In this piece, AHMED ‘LATEEF writes on the renewed battle line between the Kwara State government and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state over some comment considered to be falsehood claim against the former.
If any keen observer of political scenario in Kwara State thought the re-election of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015 general election was all required to nail the coffin of the opposition, such assumption may be a mere hallucination.
The peculiarity of the state politics among its peers across the federation might have accentuated the assertion where the ruling party would administer the state affairs without resentment as long as its tenure subsists.
For the opposition, the last year poll was yet another opportunity provided to test its might, strength, popularity and acceptance within the confines of the voting populace.
The sequence of the scenes played out within the fold of the opposition in the state, prior to the election period, gave the impression that the party would contentiously slug it out with the party in power and give it a good run for its stupendous wealth, being the incumbent.
But alas, it later became a wishful thinking as the PDP was embroiled in war of supremacy by money bags in the party, all battle-ready to hold the party by the jugular.
The super rich and power brokers in the opposition made series of good showings that literally sent jitters down the spine of the ruling party, prompting the latter to lubricate its wheel to avoid the foreboding ouster.
Desperate moves to hijack the soul of the PDP, intrigues and horse-trading among power brokers appeared to be greatest undoing of the party with the emergence of a former Kwara South Senator, Simeon Sule Ajibola, as governorship candidate of the party.
Those who intended to fly the kite of the party at gubernatorial level included oil magnate, Alhaji Jani Ibrahim; a former chairman of Federal Character Commission, Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem; ex-Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Suleiman Makanjuola Ajadi; Mr John Dara and Sunday Babalola. While some were seen as greenhorns cognizant of the state political firmament, others were believed to possess the needed clout to wrestle with the incumbent Governor and the then APC standard bearer, Abdulfatah Ahmed.
No thanks to the internal strife within the PDP that produced the candidate of the party in the primaries, and subsequent real governorship poll, which Ahmed of the APC won in landslide.
After the election, the primitive thought was that the opposition would have taken to slumber as usual but it proved otherwise with the introduction of weekly Radio Programme on Kwara-based Harmony FM, a radio station owned by the Federal Government.
The one-hour programme with the title “PDP Lo Gbode” meaning, PDP on the Airwaves, is a programme launched to assess, appraise and criticize state government policies and programmes.
To dismiss the sizeable audience attention the programme enjoys in Kwara State and other contiguous states is to deliberately leaving the raging fire on the rooftop.
While the programme has been on air for sometime with usual criticism of government policies, a new twist introduced into it with what the state government perceived as an attempt to propagate falsehood in the public view, is currently trending in the state polity.
Two PDP stalwarts in the state, Chief Rex Olawoye and Alhaji Yekini Alajagusi, had allegedly made some comments recently on a radio programme suspected to be inciting by the state government, prompting Attorney General of the state, Barrister Kamaldeen Ajibade, to petition the state police command on the implication of the duo comment in perception of members of the public.
Their alleged incendiary comment was predicated on the ownership of Harmony Holdings, a state government company ran as a private entity. It was learnt that the duo went on air to dismiss the claim by the state government that it owned the company, alleging that the some establishments annexed under the holdings were registered in the name of few individuals with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
They allegedly stood on the ground that they possessed certain documents to substantiate their allegations.
Cognizant of the security implication of the comment coupled with unfavourable security climate, the state government wrote the police, listing catalogue of sins of the party and its clandestine attempt to incite the citizens against the government if the statement was treated with levity.
The police on its part, summoned the two PDP chieftains to extract information on the petition against them by the state government on the alleged inciting comment.
A source privy to the appearance of the PDP stalwarts said they were quizzed for about four hours at the Police Headquarters along Ahmadu Bello Way, Ilorin on the veracity of the allegation on the ownership of the company.
It was also gathered that a recorded tape of the radio programme where both Olawoye and Alajagusi made the comment was played to them by the police after which they claimed to have document to back up their allegations.
The opposition chieftains were reportedly released by the police on self recognition but fixed another round of meeting, which is expected to hold on September 19.
Upon heaving sigh of relief after the interrogation, the chieftains and other members of the party assembled at the chairman, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo’s office in Ilorin, to brief him on the outcome of the meeting with the police where they expressed displeasure over the development.
Oyedepo, at the meeting, reportedly accused the state government of attempting to muzzle the opposition following its incessant criticism of government policies.
It was gathered that the PDP chairman said the opposition was, through its radio programme, informing the public on the failure of the government to provide the dividends of democracy, wondering what would warrant dragging the party’s chieftains to the police.
In what appeared to be a swift response to the alleged stifling of the opposition, the state government denied the allegation that it was suppressing the opposition elements and censoring the media.
The government, in a statement issued in Ilorin through the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Kamaldeen Ajibade, said it welcomes constructive criticism based on verifiable fact, as a firm believer in freedom of expression and the rule of law.
Debunking the allegation, the statement noted that people have the freedom to criticize the government and hold it accountable on its campaign promises.
But it said that such freedom does not confer the opportunity on anyone to deliberately spread falsehood against the government in a way capable of causing public incitement.
The statement explained that the government petitioned the Police against falsehood peddled by certain opposition politicians in the media.
It said as required by law, the police invited the individuals to defend themselves as part of its investigation.
The statement added, “If by the end of its investigation, the police recommend the prosecution of those individuals, it is the responsibility of the Office of the Attorney General to take a decision on whether to prosecute or not”.
In a telephone chat on the issue, Assistant Publicity Secretary of the PDP in the state, Mr Femi Yusuf, said the PDP chieftains honoured the police invitation on their own volition and not arrest or summon as being speculated.
He stated that the allegations made by the party against the state government would be substantiated with relevant documents at the appropriate time.
However, the state government seems not treating the allegation with kid glove because of security implication on the people of the state.
Pundits believed that the ongoing claim and counter-claim between the state government and the opposition especially on the allegation on the ownership of some property in Harmony Holdings would be resolved soon since the police had waded in.
Whether the allegation was genuine or clandestinely meant to ridicule the government in the eye of the public, time will tell as observers patiently await the outcome of the police investigation after the appearance of the petitioner and the petitioned.