STEPHEN OLUFEMI ONI reports on how politicians in Kwara State have turned the recent fire disaster at Alanamu Market in Ilorin, the state capital, into a political campaign tool and struggle to curry favour with the electorate ahead of the 2003 general election
Ahead of the 2023 general election, it is befuddling watching how politicians across the country, particularly Kwara State, have not been leaving anything to chances and have therefore been jostling to outwit one another in their bid to curry favour with the electorate. As a matter of fact, the intriguing scenery in Kwara appears more pronounced among the candidates of the two dominant political parties in the state – the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that is determined to retain power in 2023 and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that ruled the state for 16 consecutive years before it was thoroughly routed in all the 2029 elections but has not hidden its intention to stage a comeback to power in 2023. Incidentally, the recent inferno that gutted the popular Alanamu Market in Ilorin, the state capital, provided an ample and unique opportunity for the gladiators of the two major political parties to test the waters and try to outdo one another, monetarily, in the guise of sympathy visit.
In the wake of the devastating fire incident, no fewer than 11 shops out of the 90 shops in the multi million Naira market were in ruins, while property worth millions of Naira were also reportedly destroyed in the process. Our correspondent gathered that the prompt arrival of the firemen from the state Fire Service saved the market from being completely razed, while also preventing the inferno from sweeping through the adjoining residential buildings. As the Alanamu community and the victims of the fire incident continued to rue the day and count their losses, the fire incident, expectedly, was hijacked by politicians, turning it into a veritable campaign tool and struggle of sorts, particularly by the candidates of the APC and PDP in Kwara Central Senatorial District.
Political pundits have described this intense struggle by the parties and their candidates to outsmart one another over the fire incident as the fiercest in the history of the Kwara Central Senatorial District because of the calibre of candidates vying for elective positions in the zone. Hence they cash in on any opportunity to sell their candidacies to the electorate with their benevolence.
Checks by New Telegraph revealed that the struggle for the soul of Alanamu community by the candidates and their respective political parties ahead of the 2023 general election is not unconnected to the significance of Alanamu in the politics of Ilorin West Local Government Area in particular and Kwara Central Senatorial District at large, being a ward with the highest numerical strength due to their large population.
is, therefore, not surprising that the Alanamu community had in recent time played hosts to a huge number of the creme de la creme in the society, majorly the candidates of the ruling APC and the main opposition PDP, who had come with huge retinues of supporters to commiserate and donate towards ameliorating the plight of the victims of the fire disaster.
Intriguingly, the politicians have not left anyone in doubt that all their moves were largely intended to sway the electorate’s votes to their sides in the 2023 general election. Expectedly, Kwara State governor, AbdulRahman Abdul- Razaq, accompanied by some aides and party chieftains, was the first to visit the market fire scene to commiserate with the victims. The governor was conducted round the market by the royal father of Alanamu community, Dr. Usman Abubakar Jos.
AbdulRazaq assured the victims of relief materials from his administration to enable them bounce back in their businesses. He said: “The State Emergency Management Agency had already visited the burnt market for assessment and enumeration. The state government will offer some support to the victims within its resources. It was a great loss of property and livelihood, though we thank God that no life was lost to the inferno. We were able to respond quickly. Officials of the State Fire Service were here on time to control it, but we regret what had been destroyed before they came.”
The Balogun Alanamu, who conducted the governor round the affected shops, appreciated him for his swift response to the unfortunate incident. A few days after the governor’s visit, the APC candidate for the Kwara Central Senatorial District in the 2023 election and Turaki of Ilorin, Mallam Saliu Mustapha, was also in the community to commiserate with the victims over the dastardly fire incident, though political pundits opined that the visit was intended to send a strong political message. While being conducted round the razed shops by the Balogun Alanamu, the former national chairmanship aspirant of the APC, promised a comprehensive renovation of the market, adding that work will commence the following day. The astute politician indeed walked his talk as work is already progressing steadily at the razed portion of the market.
Not yet done, the APC Kwara Central Senatorial candidate, who reportedly received a loud ovation from the audience for his kind gesture, also asked the Balogun Alanamu to raise a committee that would liaise with his foundation in working out an appropriate grant for the victims towards reestablishing their businesses.
A day after Mustapha visited, another APC candidate, Muktar Tolani Shagaya, who is vying for the House of Representatives seat in Ilorin West/ Asa, also came visiting and made a donation of N1 million towards providing succour for the victims. He said: “I have just finished inspecting the burnt section of the Alanamu Market. It is obvious that a lot of persons have been affected because we saw that virtually all the stores in that section have been totally burnt. I appreciate Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq for his quick intervention with ‘cash relief disbursements to the victims of the inferno.”
Shortly after the APC candidates had concluded their sympathy visit, the PDP took the stage, with the visit by its Kwara Central Senatorial candidate and former Minister of Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, who supported the victims with the sum of N2.5 million. Setting the tone for the political engagement that followed between the two rival parties, Abdullahi lashed out at some of the donors for politicising the fire incident. “We have come to commiserate with our family and father, Balogun, and to also see what we can do to support the people. As you can see, since the incident of Alanamu happened, politicians we have never seen before have been falling over themselves to prove that they have been generous to the people. “When COVID happened, we didn’t see them. We were here when rainstorm happened, such that people’s roofs were blown away and we didn’t see them.
So, I can understand why politicians will think that it is necessary for them to play politics with people’s hearts,” he said, cautioning politicians to stop attempting to dance on people’s tragedy in an effort to make political points. Abdullahi’s vituperation was seen by political pundits as a veiled reference to the earlier visit by his biggest opponent in the senatorial race, the well-heeled APC candidate, Mustapha, a pointer to the fierce senatorial contest ahead. More so, that Saliu Mustapha’s endless philanthropic activities, especially in Kwara Central, had become a major point of discourse. It is, therefore, not surprising that the development had resulted in attacks on the social media by the supporters of both parties.
Thereafter, the PDP governorship candidate, Alhaji Abdulkadir Shuaib Yaman, accompanied by party executive members, also breezed into Alanamu community to empathise with them on the fire incident, telling the Balogun Alanamu that “together, we shall build a modern market for the community.” To the Head of the Department of Political Science, University of Ilorin, Dr. Muhammed Alada, the Alanamu fire scenario was nothing but politics, though it has also become a win-win situation for the victims of the market inferno.
His words: “This development should be expected, particularly between the two major parties, the APC and PDP because Alanamu community is key to any political success in Ilorin West hence the place has turned to a Mecca of sorts for politicians, especially the contestants from the Kwara Central Senatorial District. So, the scenario is part of the strategy of winning, rather than a genuine attempt to better the lots of the people.”