Hon. Razak Atunwa. Getty Images

The battle for who succeeds Abdulfatah Ahmed, the governor of Kwara state, is one to pay close attention to following the brutal defeat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Presidential and National Assembly polls held on 23 February.

Although 35 parties are vying for the highest office in the north-central state, two of them are clearly the front runners – the aforementioned APC and the PDP.

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And with the fall of Nigeria’s Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who is a member of the country’s main opposition PDP, after decamping, with governor Ahmed, from the APC in 2018, a fierce battle for the soul of Kwara is expected.

Saraki, a former governor of the 52-year-old state, lost in the Kwara Central senatorial election to an APC candidate. This means he will not be a member of the 9th Senate.

The APC actually laid down the marker by defeating the PDP in all three senatorial districts in Kwara.

That’s a message to show that the APC means business.

To this end, the PDP candidate for the governorship election, Abdulrasak Atunwa, has his work cut out for him as he battles Abdulrahman Abdulrazak of the APC.

Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq

And while those two are battling for the office, there are some political gladiators pulling the strings behind them.

Three heavyweights readily come to mind here: the senate president; Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed; and Gbemisola Saraki, the senate president’s sister, who is challenging his brother. Interesting politics is really taking place in Kwara.

Bukola Saraki has been in the forefront of the state politics since he retired his father, Olusola Saraki, in politics in 2011.

“Bukola failed to understudy the values of Ilorin emirate and Kwara state. Money is everybody price, with new cars, he could make traditional leaders submissive and religious institution subservient to his authority. He called everybody by his first name and too tall to have his backbend for the grey head,” an aggrieved indigene of the state had said.

Many political watchers believe Saraki had fallen out of favour with his people. The revolutionary slogan ”O to ge”, meaning ”enough is enough”, used as anthem within and outside the state is a confirmation.

Gbemisola Sarak
Gbemi Saraki

Kwara Central has produced most of the governors of this state, and some of those that worked for the emergence of previous governors are now in the APC.

This area (Kwara Central) houses the home of Saraki and some PDP bigwigs in the state, including, the PDP candidate, Atunwa; the immediate past APC spokesman Bolaji Abdullahi; and the former minister for Town Planning Abubakar Sulaiman.

As for the APC, they have Ibrahim Oloriegbe, who is the APC senator-elect; the governorship candidate Abdulrahman, Gbemisola Saraki, Luqman Olayiwola Mustapha, an APC chieftain, Yahaya Seriki, the rep-elect for Asa/Ilorin West federal constituency Yekini Ajagusi, the local government of Atunwa, among others.

Kwara Governorship Battle: The Crown Contenders
Lai Mohammed (Image credit: Google)

The Kwara South district also influences the emergence of a governor. The incumbent governor, Ahmad, hails from this area.

Political gladiators in this area also include the senator representing Kwara South, Rafiu Ibrahim, the Oro-born Minister of Information and Culture Lai Muhammad, Makanjuola Ajadi and senator-elect Lola Ashiru, who defeated the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Rafiu Ibrahim, in the last election.

Kwara North can also influence the outcome of the election. This district produced a former governor of Kwara, Shaba Lafiaji. Lafiaji is the incumbent senator representing Kwara North. He lost to Umar Sadiq of the APC in the last National Assembly elections.