APC National Convention: What Really will Kwara Gain with Saliu Mustapha as Chairman?

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By Abubakar Teslim

Except for a short stint in acting capacity in the then ruling party, PDP, Kwara, through history, has not led a major political party in Nigeria. But with Mallam Saliu Mustapha, the Turaki of Ilorin, in the frontline for the APC National Chairmanship in the impending convention of the party, a significant milestone is about to be attained in the annals of political elevation for Kwara State and her people.

As a state that borders both the north and south, with a rich combination of diverse ethnicity, mixed culture and languages, Kwara is an important sub-national entity in the political geography of Nigeria. As a state with a proud origin, indigenes of Kwara State are known for their audacity and front-row participation in the politics and governance of the country, even during the military era. It is this recognition of Kwara’s place in national politics, and the need to safeguard it, that often serves as a unifying force that pulls everyone together whenever a son or daughter of the state is in contest for any position.

We saw it happen when the immediate former Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, was aspiring for the number four seat in the leadership hierarchy in Nigeria. On the day of the election on the floor of the Senate, the whole of Kwara jettisoned their partisan and other differences to queue behind their son. We saw Kwarans of all walks of life praying fervently for Saraki, even ordinary and everyday people on the street. And when the election eventually went in Saraki’s favour, a huge carnival-like atmosphere engulfed the whole of Kwara, especially the state capital, Ilorin. There were dancing and jubilations across major streets, with motorcycle riders displaying stunts in celebration of what they described at the time as “Kwara occupying the number four seat.” At the time, the quest for the position was no longer a Saraki ambition; instead it was about the patriotism of an average Kwaran to see the state having a place of pride in the politics of the country.

In this current dispensation, Kwara’s most significant position may yet be the national chairmanship of the APC should Saliu Mustapha get it. And this is why, like it happened during Saraki’s campaign for the Senate Presidency, many in the state today are taking Mustapha’s ambition as a personal aspiration, burying party or any other sentiments to rally support for and around him.

Today, Ilorin, which is the ancestral homestead of candidate Mustapha, has been practically painted red because of the ambition of an illustration son of the soil. From streets to streets, taxi cabs to tricycles, and other strategic locations in the state, the mood of the people of Kwara state is all clear to the blind and audible to the deaf.

Considering the antecedents of Saliu Mustapha, both as an individual, community stakeholder and politician, I am confident that Kwarans are not backing up the wrong tree with their absolute support towards his emergence as the next national Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress.

To begin with, it is said that what you prioritize defines your life; Saliu Mustapha himself has proven beyond any shred of doubt that he prioritizes all matters connected to Ilorin and Kwara. And there is no better proof of that than the honour bestowed on him recently as the Turaki of Ilorin Emirate in recognition of his commitment to the growth and development of his place of birth. Therefore, when Mustapha occupies such a critical position as that of national chairman of a ruling party, it should go without saying that his numerous community interventions would now receive even a major boost.

With expected increase in political connections and network which would come about as a result of his position, Kwara State stands a chance of benefiting extensively from the investment that political associates would seek to make in the home state of the party chairman; a gesture that would no doubt impact on the lives of individual citizens of the state, some of whom already are beneficiaries of the large-heartedness and generosity of Mustapha.

Of course, there is also a huge political advantage that would accrue to the ruling APC in the state. With a national chairman from the state, Kwara would become almost impenetrable for any opposition, a situation that would guarantee the continuity of the present government and also attract federal presence in terms of projects and appointments. It is no surprise that the incumbent Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, the calculative maverick that he is, sees the prospect early enough as he’s reported to be backing the ambition strong and solid.

Securing the APC national chairmanship position would inevitably return Kwara State to the national political limelight, following the hiatus occasioned by the loss of the Senate Presidency.

By and large, Saliu Mustapha, considering his fanatical interest in Kwara’s growth and his contributions to the development of communities and individuals would no doubt create greater opportunity to advance the interest of the state as a party chairman. If he has done exceedingly well in his personal capacity, providing support to persons and assisting the less privileged, it is only a matter of common sense to expect that his elevation to the position of a national chairman of a ruling party would only serve to deepen the opportunities available to him to do even greater good to a greater number of our people.

As it’s customary for us in Kwara, with our penchant for supporting our own and by extension the state’s interest, Saliu Mustapha’s aspiration again demands our harmonized resolve and collective support. Like Jean Vanier said, ‘one of the marvelous things about community’ is that it enables us to do things we couldn’t do as individuals. Now is the time to combine our individual strengths and communal spirit in support of one of our very best, Mallam Saliu Mustapha (Turaki).

Teslim, a public affairs analyst, can be reached on [email protected]

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