Kwara APC: Uncertainty mounts as crisis deepens

As the leadership crisis in Kwara State’s All Progressives Congress (APC) continues to fester, ‘Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor, reports that stakeholders’ concerns are mounting

Last week, news broke that the Caretaker and Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), had sacked Hon. Bashir Omo­laja Bolarinwa as chairman of the party in Kwara State and replaced him with his erstwhile deputy, Alhaji Samari Abdullahi, as the acting chairman of the caretaker committee of the party. Expectedly, the party was thrown into confusion as the two warring factions within the party intensified efforts to ensure that their interests are protected.

While the faction led by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq went about insisting that Bolarinwa’s sack remains as Samari prepared to mount the saddle, the faction loyal to Ministers Lai Mohammed and Gbemi Saraki not only vowed to resist the sack, it mobilised its men to storm the national secretariat of the APC in protest against Bolarinwa’s sack. Soon, both factions had their men in Abuja either to support or protest the development which pundits described as the climax of an almost two years of rivalry between the two camps.

Early this week, following days of verbal warfare between the two camps, the governor of Niger State, Abubakar Sani Bello, who represents North Central in Caretaker and Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee, announced that the issue will soon be resolved amicably. He spoke after a meeting held at the party’s Secretariat in Abuja. He explained that the Buni-led committee has directed that the zonal leadership of the party should resolve the matter. He promised to go about the resolution without fear or favour to either of the warring camps.

“We looked at the issue surrounding APC in Kwara State and we had brief submission from some of the stakeholders and it was resolved that the matter should be taken back to the zone for the zone to look at the issues. I’ll report back to the National Caretaker Committee. So, I hope that by next week we should be able to resolve the matter at the zonal level and once that is done we can put our recommendation to the National caretaker committee for further action,” he explained.

While it appears the national leadership may have ordered both parties to desist from taking any action regarding the APC chairmanship seat pending the resolution of the dispute, the gladiators remain unrelenting in their moves for and against Bolarinwa’s removal. Consequently, the party is enveloped by uncertainty. “We don’t know what is happening. What we hear is that both Bolarinwa and Samari have been told not to claim the chairmanship seat for now. But for how long will the party remain without clear leadership,” a party chieftain asked.

A reliable party source told The Nation that the much talked about reconciliation to be anchored by the zonal leadership may not yield much result. According to him, the Bolarinwa faction of the party in the state doesn’t have much faith in the Governor Bello-led zonal leadership. “Don’t forget that it is the same zonal leadership that allegedly recommended his removal to the CECPC. The story out there is that Governor AbdulRazaq actually used his closeness to the Niger State Governor to get Bolarinwa sacked.

“We went to Abuja with the hope that the CECPC will wade into the matter and ensure justice. But what did they do? They referred us back to the very person that facilitated the unjust sack in the first place. What manner of reconciliation are you expecting from such arrangement? Of a truth, the whole thing is just to buy some time,” he said. But Governor Bello, while promising to do justice in the matter, said, “Well for me we will try our best to see that we work out a way that will be acceptable to both parties if possible but then again whatever decision we take we will look at the party first.

“You have to take some steps to protect the party on some issues as a result of a conflict, and sometimes it is difficult to have a resolution that is acceptable to all but once you do it in the spirit of fairness without any bias, and you are sure you took the right decision, there is nothing to worry about. Our primary interest is to ensure the survival and strength of the party in Kwara State. At the zonal level, without having to look at anyone or anyone’s face, we hope that we are able to find a solution that is acceptable to all.”

Festering crisis

Meanwhile, the gladiators are not relenting as the crisis continues to fester. Already, groups and caucuses within the party, in clear contraventions of the directive that nothing capable of escalating the crisis should be done, have started lining up behind the two claimants to the chairmanship seat. Similarly, The Nation gathered that several factional meetings are being held to discuss the development and fashion out way forward. For now, the APC in Kwara State is static as the lack of a pronounced leadership affects its operations.

“At a time when all other chapters of the party nationwide are preparing to register new members and validate the membership of old ones, what is happening in Kwara APC is a total departure. The party is sharply divided and our leaders are singing discordant tunes. The current indications aren’t showing any sign that the crisis will soon be over, rather, what we see daily are signs that our party may be heading towards total disintegration if nothing is done to resolve this matter and reunite the gladiators, ‘Abdulrahman Raji told The Nation.

Already, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Salihu Yakubu-Danladi, led 21 other lawmakers to endorse the removal of Bashir Bolarinwa as state chairman of the APC. In a letter addressed to the National Chairman, Caretaker Committee of the APC and Yobe State governor, Alhaji Mai Buni, they argued that Bolarinwa’s removal would instill discipline and restore sanity to the party in the state and added that the appointment of Samari Abdullahi as acting chairman was in the right direction.

The letter read in part: “The bold step taken at suspending the ex-chairman over a plethora of misdeeds that had been allowed to linger unchecked will hopefully put an end to the embarrassment that we went through painfully. It has become imperative for us to write this letter to express our profound gratitude to you as the chairman and members of the caretaker committee for your proactive intervention on the simmering crisis on the Kwara State chapter of our party, APC.”

Also, seven members of the National Assembly from the state declared their support for the governor’s camp and urged members of the party to accept the decision on Bolarinwa in good faith. The lawmakers, in their letter, titled, ‘Re: Support of appointment of Alhaji Abdullahi Samari Abubakar,’ said the removal of Bolarinwa was a “proactive intervention on the simmering crisis in the Kwara State chapter of our party. The action you have taken on this lingering matter is also supporting our President’s vision of a robust political system that enables smooth and proactive service delivery to our people.”

Those who signed the letter are Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe (Kwara Central), Senator Lola Ashiru (Kwara South), Senator Umar Sadik (Kwara North), AbdulRaheem  Olatunji Olawuyi, Tijani Kolawole Ismail, Umar Bio and Abubakar Ahmed Ndaken. Speaking on the development, Senator Umar said contrary to insinuations in some quarters, Governor AbdulRazaq was not behind Bolarinwa’s removal. He said “No, I don’t think the governor is responsible. It is the party’s followers, citizens, elders, stakeholders. In fact, everyone in the state is worried that we have two leaders in a state. One is the governor who is the first citizen and is responsible for citizens in that state and our own party chairman who is equally a leader in that state,” he explained.

But Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, a party leader in the state, accused the governor of orchestrating the removal of Bolarinwa so as to hijack the party’s structures. “We have resolved to reject the verdict of the National Caretaker Committee on the purported removal of Hon. Bashir Omo­laja Bolarinwa. It is worth nothing more than the value of the paper on which the letter given to Hon. Sanmari Abdulahi is written. It certainly shall not work in Kwara State, no matter who is behind it. Though when we told the secretary that the decision could sink the party in the state, he said they really do not care.

“And he repeated during the conversation more than five times that he was acting under the instructions of the chairman, Buni. We shall prove to those that aborted the people’s rev­olution, foisting on our party the present situation since 2018, that Kwara is not an ap­pendage of any outside power conspiracy. They continue to compro­mise our noble cause with these unacceptable decisions and we shall henceforth prove to those that are not popular at home but rather rely on political manipulations from outside that the game is up,” he said.

Also, a group of Kwara LGA APC Caretaker Chairmen during the week, opposed the position of Governor AbdulRazaq and decried the appointment of Samari as the new state caretaker chairman. Spokesperson for the Caretaker Chairmen, Abubakar Kannike, said “We take this opportunity to state that we will never recognise anyone as state caretaker chairman of APC in Kwara State except Bolarinwa. We recognise Samari in the capacity of deputy caretaker chairman for which he was sworn into office by the same Bolarinwa.

“On this note, let us make it clear that the mandate given to us by the National Executive Council of the APC is clear. Thus, we will not tolerate any attempt to undermine or usurp our authorities anymore. The only body capable of effecting any change by the party’s constitution remains the party convention and as things stand, that body is yet to be constituted.”

Growing fears

As the crisis rages, concerns are mounting over what would become of the APC in the state if the situation persists. Senator Oyelola Ashiru, while urging warring chieftains to “shelve their swords” and allow peace to reign, bemoaned the potential damage the current festering crisis could do to the party, the government and its developmental agenda. He warned that when two elephants fight, it’s the grass that will bear the brunt, likening the party to the grass.

Ashiru said,“When the fight is prolonged, the party may lose cohesion, unity, strength which might result in the loss of the support of a significant proportion of the populace. This situation foretells a double electoral gain for the opposition. The fundamental things that we have achieved as progressives in the current political dispensation include being able to reinvent ourselves, institutionalising democracy and installing good governance.”

Similarly, party youths under the aegis of the Concerned APC Youth Stakeholders, said they may be forced to disrupt planned APC membership registration in the state. Speaking at a briefing held at the party secretariat, Abdulyaqub Ishowo, John Adegboye and Adam Abdullahi, representing Kwara Central, Kwara South and Kwara North respectively, said warring leaders of the party must think about the party and give peace a chance.

“We wish to report to you that we’ve found ourselves in a situation where the soul of our collective struggle” which was proudly christened “O TO GE” is being sacrificed. This is being done in the most Machiavellian manner, on the Altar of politics of interest and desire to undemocratically grab more power by a handful few, in the minute minority but seemingly powerful individuals than the overwhelming convention. This action is clearly in contradiction of the constitution of our party which places supreme powers on the NEC of our party and thus made the reversal of any of its decisions impossible except by the convention of our great party i.e Section 13 subsection 3.

“The section reads; “the decision of the National Executive Council is binding on all organs and all members of the party, except the National Convention.

“This is why we want to know where the Buni led national caretaker committee, his governor friends and others derived their powers to override the resolution of NEC; if not that they feel impunity is the way to go. We hereby want to emphasise that we’ll not allow any membership registration to hold in Kwara State unless the needful is done, which is the return of the duly sworn-in caretaker Chairman, Hon. Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa.”

Also, Chief Rex Olawoye, a chieftain of the party in the state, want the national leadership of the party to reconcile factions in the state. The former chairman of Ifelodun Council and immediate past state Publicity Secretary of APC, said the crisis within the party, if left unresolved, can affect the party’s fortunes in the 2023 general election. He urged the governor to recognise deserving members of the party. “The governor has sufficient arsenal in his armoury to put the party together in Kwara. I am not talking about money alone, but recognition for all the members of the party.

“I am seriously praying that we will not have a situation that will disunite the party in future. We laboured to put Governor AbdulRazak in power and we can’t afford to pull him down. That is where I stand. No matter the magnitude of the crisis, I still believe that it can be resolved amicably. I am of the view that only the national executive of the APC could resolve the cold war within the party in the state. We should note that the year 2023 is not too far from now,” the elderly politician stated.

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