OrderPaperToday – For the very first time in 15 years, a formidable opposition to the long reign of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki as the strong man of Kwara state politics seems to be coalescing. And as things stand, the Minister of Information, Culture and National Orientation, Mr. Lai Mohammed, is leading this coalition.

One of the main factor that has ensured the long reign of Saraki according to observers, has to do with lack of leadership to give direction to the opposition. Even when the late father of the Senate President, Olusola Saraki with his sister, Gbemisola Saraki, led a move to unseat the Saraki son in 2011, it was to no avail.

But can the dreaded federal might sway things in Mohammed’s favour? Can he galvanize political disenchantment with Saraki coupled with the ripples of power rotation in the state to pull the rug from under the feet of the suave Saraki?

The answer is in the womb of time. Shortly after the historic victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Saraki in the November 17th 2018 House of Representatives by-election, the winning camp got embroiled in a factional battle. That event however, sounded a warning signal to Saraki of an effective challenge to his hegemony in Kwara.

The APC in Kwara today is made up of the group that decamped from the PDP following the defection of the Senate President to the latter. Before the defection, a factional battle raged within between the former PDP Chairman, Iyiola Oyedepo and a bloc led by Prince Adeniran Fagbemi. This battle of supremacy within has been carried on to the APC, according to inside sources. This is as the APC chairman in the state, Bashir Bolarinwa, struggles to maintain a hold on the party and its gubernatorial candidate, Abdulrahman Rasak.

Although the Minister of Information who is the highest ranking government official is the leader of the party by virtue of his position, its worthy of note that Mohammed and Bolarinwa for a very long time, were Lagos-based politicians from the Bola Tinubu political machinery. While the former was Chief of Staff to Tinubu, the latter was chairman of Lagos Mainland local government area.

It is also worthy of note that Mr. Mohammed contested for the governorship position of Kwara State in 2003 against Saraki. He emerged 3rd in the contest and subsequently left the political arena for active role in Lagos and subsequently became spokesman for APC until he became minister.

His appointment as minister was protested in kwara in 2015 with some youths under the aegis of coalition groups of APC, presented a petition letter to the then state party chairman, Ishola Balogun Fulani at the party secretariat.

The petitioners among other things, claimed that “his Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) was registered and collected in Lagos and all his contributions for the emergence of APC at the federal level are through Lagos. He was not in Kwara all through the electioneering exercise and couldn’t influence our electoral successes at the poll. His son is presently a member of Lagos state House of Assembly.”

This background coupled with the factional battle in the APC should be a thing of concern to the minister. The APC cannot afford polarization especially after the realignment by Saraki to restore the PDP Kwara south Senatorial ticket to Sen. Rafiu Ibrahim from the current governor of the state, Abdulfatah Ahmed, who was initially crowned for the position. That move by Saraki was to appeal to the Ibollo division of the state, a significant electoral bloc.

While the two major gubernatorial candidates, Rasak Atunwa of the PDP and APC’s Abdulrahman Rasak will have to slog it out in Kwara Central, the APC will need to deliver the Southern district, which is home to Mohammed, the governor and the incumbent senator.

As it stands, Mohammed has a short time to put the APC in order to achieve a productive galvanization of the opposition to unseat Saraki in the general elections of February and March this year. 

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