he ban on political rally and processions in Kwara state as announced by governor Abdulfatah Ahmed was the magic wand needed to halt violence in every parts of the state. Oladipo Magaji reports.
The last two weeks witnessed two major developments that will define the much awaited general elections coming up in February 16 and March 2 in Kwara state.
The first is the banning of street rally and processions in every parts of the state by the state government after a state security council meeting, while the other is the historic pact entered into by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party( PDP) and stakeholders from the northern zone of the state on the power shift to the area in 2023.
Indeed, the banning of street rally and processions as announced by governor Abdulfatah Ahmed had proven to be the magic wand needed to halt the orgy of violence unleashed on political opponents and innocent residents by political thugs in the state.
The pact which the PDP’s leadership and Kwara north stakeholders entered into has also doused tension in that side of the state, where there was disquiet over non fielding of a governorship candidate from the zone which last had the opportunity of a shot at the state’s number one political office in 1991, by the two major political parties, the PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Before the ban on street rally and the processions, members of the ruling party and opposition have been at loggerheads, pouncing on each other at the slightest provocation.
Ever since the Independent National Electoral Commission( INEC) lifted embargo on campaign for the coming polls, the brickbats from the ruling and major opposition in the state became more virulent.
As if the verbal war was not enough, the hostility between the two parties got escalated last week when suspected political thugs unleashed violence in some parts of Ilorin metropolis.
From Ita Ogunbo junction to Agbaji Quarters in Ilorin, the atmosphere was like a war zone. About 50 cars parked by their owners had their windscreens smashed while some vehicles and other valuables were also damaged in the process. Eleven persons were also injured in the mayhem.
The gun wielding hoodlums, who stormed the scene in a commando style, reportedly shot sporadically into the air and forced residents of the area to scamper to safety.
Announcing the ban on street rally and processions during a special broadcast on radio stations, the state governor, Alh Abdulfatah Ahmed said only political rallies at designated areas with prior notification to the state Police Command will be allowed henceforth.
Ahmed added that perpetrators of recent political violence in Ilorin metropolis, would be apprehended and be made to face the full wrath of the law.
He warned that the government would spare no effort in protecting lives and property, urging citizens to be vigilant and report any suspicious activities and movement to the security agencies for prompt action.
Ahmed said the state has established a Joint Security Task force during the emergency security council held on Monday.
He maintained that the security agencies are capable and ready to forestall further reoccurrence of such ugly incidence.
The governor tasked politicians to campaign and solicit vote in decent manner and refrain from deploying inciting and divisive rhetorics.
He advised those seeking political leadership to prioritise the lives of those they seek to govern.
Ahmed assured residents that all constitutional means would be deployed for their safety before, during and after the elections.
The state chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Kola Shittu and Director General of the PDP campaign council in the state , Professor Suleiman Abubakar broke the news of their party’s pact with the stakeholders from the Kwara north on power shift to the zone at a news conference in Ilorin.
Abubakar who read the communique issued at the end of the meeting, indicated that traditional rulers from the zone as well as the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari witnessed and endorsed the Memorandum of Understanding(MoU).
It was also agreed at the meeting, Kwara north will produce the Secretary to the state government (SSG) and Speaker if the PDP wins the 2019 election in the state.
The text of the communique reads:
“About an hour ago, the PDP Kwara State Leadership just completed a meeting with Leaders of Thought from the Kwara North Senatorial District. The meeting was also attended by leaders of the party across the state.
“The sole purpose of the meeting was for us to have an understanding on specific terms on issues bordering on power shift, cohesion, giving sense of belonging and inclusiveness to our people across all the three Senatorial Districts.
“The conclusion of the meeting is that there will be power shift to Kwara North in 2023. Also, the positions of Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly and Secretary to Kwara State Government have been zoned to Kwara North in the post- May 2019 government.
“The understanding has been committed to writing and signed by all key stakeholders present.
“The stakeholders present at the meeting include National Leader of PDP, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed, gubernatorial candidate of the party, Rt. Hon. Rasak Atunwa, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Dr. Alli Ahmed, Director General of the Mandate 2019, Prof. Abubakar Sulaimon, Chairman of the Party, Eng. Kola Shittu and other leaders of the party in the three Senatorial districts.
“Traditional rulers from Kwara North Senatorial District and Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari were consulted on the understanding and they gave their royal blessing to the terms and contents.
“In their speeches at the meeting, the traditional rulers expressed support for any move that will ensure equity, justice and unity among all the various zones in the state.
They also noted that their decision to serve as witnesses is based on the need to ensure that political leaders honour and respect the contents of the understanding and work for peace and progress of the state before, during and after the general elections.
“Also, in return, the people of Kwara North have agreed to deliver the bloc vote from the zone to the Peoples Democractic Party (PDP) in the general elections.
“We believe this understanding aimed at re-enforcing the unity, harmony and even development of our dear state is definitely necessary for the continued progress of Kwara State now and in the future.”
On his part, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Mallam Attahiru Garba Madami, assembled leaders of political parties penultimate Thursday at the Headquarters of the commission in Ilorin where they took turns to sign peace accord in the presence of heads of security agencies operating in the state.
Madami told the gathering that violence was alien to Kwara politics, but wondered why hoodlums had a field day perpetrating unrest in some parts of the state capital.
He stated that it was worrisome that the state known with its slogan “State of Harmony” had been sliding to a State of Violence and Uncertainty.
The INEC chief asked politicians, who aided thuggery and hooliganism in their politicking to desist, saying it would be impossible for them to preside over the affairs of people they had already killed or maimed.
While urging members of political class to caution their followers and supporters found to be instigating violence, Madami admonished them to campaign based on issues and with utmost sense of decorum.
He added that politicians as leaders in their various parties should be seen as role models to their supporters.
“I am very worried that Kwara State that is known for peace, and is regarded as State of Harmony has turned to a State of violence. This is not acceptable by the Kwarans. Kwara never had history of political violence but the scenario has changed.
“In campaigns, there are rules and regulations. Let us do our best to uphold these rules and regulations. The thugs that caused violence are our people, our supporters. We need to talk to them. You are looking for the power to serve the people. When the people are dead or injured, who are you going to rule upon? This is the hard truth. Let us campaign based on issues and with decorum”, Madami said.
He, however, warned staff of the commission to steer clear of act of misconduct during the elections and vowed that it would not hesitate to wield the big stick on any officials found to have been compromised.
The REC assured that INEC under his watch would conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections that would be acceptable to all Kwarans.
He promised that all parties in the elections would be accorded a level playing ground by the commission.
He said parties in the coming polls are expected to follow and abide by the peace accord aimed at making the elections under peaceful atmosphere.
In his remarks, the state commissioner of police, Mr Bashiru Makama, vowed that anyone caught perpetrating violence before, during and after the polls would be arrested and prosecuted, no matter how highly or lowly placed.
Makama, who led other heads of security agencies to the event, expressed displeasure over mayhem that dominated the political space in recent times in some parts of Ilorin, assuring that his command would go after the culprits with a view to bringing them to justice.
“By now, we should have learnt our lessons, especially what happened few days back. It is not good for us. Much has been said that we should play the game according to the rules. If we play the game by the rules, I think that is what will lead to acceptable and viable elections that we all intend to conduct.
“Please, party leaders, talk to your followers. I have made a vow and I still stand by it. As long as I am here to watch over activities of Police in this State, between me and the Almighty God, we will do it all with the fear of God.
“I assure you those who perpetrated the dastard act of Tuesday, we have started making arrests. We have started recovering items that were stolen at that venue. By the special grace of God, by the time we finish, we shall parade them to the whole world to see, and they will be prosecuted in court as the case may be.
“I implore you all, go back and tell them, anything that happens after this moment, I’m going to hold you (politicians) responsible. I have seen pictures of situation where drugs are bought in sacks to be given to political followers or thugs.
If we get you, the law is there. Nobody is above the law”, police boss said.
Responding on behalf of political parties, the state chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Comrade Mumini Onagun, commended INEC for organising the peace accord and assured that parties in the election were ready to play the game according to the rules and regulations.
He spoke of the readiness of the umbrella body of political parties to work with INEC and security agencies to ensure peaceful polls.
Onagun said that IPAC would continue to maintain its neutrality but warned that elections should not be a do or die affair.