BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF KWARA STATE by Simbo Olrunfemi.

Bukola Saraki.

Kwara is an enigma. She confounds with her amphibianism.  Ko se'ku, ko se'ye. She is like the bat. She is not amphibian but she is often confused for one. On account of the fact that bats are the only mammals capable of sustained flight.


Kwara almost confuses with her duality. She sits there - neither here nor there. Her tongue to the North, her teeth to the South. When it is convenient, she embraces the North. When you seem not to take her into consideration in the scheme of things, she reminds you some of her children are South in origin and orientation. 

She is there, seated on the fence, looking at the North, winking at the South. The evidence is there in the duality of the names, language, mannerism and other nuances of some of her children. You cannot easily place them on the strength of regular identity tools.

Kwara is the 'gateway' between the North and South. Is she North? Is she South? It is not only in the identity space that the duality is expressed. It transcends onto everything else. Especially the politics. She seems to have always yearned for 'progressivism' when her voice seems to have always resounded, whatever the strings might be, on the side of 'conservatism'.

Ilorin epitomises this struggle. She symbolises and 'reinforces the age-long Afonja-Alimi struggle. The battle for her soul is always there. The restlessness there  and in the state did not go away with the excision of a part of the State to go with Kogi, when that state was created.

The Offa-Olawoyin 'progressive' tendency has always been there. It did not die with Chief Olawoyin. The yearning has been consistent. They have worked so hard to take hold of power, remaining faithful to their tendency, preferring to 'suffer' on account of 'opposition' rather than go mainstream.

Of course, there was that Adebayo-Saraki stint in 1983. But it was only in 2015 that there was a coincidence of interests with the other side of town  on account of the pull by Candidate Buhari and his endorsement by the 'progressives' of the West, which resulted in a cleaner sweep .

Contrary to the impression often put out about Kwara being on lock-down for a godfather, the battle for the soul of Kwara has always been fierce. The Saraki (father-son) tendency might have almost always won, but not because there was no fight or they always had it easy.

In the 1979 elections, Chief Awolowo had as much as 37.4% of the votes as compared to 53.6% by President Shagari who was Dr Saraki's candidate. Of course, his candidate, Adamu Attah won the Governorship elections. The 1983 Elections was as close, with the UPN Candidate, Cornelius Adebayo, said to have been supported by Dr Saraki winning. He was a banned politician in 1993 but one would guess that his sympathy would have been with the NRC. But the SDP Candidate, MKO Abiola won in Kwara by as much as 77% of the votes cast.

In the 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections, Presidential candidates in opposition to those supported by the principality there , especially Muhammadu Buhari still managed to win, at the least, 25% of the votes. In the 2003 elections, Candidate Buhari had 29% of the votes cast. Of course, it was a rout in 2015. But the point I make is that the state is not as impregnable as often made to be. Not quite a lock-down as assumed.

The case in the Governorship battle is more complicated for the opposition. But the 'progressives' have been at it for a while. Alhaji Lai Mohammed left his job as Chief of Staff to Governor Tinubu to run in 2003 against the dominant forces to no success. Opposition forces rallied behind Theophillus Bamgboye in 2007 against an incumbent Bukola Saraki. It did not fly. Dele Belgore flew the ACN flag in 2011, still no show. But it would be wrong to assume, they all made no impact. They made dents here and there, given the peculiarities of the state and the geo-political cum religious sentiments, which those in power there know to play to.

When Saraki  defected to be a part of APC in 2014, Dele Belgore and others who had toiled in vain in the party left the party for him, crossing over to the PDP. There are some who cannot just bear to be in the same boat with the main man. Now that the man has made a return to the PDP, some of those there should be on their way out.

For 2019, there is a greater likelihood of opposition forces rallying together and doing better than they have ever done. For President Buhari, it is unlikely for him not to secure at least 25% of the votes to help him meet the requirement.

That the kingmaker there has his eyes on the Presidency seems an overstretch, to me. The duality that confers an advantage is also a drawback. Would the 'core' North accept him to occupy their own turn? Would the South accept him as one should it be the turn of the South, when the time comes? Will the South-West ever embrace him?

Again, that factor of amphibianism does not count in his favour.

He would even have to fight for the soul of Kwara, this time. Perhaps, more than he has ever done. 

Neither here nor there. For now.