Kwara 2023: ‘Maselo’ and Saraki’s comeback bid

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By Mosunmola Ayobami, Ilorin

Prior to 2019, Kwara State was synonymous with the Saraki political dynasty, which has its root in Dr. Olusola Saraki, the Senate Leader in the Second Republic and the strongman of Kwara politics. He called the shot in the state and every political office holder owed their allegiance to him.

The elder Saraki was the kingmaker until his death in 2012, when his son, Bukola, who governed the state for eight years, took over as the godfather of Kwara politics.

The junior Saraki installed Abdulfatah Ahmed as governor. He was in charge for eight years, but the 2019 governorship election was to prove pivotal for the political dynasty. That year, a surprise was in stock for the Sarakis. Their political opponents found a common enemy to fight. They felt the time was up to loosen the stronghold of the Sarakis on the state. The result was the ‘Otoge’ mantra. Otoge is a Yoruba word meaning ‘enough is enough’. It simply means the people have had enough of the Saraki political dynasty and time for change had come.

By the time the 2019 elections were concluded, the Sarakis had lost everything. Bukola, the scion of the family, could not return to the National Assembly, as he lost his Kwara Central Senatorial District. He was the Senate President from 2015 to 2019. While the All Progressives Congress (APC) cleared all the elective positions from gubernatorial, Senate, House of Representatives and state House of Assembly, Saraki’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which had ruled the state for 16 years lost everything.

Since then, the dynasty has been in the political wilderness, more so when the PDP also lost the election at the centre.

But, with the 2023 general elections around the corner, WesternPost takes a look at the possibility of the Sarakis staging a political resurrection.

The dynasty’s political machine has been well oiled ahead of the political battle. The PDP, according to findings by WesternPost is fielding the best and experienced candidates in all the elective posts to slug it out with their opponents.

For instance, the party is putting forward, Shuaibu Yaman Abdullahi as its governorship candidate against AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. Abdullahi and the incumbent were in the APC in 2019. He contested the governorship primary which he lost. He defected to PDP and is now the hope of the dynasty to stage a comeback.

For the Kwara Central Senatorial seat, PDP is fielding a former minister for youths and sports, Bolaji Abdullai against Saliu Mustapha of the APC, who beat the incumbent, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe during the primary.

In Kwara South, Lola Ashiru, the incumbent will be slugging it out with Rafiu Ibrahim. Ibrahim, an accomplished banker was a former senator from the senatorial district on the platform of PDP, who lost to Ashiru in 2019.

In the North Senatorial District, the battle is between Senator Umar Sadiq, the current occupier on the platform of the APC and Isa Bawa of the PDP.

The leaders of the opposition party are also fielding candidates with intimidating credentials for the House of Representatives and the state House of Assembly seats.

However, with their formidable candidates, the PDP may have to come up with a very strong reasons as to why it should be trusted with power so soon as investigation by our correspondent revealed that Kwarans may not be in a hurry to welcome them back.

In fact, the slogan in the mouth of the people is ‘Maselo’. Maselo in Yoruba means to continue. It is an attestation to the fact that the present government have been able to meet the yearnings of the people, even if not 100 percent.

Across the 16 local governments in the state, the popularity of the PDP, which has been on the downward spiral since the 2019 elections is not likely to abate soon. This is because of the massive acceptability of ‘Otoge’ among the people.

The projection and coloration of the 16 years of the party’s hold on power was labeled as ‘locus years’, which actually ignited the spirit of nationalism in the people. They craved for new leadership, got it and are not ready to let go just yet.

Additionally, some of the proponents of ‘Otoge’ were from the Saraki political family, who were fed up with the influence of a single family to decide who gets what in a state like Kwara.

Moreover, the government of Governor AbdulRazaq has performed creditably well in the last three and half years. No fewer than 143 road construction projects have been carried out across the three senatorial districts of the state. The governor has also endeared himself to the people with his simple lifestyle. He has also allowed democratic tenets and collective leadership to be the cornerstone of his administration.

His government has also introduced youth oriented programmes like Kwaraprenure, an empowerment programmes for the youths.

There is also “Owo Isowo”, a replica of the Federal Government’s “Trader Moni” for petty traders, “Owo Arugbo” was fashioned after the “Conditional Cash Transfer”, with a sizable number of Kwarans already benefited.

The AbdulRazaq administration is also the first to give women and the youths a sense of belonging in the state with over 56% of his political appointees being women and below 50 years of age.

The first tenure of the government ends in May 2023. However, from all indications and going by findings by WesternPost, Kwarans are willing to give the governor a second chance for continuity and to complete projects like General Tunde Idiagbon flyover situated at Tanke, Ilorin South Local Government Area, Information Communication Technology (ICT) innovation hub and Ilorin Visual Arts Centre. 

The administration’s milestone in education has also ensures stability and smooth running of academic activities in all state owned institutions. Public schools are being renovated through UBEC counterpart’s funds

The government has boosts the morale of teachers with timely promotion and payment of full salaries as and when due.

The health sector has not been left out as many primary healthcare facilities have been renovated where quality and affordable healthcare delivery are being enjoyed by the people.

A win by AbdulRazaq may confine the Saraki dynasty into the dustbin of history, more so, if the PDP fails to win the Presidency. Being out of power for too long means a political godfather stands to lose many of his followership to the ruling party.

But only time will tell whether Saraki and his still formidable political machinery will stage a comeback in a state that was once noted as his father’s farmstead.

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