Uneasy calm in Kwara APC

Even before the historic victory in last year’s general elections, the Kwara State All Progressives Congress (APC) has been enmeshed in internal crisis. Shortly after the elections, the party became polarised into two distinct factions. One of the factions was led by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, while the other was jointly led by Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed and Minister of State for Transport Minister Gbemisola Saraki.

Ever then, it has distabilised by one crisis or the other every passing day. Its executive members are also aligned with one faction or the other. For instance, the APC Chairman, Bashir Bolarinwa is believed to be loyal to the Mohammed/ Saraki faction, along with majority of the executive members, while his deputy, Abdullahi Samari is leading the pack of those aligned to the Abdulrazaq faction.

Curiously, the polarity became more evident following the recent dissolution of APC executives across the country by the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led National Caretaker Committee, with the Mohammed/Saraki faction accusing the Abdulrazaq faction of planning to install its lackeys as the Caretaker Committee chairman in the state.

The Mohammed/Saraki faction fired the first salvo. The faction accused Governor Abdulrazaq of plotting to prevent the swearing-in of the chairman of the dissolved executive, Bolarinwa, as the Caretaker Committee chairman. Spokesperson of the faction, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo said “information at our disposal is that Governor Abdulrazaq has gone to the national headquarters of the party in Abuja to urge the National Caretaker Committee to exempt Bolarinwa from being sworn-in on the grounds that the Kwara executive of 2018 that he leads was not a product of a congress”.

He added: “The weather-beaten claim of his (the governor’s) group is that the Kwara State executive under Bolarinwa is a Caretaker Committee, which is farther from the truth.

“The state executive committee of the party established in 2018 under Bolarinwa’s chairmanship was duly constituted by members of the party including the governor. The efficiency of our structure and high tolerance of party members accounted for the APC’s landslide victory in the general elections of 2019. We therefore urge authorities in the APC not to tamper with the smooth operations of a winning team.”

The group loyal to Governor Abdulrazaq, which is led by former member of the state House of Assembly Iliasu Ibrahim, has countered the above allegations. Ibrahim said: “For the record, until the recent dissolution of the APC executives at state, local government and ward levels, it is the position of the majority of party stakeholders in Kwara State that the Caretaker Committee led by Bolarinwa had overstayed its welcome and a new one was required in the interest of fairness and justice. The Caretaker Committee, constituted over two years ago in 2018, was a special purpose vehicle which had since outlived its purpose. It was therefore welcome and just when the NEC of our party dissolved it along with others across the state.

“We also observed that there are a couple of misrepresentations of facts in the statement of Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo. First, it should be noted that the sole reason the party opted out of delegates’ election for the primaries of 2019 general elections was because the party caretaker officials could not serve as valid delegates, hence the resort to direct primary election. It was that direct primary election, supervised by the Caretaker Committee that the Supreme Court upheld.

“The position of the Supreme Court was that the National Executive Committee had validly dissolved the state executive committee led by Balogun Fulani and that its (NEC) decision to appoint a Caretaker Committee was valid. At no time did the Supreme Court pronounce Bolarinwa as validly elected chairman. It is our contention that the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led National Caretaker Committee should not inaugurate Bolarinwa as that would mean that an interim person whose tenure has elapsed is again being handed the rein of the party, despite the controversy surrounding his headship of the chapter.

“Whereas other states had validly elected state executive committees, Kwara had none, and so it had and still has a special case. Nothing buttresses this point more than the APC’s communication of July 30, 2018 where it was clearly stated that the Caretaker Committee was an arrangement that came into place as a result of the developments in the state at the time. Our position, therefore, is that a caretaker committee cannot under whatever guise succeed another caretaker committee.”

A third group that prides itself as the Kwara APC Elders Caucus said it rejects “the deliberate dragging of the name of the governor, who is the leader of the party in the state, to please their sponsors in what is obvious”. The caucus, led by Rev. Bunmi Olusona said that “for the avoidance of any doubt, our great party’s NEC resolution to dissolve all executives and transform them to caretaker committees is automatically binding on substantive party executives produced by congress only”.

It said the Kwara APC executive committee was a caretaker committee and cannot be dissolved and sworn-in again as caretaker exco. It added: “We are also aware of all the various inglorious moves by those who are only loyal to their personal interest and ambition than the survival of the party. This crop of party supporters wants to take us back to the era of slavery that we all collectively rejected with our ‘Otoge’ campaign mantra.

“Don’t take us back to the era of dark ages; our collective desire as a people and party transcends anyone’s political and financial desire. We are by this position calling on the National Caretaker Committee to recognize that Kwara’s dissolved exco was a caretaker exco and this has on several occasions been complained about via representation of papers immediately after the elections because of the lopsided composition of the caretaker committee.

“We hereby call for a fresh constitution of the Kwara Caretaker Committee that will put in place through congress, a proper state party executive that will reflect true democracy and guarantee continuous support of the APC by Kwarans. The National Caretaker Committee should also appoint men of honour that will not contest as caretaker committee members for the state.”

In spite of all these contestations, the Buni-led National Caretaker Committee swore-in Bolarinwa on December 11 as the state caretaker committee chair. Governor Abdulrazaq, it was gathered, had penciled down his political associate and one-time chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) for the caretaker chairmanship.

Bolarinwa, in turn, came and inaugurated of the caretaker committee members for state, local and ward levels. All members of the dissolved executives, including those loyal to the governor (except one of them) were at the oath-taking ceremony at the APC secretariat.

Before the swearing-in ceremony, Bolarinwa insisted that the party’s 100 per cent victory at the 2019 polls was unprecedented and that it would remain a reference point in the history of elections in Nigeria. The APC caretaker committee chair conceded that all had not been well with the party even before its historic 2019 victory.

Bolarinwa said: “You will recall that at the onset, we had every reason to implode in Kwara APC, but we put our differences aside and won a historic election that will forever remain a reference point in the history of elections in Nigeria. This is the time to be forward looking, as we will soon approach another election. We cannot afford to do so as a divided house. We cannot afford to betray the trust reposed in us by Kwarans in 2019.

“With the dissolution of the party structures at all levels and eventual reconstitution and inauguration of states caretaker chairmen by the National Caretaker Chairman, we have lost our hitherto divisive personalities and put on a new garb of party men and women whose mantra is to promote party unity and cohesion.

“As we prepare for registration and revalidation of our membership, I urge us to be aggressive and dogged in our membership drive. In the same vein, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will commence voters’ registration in the new year; we must mobilise for full participation of our members, so that it can translate to another electoral victory.”

Culled from: The Nation

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