By Yusuph Olaniyonu
Since he left the Nigerian Senate in June 2019 as its president, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has remained relevant and on top of his game. He has proved that politics goes beyond seeking and holding top political office.
A good politician is one who contributes to policies and programmes directed at the development of his constituency at every point, in and out of office.
The good politician is the one who at all times attends to the problems and seek knowledge the progress of his immediate and larger constituency. Since last year, the former Governor of Kwara State has immersed himself in discourse and engagement with individuals who have the experience in policy formulation and execution. Snippets of some of the sessions he has had appeared in the various newspaper op-ed articles he recently authored and the tweeter messages he posted to air his views on key national issues.
In the same manner, Saraki has given speeches at some fora, on and offline, both at home and abroad. On several occasions, his views had been sought by diplomats and the country’s development partners on key issues. These engagements have also created opportunities for him to seek support for Nigeria and her various institutions.
The last 18 months have also been utilised by Saraki to organise his various businesses and get more involved in supervising them. It is now that he is directly involved in the co-ordination of his businesses that we got to know that he owns a packaging company somewhere in Kwara State where over 100 youths are gainfully engaged. There are many of such endeavours aimed at creating employment and helping to grow the economy that are not mentioned in the media. The interesting thing is that at the driver’s seat of most of these private companies are youths who are having the best experience in showcasing their managerial ability.
His love for the youths have been demonstrated in his pre and post-Senate years. Issues concerning the youths touch him more and elicit passionate, incisive and brilliant response from him. This passion about the youths is however not new. Since his days in the private sector up to his years as Governor, Senator and Senate President, Saraki has always surrounded himself with young, brilliant and committed ladies and gentlemen.
Perhaps, he holds the record as the Senate President with the highest number of people between ages 24 and 35 serving as key aides. Even now, most of the people around him are still within that age bracket. One remembers how, working with his colleagues in the Eighth National Assembly, he championed the realization of the demand of the YIAGA group to get a constitutional bill passed that will lower the age requirement for various public offices so as to enhance and facilitate the participation of young people in governance . The Bill is known as the Not-Too-Young-to-Run Bill. It was one of the 12 Constitution Amendment bills which were passed by the 8th National Assembly and given assent by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Perhaps, the most symbolic representation of his love for the youths came when during his address to national delegates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the Port Harcourt convention where he sought the Presidential ticket of the party, Saraki was accompanied to the stage by then 24-year old Aminu Waziri Mohammed, a special assistant in his office as Senate President. It was a message to the nation that the aspirant would give adequate posts, space, say and recognition to the youths, if elected.
He has also spent more time with family and the post-Senate years have seen him become a grandfather. As for a man who at the age of 38 started occupying public office and continuously held key posts for 19 years, the huge time that he probably has for his children and grandchild in the last 18 months, must have been unprecedented.
Even outside public office, the Waziri of Ilorin has not stopped the philanthropic endeavours he inherited from his late father, Dr. Olusola Abubakar Saraki who was the immediate Past Wazirin Geri Ilorin. From Ile Arugbo where hundreds of old women were provided with food, money and health care, to the mass distribution of food and cash items during Ramadan and other Muslim festivals and the distribution of health materials and food items as palliatives during the lockdown resulting from the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, Saraki continues to provide succour and support for the less privileged in his immediate constituency.
That is why in his first publicized visit to Ilorin, his home town, after leaving office, the entire people of the emirate and other parts of the State of Harmony turned out en mass to welcome their hero, political champion and most influential personality back home. It was a weekend which was only reminiscent of how people usually rejoiced when they welcomed his late father back home any time he stayed out of the state for a considerably long period of time. In recent years, the only time the entire state poured out to welcome an individual was when the younger Saraki visited Ilorin after his victory at the Supreme Court in the case on asset declaration filed against him by the Federal Government.
Again, like his late father, the Oloye, Saraki has continued to demonstrate that he is not a politician who bears the name only when elections are coming. He is a man working hard to serve the people all the time. Outside office, he has continued to play the role of a community leader, opinion moulder, powerful influencer, policy wonk, ideas man, statesman, man with vast network and net worth, as well as a reliable party man.
Again, when he was outside the country during and immediately after the post-Covid19 lockdown, Saraki was working with top party leaders in the PDP on the need to strengthen the party. He played key role with others during the gubernatorial election in Edo State which the party won against the ruling party. On some other critical issues, the former Senate President kept in touch with governors, National Assembly members elected on the platform of the party and other top leaders.
He has been an advocate of the need for genuine reconciliation of members, rebranding of the party, rejuvenation of the structures, review of the manifesto, constitution and composition of the various organs and broadening of the bases of the PDP. This was the reason less than two weeks after his arrival in the country, the National Working Committee of the Party led by Prince Uche Secondus appointed him chairman of a National Reconciliation and Strategic Committee which has another former Senate President, Pius Anyim, three former governors, Ibrahim Dankwanbo (Gombe), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina), Liyel Imoke (Cross River) and ex-Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, Mulikat Adeola Akande as members.
Saraki and the other members of the committee have since demonstrated their eagerness and determination to succeed by hitting the ground running. The consultations with key members of the party and visit to trouble areas have since commenced before the inauguration of the committee. With the work of the committee and the results it is already yielding, some positive news are now in the media about the PDP. The party is on the bounce again.
If there is a politician who is worried and disgusted about the fact that with the various crises plaguing Nigeria, top politicians are not seeking, proffering and discussing solutions, but rather still engaged in politics as usual, gallivanting and fawning over the subject of who will get what post in the post-Buhari Nigeria, it is Saraki. At every point, he would engage this writer about how it seems illogical for anybody to just be thinking about his ambition and how to run for office when the country herself is sliding into the abyss.
“Yusuph, are you not disturbed that with the challenges of insecurity, economic crisis, indiscipline, disunity, internal and external aggression, collapse of infrastructure, erosion of national values and the anger of unhappy citizens, some people are still just concerned only about 2023 and they are not talking about what needs to be done to solve all these problems?”, I will just smile. He gave full expression to this feeling when in the speech he read at the inauguration of the PDP Reconciliation and Strategic Committee, he stated that “…This is a critical time in the life of our nation when politicians must forget about our individual ambitions and focus on building a nation…After all, it is only when there is a nation that somebody can aspire to govern or lead her”.
The statement reflects the thought of a statesman, a patriotic citizen and a leader who seeks to be a solution not a part of the problem of his country. It should also be the refrain for others who are grand-standing and scheming for 2023 which is still 29 months away. A time long enough for ordinary mortals to have the fear of who will be alive till then, who will not and in what state will the country be by then.
As this consummate politician, medical doctor, banker, husband to a cerebral woman, father of four lovely children and grandfather of a lovely young girl, turns 58th today, one can only wish him a happy birthday and many happy returns.
Olaniyonu is Head of the Abubakar Bukola Saraki Media Office, Abuja.