As rift between Lai Mohammed and AbdulRazaq lingers on
By Mosunmola Ayobami, Ilorin
With the 29 May swearing in ceremony of new administrations across the country just around the corner, there seems to be no letup in the face-off between the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. Indeed, the showdown between the two most prominent members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) seems to linger than expected.
Political observers had thought that the just concluded general elections would settle the rift but the duo still acts like cat and mouse.
Genesis of the rift: In the build up to the 2019 general elections, AbdulRazaq enjoyed the backing of the minister as the governorship candidate of APC.
All the tendencies within the party had coalesced with one resolve: to end the dominance of the Saraki dynasty and the long reign of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara politics.
It would be recalled that Bukola Saraki moved his political family to the APC prior to the 2015 general elections, on which platform Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed won reelection. But Saraki later dumped the party and moved back to the PDP before the 2019 elections.
In that year’s election, so much was at stake and the “O to ge” mantra was coined to flush out the dynasty.
However, as the election was fast approaching, imminent crisis was also looming. The first sign was the allegation that Lai Mohammed received N250million donation from the party’s big wigs which it was learnt, he disbursed without the knowledge of AbdulRazaq as the governorship candidate.
Part of the money was allegedly given to a member of the House of Representatives, representing Ekiti/Isin/Irepodun/Oke-Ero Federal Constituency, Tunji Olawuyi, who was elected via a bye election after the demise of late Funke Adedoyin in 2018. Adedoyin, before her death, had joined the train of those who defected from the APC to the PDP.
In Other words, Olawuyi’s election was used as a test run for the general elections of 2019.
Information on the N250million donation became public knowledge after AbdulRazaq had won the governorship race.
According to sources, the then newly elected governor was not happy with the issues surrounding the money. This led him to ask the minister for the whereabouts of the money.
The governor’s disposition towards the ‘missing’ N250million thus led to divisions in the party. The then state chapter chairman, Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa, Akogun Oyedepo and notable chieftains from Kwara south senatorial district teamed up with the minister against the governor’s camp.
The infighting became a source of worry to many Kwarans who felt that it was too early for a party that just uprooted a dynasty to start fighting.
Another issue that led to schism between the two former allies was the refusal by the minister to acknowledge AbdulRazaq as the leader of APC in the state. It is axiomatic that governors are the leaders of their party in their domain. But this was resisted by Lai Mohammed and his associates.
Appointment of cabinet also became an issue after the party’s victory. Although, the governor allegedly reached out to party elders for their input, Bolarinwa, as the chairman of the party didn’t generate any list. This was linked to the reason why the governor submitted his cabinet list late to the House of Assembly.
Even after a meeting was held at Government House, where the governor and Bolarinwa were present, the impasse could not be resolved.
Thereafter, the governor was forced to reach out to old friends in the various senatorial districts to nominate men and women of good virtues for appointment as he was already six months in office without commissioners. This, it was gathered, was what led to the various strange faces and names that made up the governor’s first term cabinet members.
It was actually thought that the last general elections would be an avenue for the parties to mend fences, more so, when the minister is on his way out of the federal cabinet after eight years.
The faceoff was tactically covered up during Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s campaign rally to the state. Although, Alhaji Mohammed was at metropolitan square, venue for the campaign, he did not campaign for the governor’s second term re-election as he was alleged to be supporting Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidates against his own party.
It was alleged however that after the presidential and National Assembly elections, with the SDP candidates losing woefully, he was forced to shift his allegiance to the governor.
With 29 May around the corner, when all political appointees in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari will become jobless one wonders what becomes the political future of the minister in the state.
For certain, the governor may not be predisposed to nominating him as a representative of the state in whatever capacity at the federal level unless there is concerted efforts to mend fences.
But the minister has always been one of the ‘poster boys’ of the incoming President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. In that sense, the endorsement of the governor may not necessarily be required before he gets another federal appointment.
Political observers in the state are hoping that the political juggernauts will shield their swords and find a meeting point to resolve their differences in the interest of their followers and the party.
As they say, 2027 is just four years away and the lesson of Osun State is there to learn from.