Kola Shittu did not match the picture the reporter expected to see. It was the second day of the new year and the Kwara State chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was calm and all smiles as he ushered party officials into and out of his office in his expansive home in the old GRA, Ilorin.
Could Mr Shittu be unaware of the higher-than-usual excitement in the state over the coming general elections, driven by the resurgence of the opposition in the state? At street junctions and on almost every wall in Ilorin, even around Mr Shittu’s house, bright billboards and posters screamed the message: Oto Ge! meaning “Enough is Enough” in Yoruba.
It is the battle cry of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and it is echoing even in the most unexpected places in Ilorin and other parts of Kwara. It refers to the long dominance of the politics of the 51-year-old state by the Saraki family.
“Place a table by the roadside anywhere in Ilorin, shout Oto Ge! and see the reaction of people,” Iyiola Oyedepo told reporters.
Mr Oyedepo was the state chairman of the PDP until last July when he fled to the APC to avoid sharing the same camp with Bukola Saraki, the Senate president.
Mr Saraki, the current “leader” of the Saraki political family, had that month made a grand return to the PDP from the APC, followed by the state governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, and all the elected office holders from the state.
When Mr Saraki moved from the PDP in a similar fashion in 2014, he flipped the state to the APC, which went on to win every election there in 2015. But Mr Oyedepo said the tide has turned.
“The people are resolute that enough is enough and you can feel it in the air everywhere in Kwara,” he said. Ilorin on knife’s edge
Two recent events in the state give an indication of a changing political canvass. Usually on Christmas Day, the predominantly Muslim indigenes gathered under their umbrella, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union at the palace of their revered emir. At the gathering, they would raise fund for the development of the emirate and review public issues that affect the people within and outside Kwara.
It was a key event in the socio-political calendar of the people and everyone turned up gaily dressed. In 2017, the Senate President as the chief donor announced a donation of N10 million.
At the event, however, last December, the unusual happened. As Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, the APC governorship candidate, was called to the podium, a band of rednecks sprang to their feet chanting “Sai Bukky,” the slogan of supporters of the Senate President in the state. They were immediately countered with chants of “Oto Ge!”