BIODUN OYELEYE reports that, as Governor AbdulFattah Ahmed winds down his tenure in Kwara State, six of those seeking to succeed him in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are like him, also former aides of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Though the man that will eventually get the PDP ticket in Kwara State may be decided by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, some of his ‘boys’ are already battling to prove their mettle in the race that may put the party at crossroads. Among those who have indicated interested in the Ahmadu Bello Way Government House job, only Aliyu Bahago Ahman-Pategi has not served directly under Saraki.
Although the federal lawmaker will also not dissociate his political fortunes from being a member of the Saraki political structure. This much came to play when recently there were rumours that he had not defected to the PDP with Saraki. Ahman-Pategi, a third-term member of the House of Representatives, quickly denied the insinuation, affirming his loyalty to the system that brought him into power.
For the others, their emergence in the political landscape of Kwara State is directly linked with Saraki. Hon. Zakari Mohammed, who is serving his second term in the House of Representatives, joined the younger Saraki as head of publicity for his then governorship campaign in 2003 before becoming Special Assistant on Sports, then Commissioner for Energy and later member of the House of Representatives. Another aspirant, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, started his political career in the state as Special Assistant (Communication and Strategy), to Saraki, later Chairman Budget Monitoring and Implementation, then Special Adviser (Policy and Strategy) and later Commissioner for Education.
On his part, the current Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Dr. Ali Ahmad, started as Special Assistant on Legislative Duties to Saraki before he became Chief of Staff to the former governor from where he rose to become a member of the House of Representatives and later Speaker of the State Assembly.
Alhaji Ladi Hassan is another aspirant, who was Personal Assistant to Saraki when the latter was still Executive Vice Chairman of the defunct Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria (SGBN). He later became Special Assistant (Domestic), Special Assistant (Inter-governmental Affairs), Chief of Staff, and later Commissioner for Health and later Executive Chairman, State Universal Basic Education Board. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Alhaji Saka Issau, served under Saraki as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice and later became the Secretary to the State Government (SSG).
As at the time of filing this report, it was not yet clear whether another prospective aspirant, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, had obtained the nomination form although most of his close associates insisted in separate interviews that he would make a try for the ticket. If that happens, he will be the sixth former aide of Saraki to vie, having come to limelight first as Permanent Secretary under Saraki before he became the National Secretary of the PDP. Although all of them have the same ‘master’, they have different visions for the development of Kwara and in the last few weeks, have been on the field selling their candidacy to prospective delegates of their party. Each of them also believes he holds the ace in the race that may eventually be determined by Saraki and some select leaders of the political structure he controls.
For this reason, Ladi Hassan, who until he joined the race was Secretary, Social Development Secretariat of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) wants the choice to be guided by realities instead of technocracy. Along with his supporters, Hassan believes that his closeness with, and understanding of, the grassroot will make him succeed as governor. According to him, the government that is required at this period must be people-oriented and that instead of emphasising on technocracy the people should rather ensure that someone occupying a political office actually practices what he/she preaches.
By his vision, Hassan plans to banish poverty among his people and subsidise feeding and agriculture if voted into office. He is of the view that poverty retards socio-economic growth of any society, hence his plan to tackle prevailing poverty and hunger in the state with focus on agriculture to ensure food sufficiency and create employment.
His said: “I have the capacity to govern the state as the most competent among the governorship aspirants. I’m close to the people and I know the problems of Kwara State. I can say that with my pedigree, the state has a material in me to run its affairs. “My closeness with and understanding of the grassroots will make me succeed as a governor in Kwara because focus of my administration will be people.
I have come to realise that problem of Nigeria people is poverty and hunger. People are dying of hunger as the country has become poorest in the world. I promise to take Kwara out of poverty if voted into office, because I believe that infrastructural development without food will not augur well among the people.
So, I plan to improve on agriculture to boost food sufficiency and eradicate poverty”. The governorship hopeful said that his administration would assist micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the state with soft loans through micro finance institutions to improve their socioeconomic development. He also assured the people of the state that his administration would work with them to bring back sense of nationalism associated to people of the area, saying that he would provide good governance and leadership to the people of the state. On his part, Ali Ahmad, popularly called Ali Dodo, said if elected he would make people, the fulcrum of his administration with a promise to consolidate on the performances of past and present governors of the state, to make the state a cynosure of all eyes.
The Speaker believes that his track records as Attorney-General of the state, one of the most celebrated members of the National Assembly and Speaker of the state legislature, had equipped him to effectively govern the state, if given the opportunity to serve. He said that he would govern the state with the fear of God and he would create opportunities for all and sundry, adding that job and wealth creations for the teeming youths would be his major priority.
The Speaker added that the current legislature under his watch, recorded great feat, pointing out that his exposure, knowledge and wealth of experience had exposed him to the intricacies and dynamics of governance which, he said, would be of immense benefits in the task of running an efficient administration. For Bolaji Abdullahi, the former Sports Minister and former national spokesman for the All Progressives Congress (APC), the next government of Kwara must focus on addressing issues affecting the youth, as refusal to attend to their needs may spell doom for the society.
While describing his campaign and prospective governance as pro-youth, Abdullahi said he would work to tackle the challenges in the areas of quality, affordable education and health for the poor, in order to remove the horde of unemployed youths from the streets and ensure a better future for the state. He also promised to work on establishing credible marketing platform for farmers to ease the burden of selling off their produce under pressure.
He said: “This is a journey that started in 2003 when I joined the state government. In all those years, one thing that has become very clear is that Kwara State’s biggest asset is our youths. And so we need to ensure that our young don’t constitute problem for us in the state because right now, 54 percent of Kwarans are below the age of 0-19 years.
“We have to plan for them and that is my main agenda. I will focus mainly on youth development because if we don’t solve the problem of the youth, they will one day come and solve us, so to speak. Because they are in the majority, if we don’t solve their problem, one day they will wake up and descend on us.
“I interact with them regularly and I know what they want; these young people want decent education, they want to develop their skills, they want to have good jobs, to become useful citizens and not beggars. And unless we make their issue a priority, this state won’t survive. We may be spending money building roads and bridges but if we neglect them we are deceiving ourselves. I therefore understand that our greatest focus must be on education and health.”
In his manifesto which has been distributed to the public, the aspirant also summarised his goals as, Youth Empowerment: Empower youth for growth, competiveness and economic transformation, quality education: provide quality education, skills development and support lifelong learning, health and well-being: Ensure good health and improved well-being, .Enabling infrastructure:
Develop infrastructure for economic growth, and improved livelihood, Good governance: Promote good governance for transparency, efficiency and accountability. On his part, Ahman-Pategi said he would run an administration that would be people centred and making impact in all sectors.
“If I secure the mandate, I will put the people first”, he told supporters at the launch of his ambition, adding: “ My programmes will focus on agriculture and rural development, heath, education, employment, women and youth development as well as infrastructural maintenance and development. “To realise these core objectives, my administration will employ innovative and efficient protocols which will ensure effective delivery of services to the people.
The civil service will be well positioned to deliver on our mandate while committing to, and ensuring, even development throughout the state.” That is why he wants party leaders and delegates to focus on personal merits of aspirants and not a prospective zoning arrangement in the state in the forthcoming primaries. Ahman-Pategi, who represents Pategi/ Edu/Moro Federal Constituency, said while it is generally believed that the governorship ticket should go to the northern senatorial district where he hails from, there is a greater need to ensure that only a capable hand is elected by delegates to be the party’s standard bearer.
The politician said he was aware that the traditional rulers from the district have demanded that the area which is the only district that has not produced governor under the present dispensation should produce the next one. He, however, added while he welcomed the intervention and demand by the traditional rulers, he was more focused on a personal template of being God- fearing, an aspirant with intellectual capacity, and experience. On his part, Zakari Mohammed, who like Ahman-Pategi is also from the northern part of the state, promised to make agriculture, sports, rural development, education and health his top priority, if he gets the ticket and is elected. According to him, since Kwara is a melting pot of different cultures in Nigeria, he would ensure an aggressive development of agriculture so as to address unemployment in the state and also promised to replicate his achievements as former Special Assistant, Commissioner of Sports and Chairman of Kwara United on a larger scale. “Sports has three key areas it handles. These are employment, well being and revenue generation.
I want to make Kwara the sports destination of Nigeria,” he told newsmen in Abuja, adding: “I believe I have what it takes to be governor of Kwara State given my experience as former special assistant, former commissioner and a two-term lawmaker in the House of Representatives.” And while the opposition condemns the Saraki political structure, the aspirants have nothing but praises for their leader, expectedly. For instance, Abdullahi argued that to the contrary, the structure has empowered young people from poor background like himself who ordinarily would not have had a shot at public importance in their lifetime.
The former minister noted that but for Saraki’s involvement in his life; it would have been difficult for people like him to come to limelight. He said Saraki favoured many people with appointments and wondered why people in the opposition always say the state was under slavery.
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