Former Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters to former President Goodluck Jonathan and now a stalwart of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara State, Suleiman Makanjuola Ajadi spoke with Hammed Shittu in Ilorin on the ongoing crisis rocking the ruling APC in the state. Ajadi, who represented Kwara South in the 5th Senate, accused the Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed of being the mastermind of the Kwara APC crisis, among other submissions
What went wrong in Kwara APC after the 2019 election victory?
You see, I will categorically tell you that many things went wrong before the election; things went wrong during the campaigns and things went wrong after winning the election. What went wrong before during and after the election are still haunting the party up till now. Before the election, the primaries of the party were like begging people. Just before the primaries, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the former Senate President left the APC and the party became empty. Those remaining were few. The exit of Dr. Saraki created a big vacuum.
Some of the APC members left behind in the party after Saraki joined the PDP in the state did not have the capacity to win elections in Kwara State, so APC needed people to run the party. The process of bringing members created problems for the party because new members were coming in groups and not as individuals and that is why people are now saying that four tendencies formed the party in the state. Is that normal too? You joined the party as individuals and not as a group. Can’t you see something is wrong? Honestly, something was definitely wrong. Immediately after the influx of the groups into the APC, primaries were to hold then but there was no executive committee of the party, so they had to put together an adhoc management which produced Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa (BOB) as state caretaker chairman then, just a few weeks to the primary election.
Now, let me tell you, anyone can say anything to the contrary, this BOB was unilaterally imposed on the party as the state caretaker chairman of the party because there was nowhere we debated on who will be the chairman of the APC, there was no place and nobody knew how they arrived at BOB. I was there too, I was a participant, we went to Abuja, the former national chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole addressed us at the meeting with Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed seated beside Comrade Oshiomhole and he said ‘all of you should go back home,’ that is Kwara State, ‘go and bring people as caretaker executive members of the party but the position of the state chairman is already a forgone issue because it is BOB that will occupy the chairmanship position of the party.’ That was what Oshomhole told all of us without consulting any members or leaders of the party in Kwara.
There was no reaction that day because the primary elections of the party was already at the corner and they told us that we must make sure we have executive committee of the party that will conduct the primaries for the party and that after the primary election, the situation would be rectified.
Things still went wrong because the appointment of those Exco members was done at the house of BOB here in Ilorin near my house here in Basin area. Everything was done on his table and he put people he liked as members of the state executive committee of the party. I was not consulted, nobody was contacted, Exco members just imposed on the people just like that. You see, this was also wrong. Even after that, there was going to be primary elections, they did Ad-hoc registration of members and till today nobody has seen the result of the membership registration. Ask anybody to bring the ward register now. It is nowhere to be found. Primary election was conducted on that premise.
On that basis, we went with the primary election, some people are saying the incumbent governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq won the primary election while others say he didn’t win the primary election. It is a fact that nobody knew the numbers of the people on the party register. But by the result of the primary election that was produced by that arrangement, the governor won the primary election of the party. I know how he won in Ifelodun Local Government council. So why are some people now saying the governor did not win the last primary election of the party in the state? If I can accept Senator Lola Ashiru won the primary election, why are they saying now that Governor AbdulRazaq didn’t win the APC primary election now?
After the primaries, Governor AbdulRazaq wanted to launch his campaigns in Baruten Local Government Area of the state. Arrangements had been made, then, somebody called to inform me that the campaign had been cancelled. I asked why it was cancelled, they said BOB cancelled it and that he has the instruction of the Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed that proper consultation were not done and he said he had not been briefed. What is the business of the minister in cancelling the campaign? The launch that was supposed to be a funfair was cancelled because the minister said he was not aware.
I can tell you that the state chairman of the APC then, BOB didn’t go for most of the campaigns with the governorship candidate then. Can we say everything is alright? I attended the campaigns for over 90 per cent. I was in Baruten, Patigi, Edu and all over Ifeodun LGA. But Alhaji Lai Muhammed never attended the campaigns. Are we saying things are right? All these accounts are what happened before the elections. That is why I said that things went wrong before the election.
So, what happened after AbdulRahman won the governorship?
The first thing that happened was permutations on who will be what in the new government of Governor AbdulRazaq. Somebody wanted to make his son commissioner, somebody from Lagos wanted to be Chief of Staff and the issue started heating the political space of the state. These people wanted to bring their sons and kinsmen to be appointed from Lagos. The agitation now led to the current explosives in the APC in Kwara. Shortly before the governor Lai Mohammed was claiming to be the leader of the APC in the state but some of us objected to it because we saw the development as an abnormal situation in the party.
A scene played out in Abuja at a ceremony in honour of Lai Mohammed. BOB in his address referred to the Minister as our party leader and everyone could see that the governor was not happy by as a gentleman, he simply smiled. Few minutes later, he got up and left the event with the excuse that he wanted to see Gbemisola Saraki in Abuja.
This misgivings started and they started having divisions within the ruling APC itself and within the party Exco. The people believed Lai Mohammed is not the leader of the party in the state and people started flirting with the governor. The state Exco of the party was also divided into two. About 26 are in one side and 13 others elsewhere. The centre could not hold again. Everybody started looking for one issue to fight each other such as the issue of campaign funds, vehicles from both sides and this continued like that. At a party meeting at Kwara South senatorial zone (I didn’t attend) but the deputy governor attended and I was told how BOB was saying the governor didn’t do well, that he didn’t give out Ramadan gifts, rams for Sallah. BOB even sent words to the governor at a meeting in Essie town saying, ‘this is not acceptable, he must distribute rams henceforth, tell the governor he is slow.’ The party chairman was saying all these things and the deputy governor, who attended the meeting is still alive.
Is the governor really not carrying people along?
I don’t know the meaning of ‘not carrying people along’. Did they present any project to the governor and the governor just threw it away? I took projects before the governor not all but substantial parts of the projects I took to him were implemented. I took power project to him, I took water, roads projects to him and he did them for me and so I am satisfied. What is the basis of not carrying them along? If people are appointed as special advisers, commissioners, you still complain that the governor didn’t carry you along. How does he carry you along? Do you want him to empty treasury of the state for you?
People believe Lai Mohammed would have stemmed the tide of the crisis in Kwara APC if he had clarified that he isn’t the party leader at the Abuja event and recognised governor as the leader of the party. Apart from this, people believe that he brought the last state chairman, BOB to be the party chairman from Lagos. Can BOB come from Lagos and clinch APC chairmanship position in Kwara? He has no political clout in Kwara. BOB is a big and prominent politician in Lagos and not in Kwara. Does he know the political terrain in Kwara to just win like that? Lai Mohammed brought him and if you bring somebody, if you tell him to cool down, he will do it and if otherwise he will do it too. But does the state chairman, BOB have the dexterity to be doing what he is doing if he didn’t have the support of Lai Mohammed?
Are there no moves for peace in Kwara APC?
So many peace efforts were made. I was a member of some of them. There is one headed by one of the Ilorin emirate chiefs, Alhaji Musa Maiyaki. He was the chairman of that one where all the two parties were in attendance. You know I told you that the Exco of the party has been divided into two and they were brought together at Alhaji Maiyaki’s house. I was a member of that committee to resolve the crisis. Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo was supposed to be a member of that committee but he didn’t come to that meeting, If you were there when the state chairman was talking, you will know that it will be impossible for the issue to be resolved. I didn’t say anything, I just sat down and watched his comments and from that day, I knew the issue will not be resolved because if those that are fighting are not tired, then it will be very difficult to settle the crisis. I discovered that BOB is not ready for the peaceful resolution of the issue.
Those that won now should have magnanimity in victory. BOB and other APC leaders that didn’t win should accept defeat and work together with the new chairman, Alhaji Abdullahi Samari and the governor. If they don’t there is nothing anyone can do. If they continue with what they are doing now, it is not going to work. Pushing Samari out will not work; that BoB still laid claim to the position of the state chairman will not work. Everyone can see clearly that the national caretaker committee of APC in Abuja has already endorsed Samari as the state chairman of the party BOB is still claiming that he is the Chairman. BOB was not elected chairman. He was an appointed caretaker chairman and even in law, with my little elementary in law, what you don’t have, you can’t give. You can only give what you have at hand and you can take it back legally. BOB was appointed and not elected and they can take his appointment back at any time. That is what NEC of our party has done; now heaven will not fall and if you don’t accept, the whole world will not collapse. How will the whole world collapse? Was it the first time the chairman of a party will be removed in Nigeria politics? Was Oshiomhole not removed?
During the regime of former president Olusegun Obasanjo how many PDP chairmen were removed? Nothing happened and many others were also removed nothing happened. No local government fell talk less of the whole Nigeria.
Some say your governor is not performing?
The governor has delivered the dividends of democracy to the people of the state. The people of my town will tell you that he has delivered. Let me break the delivery of the dividends of democracy by the governor from senatorial by senatorial in the state. In Kwara Central senatorial district, go inside Ilorin Emirate, you will see many roads that have been tarred and rehabilitated by the governor, they are uncountable. In my area here, Basin, Ilorin, he did road Iinking my house called Taoheed Road. Before the road was a danger one. Go to Anuda Jimoh Road now it has witnessed a face lift. Before now, it was a ditch. The governor did the affected roads in the past one year now. Go to Tanke, Ilorin, when you enter through Fate Roundabout leading to the Tanke University of Ilorin Road, before, that road was not good. The governor has now tarred the road. If you are talking about Basin and Tanke areas now, the governor had done marvelously well. Go to township areas, the governor excelled. You will also see clinics/ health centres and schools. These were executed by the administration in the state. Only blind people will not see the work of the governor. The schools rehabilitated were also massively done.
In the Kwara North, most of their bad areas have been opened. During the campaigns for the House of Assembly by election in Patigi State constituency, I went there with the governor and I was happy by the quantum of work that done in Patigi alone and that spread to Kaima, Edu and Baruten axis. Schools, hospitals, roads were done by this administration.
Then to the Kwara South, my senatorial zone; for example my town, Babaloma, had benefited. Go to Share, they have not seen dividends of democracy there for ages. I didn’t say former governor Ahmed did not do anything in Share town but I know about what Governor AbdulRazaq did there. Many were provided with transformers for electricity supply, water supply, schools were turned into model schools within one and half years. Go to Igbaja, their waterworks are now working, go to Okeode, they are in blackout for more than two years now, light has been restored.
Go to Oroago, the most difficult road between Oroago and Oyate, the deputy governor area, almost 3km, it is now being tarred. Go to Osi, Opin and Offa. Roads in these towns have been tarred with asphalt .The governor has completed massive roads in Offa town and for which the royal father of the town and personalities in the town have lauded the governor. In Omuaran town, roads were tarred. I was at Oro town recently and went to Oro Grammar School, the principal of the school told me that about 33 out of 35 buildings were rehabilitated and completed by the governor.
Is the Governor a dictator as alleged?
It’s curious some people are labeling the governor as a dictator, yet they are working with him. You are a member of transition committee and chairman of Property Recovery Committee of the government and you said he did it alone. I worked in the Inauguration Committee; we were about 60 people in that committee. The Property Recovery Committee that the governor set up, he didn’t sit down and be doing it himself, he selected people to do the work. How do you now say that he is a dictator on that? He has permanent secretary, commissioners, special advisers, Chief of Staff, among others. Is he a dictator? Is he the one dictating? Is he the one doing all these works?
There are fears that the crisis may deprive the Kwara governor a 2nd term?
The governor will get the second term because the people that are saying that he can’t get second term are not God. How can you sit down and say that. You just sit down somewhere and say such thing. Some of them do not visit their home towns. How will the governor that delivered the dividends of democracy to his people not be voted for by his people? I visited Isanlu town recently and sat with the people in the town and the royal father of town who is also a first class traditional ruler in the state, said, ‘we are not politicians, we are Kwarans and see what the governor has done and we are going to vote for him again.’ You reward good with good. The governor has done very well for us even in my town and other senatorial districts of the state and people will come out to vote for him again.