Nothing is being left to chance in the battle to determine who wins the soul of Kwara State at the gubernatorial election slated for February 16, 2019. Since the restoration of civilian rule in 1999, elections in the state have always been won by people sponsored on the ticket of the political dynasty established by the late second republic senate leader, Dr. Olusola Saraki. Political gladiators who have tried in recent history to wrestle power from the dynasty but failed include the late Major General Abdulkareem Adisa, late Alhaji Mohammed Lawal, who won on the dynasty’s ticket in 1999 and turned against it in 2003 but lost, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo (Hashim), current Presidential candidate of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), former military governor of Osun and Bauchi states, Chief Theophilus Bamigboye, as well as the incumbent Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. Available facts with this newspaper indicate that the two major camps in the current battle, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) have taken the matter to Saudi Arabia, where they have engaged in series of prayers to secure divine support for their respective aspirations.

National Leader of the PDP and President of Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, whose leadership of Kwara state’s politics is now being fiercely challenged by the APC, was at the Holy site a few days ago. Although his visit was ostensibly to perform the lesser hajj as has become his custom, insiders revealed that a major portion of the pilgrimage was devoted to asking for divine help against his political foes.

The Senate president was not alone on that trip; as usual, there were several others he sponsored on the trip, as he has done for several years. On her part Hajia Amope, mother of the APC gubernatorial candidate, AbdulRahman Abdulraheem, has also led a delegation of women to the holy site of Kaaba, where they invoked the Almighty to crown the effort of her son with success in the election.

For Hajia Amope, perhaps there is a greater need for such intersession for this election will mark the fourth time two of her sons will be seeking to become the governor of the state. The initial three times were unsuccessful. In 1999, her son, Abdul- Razaq Alimi, contested on the platform of the PDP against the late Alhaji Mohammed Lawal who won on the ticket of the All Peoples Party (APP) which later transformed into the All Nigeria People Party (ANPP).

Lawal was sponsored in that election by the late Dr. Olusola Saraki. Again in 2011 and 2015, her son, AbdulRahaman, the current APC gubernatorial candidate, also ran on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) without winning. In each of the election, they were defeated by someone sponsored by the Saraki political structure.

A video clip available to this newspaper indicates that several women, apparently led by Hajia Amope were at the lesser hajj and a major part of the trip was meant to pray for her son’s victory. In the video, which lasted three minutes and 29 seconds, a woman in a yellow dress and gold drape is seen and heard giving instructions to others to face the Kaaba for the prayers. Other voices soon joined hers, with one of them urging their leader to speak out. Then they began to chorus the purpose of their visit. They said: “We have come to Umrah to come and plead on behalf of AbdulRahman omo (son of) Rabiatu Amope.

He is the one we want to win the governorship election in Kwara. May Allah make it possible (repeated several times) for Abdulrahman Alade omo Rabi Amope, for the sake of the Kaaba where we are.” Later, the candidates’ mother could be heard identifying herself with the purpose of the visit: “I am his mother, Rabbi. I am in Kaaba and I’m praying for him to win the election.

We want his time to be comfortable for us.” This paper could not identify who sponsored the women in the trip but it is well known that on his part Saraki has always sponsored men and women both to Hajj and Umrah and recently to the Christian pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Asked if their latest pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the bill of the Senate President included a demand to pray for his electoral victory, leader of the delegation Reverend Cornelius Fawenu replied in the negative.

Fawenu, who is Special Assistant to Governor AbdulFattah Ahmed on Religion (Christian Affairs), said the pilgrims were made up of those who sponsored themselves and “10 others sponsored by Saraki and that they always prayed together mainly for the peace of Nigeria, development of Kwara State and other general prayers.” However, he added: “It won’t be impossible to see someone who will think that it is worthwhile to pray for someone who sponsored such a trip, but that would be at the personal level.”

Besides, the two parties, it was learned, have hired prayer contractors who are praying day and night to ensure their candidates emerge victorious at the polls. “Prayer contractors have been hired by the two sides and they are in different parts of the state,” another source said. Apart from the prayers, the two parties have also embarked on diverse strategies to win support from the electorate.

Findings by this newspaper indicate that the APC has been using football viewing centres to sell its message asking the electorate to reject the PDP. This strategy emerged a few weeks back, according to party sources. There is also a video recording of one of such sessions that has been sighted by this newspaper.

In the amateur video shot at an undisclosed viewing centre, two youths are at the centre of the dramatic recitation of a song that captures the campaign slogan of the APC in the state, ‘O To Ge’; enough is enough. One of the youth holds a phone, the other a piece of paper from which he reads the composition. The video was shot probably before the commencement of a game or that the centre was being used as the meeting point for the local wing of the party as there were women and some children at the event. It must be a stronghold of the APC because there was no resistance from the entire crowd which soon joined the song with clapping and loud ovation.

The youths sang: “Half salary, government of one family we are tired of it, problem of potable water is enough, crimes and violence is enough, we have not had light for about one year now, selfishness, are you the only one, Maigida’s government of lies and deceit, we don’t want a government by Atunwa, your case has become one for another time and not now in Kwara.

Indigenes of Ilorin should not follow them…etc”, each ending with the shout of ‘O to ge’. However, the current level of opposition to the dominance of the Saraki dynasty in the politics of the state is seen by many as unprecedented. Apart from losing some key allies in the last two years, the Saraki structure also for the first time lost a major byeelection in December 2018, a development that has buoyed the confidence of the opposition and wearied some of Saraki’s supporters. A source told our correspondent that: “This is why the resort to divine assistance became more imperative.” Atunwa, AbdulRazaq shun BBC debate Meanwhile, the two major candidates on Thursday shunned a debate organised by the Yoruba Service of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), in Ilorin, the state capital.