Kwara ministerial slots and ‘ghost’ of Saraki dynasty
When the names of two ministerial nominees from Kwara State were made public alongside those of other states of the federation, many people in the state were taken by surprise. The names of the immediate past minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and a stalwart of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state who is also a daughter of political scion in the state, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, were listed.
Many political pundits in the state which had mostly produced single ministerial nominee in the time past describe the choice of the two nominees as a reward to the people of the state, especially on the hard-won victory of the ruling party, both in the state and at the federal level, at the last general election. The party won the governorship seat, all 24 seats in the state House of Assembly, as well as all the seats in the National Assembly, while the president also got more than impressive votes to secure a second term victory in the 2019 elections.
In what some analysts describe as the defeat of the governor’s political camp in the struggle to clinch the ministerial slot, they say the two names announced by the president as nominees from the state were not part of names on the list submitted by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasak for the federal jobs.
Some of the names touted before the announcement included those of the former chairman of the Federal Character Commission, Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem; son of a former governor in the state, Alhaji Hakeem Lawal, an APC chieftain in the state and Chief Iyiola Oyedepo.
However, many supporters of the nominees from Kwara South and Kwara Central senatorial districts attest to the fact that both Lai Mohammed and Gbemisola Saraki contributed immensely to the success of the party in the state in the last elections.
Speaking on the choice of the nominees, the state chairman of the APC, Honourable Bashir Bolarinwa, described them as worthy of their nomination as ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He also expressed appreciation to President Buhari for giving the state two ministers.
Considering media attacks that had hitherto followed the planned return of the immediate past Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, by some members of the APC in some communities in the state, many had thought that his return to the federal cabinet might be a mission impossible.
Not quite few hours after the announcement was made, some people in the party in the state rose against the nomination of Senator Gbemisola Saraki. The party members, under the aegis of the Kwara Progressive Caucus, said the nomination and subsequent appointment of Senator Saraki as minister would indirectly restore the Saraki political dynasty and subsequently its influence on the state.
In a statement by the chairman and secretary of the group, Yusuf Mohammed and Buhari Aliyu respectively, the APC members said the supporters and followers of Senator Saraki were already in jubilation mood. The group further averred that if it had its way with President Buhari, “we would have preferred another person from the state to replace Senator Gbemisola Saraki”.
The APC members, however, commended the president for re-nominating Lai Mohammed as a minister-designate, even as it declared:
“We are very apprehensive of the fact that, as the saying goes, ‘blood is thicker than water’. Therefore, we are afraid that the appointment of Senator Gbemisola Saraki as a minister is likely to bring back political activities of the Saraki dynasty which impacted negatively on the lives of majority of the people of the state.
“We are now very worried and unhappy that the appointment of Senator Gbemisola Saraki as a minister would most likely provide an easy access and a platform, which shall be employed to bring back the Saraki era in Kwara State, as witnessed during the past 16 years of political control by the Saraki dynasty in which Senator Gbemisola Saraki was also an active participant.”
However, another APC group, the Kwara New Era Movement, threw its weight behind the nomination of the younger Saraki as a minister in the cabinet of President Buhari. The group took a swipe at those kicking against her nomination, claiming that they were acting the script of some elements that were allegedly hell-bent on creating disaffection in the ruling party.
At a media briefing held at the group’s secretariat in Ilorin during the week, its president, Tajudeen Abojumeji, said negative criticism that trailed the nomination of Saraki was unnecessary. He said the president did not commit any offence in picking Saraki for a ministerial slot, adding that it was well deserved, in view of her past records and antecedents.
Abojumeji described the nomination of Saraki and Lai Mohammed as an uncommon gesture in the history of the state and pledged the support of the group to the choice of Saraki.
He also said that it had been discovered that some elements allegedly sponsored by some forces were out to disparage the former female federal lawmaker.
The state chairman of the party, Honourable Bolarinwa, however immediately rose to douse the brewing tension, as he urged members to desist from any action capable of undermining the leadership of the party at any level by engaging in a needless protest. He said the ministerial slots given to Kwara was a rare gesture that members of the party and the people of the state should rejoice over.
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The Kwara APC chairman further said having congratulated the nominees and appreciating the president was clearly enough indication, “regarding our position to any true and well-meaning member.”
He was emphatic that the nominations was an opportunity to consolidate on gains. He therefore advised the APC members and the people of the state to remain united to move the state forward, with a view to providing the dividends of democracy for the people of the state.
However, and in spite of the assurances by the leadership of the party in the state, analysts are quick to describe the emerging political scenario in Kwara as the beginning of what is to expect in the APC in the nearest future.
While the leaders in the various camps within the party are keeping mute over the apparent internal schism in the APC hierarchy in the state, many observers are of the view that the political issues will bring the Kwara APC leaders out of their shells after inauguration of the ministers by President Buhari.
Kwara ministerial slots and ‘ghost’ of Saraki dynasty