193 won by the party.
The pros and cons
While analysts saw the feat recorded by the opposition in Saraki’s ward as a gradual loss of the leader’s grip of power others argued that it was protest votes against the choice of three female candidates presented by the APC in Ilorin- west, South and Asa local government, which formed the in Ilorin Emirate.
Proponents of this argument believe that the emergence of female candidates was a calculated attempt to pave way for the emergence of Senator Gbemisola Saraki’s ambition to become the first female governor, which the majority, including Saraki, had opposed to in 2011.
Since the demise of the godfather of Kwara politics and second republic Senate Leader, Dr Olusola Saraki, fondly called, ‘Oloyee’ five years ago, the senate president, who is revered as the leader of the party in the state, had assumed the role of kingmaker in Kwara politics even before the demise of his father when he was christen the ‘‘Emerging Tiger’’.
In 2011, the heir of the Saraki’s political dynasty had a rough fight with his sister Gbemisola Saraki who aspired to become the first female governor in Nigeria. While the late Oloyee backed his daughter to emerge as the first female governor in Nigeria, Bukola vehemently opposed her aspiration.
Not satisfied with her brother’s position, Gbemisola defected from the PDP to the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), under which she got the governorship ticket to contest the 2011 governorship election but lost to the incumbent governor of the state.
Prior to the declaration of the election results, many APC chieftains including Saraki, had expected a clean sweep. In fact, Saraki after casting his votes had expressed optimism about the APC emerging victorious.
‘‘As you know and as you always say, in Kwara State, there is only party that is on ground, we are confident that we will be victorious at the end of the day. We are the only one that came out and carried our campaign, so we are confident that the APC will win all the positions here’’, he said in a chat with journalists.
Consoling those who lost out in the contest, Saraki urged them to go back and re-plan and try in the next election. ‘‘It is a process, those who are not lucky to win this time should go back and re-plan and try at the next election.
“Most importantly, it is a peaceful environment and we must maintain peace at all times and shun violence. My warning to everybody is that this is a democratic process and we should all exercise our rights’’, he said.
As the 2019 general elections gradually draws nearer, the PDP had said it would use the just conclude council polls as a test case to correct what it needed to do to put the party in proper shape ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Former governor of Nigeria State, Dr. Babagida Aliyu, who was in Ilorin to supervise the conduct of the PDP local government congresses, said members of the party have demonstrated ‘‘vibrancy of democracy’’ during their recent congress.
‘‘The PDP in Kwara is still very popular, still organized and people are interested and that is what we have seen and this is taking place all over’’, he said
When asked about the chances of the party in winning the just concluded council polls in the state, Aliyu said ‘’some might be picked, the preparation might not be for a total takeover but we are going to use the local government election as test case to see what we need to correct’’.
But whether the ruling APC and opposition PDP will sustain the level of successes recorded during the just concluded council poll or they would consolidate on their achievements will be determined by many factors.