By Dapo Akinrefon
KWARA State offers an interesting perspective on age-long reverence for patriarchal politics. Indeed, a storm is gathering in the political firmament of the state.
For a state, which to some, is regarded as city of lawyers, perhaps, the judiciary will be used to solve the on going logjam in the state.
Ilorin is a city in love with the wig and gown; its sons and daughters bestride Nigeria’s bench and bar. The city has families that have produced lawyers and judges. Indeed the first lawyer to be given the silk in the whole of Nigeria’s North is from this expanding city: Alhaji A.G.F. Abdulrazaq (SAN).
He too has at least two lawyers in his family. One of the most respected judicial officers in the history of the Court of Appeal, Justice Mustapha Akanbi, who used to head the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), is from Ilorin. He retired as President of the Court of Appeal. His son is also a lawyer.
The Belgore family has made notable contributions to the profession especially with Justice Alfa Belgore of the Supreme Court and Justice Babtunde Belgore, retired Chief Judge of the Federal High Court. Another judicial officer from the Belgore family is currently serving in the judiciary of The Gambia.
Ilorin’s Emir, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari is a retired Justice of the Court of Appeal. Justice Saidu Kawu, retired Justice of the Supreme Court and Alhaji Aliyu Alarape Salma (SAN) are from Ilorin.
But like a colossus, one man holds the ace as far as the state is concerned. For the man fondly called ‘Oloye’, Dr. Olusola Saraki’s grip, has shown little respect for zonal cleavages and religion as in some states.
However, Dr Saraki’s Central Senatorial District has always provided the leadership exclusively.
The clamour to get the North and South provide the governor is presently, one of the deciding factor in the choice of the next governor come April.
Saraki has again pitched his tent in the central zone backing his daughter, Gbemisola. But his son, Bukola, the sitting governor, sees it differently and is supporting Alhaji Abdulfatai Ahmed, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate.
With deep South-West sub-ethnic bias, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), is equally holding a good chunk of interests. Its candidate, Dr. Dele Belgore is also from the district. The battle is therefore, a three horse race – PDP, ACPN and ACN.
While the PDP which has ruled the state in the last eight years has the wherewithal to retain power, the ACN on the other hand is gearing up to wrest power from the former.
The PDP candidate, Ahmed, sees his ambition as an extension of the ‘legacies of Governor Bukola Saraki, whose extensive agricultural strides has endeared him to the citizens.
He declares that “I have been part of this administration for seven years as Commissioner for Finance. I was involved in the blueprint that resulted in the massive transformation of the state. So, I see my victory as a continuation of the legacy. Again, PDP is very popular in this state. It is well accepted by the people, and the president on his visit to the state recently was amazed at what he saw. He observed that truly, the state is PDP.”
The Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), which is largely seen as a breakaway rump of the PDP consisting mostly of die-hard followers of the older Saraki, is equally strong in the state. Its weakness, however, is mainly the lack of a strong national leadership to invest proper structure and status.
Observers have resorted to label it ‘a one state party’, owing to it not having a national outlook. But that notwithstanding, the party is riding high on the popularity and magic wand of ‘Baba Oloye’, who has come to be accepted and adored as the ultimate political machine of the state.
As things stand in the state, the 2011 elections will be taking another dimension from previous ones.
While the performance of the outgoing governor, and a seeming challenge to his hegemony from within, will come to fore, there is also the gender challenge.
The poser of whether the state, despite religious and socio-cultural interests, is ripe for a female executive governor and how far has he (Saraki) gone to prepare the minds of the voting populace for the change, or is he merely taking the people for a ride, remains questions seeking answers.
From all indications, the election in the state will be fought on a triangular basis – the PDP, ACPN, and ACN. And to reduce it further to the holy orders, it will be in the name of the father, the son, and the daughter.
But to many, there is the general perception that the ACN will have an edge over others.
Media Aide to Kwara ACN Gov Candidate, Mr Rafiu Ajakaye was quick to point out that the guber race is clearly between Belgore and others, measured against the reality on the ground. Political analysts would be mistaken to predict the outcome of the poll based on indices that shaped previous polls such as the somewhat over-bloated level of Saraki’s popularity among the people.
It has been argued that given the widespread sentiments against the Saraki, accentuated by the unprecedented level of uncoordinated protests among the youths and grumblings within the elite, Belgore would likely be a beneficiary of pent up anger over perceived arrogance of the Saraki political dynasty.
And to worsen the situation the unprecedented rise in political awareness among the people would make rigging almost impossible. The antecedence of the ACN in retrieving stolen mandate is also a serious deterrence for the ruling clique.
Ajakaye explained that “all of these come next to the impact and influence Belgore’s pedigree already have on the psyche of the populace. He comes from a resoundingly popular family with nothing to link with political negativism and much to draw massive votes.
The name Belgore is synonymous with sterling record in public service in Kwara State and in Nigeria as a whole. The name might well have entered into the Guinness Book of Record as the family with the highest number of jurists, a legacy that dated back to well over 200 years when the popular Alfa Belgore, Dele’s great grandfather, became the Alkali (grand jurist) in the colonial era on the altar of competence, commitment and superior knowledge.”
He said “Dele himself comes to the race armed with some of the best credentials needed in the 21st century politician, when meritocracy is urgently replacing mediocrity and favouritism. He is for now immune from any political baggage, some of which are found in his challengers. A senior advocate of Nigeria without any link to corrupt government bureaucracy, Belgore is respected for his urbane mien, thoroughness, intelligence and national prominence.”
But the only problem Belgore faces appears to be the shaky structure of the ACN in Kwara. But this may not count for much, when weighed against public sentiment which tends to spot him out as the only candidate that can make the difference.
He is seen as a new face in Kwara politics, but this seems to be a plus for him rather than being a burden in normal politicking. That may well be because of the anti-Saraki sentiments that are daily gaining ground in Ilorin and elsewhere.