The protracted leadership crisis rocking the Kwara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) took a new twist following calls for the removal of Senator Khairat Gwadabe, a sister to Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, from the Membership Registration Appeal Panel set up by the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Committee by some aggrieved founding members the party in the state.
The call for Khairat’s removal is coming on the heels of the fierce struggle for the control of the soul of the party in the state between the governor and some aggrieved leaders over the second term ticket for 2023 as the next electioneering campaign beckons.
- Malami: Prominent Nigerians financing terrorism will be prosecuted
NPA debacle: Hadiza Bala-Usman faces panel over N165.3bn ‘unremitted’ funds
The governor and some notable leaders in the party have been at loggerheads since the administration came into power in 2019 in the state over disagreement in his style of leadership.
But despite some spirited efforts to bring everybody on the same page, according to insiders in the party, the issue appears to have festered, with the latest imbroglio having the potential to consume the party in the race for the top seat come 2023 if the needful is not done by uniting all the forces that collectively defeated the last Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration in the state, led by former Senate President Bukola Saraki.
For many members of the aggrieved group, which has the support of top party leaders like the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and his counterpart for transport (state), Gbemisola Saraki, under the factional caretaker chairman, Hon Bashiru Omolaja Bolarinwa (BOB), Khairat’s inclusion in the membership of the committee was part of a grand plan by the governor to hijack the party machinery in the state in the build-up to the 2023 elections.
Some of the top leaders and party supporters in the state, who said they had been disenfranchised from the registration/revalidation process, pointed accusing fingers at the former senator, who they accused of working with the Senator John Danboi’s committee which headed the last exercise in the state to disenfranchise leaders and members believed to be against the governor.
Her membership status of the committee, they argued, was to finish the work she started in the state at the national level to remove any obstacle against the second term ticket of the governor and pave the way for his smooth emergence as the party’s candidate in the next gubernatorial election.
In one of the press releases that have since trailed the issue, a faction of the APC in the state believed to be loyal to the camp of Lai Mohammed and other aggrieved leaders, openly rejected the inclusion of Senator Gwadabe in the 61-member committee.
The group, known as Integrity Group, in a statement signed by Comrade Abdul-Rahoof Bello, declared the appointment as unacceptable.
According to the group, “Here was a governor’s sister who worked in tandem with the Danboi committee to commit all sorts of atrocities and impunities against the party’s interest in Kwara State.”
Their call was echoed by another group believed to be fronting for the minister, Concerned APC Youth Stakeholders, which petitioned the national secretariat of the party as run by the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) over the issue, alleging the over 600,000 of its members have been disenfranchised with the connivance of Senator Khairat.
But shortly after their positions were made known, the governor’s men and foot soldiers also went to town with their trumpet to drum support for the governor and his sister over the matter.
It was the publicity secretary of the party, Alhaji Folaranmi Aro, a staunch loyalist of the governor that fired the first salvo thus, “Those against the senator’s inclusion have no basis.’’
Under the aegis of the Reformist Progressive Forum, the group that supports the governor, in a rejoinder to the statement by the Integrity Group, noted that Senator Gwadabe’s rejection “by the group of political puppets in Kwara is baseless and unfounded. This is unreasonable, illogical and destructive criticism.’’
When contacted for comment, Saheed Popoola, a loyalist of the minister and lawmaker in the Kwara State House of Assembly from Offa, told Daily Trust Saturday that he was not in town. But a top member of the party and diehard supporter of the minister from Kwara Central said although Alhaji Lai Mohammed and few others registered despite condemnation of the exercise, the action was in demonstration and solidarity with prominent national leaders of the party like Chief Bisi Akande and Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who did but still faulted the process, calling for improvement.
But on the issue of how this might affect the party’s chances in 2023, the top party official said, “There is still a long way to go, and many considerations may be laid on the table before then. Our workings now are first to get the sham which the last exercise clearly was upturned and get the national leadership to approve the conduct of a fresh exercise in the state.
For Kunle Suleiman, a lawyer and pioneer chairman of the PDP in the state and an unrepentant apologist of the governor, what is happening is politics and the party will rise above it when the time comes. He, however, said their concern was how to deliver good governance, which the governor promised.
However, a member of the AA group and supporter of the governor in Ilorin west told Daily Trust Saturday that those aggrieved party members kicking against the inclusion of Senator Khairat were jesters. He added that the party had since moved on from that exercise.
“For God’s sake, those who are complaining don’t know what they are doing and saying. Khairat is a member of the APC and can be made a member of any committee based on her contributions and recognition in the party. She is entitled to it. If she is a sister to the governor, should that deny her right?
“In politics, and where you have factions, this type of thing happens. Somebody that is not given something always complains; and those complaining now belong to BOB and Lai’s group. They thought they could control the registration exercise and party politics but now realised that it has suddenly moved out of their hands. They are complaining because they lost in the party’s power game for now, “he added.
He, however, said the party would get its acts together in the remaining two years, adding, “We came to the APC in factions. These same people that are saying the governor will not get the ticket also said so during his first term and did not vote for him, yet he got it; and he will get it again. It is about strategy and getting your politics right. We are not afraid.
Also, the issue of the governor’s kind of politics has been at the centre of the present disagreement, with notable figures like Professor Abdulraheem Shuaib Oba and Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo describing him as a featherweight politician that could be easily discarded in 2023. In the view of some political watchers, what has played out in the way the governor has “dealt” with Lai’s group and how he handled the registration exercise only indicate how things could get complicated in the struggle to control the party ahead of 2023.