For the minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, these are indeed trying times in the political career of the Kwara State politician.
After leading the process that saw APC at the helm of affairs in the state, the minister has found himself at a crossroads as a majority of his loyalists who fought the struggle with him on Saturday in Ilorin dumped the ruling party for the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
The event ended months of speculations of the group’s next line of action in the protracted leadership crisis rocking the party in the state.
But the development has sparked speculations and a cloud of uncertainty regarding the position of Lai in the party.
Although many of his key associates said the minister is not interested in contesting any seat come 2023, the situation however presents a dilemma for Lai.
Some of them yet to publicly announce their decisions, it was learnt, are only been careful because of their federal appointments facilitated by Lai.
Although former factional chairman of the APC, Bashiru Omolaja Bolarinwa, a long-time loyalist of the minister was conspicuously missing during the formal defection, top sources described his absence as “strategic”. The former Lagos lawmaker was recently inaugurated as the chairman of the Board of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) facilitated by Lai.
Another key loyalist of the minister who has ditched the APC is a member of Kwara State House of Assembly, Saheed Popoopla, who publicly announced his defection before his seat was declared vacant
Also, the former Kwara central senatorial chairman of the minister’s group, Alhaji Abdulraheem Yusuf Akorede and a member of the Governing Council, Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Ayoola Obisasan, have moved to SDP.
Although they were not in the same political camp with Lai, others in this category who have been with the minister from the inception of this struggle include governorship aspirants like Prof Shuaib Oba, Makama of Lafiagi, Alhaji Tajudeen Audu and son of late Kwara Governor, Akeem Lawal.
The list, it was gathered, also included party stalwarts like the chairman, Governing Council of the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, whose appointment was facilitated by Lai; Chief Sunday Oyebiyi and world-renowned neurosurgeon, Prof Olawale Suleiman, who resigned as SA Health Matters to the Governor among others.
While Lai did not respond to several calls and text message seeking his reaction to the development last night, his key allies confided in our reporter that their “boss” is in a tight corner.
“Lai is a serving minister and a committee member in the last APC national convention. He majorly bankrolled the activities of the breakaway group. But he has to be very careful. His supporters still in APC have argued that it will be difficult for him to have access to “federal might” if the SDP has issues in 2023”, one of them noted.
However, a member of the committee constituted to deliberate on the group defection to SDP said the minister did everything to pacify the defectors.
Speaking on the issue, the APC chairman, Prince Sunday Fagbemi, insisted that those who left were free to make their political choices adding, “We wish them well. I believe the minister is in the best position to speak on the development.”
Speaking on the issue, a political scientist at the University of Ilorin and the secretary of the National Political Science Association (NPSA), Dr Adebola Bakare, said losing the ministerial seat will be the beginning of his end politically. “That is his only opportunity to remain relevant.
“Buhari will sack Lai if he decamped to SDP. It is either the governor becomes magnanimous in victory by co-opting some members of Lai’s faction who will have to bow for the governor which they’re not willing to do, or remain in the party and be speechless”. Those decamping to SDP are a permutation against 2023.
“It can’t be discountenanced that Bola Tinubu is likely to decamp to SDP if the APC doesn’t give him the ticket. That is why some of his loyalists are already moving ahead to prepare the ground for him.
“On the other hand, if eventually, Tinubu secures the presidential ticket of APC after Lai joined SDP for instance, how will he explain that? For those who have already decamped to SDP, they will come back if Tinubu emerged as APC presidential candidate,” Adebola added.
For now, the secretariat of the minister’s faction along Flower Garden Road, Ilorin, which he personally commissioned, has been stripped of the APC flags for the SDP. The party that will eventually inherit the edifice will be clearer as events unfold.