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The Genesis Of Kwara APC Crisis

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 The cold war in the Kwara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) dates back to the period before the last general elections. After he secured his victory at the polls, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq was expected to close ranks with those outside his camp, prior to the poll. But, as the governor consolidated its hold on power, reconciliation became more difficult. Correspondent ADEKUNLE JIMOH reports

 

Since the inauguration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government in Kwara State almost two years ago, the party has been enmeshed in wrangling and war of attrition. The crisis dates back to the period before 2019 general elections.

The transformation that took place within the party, prior to the election, was a matter of necessity. The party was an amalgam of politicians disenchanted with the political hegemony of the Saraki dynasty. The party gained instant acceptability amongst the elites and hoi polloi of the society and among the youths. In fact, but for the determination of the youth and the movement of the people to demystify the Saraki dynasty under the famous Otoge movement, the party would have been roundly trounced at the polls.

Rather than savour their victory at the polls, a war of supremacy began between Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and other stakeholders. The stakeholders are Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed, Minister of State for Transport, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, Prince Sunday Fagbemi and Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo.

All other stakeholders have constantly accused Prince Fagbemi’s group of having the eyes and ears of the governor. The governor’s camp has equally been railing at the other camps, specifically the Mohammed group, of wanting to remote control the governor.

As this cold war continued, both camps pretended as if all was well in the party but keen watchers of the state chapter knew that it was a matter of time for the crisis to manifest openly. December 2020 was the deadline for every state chapter to pick its caretaker committee members ahead of the party June 2021 national convention.

AbdulRazaq, buoyed by his supporters and loyalists, pushed for the chairmanship of Prince Fagbemi, his long-time political ally. But the proposal did not sail through. Eventually Bashir Bolarinwa who was the chairman when the Otoge movement dismantled the over 40 year’s political stranglehold of the Sarakis emerged victorious.

The APC crisis degenerated from bad to worse days to the commencement of the ongoing party membership revalidation and registration exercise. The governor had written a petition intimating the national working committee of his discomfort with the idea of Bolarinwa continuing to oversee the exercise as the caretaker chairman. Instead, he opted for Bolarinwa’s deputy, Alhaji Abdullahi Samari.

This is because Samari and some other members of the Bolarinwa’s executives have pitched their tent with the governor since the crisis began.

As the caretaker chairmanship crisis raged on, the national headquarters referred the matter to the zonal headquarters and Governor AbdulRazaq’s candidate was endorsed by Niger State Governor Sanni Bello.

To confirm this, materials and logistics for the exercise were handed over to Samari and the seven-man membership registration and revalidation committee led by Senator John Danboyi was received at the government.

Sensing that there was a problem at hand, the Danboyi committee convened a stakeholders meeting, perhaps to calm down frayed nerves. But, the meeting was truncated by mayhem, fisticuffs and throwing of chairs. In the process, no fewer than five members of Bolarinwa’s camp, including some executive members, were injured.

Speaking with our correspondent, Bolairnwa said all the injured party executives and members are receiving treatment in several hospitals in Ilorin metropolis.

He said: “I led members of the Kwara APC Caretaker Committee to the residences of some of our members who were assaulted by hoodlums at Kwara State Banquet Hall, the venue of the APC Stakeholders parley organised by the Danboyi-led APC membership registration/revalidation committee.

“Among those visited includes, Alhaji Dantala Yaro, the State Treasurer; Wahab Adeshina, a member of the board of Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA); Mallam Lai Karatu, a youth leader; Alhaja Sidi Gidado, biological mother to our State Women Leader; Salihu Elepo, Ilorin East Local Government Secretary.

“These are known and respected stakeholders of the party in Kwara State. They were at the event on the formal invitations of the Registration Committee. Unfortunately, all these did not prevent the attacks on them. I am happy that they were all upbeat and reacting to treatment.”

Some alleged loyalists of the Information Minister led by Bolarinwa were accused of being behind the pandemonium and the needless breaking into the venue of the party’s stakeholders meeting.

Sanmari said: “We are shocked at the level of barbarism on display. The violent entry by the Bolarinwa-led group was unwarranted and embarrassing. He was among the stakeholders invited to the meeting.

“Nobody could have prevented him from joining the meeting. His conduct left so much to be desired and we urge him and other leaders of the party to have deeper introspection as senior citizens. While party democracy is not without its challenges, introducing hooliganism to the mix is not acceptable.

“We, therefore, condemn in the strongest terms possible the show of shame by erstwhile party chairman and my brother Bashir Bolarinwa and a few others with him. His decision to disrupt the meeting that he was invited to as a leader of the party was unfortunate, in bad faith, and definitely contrary to the spirit of the meeting. Bolarinwa was willingly invited like others. Forcing himself through the door with the aid of some thugs is an affirmation of the threat by some youths who had threatened violence if they do not have their way is uncalled for. Violence helps no one. We can disagree to agree.

“As I said above, whatever that is happening is within what is accommodated in a democracy. This does not make us enemies to one another. We call for decorum and civility even if and when we do not agree on every issue as human beings. We sincerely apologise to the Senator Danboyi Committee, which witnessed the show of shame, and to the government, which had given us access to the State Banquet Hall. We reiterate that the party is bigger than all of us. We, therefore, appeal for peace and good conduct.

“As part of the activities to herald the membership registration and revalidation exercise, there was supposed to be a stakeholders’ meeting to discuss the modalities of how to go about the exercise in Kwara State. It is important to mention that this registration exercise is strictly coordinated by a seven-member committee appointed by the National caretaker committee from Abuja.”

As a result of this sordid development, some groups under the aegis of APC Integrity Group and APC Concerned Youth Stakeholders have called for the disbandment of the Danboyi-led committee.

Though the groups said this crisis and attacks on members of other camps order than the governor’s camp are aimed at cowering them. They insisted that they would not leave the party.

The integrity group who are predominantly elders and leaders of the party said that the ongoing crisis in the party will not dissuade their members from participating in the registration and revalidation exercise.

The group’s spokesperson, Umar Shabbat said that the group was out to prove that it enjoys majority support in the party among other stakeholders. He said: “What the governor’s team is out to achieve is to frustrate us. We will not be frustrated. But, we will not allow a dictatorship in the party. Someone cannot be dictating to us.”

Shabbat foreclosed any reconciliation with the governor, saying he (the governor) was not in any position to call them for any meeting after failed attempts to reconcile their differences. He added: “Even if invited to a meeting with the governor, who would have attended such a meeting? With what happened last Tuesday, it is not safe. It would be unreasonable for us to sit down with the governor again for any meeting.”

Accusing the membership registration committee of bias and unfairness, Shabbat who holds the traditional title of the Wakili Lafiagi said the committee members are unfit to do any meaningful party registration and revalidation in the state.

He said: “We, therefore, reject the committee in its entirety. But, we must put on record that Bashir Bolarinwa did not arrive at the venue of the failed stakeholders meeting in the company of thugs or cultists.”

Spokesperson of the youth, John Adegboyega called for an independent registration committee that would be fair and just to all interests. He said that is the only path to peace. He also noted that that “is our irreducible minimum demand”.

Adegboyea added: “The earlier things are straightened up, the better; not only for the progress of the party but for the peace of the state. Any attempt to go ahead with the registration exercise by the Danboyi-led team is an invitation to anarchy. Assuming our leaders are showing maturity at their level, it is doubtful if our members would be able to hold their cool at the grassroots when they face one another.”

In spite of the disagreement, the governor kicked off the membership registration and revalidation exercise at his Idi Igba ward, Ilorin West Local Government Area. He emphasised the need to expand base of the party in the state with the exercise.

The governor added that the exercise is important as the party is growing due to the achievements of the APC government in the state and elsewhere across the country. He added that there is need to register new members who voted for the party and are now convinced that it was time to join the fold.

He urged party members to bury whatever differences and views they have as the exercise commenced, telling them to participate actively in the exercise.

The governor is optimistic that the party would come out of the crisis stronger and more united.

He said: “There is no political party without opposing views or differences. It’s part of democracy. The important thing is to bury those views in the interest of our party and participate vigorously to extend the membership base of the party. It will be useful for us in the party’s national convention and we should, therefore, make it a success.

“The membership committee is an independent one. It has the latitude to include anyone in the executive and we wish members a happy stay in Kwara.

“It is a process of re-energising the party. Governors have been mandated to kickstart the revalidation/registration exercise in their respective states while the main exercise starts on Tuesday next week. It is to increase the base of the party. We are going out to ensure that every member registered. We should not say because somebody has a divergent view that he should not register. Everybody must be allowed to register.

“Leaders of other political parties are trying to come in. Governors are trying to come in. Members of national and states houses of assemblies are trying to come in. We are opening our doors and windows for everybody to come into our party so as to make the country progress.”

A party chieftain, Akogun Oyedepo said the governor cannot intimidate members. He said: “We will participate in the registration to show them that we are more than them. They are not on the ground. We are on the ground. When we get to the bridge we shall cross it.

A member of the state House of Assembly, Saheed Popoola said: “We will not leave the party for them. We are the original owners of the party. Where were they when we were in the trenches fighting for the emancipation of our people?”

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