My visit to the State penultimate Friday corroborates assertion from those on ground that efforts by Mallam Saliu Mustapha in accelerating his lofty vision of a better Kwara have already produced some breakthroughs.
Was exhausted upon arriving the city of Ilorin from Abuja via road and needed stuffs to consume before heading to Elite Tranquil Hotel – venue of the inaugural American Atlas Journalism for Liberty Fellowship (JLF) where I would be inducted as a fellow, alongside award-winning independent journalist, Rakiya Muhammad and Kingsley Onwuka of BBC News Pidgin. At a time rumors fly viral than speed of light on blogosphere and social networking platforms, I decided to embark on “on the ground fact-check” concerning his philanthropic vuvuzela; much pronounced love of/for his people; and/or any possibility of APC Kwara Central Senatorial District candidate, Saliu Mustapha emerging victorious in the forthcoming 2023 general elections. Verification is the hallmark of journalism.
An eatery beside Roemich International School was where an acclaimed 400 level Agricultural Extension student of University of Ilorin whom I engaged, schooled me on the prospect of Mustapha clinching the seat. From the mother of a friend who he said received fund in boosting her provision business to a relative whom he revealed the same Saliu Mustapha Foundation assisted in footing Master’s degree scholarship to the United Kingdom early this year, Abass professed his own people in the Fate area are queuing behind Mustapha because a vote for him has been envisaged to amount into more benefits. Unbeknownst his newfound friend was a journalist there at the Emirate capital for a 2-Day programme had already kicked off, we exchanged contacts before my taxi driver navigates his way to GRA.
Going by recorded assistance rendered to various groups across his district, feelers are that broad spectrum of the Kwara Central voting demographic may be endeared to cast their votes. This proposition was arrived at when I visited the Post Office area upon rounding up my programme on Saturday 29th of October, 2022.
Sitting patiently for his return from where he went to get my new screen from, I swiftly utilize chance to engage the SIM registration guy and his customers beside my phone repairer’s stand, as the discussed Kwara politics. I listened with rapt attention as they mentioned Kwara’s political bigwigs such as incumbent governor Abdulrazaq, Oloriegbe, Ajadi, Shuaib Yaman, Gobir, to mention but few; including the scion of the Saraki family, Bukola, whom the O’toge 2019 crusade sent into near political oblivion. I noticed at the centre of argument of the only lady amidst them was analysis in favour of PDP and the party’s candidate for the State’s Central District, Bolaji Abdullahi. She argued that the former Minister of Sports, being an individual who had previously occupied public office is best fit. In the heat of civic debates, it is not difficult to comprehend voter’s stance, nowadays, given the degree of emotions exerted. Interestingly, the beauty of democracy is that it offers opportunity for diverse opinion, choice.
It was fascinating to see a neatly dressed man among them tuck his hand into his bag, brought out his voter’s card and assured he’s casting for all APC candidates on the ballot. With jibes thrown at each other’s sympathized parties and candidates, I marveled at how these ones freely tolerated each other. Case in point was the agreement between them that the rising expectations from the O’toge revolution returned as sheer disappointment, bore no sweet fruits, with only few of its champions enjoying the gain at the detriment of the toiling electorates.
Those failed promises, added with the current economic condition of the time, and then the ballooning poverty raging across the country, could be stimuli for the young man registering various networks’ SIM for his clients to conclude that he would rather vote for a philanthropist who is giving his resources back to the society. When asked who that was? he replied me in his tick, undisguised Ilorin accent that “Egbon mi, Turaki ni,” meaning “my senior, it’s Turaki,” referring to the APC candidate for Kwara Central, Saliu Mustapha, who currently occupy the seat as Turaki n’geri of Ilorin at the Emirate city. His choice may in part be influenced by the information available to him regarding the exploits of Saliu Mustapha Foundation over the years. Who knows?
It’s worth examining whether one’s people need to be empowered in ways they would self-reliant; or whether it would be better to sit idly and downplay ideas, initiatives that empower the masses. This question would best be answered by those who truly are adherent of their respective religions and what their Holy Book preaches about lifting others out of the shackles of penury from their God given resources. I left old Offa Garage in the Post Office area around past 6 Pm, thanked my emergency phone repairer for a job well done. Inside the cab, I kept ruminating my encounter with those who had just schooled me on Kwara politics on my way back to the hotel.
This was to be a non-facial encounter because I could not clearly see the driver from behind, for the night was beaming its nature into day. It was around past 5 Am when JLF Project Coordinator, Johnson Sanni ordered a Bolt to drop Onwuka of BBC News and I at our respective parks connecting Owerri and Abuja. Johnson, conscious of our safety that morning and decided to accompany us, was who initiated political chat with the driver, this time. While struggling to reply to logs of social media messages on my phone owing to business over the weekend, I overheard the Bolt driver clearly replying Sanni that incumbent Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq will win his reelection bid in 2023. He said his prediction was based on the fact that in the opposition PDP alone, about six aspirants had already defected to other political parties to clinch Gubernatorial ticket; forecasted that that single factor will be responsible for splitting the opposition parties votes. Our driver concluded it’s going to be a free-ride for AbdulRazaq.
I interjected to enquire about who likely may become the Kwara Central Senatorial District winner in 2023, he responded ”automatic ticket ni fun Saliu Mustapha APC,” literally meaning “it’s an automatic ticket for Saliu Mustapha of APC.” I’ve got no leverage to argue, particularly because those who are fully on ground enjoy the vintage to give direction. To borrow from the words of my inimitable, cerebral political science teacher, Nahzeem Mimiko: “All politics will continue to remain local.”
Adedayo Osho is an Abuja based journalist with widely published by articles on governance, public policy and governance. Twitter: @osho_comrade