Nigeria 2023: Bukola Saraki hopes to retake Kwara State from APC

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Nigeria 2023: The battleground states

By Eniola Akinkuotu

Posted on Wednesday, 8 February 2023 15:49
Bukola Saraki at a political rally in Kwara State
Bukola Saraki at a political rally in Kwara State (photo: Twitter)

Can Bukola Saraki win back the Governor's seat for the family dynasty in Kwara State? Or will Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq hold on, banking on the strength of the ruling APC?

This is part 9 of a 9-part series

Kwara State in the north-central region has for generations been under the control of the Saraki family, often ruling by proxy. This all changed in 2019 after a campaign known as ‘o to ge’ (enough is enough) was launched against Senate President Bukola Saraki, the head of the Saraki family.

It was the coup that shook the middle belt. Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, Saraki’s aggrieved sister, Gbemisola and a business tycoon, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, joined forces in the APC to fight the Saraki-led PDP in the state. It led to the Saraki dynasty being out of power for the first time in many years.

Mohammed maintained his portfolio while Gbemisola was appointed as a junior minister. Abdulrazaq was the biggest beneficiary as he was elected governor.

Trouble in paradise

However, Abdulrazaq soon fell out with his allies who accused him of being overbearing and stingy.

This led to a division with the APC in the state and mass defections to the PDP, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP). Many people of Kwara were also said not to be happy with Abdulrazaq’s style in office and this has led to the new campaign ‘o su wa’ (we are tired) which is being funded by Bukola Saraki.

Also, the governor commenced the demolition of some properties belonging to the Saraki family and began investigating Bukola for corruption but many saw it as mere vendetta and this bought Saraki some sympathy.

Return to PDP unlikely

Saraki, who is part of Atiku’s campaign, has vowed to return Kwara into the PDP fold.

Ever the mobiliser, he attracts large crowds whenever he visits the state. He is also exploiting the division with the APC to foster his agenda.

“This 2023 election is a vote of no confidence in the APC-led government on the level of insecurity, excruciating poverty and ineptitude in every part of our socioeconomic life,” said Saraki, speaking in Illorin.

But Kwara, which is a Yoruba majority state will be expected to vote for presidential hopeful Bola Tinubu who is also Yoruba.

The Presidential rally that Tinubu organised recently witnessed a huge turnout which has also given the APC a confidence boost. Will the Saraki family be able to reclaim its lost dynasty?

Dr Muhammad from the University of Ilorin, Kwara, tells The Africa Report that the people of Kwara will likely vote for the APC in the Presidential election but may vote for a different party in the governorship poll.

He argues that the ‘o su wa’ movement is not really organic and those propagating it have not been able to say what they will do if they win.

“What we notice in Kwara is that there are some opposition parties like the SDP, the NNPP and others that are forming a coalition and hoping to do away with the PDP and the APC. So, Kwara will be a battleground state, especially for the governorship election but I think the APC will win the Presidential election,” the political scientist says.

Retired secret policeman, Ejiofor, said in an interview with The Africa Report that Kwara would need close monitoring as there could be possible electoral violence there due to the tight contest.

“Kwara will be another flashpoint because of the influence of Oloye Saraki who wants to come back and APC will want to resist him,” Ejiofor adds.

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