How Buhari Forced Saraki To Join The Presidential Race

By Stephen Ubanna

President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, may have known that Bukola Saraki, a former  governor of Kwara state  and now  Senate President, has a Presidential ambition. It was therefore not surprising why  he decided to frustrate his  leadership of the Senate  from the out-set to whittle down his powers and popularity in order to force him to  drop the ambition and support his re-election bid .

Buhari, according to party sources, fears that  with the rising profile of Saraki in the party and the National  Assembly  may  pose  a threat  to his re-election bid and therefore was  ready to employ the services of   Ibrahim Idris, the Inspector general of Police, Lawal Daura,  a former Director General, Department of State Security, DSS among others to witch hunt  him. He got it wrong as  Saraki outsmarted him  in the political game.

Instead of  the President  and his security Chieftains achieving their  plot to force Saraki to submission, it had a backlash effect on the APC government as it strengthened his resolve to unseat Buhari in the 2019 Presidential election.

As a prelude to contesting the Presidential election, he was forced to decamp to the Opposition  People’s Democratic Party, PDP which was a big loss to the APC. The fallout was the plot by the APC leadership  and the DSS at the instance of Buhari to remove him as the Senate President or force him to  resign.

Saraki  had turned a trenchant critic of the Buhari Administration because of their strained relationship as he continuously urge   Nigerians to rise up to defend their hard  won Democracy , describing Buhari as a” dictator and  a non democrat”.  He may have played into  Saraki’s  hand by  some of his actions, considered anti-democratic by the lawmakers.

Take for instance the case of Ibrahim Magu, a Commissioner of Police and his nomination  for  the position of  Chairman of the Economic and financial Crime Commission, EFCC, which was turned down by the Senate acting secret  security reports by  the DSS on him .

But the president  had snubbed the Senate to still retain him as acting  Chairman of the  anti-graft agency through Executive Orders.  More worrisome was the  refusal to pay Lawmakers their Constituency  allowance which run into  billions of naira  yearly. He was said to have told  the lawmakers to build into the   yearly capital projects  earmarked for execution for budgetary allocation. The Lawwmakers did not find it funny  as they wanted the  allowance paid to them. This is because  previous Lawmakers had enjoyed the  benefit from past presidents  without going cap in hand begging for it.

Saraki may have alluded  to  this in a lecture delivered to the 26 participants at the Nigeria Defense College, NDC,, entitled,  ”Separation of Powers and National Security: an Appraisal’. He had  said that  the full adherence to the Principles of Separation of Powers was crucial to the survival of democracy, good governance and enhanced national security. The Senate President  fumed that  a situation where people , particular Buhari and political appointees, frown at  the actions taken by the Legislature  in the course of discharging its Constitutional responsibility  negates the Principle of Separation of powers and the Rule of law.

Bukola Saraki
Bukola Saraki: Joins the PDP presidential race.

Saraki  did not mince words when he said: ”this is the case in the Nigerian Democratic experiment”. The recent siege of  the National Assembly  complex  on the orders of  the sacked Daura, the former DDSS boss, who was said to  have been  working assiduously for Buhari, may have provided  ammunition for  the Senate President to hit  hard at Buhari and the cabal in the Presidency. ”People who seek  control at all costs, by whatever means, never minding the  injury to democratic norms”,  do not deserve to be given another opportunity to rule the country, insisting  that ”this is not the kind of democracy Nigeria has bargained for”.

Jerry Rawlings, a Flt. Lt. and former President of Ghana  had said that ”Nigerians are in love with their Oppressors” and therefore it is difficult  for the youths to grab power in Nigeria. Saraki, who claimed to be worth N6 tn may belong to this class of oppressors but still consider him a new breed politician out to displace the old politicians who had ruined the economy and caused much havoc to the country.

Given  his resolve to contest the 2019 Presidential election, the Kwara state born politician was said to have been making   Consultations both locally and internationally to drum up support. At the last World Cup fiesta in Russia, he was  said to have disclosed his presidential ambition to Putin, the Russian President, who was impressed by the decision. He was said to have been given the opportunity to address the Senate in his capacity as the Nigeria Senate President, thus raising his international profile. Back home, he had reached out to  former president Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida, a former  military president as part of his nation -wide consultations.

His rising local and international profile  may have  forced Doyin Okupe,  a Medical Doctor and former Presidential Spookeperson to pressure him to ”leverage  on it and contest the 2019 Presidential election”. Okupe had told those that care to listen that, ” apart from Buhari, the next most visible and notable  politician in the country today was Saraki and he would do himself a great favour if he steps into the ring and run for  President” This is because of his pedigree: exposure and experience, he had said.

The Presidential Spokesman was not interested on the party platform  he may want to contest the Presidential  election if he declares his interest but urging him to do so and leave the rest for the foot soldiers who would do the work for him.  He may have spoken the mind of  Obasanjo, who  was happy to receive him  in his  Presidential library where they discussed on  a wide of socio-economic issues facing  Nigeria and his Presidential ambition. Saraki stopped short of calling for his support. there are indications that if he fails to  clinch the PDP ticket, Obasanjo may lure him to the African Democratic Congress, ADC, a party sponsored by him , to contest the Presidential election in 2019.

Many believe that the amiable Senate President had been nursing the Presidential  ambition from the time he was the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, to rule Nigeria. He was awaiting for an opportunity to test his political skill when he lost out in 2015 . The opportunity came in 2015,when he outsmarted  Buhari  and the then APC party leadership to maneuver his way to be become the Senate President.

It was a big blow  to the President who felt betrayed  that a Senator  elected on the Party platform teamed up with the opposition to  go against the wish of the party.   Saraki  may have proved to Buhari that he was not his  political match as he penetrated the ranks of his security  network and was getting first hand  information on the government security plans  to  remove him and Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate  President and install Lawan and Senator Godswill Akabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom who had  decamped to APC as President and Deputy Senate President  respectively  to prepare the ground for his adoption at the party national Convention as the sole Presidential Candidate. The plot failed  which may have forced  him to bow to pressures  both within and outside the  National Assembly declare his interest in contesting the 2019 presidential election on the platform of the PDP.

He may have taken a cue from Buhari  who speaks to the foreign media on major policies of his Administration to speak to Bloomberg, a German based Newspaper    of his plan to contest the 2019 Presidential  election on Wednesday, August 15, 2018, thus putting to an end speculations about his  Presidential ambition.

A party source told the Magazine that he would have remained in APC to slug it out with Buhari  at the party Convention but he knew that  with the likes  of Adams Oshiomhole, a former governor of Edo state  as party Chairman and Ahmed Bola Tinubu,  a former governor of Lagos state as party national leader,  he has  no chance of dislodging  Buhari at the party Convention.  ”I am consulting  and actively considering it”, he had told Bllomberg.  Not many people  were surprised at his declaration of interest on the 2019 Presidential election because of the support of the lawmakers.

It would be recalled that  in defecting  to the opposition PDP, Saraki had told to his supporters that ”if he  decides  to run for the Presidential race, It would be  on the platform of  the PDP”, but says  that  the first hurdle  for him  is to win the party’s ticket during the primary election in October, 2018.

He has every reason to worry because  there are other formidable Candidates who have been criss-crossing the nooks and crannies to drum up support from the state governors and the party delegates. They are Saminu Turaki and  Rabiu Kwankwanso, both former governors of Zamfara and Kano states respectively, Aminu Tambuwal and hassan  Dankwambo, incumbent  governors of Sokoto and Gombe states respectively. Also in the race  on the platform of the PDP is Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President  and the Turaki of Adamawa.

Saraki, according to party sources may have  Saminu Turaki, who has the support of  Babangida,  Kwakwanso and Dankwambo  to contend with. This is because Atiku, described in party circles as a very formidable Candidate   may be out of it because of the forces against him.

Infact, Obasanjo had  made it clear to those that care to listen that ”God will not forgive him if he should support Atiku,  a former Vice President.  This may have made the coast clear for  Saraki and Kwankwaso  described as most qualified  and prepared  to rule the country for the office of the President.  Many believe that the battle for the PDP  Presidential  ticket is a straight fight between  Saraki and Kwakwanso.

Political analysts believe that whoever  clinches the PDP  ticket may get  sympathy votes because  of Buhari’s endless  trip to the United Kingdom, UK, on medical vacation. ”We are aware that  the President was faced  by  serious challenges of health and thus being held captive  by a cabal  that runs Nigeria for their personal interest”,  Tambuwal had said.

They noted that there  could have been a repeat of what happened in the last  Ekiti state  governorship election in the 2019 Presidential election  if Daura, the DSS boss had not been fired by Yemi Osinbajo on the approval of Buhari over his unilateral decision to  lay a siege on the National Assembly complex which was an embarrassment to the government.

Saraki said that much   ”security agencies are actively getting involved in the politics”, stressing  that ” they could still use security agencies  for elections”. He is optimistic  that whoever clinches the PDP ticket on its  October Convention  stand the chances of winning the 2019 general election , because the party  had learnt its lesson from the loss in 2015”, Presidential election just as the APC had not learnt any lesson from their victory.

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