Senate Presidency: Saraki, A Patriot, Or Dissident? By Sayo Akintola

His father, Dr Olusola Saraki was an astute politician. He bestrode the political landscape of the old Kwara State, now the present Kwara, Kogi and part of Benue State like a colossus. Prior to his demise in 2012, he never lost any election in that part of the country until providence pitched him against his heir, now President of the Senate of Nigeria, Dr Bukola Sarak in 2007.

The older Saraki was aggrieved with his party, People’s Democratic Party PDP whose state exco was perfectly under the control of his son. Bukola who was on the verge of completing his eight-year tenure as Kwara governor, declined to support his father’s proposal to get Gbemisola to succeed him. Instead, the former governor, who was then in the PDP, backed incumbent Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed as his successor.

In anger, Gbemi and their father left the PDP to form a new party, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, on which platform she ran for governor when Bukola had made PDP inclement for her and their father to realize his daughter’s ambition. Gbemisola, albeit, Olusola Saraki popularly known as baba Oloye, was roundly defeated by Ahmed in what was described as the political humiliation of the century.

On the day of the election, Bukola through his proxy, Ahmed, floored his father at the polls as the present governor of Kwara state massively defeated Gbemisola in spite of the monumental popularity of her father in the Kwara politics. Olusola, who was the senate leader in the second republic, screamed ‘daylight robbery’ to high heavens. He was quoted as saying that since he had been in politics all his life, he had never seen such an ‘abracadabra’ of an election in the state. He described the election as a shambolic exercise and rejected its outcome in its entirety. Gbemisola was aggrieved, blaming her defeat on the inordinate ambition of her brother. The siblings had remained enemies until recently when the emir of Ilorin used his clout to reconcile them.

Saraki Senate President-472x350

Events of last Tuesday on the floor of the senate where Bukola Saraki emerged the President of the senate of the 8th Assembly was a further testimony to Bukola as a politician who has an inordinate ambition to reach the pinnacle of the Senate right from the first day he set his legs on the floor of the upper chamber irrespective of whose ox is gored or whose back he would use to ride to his destination. Bukola emerged the Nigeria’s number three citizen by order of protocol in a controversial circumstance. And the crisis in the ruling party on account of Bukola’s act of betrayal of party leaders who had agreed to have Ahmed Lawan instead, may signal the beginning of the end of APC if not properly managed.

Bukola Saraki, bolstered by the block vote by PDP Senators-elect earned the Kwara political juggernaut the required simple majority vote to realize his ambition. His father, Olusola was Senate Leader in 1979 under the NPN government of Alhaji Sehu Shagari.

The emergence of Bukola Saraki as Senate President has drawn mixed reaction from the various strata of the society. While many see the development as a replay of the Tambuwal saga in the last republic, and as such what goes round must definitely come around for APC and the nation’s nascent democracy as the biggest beneficiary, others are of the opinion that such an exalted position ought not to be occupied by a personality of questionable character who cannot be trusted. The position of a Senate President shouldn’t be reserved for the highest bidder who is ready to palisade anything in order to grasp his ambition; even including inflicting political humiliation on his biological father and mentor. A senate president should command the respect of the totality of the members of the upper chamber irrespective of party affiliation. He shouldn’t be for someone coming in and out of EFCC hook. If the axiom ‘he who seeks equity must come with clean hands’ is anything to go by, the circumstances surrounding the emergence of the new senate president makes a mockery of our brand of democracy. Our senate president should undoubtedly be a person of impeccable character enthroned through a flawless democratic process.

Bukola Saraki has always been at the forefront of rebellion since the present democratic experience commenced in 1999. President, Olusegun Obasanjo, had accused the new senate president of being part of the former president Goodluck Jonathan’s cabal that in a clandestine move to discredit him because of his constant letters to Jonathan, surreptitiously masterminded a script wherein his first daughter, Iyabo and her sister were conscripted into a plot to publicly blackmail the Ota farmer as an irresponsible father and a wife beater in an open letter to their father. Bukola Saraki never denied the allegation till date. The new senate president was one of the Jonathan’s loyalists before his relationship with the Eteoke former president went sour, leading to his huge contribution to the creation of the new-PDP led by the former Vice-president, Atiku Abubakar. The new-PDP metamorphosed into APC as we have it today.

But not a few would say that he was merely vilified by the Jonathan government because he was the whistle blower on the rot in the nation’s oil industry where several trillions of naira was stolen through the fuel subsidy scam. He exposed the rot in the NNPC, thereby incurring the wrath of the powerful cabal in the industry.

Bola-Tinubu_-612x350

Many observers of political events in the country had however, warned that APC being a congregation of strange bed fellows who were like fish doped out of water in PDP at different times, would soon find a common ground to reunite and create problems in APC. And this is what is playing out in the senate now. According to the grapevines, Bukola Saraki was desperate to become Senate president to enhance his chances of becoming the president of Nigeria at the end of the four-year first term of Buhari government.

The APC national leader, Ashiwaju Bola Tinubu had sniffed out the inordinate ambition of Bukola Saraki when he vehemently stood against his ascendancy to the highest position in the senate and opted for a more colourless Lawan instead. Tinubu had in his calculation, viewed Saraki as Senate president as a politician who would have amassed stupendous political clout and wealth in the next four years to best place himself in good stead for the highest position in the land.

I have a strong feeling that with the alliance already entered into with the PDP senators-elect; Saraki would still have defeated Lawan to emerge president of the senate in a clean and transparent election. However, the fact that other APC senators-elect were still waiting for President Mohammadu Buhari who had called for a truce meeting at the International Conference Centre when the kangaroo election took place in the Senate speaks volume about the kind of treachery and anti-party demeanour that went into the whole exercise on the part of Bukola Saraki.

The president of the Senate is leading a chamber where he would be more at home with members of the opposition than with his APC colleagues in the Senate. This development makes party cohesion arduous if not impossible for the ruling party.  President Buhari who seemed uninterested in whoever became president of the senate while the power-play was unfolding may soon realize that a rancorous upper chamber would only best oblige a throw-back for his administration.

Nigerians are very resilient people. But they could be impatient at the same time. President Buhari may soon find out that the matter that was being concealed for the father by the children and their mother would eventually be resolved by the same head of the family. But will Nigerians tolerate a minute more to waste by the Buhari administration on frivolities that ought to have been avoided in the first place if party discipline had been strictly adhered to by the leaders of the party. Buhari ought to have stood his ground on the sanctity of party discipline and the need for all and sundry to refrain from action that could be inimical to the cohesion of the party and government at large before he left the country for the G7 meeting in Germany. But the president elected to leave unquenched a consuming inferno on the roof top of his house while he hurriedly jumped inside the jet enroute Germany to meet Barak Obama and other world leaders.

President Buhari Portrait

Precious time that should be deployed into tackling the endemic problems in the country would now be used to settle party matters. Nigerians are already counting the days for Buhari to make the change that he used as a mantra to send Jonathan back to Etuoke. Electricity is still epileptic, roads are death traps, workers across the country are being owed salaries for between three and eight months, while uneasy calm pervades the nation’s university system due to unkept promises by the last regime.

My inner mind tells me that Buhari was surreptitiously in support of Saraki’s emergence, probably as payback for his role in the formation of APC and decimation of PDP under Jonathan. But he wouldn’t want to be seen to be antagonistic to Ashiwaju’s position, hence, his resolve to maintain ‘siddon’ look and observe things unfold naturally in the senate from the sideline.

But if the truth must be said; the emergence of Ikeremadu as Deputy Senate president has helped APC in solving one of the teething problems of the administration. The problem of what to give the South east in the scheme of things in the government has been solved willy-nilly through Saraki’s unholy alliance with David Mark-led senators in the 8th Assembly. But this might directly or indirectly affect Chief Onu as a good candidate for the position of the Secretary to Government of the Federation SGF.

And I see a more vibrant senate under Saraki than what would have been obtainable if it were to be under Lawan. Lawan would have been a rubber stamp for the Executive, a pawn in the hands of his sponsors, a situation that could go either way in terms of outcome and dividend of democracy for Nigerians in terms of quality laws. The Tambuwal-led House of Representatives is a pointer to this postulation. It could be rightly argued that the 7th House of Representatives was vibrant and cohesive due to the democratic selection of the now governor of Sokoto State by the members of the House in defiance of the PDP’s directive to members to vote its anointed candidate, Adeola-Akande from Oyo State.

The pertinent question however, is; will Saraki also defect back to PDP as Tambuwal did to APC in the last Assembly? Although the new senate president has pledged to remain in APC, the fact that the average Nigerian politician does direct opposite of whatever he says, makes one to take Saraki’s pledge with a pinch of the salt. The process of leaving the ruling party may however be further facilitated by the ruling party’s call for sanctions against him and other party members who defied the party’s order in selecting leaders of the National Assembly.

Oyegun

The new senate president, alongside other rebels may be on their way to PDP or float a new party under which platform Bukola Saraki may try his luck one more time to become president of Nigeria in 2019. Interestingly, the personalities of the people involved and their antecedents in the nation’s political history in the recent past should be potent enough to send jilters down the spins of Buhari and leaders of APC. Saraki’s allies in the rebellion such as Atiku Abubakar, Wamakko, Dino Melayi, and other senators from Kwara, Kogi, Zamfara and Sokoto States joined APC as rebels from PDP.

To go ahead with the plan to sanction the new Nigeria’s number three citizen and a host of his supporters in the Assembly may end up being counter- productive for the ruling party. The choice is however, for APC to either swim with Saraki as senate president or rock the boat of the government before it takes off at all. Time will surely tell!

 

 

 

Author: News Editor

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