How I Will Win Kwara PDP Governorship ticket’


Former presidential aspirant of the National Transformation Party (NTP) in the 2011 election, Mr. John Dara, is seeking to govern Kwara State under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket. He spoke with Sunday Oguntola on his plans to win the race and govern the state.

You contested the 2011 presidential election and lost. Why are you sticking out your neck again this time?

I have always been eager to contribute to the quality of leadership in Nigeria. I recall that in 2011, I needed to make a statement on behalf of my people in the Middle Belt that we have many quality people who could be Presidents of Nigeria. I realised that many people in the Middle Belt tend to be self-effacing and humble, even shy of presenting themselves as being available.

I was setting a standard and pace that you don’t need to be a money bag to make yourself available to serve. There is nothing ungodly or arrogant about making oneself available for leadership. That point was eloquently made and I can assure you that in the Middle Belt today, more and more people are very confident and ready to take over leadership at all levels. I could run again for the presidency but as far as the forum is concerned, there is no vacancy there for now.

 Mr. John Dara
Mr. John Dara

We have not spoken officially but the truth is we are backing Jonathan. So, that possibility is foreclosed. It gives me the opportunity to reopen a project, which I have vigorously pursued in 2002. I wanted to change the politics of Kwara State and bring democratic, developmental leadership.

In 2003, I contested against former Governor Bukola Saraki. As at the eve of the primary, I had three-quarter of the PDP delegates behind me while he had one. At the end of the day, all our delegates were locked out and he was proclaimed the candidate. The law as at that time gave the party the opportunity to pick candidates however they wanted. So, there was nothing we could do.

Kwara people are calling me to duty. They want me to rescue them. All the original members of the PDP are resolute about my candidature and that is why I am in the race.

How well are you grounded in the PDP considering the many camps in the party led by Hajia Bola Shagaya, Gbemi Saraki and Dele Belgore?

First of all, I always caution that the impression created in media does not represent reality. Hajia Shagaya is one of the leaders of the party. She does not have any faction at all. She is a friend of all the aspirants and all groups. She may like one group above others but her primary focus is that PDP wins in Kwara. As a matter of fact, she does not see herself as a politician. She just wants to make sure that PDP wins in Kwara.

Gbemi does not have a faction but supporters for her aspiration. Dele Belgore has supporters not a faction but PDP of Kwara is one solid block. I can tell you authoritatively that there are no factions. I play a major role and I can say I was the leading figure in installing the current state executives of the party.

The State Chairman is from my camp. I was the one who approached Gbemi to nominate someone to be the Secretary. She nominated the Women Leader. I approached many others who nominated their own people too. So, everybody has somebody in the state executive.

But what is more important is that when we finish the process of primary, the level of friendship among us will remain that we can still be friends. That is my own objective. So, there are no factions; there is competition and rivalry.

So, you belong to Bola Shagaya’s faction?

There is nothing like that. I am a friend to Bola Shagaya. I am a friend to Gbemi Saraki. I am a friend of Abdul Raheem and everybody. And I mean close, warm, personal relationship. I am a friend of Jamiu Ibrahim and everyone. Before politics, we were friends. During this contest, we have no reasons to quarrel among ourselves.

So, I don’t belong to any faction. My belief is that when I have emerged as the governorship aspirant of the party, everyone can say ‘let’s work together with him’.

The feelers are that the Sarakis have control in Kwara. Is it true? Can you emerge with that structure in place?

Every politician you ask in Kwara will tell you that the media has an exaggerated picture of the Sarakis in Kwara. I will say the media is justified because one way or the other, Saraki managed to be on the winning side throughout his career.

What many people do not know is that he was a smart politician. He would study the trend and throw in his support. When he saw that Cornelius Adebayo was going to win in the Second Republic, he supported him. When he saw that Shaaba Lafiagi was the most popular aspirant in his camp, he backed him despite the fact that he didn’t want him.

When it was the turn of Mohammed Lawal, he saw that he was loaded and competitive. He supported him. All the former governors were aware they needed his support and humbled themselves before him. The formula for getting his support in those days was to be very strong and relate to him with humility and loyalty.

So, who inherited the structure? Bukola has left with some people for the APC. Gbemi is still in the PDP. When the father was alive, he could not defeat Bukola. Is it now that she will defeat him? How much of the structure did she bring to the PDP? How much is left in APC?

The Saraki’s factor will be in Kwara politics for a long time to come but I don’t think it will be the determining factor in the next election. In the past, one Oloye determined who became what but there would be nothing like that again. I believe the Jonathan’s factor would rather determine whoever emerges. I believe that the PDP will win big if I am eventually fielded as the flag bearer.

But what about the zoning arrangement that does not favour you?

I am not aware of any zoning arrangement in Kwara State. Whether in the PDP or APC, there is no such thing in the state. But conventional wisdom makes us know that any of the parties that do not pick its candidate from Kwara South will lose.

In 2011, Kwara Central had produced Bukola for eight years about Lawal’s four years. So, the district produced the governor for 12 years. Before then, the North produced Shaaba Lafiagi. So, everyone was of the opinion that Kwara South must produce the governor. Bukola rode on the back of that to pick someone from the South who won eventually.

The same thing applies now. Kwara South is where the ticket must go. We have done first term with Abdul Fatai and we must do the second term after which others can have their own turn. So, it is settled in the minds of electorates.

But the last time the north produced a governor was far back in the Second Republic and fairness dictates they should get it now.

No, but they don’t stand any chance. The voting power of Kwara State is in the Central and South. Are you saying we are not entitled to the second term?

Is it true the president is backing you?

I will say to you that he is neutral. He wants the primary to be transparent to engender unity. Before now, there were funny characters claiming to have his backing. I know what endorsements they have and the ones they don’t have. What I can say to you is that I am the most popular. Only two of us were in the original PDP and all these new comers in the party do not know the spirit of PDP. They will not be elected as the flag bearers.

All of them want to be governors but we have not heard of their plans to transform Kwara State. I have produced a four-point agenda for the transformation of the state that people have seen. It resonates with the people. It is not just about aspiration but vision and mission.

You are a Christian. Do you see yourself winning the governorship poll in a Muslim-dominated state?

I believe there is a Muslim majority in Kwara. That is my impression though some people don’t agree with me. So, it will be unwise to be running on the basis of religion.

But what I have going for me is the fact that I am a grassroots, a commoner who can connect with people. Whether Muslims or Christians, old or young, many people are at ease in my presence.

My support base cuts across all religions. The people of Kwara will take decision not based on religion but competence of the aspirants. I intend to make Kwara a state of harmony for all faiths to feel a sense of belonging.