By Soliu Ismaila

Now, the elections are just weeks away. The atmosphere is surprisingly calm, no doubt, everyone needs to retreat, re-evaluate and launch once more on what will be the final battles at the poll. The fight for Nigeria, Kwara State and Kwara Central remains alive and a hot race by all political parties. For those of us who are privileged to have traveled across board in 2022 and engage in every day discussions that concern governance and politics, we remain fearful of what tomorrow holds for our dear country.

There is hardly any day that I am not privileged to read high volumes of Newspapers, from Punch, The Nation, Guardian, Daily Trust, Tribune, Vanguard, Telegraph, This Day, Leadership and even not very popular Newspapers like Blueprint. Therefore, I am perhaps among the few Kwarans with such dedication and keen interest in discussions that shape us as a nation and as people.

From Ajaokuta steel issue, subsidy, inflation, insecurity, G-5 Governor, flying endorsements of candidates, political parties internal crisis, Buhari’s assurance of free and fair elections, INEC’s reassurance that BVAS and technology will play key role in the electioneering process. Also, the everyday discussion on restructuring, CBN policies, telecommunications and important discussions on data industry and privacy security, among others.

Unfortunately, the most dominating talk of 2022 also featured education funding in the country. I believe there is general consensus that the Federal Government alone cannot fund education, even if they expend the entire capital expenditure. There is need for science-to-business model, capital ventures, endowment and rejuvenation of Alumni network and body of tertiary institutions. Additionally, according to Punch Newspaper, varsities, poly dismissed and suspended 25 profs and others on cases bordering sexual harassment and sex for grades. This is despite legislation of the 8th Assembly led by the immediate past Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki to criminalise the act. Unfortunately, we are still here.

To solve this numerous challenges, we have Atiku Abubakar and Bola Ahmed Tinubu to choose to solve the numerous troubles combating us as a country. I know for a fact that I will never vote a man who was asked to “test the microphone” and he licked it with his tongue, it is hilarious but quite unfortunate that he is even running. It wasn’t Atiku Abubakar that tasted the microphone, it was the other person with popular incantations such as “bala blu, blu blu, bulaba” and “broooom, brooom, brooooooooooo.” Lest I forget, there was also “….. recruiting yahoo boys for chips manufacturing and production hgdkhfhhdjdh”. The choice in Kwara remains ours between the two. Did I forget Peter Obi? Definitely no, he is too big to be ignored, but in Kwara, Iya Nusira goat that has walked the length and breadth of Ilorin will beat him blue and black.

Kwara State being one of the 36 states in the country has every potential to lead North Central zone of the country into major discussions that will reshape the aspiration of our country. The only place I was unable to visit in 2022 was Plateau State. Hence, I cannot speak of the political atmosphere there, but I know for a fact with my journey across states even beyond North Central that Kwara State is of key interest to both audience and politicians. However, as a people we must pay key attention to the kind of people we want to empower politically to lead this discussion. It will happen at the Federal Executive level, Legislative level, States and local governments level. The present crisis of 2023 Finance Bill is also there, I know Rafiu Ibrahim of Kwara South to be that competent and experienced. You don’t need a fortune teller either to tell you that replacing Ibrahim Oloriegbe with Saliu Mustapha is the most unfortunate political decision of the APC administration in Kwara State. Oloriegbe was highly respected at the National Assembly, definitely not at the level of Bukola Saraki, but he had his place and a promising future that was assassinated by the Kwara State Governor for no logical reason. Quite unfortunate for us as a people! We could have built on Oloriegbe in all honesty, he could have been the best for this assignment in 2023.

In the absence of Ibrahim Oloriegbe, Bolaji Abdullahi of PDP remains the best visible option. I do not like him either, but who needs to like a leader before you vote for them? You can’t deny that he is competent and the most qualified from Kwara Central at the moment. Although, I don’t think anyone needs to be educated about Ilorin politics after they deserted Dr. Bukola Saraki in 2019. Everywhere else that I have been, they have this general interest in national politics, except Ilorin and may be Kwara at large. The reason why others in Nigeria push people they push to Abuja, take Benue as example, they pushed David Mark to NASS several times, I doubt they liked him so well, but they kept him. If Ahmed Lawan had not miscalculated, his people from Yobe would still have sent him back up there, same as Yakubu Dogara who looks foolish, acts foolish but is not foolish. They are not very loved as a person at home, not even as much as Bukola Saraki in Kwara. Yet, Ilorin people put everything aside and settled for Oloriegbe. Although, Ibrahim lacked the political network, exposure, clout and experience of Bukola Saraki, there is no denying that his crucial knowledge on medicine and health assisted both Nigeria and Kwara State. He was a competent person and expert in his field, but can we say the same for Saliu Mustapha? What does anyone know that Saliu does or the business he runs that will serve as profile?

Everyone knows what Wale Sulyman of Kwara South contesting under SDP does for a living, we know his career history and antecedents, we know of his role while with Dr. Bukola Saraki and Fatai Ahmed on Kwara Diagnostic Centre, we know he is a leading person in academics and neurosurgeon. Kwara South people having to choose between Rafiu Ibrahim with his track records, Wale Sulyman with his education and experience makes them one of the most fortunate people in Nigeria at the moment. Although, I will settle for Rafiu Ibrahim of PDP, however, Wale Sulyman is trying and I hope the future is kind to him. The question remains, what is Saliu Mustapha’s background? This is not an attack on his personality, as an Emirate, I will choose him and respect him over anyone else except the Waziri of Ilorin, I’ll rather stand next to Mallam Saliu Mustapha’s horse during Durbar than Bolaji Abdullahi, he is a symbol of our culture, but politics and administration? No, he is far from it.

Also of note, the discussions near and far remains how Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq squandered his political fortune, some even argue that he squandered the goodwill of the APC as a party along with it. A friend from Nasarawa State postulated that that in his own perspective, if Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq won with 10 political advantages, only two are left with him right now, that is 2/10 of what formed part of his advantages in 2019. Even though I disagreed with him, as I brought forward numerous factors that may bring both the strength of PDP and APC to 50/50 at the moment, I didn’t sound convincing enough to him. To me, I only evaluated the politics on ground, but he put me in a very tight corner as he tied the delivery in governance along with his arguments.

Shortly after exiting Nasarawa State, an assignment took me to Niger. Well, from outside it appears APC has a strong hold there, but moving closer, I dare say it is a state to watch out for.*

It was my friend all the way back from our days in University of Ilorin as students who now happens to be a lecturer in Niger State, he is very sound and brilliant when it comes to Chemical Engineering. In fact, on most occasions when discussions around climate change pops up, he has been of great help in few places I have been a facilitator with his insight. So, he asked “What is 2023 like for Kwarans?” In my usual nature, I was just humorous about the whole thing because even as an average Kwaran, I have never thought about it. I simply want to cast my vote for my preferred candidates and move on. It was after I exited his place I became pensive, very pensive with what he said. He called my attention to how Kwara has taken the backseat in national discussions and we don’t seem to be part of any major calculations beyond the basics after Dr. Bukola Saraki’s exit as Senate President. I simply responded that we have two Ministers and he said point to a state that doesn’t have a Minister. In truth, is there any?

What should 2023 be for Kwarans? It remains a question without any definite answer. Afterall, it is Kwarans that will define their future, we can only have opinions on what it should mean for them and to me, the choice before us are only two: (1) PDP or APC? (2) Yesterday or today? It remains a question Kwarans will have to answer themselves.

However, I believe the manifestoes of PDP in Kwara State and national level aligns, I have been part of conversations, policies draft and among the few who knows that Kwara State of all places needs competent men at the helms of affairs. Regardless of whoever wins at the Centre, we will need to brace ourselves for a new direction in Kwara State. It is a choice of picking between those who will reign and thrive in chaos in our country and state, like someone who thrives on our forex crisis at the moment or those who will steer our affairs with total commitment, passion and the sole interest of delivery.

If could cast my vote beyond Kwara State, there are APC candidates I will vote in other States of the Federation, Kaduna, Benue and Ondo being one of them.

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