By Ahmed ‘Lateef
Kwarans will on Saturday (March 9, 2019) file out to their various polling units across the 16 local government areas of the state to elect next Governor among contenders for the plum job, of which three of them are believed to wield major influence on the voting populace. In this piece, AHMED ‘LATEEF, takes a cursory look at the chances of the candidates and the parties they represent.
A journey to the direction of new Kwara would be determined in the next 72hours. It is the day the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) set aside for 29 States in the country to either continue with the drivers behind the wheels of the state affairs or pick brand new ones.
On this day, prospective voters are expected to assemble at their polling booths, get accredited, obtained ballot papers and performed their civic responsibilities in selecting who lead them for the rest of four years to come.
The coming election, which is the second in the two prongs of the general elections for this year would be keenly contested in some States, especially those identified as volatile if skirmishes that characterised the first round of the poll in those states were anything to go by.
States such as Lagos, Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa recorded pockets of violence allegedly unleashed by hired political thugs and the affected states had since been perceived as flash points, which called to question the readiness of the security agencies to nip it in the bud.
The nearly 52 year old Kwara is among the 29 States where the electoral umpire would deploy its personnel, sensitive and non-sensitive materials for the conduct of governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections. And a result of the impending polls, the electorate are upbeat and apparently ready to exercise their franchise as exhibited in the Presidential and National Assembly elections held February 23, 2019.
Like every other part of the country where the elections are likely to be keenly contested, Kwara is not an exception as political parties in the game are up the ante to convince and woo potential voters on the need to entrust each of them and their candidates with people’s mandate.
The outcome of the first leg of the general elections in which the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) fell to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) had compelled the former to return to the drawing board, restrategising and impressing it on the citizens to support continuity in governance, which it represents.
Another party in the gubernatorial race in the state is the Labour Party (LP), which threw its weight behind the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and asked its members to mobilise voters for him. Buhari was declared winner of the presidential poll after securing over 15million votes against his main challenger of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
However, sensing that the support it gave the presidential candidate of the APC might have been misconstrued to mean that it had withdrawn from the governorship election, the state labour party swiftly announced to the electorate that it was out of the race and even went as far as seeking partnership with any party that shares its ideals and manifesto ahead of the elections.
Three major contenders for the governorship seat in the state believed to have done their home work well include Razak Atunwa of the PDP, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of the APC and Issa Aremu of the LP. The trio have been crisscrossing, traversing the length and breadth of the state in garnering the needed support for their respective ambitions.
The duo of Atunwa and Abdulrazaq were initially seen as serious contenders in the electoral battle for Ahmadu Bello Way, Government House, Ilorin until Aremu emerged as “third force” moving round the Ilorin metropolis and other parts of the state, convincing the people on his ability to take over the mantle of leadership if elected.
Notwithstanding the setback it suffered in the first round of the general elections, the PDP was confident of its popular appeal from the masses and had taken steps to avert outright defeat in the second election holding on Saturday.
Top leaders of the party were said to have met at various times in Ilorin, reviewing the situation reports on what made the first leg to be declared in favour of the APC and currently making frantic efforts to explain its ideology and pacify the aggrieved people to embrace continuity.
During a live radio programme in Ilorin at the weekend, the governorship candidate of the PDP Atunwa was of the opinion that his party would have won in the first poll but for heavy deployment of military personnel on the streets.
He said the presence of armed military men instilled fear in the mind of the electorate and particularly lovers of the PDP, who would have trooped out and cast their ballots for his party.
Atunwa described the security deployment as an attempt to intimidate the people and should not be allowed in subsequent polls in order to ensure that the ballots reflect the true wishes of the people.
But the APC appears not to be swayed by its triumph over the PDP in the first election as leadership of the party were also locked in a series of meetings aimed at ensuring that it sustains the momentum.
To show that it has not been overwhelmed by the victory, the party welcomed into its fold defectors from the opposing camp, some of whom it could use to woo voters preparatory for the governorship and state Houses of Assembly polls.
For the state LP, the victory of the presidential candidate of the APC Muhammadu Buhari, who it supported, cannot be misinterpreted as if its governorship flag-bearer had been boxed to the corner.
Its gubernatorial candidate Aremu specifically informed that it would be wrong for anyone to think he was no longer interested in the covetous seat of the governor.
At a meeting with members and supporters at the Labour Party Secretariat in Ilorin, he exuded confidence when he declared to the admiration of his followers that he is the next governor of the state.
Aremu, who is Vice President, IndustriALL Global Union, said he decided to jostle for governorship seat due to the support of the people.
“Let me make it abundantly clear that I’m the next governor of Kwara State and I’m contesting this election. Some people mistook our support for President Buhari as stepping down. We are not going to do that because our people believed in us. And for this election, we are going to partner those who share our philosophy and agenda.
“We are running this election because of your support. I want to assure you that factories will be created across the 16 local government areas, for we can’t afford to turn our people to beggars.
“I want to also assure you that we are going to declare Kwara Day. I know that has not happened but we are doing that if our people could give us an opportunity to serve them. We will return public wealth to public people”, Aremu said.
Save for any surprise that may spring up in the Saturday’s governorship election, it would have been described as a race for three prominent indigenes of the state, for observers were of the thoughts that the trio of Atunwa, Abdulrazaq and Aremu possess all what is needed to preside over the North Central State in the next four years to come.
As the appointed day with the destiny closes in, the three contestants believed they have the wherewithal to earn them the job of number one citizen of the state, perhaps on accounts of their antecedents and background.
Razak Olatunde Atunwa is a lawyer and a politician that has garnered requisite experience in both executive and legislative arms of government. He served at different times as Commissioner in the state Ministry of Information, Works and Transport and Finance.
Atunwa, who is the immediate past Speaker of the State House of Assembly, is currently a member of the House of Representatives for Asa/Ilorin West Federal Constituency where he chairs the House Committee on Justice.
He emerged governorship candidate of the PDP in the primary held October last year and had been moving round the towns and villages, asking for support in the impending gubernatorial election.
Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq is a soft spoken politician, who had been contesting elections in the last few years under various political platforms. He is a son of a respected first lawyer in Northern region of the country, Alhaji Abdulganiyu Folorusho Abdulrazaq.
Well known as oil magnate in the goldmine industry, Abdulrazaq was announced as governorship candidate of the APC during a primary election of the party conducted last year in Ilorin.
His emergence had brought about alignment and realignment of forces in the forces, who braced up to trade tackles with the PDP. The APC candidate contested for gubernatorial seat in 2011 on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) as well as Kwara Central Senatorial poll in 2015 under the PDP.
Issa Obalowu Aremu is the governorship candidate of the LP, who was chosen at the primary poll held at the party’s Secretariat along Old Ajase-Ipo Road, Ilorin early September last year.
Aremu is the Vice President, IndustriALL Global Union and since his sojourn in the labour union, he has become a household name among the organised labour bodies.
The labour leader is the current General Secretary of Textile Workers Union and NEC member of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), who is imbued with the hope that it is his own turn to exemplify what good governance typifies.
For Kwarans, Saturday is an appointed day with the destiny and time will surely tell on who emerges next Governor.
‘Lateef writes from Ilorin