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.
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.