In Kwara State, the race to the Government House took another dimension last week when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with political leaders of Kwara North, to the effect that power would shift to the zone in 2023.

By this arrangement, the party’s gubernatorial candidate, Abdulrazaq Atunwa, would serve only one term if the PDP wins the forthcoming election.

Since the restoration of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, the zone has not been able to produce a governor, even when it has qualified sons and daughters.

For the All Progressives Congress (APC), Kwara Central remains the best place to pick its gubernatorial candidate because of population. The zone controls 50 per cent of the overall votes in the state.

Before the primary elections, the people of Kwara North held a series of meetings and press conferences, insisting that they would produce the next governor of the state. They threatened not to participate in the gubernatorial election, as well as prevent gubernatorial candidates from campaigning in the zone if the seat is not given to them.

During those weeks, there were protests on a daily basis by members of the APC from the northern senatorial district, who felt cheated by the arrangement to pick a gubernatorial candidate from Kwara Central.

But the zone is expected to be compensated with positions of deputy governor, Speaker of the House of Assembly, as well as secretary to the state government. However, these positions are not new to politicians from the zone.

To show how serious they are, the PDP ensured that the new arrangement was documented, signed, witnessed by traditional rulers and shown to the media.

Speaking on the new arrangement during a press conference, the director-general of the PDP Campaign Council in the state, Professor Suleiman Abubakar said, “About an hour ago, the leadership of the PDP in Kwara State 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 the 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 the national leader of the 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 Suleimon; chairman of the party, Kola Shittu and other leaders of the party in the three senatorial districts.

“Traditional rulers from the Kwara North senatorial district and the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, were consulted on the MoU and they gave their royal blessing to the terms and content.

“In their speeches at the meeting, the traditional rulers expressed support for any move that would ensure equity, justice and unity among all the various zones in the state. They also noted that their decision to serve as witnesses was based on the need to ensure that political leaders honour and respect the content of the MoU and work for the 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 bloc votes from the zone to the PDP in the general elections. We believe that this MoU, which is aimed at re-enforcing the unity, harmony and even development of our dear state, is necessary for the continued progress of Kwara State now and in the future.’’

But a group under the aegis of the All Progressives Congress Elders said the memorandum of understanding between the PDP and Kwara North was a charade. Speaking during a press conference in Ilorin, the state capital, the leader of the group, Senator Ahmed Mohammed, said traditional rulers from the zone and the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari were made to witness the exercise in order to authenticate it.

“Ordinarily, we wouldn’t have bothered to react to what is essentially an intra-party affair, but the presence of our royal fathers at the occasion raises some concerns among well-meaning patriotic leaders and stakeholders from the zone. This is because of its capability to confer legitimacy on what has been widely regarded as an act of deceit, a piece of chicanery executed in duplicity and bad faith and generally borne out of desperation to cling to power by all means.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we hereby wish to state categorically that contrary to the impression the agreement is meant to create in the public, the vast majority of our people are more than ever united in purposeful determination, in concert with others across the state, to do away with bad leadership that the PDP has offered over the years.

“The APC, which is the future of democracy in Kwara State, holds better opportunities for us. Unlike the PDP, its style will be a collective leadership, not a one-man dictatorship. We can be rest assured that the principle of rotation and zoning will be the cardinal principle that everybody will observe and respect for the overall good of our dear state.

“We advise very strongly that our traditional institution should be insulated from the murky waters of politics. By bringing them to witness what is essentially an intra-party deal is, to say the least, both demeaning and despicable. Kwara North joins other senatorial districts to put an end to the despotic, exploitative dynasty that has kept the state in bondage for so many years. Enough is enough,” Muhammed said.