By Comfort Obi
For two days, I battled, with myself, whether to write on the unbelievable routing of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in the February 23 Presidential/ National Assembly Elections or not. It was the same way I battled before my write-up on the uncommon fall of Godswill Akpabio, former Akwa Ibom state governor, former PDP Senate Minority Leader and, soon to be former Senator in the same election. The difference: While Saraki’s took me the whole of 48 hours to decide, Akpabio’s was less than 20 minutes. Even the choice of the title above was not easy too.
The caption I first fancied was: “The Humbling of Bukola Saraki.” But I sighed, and perished the thought.
Here is why.
I find myself, always, taking sides with the persecuted. And, sincerely, I believe that Saraki has been a victim of unnecessary political persecution from the minute he emerged as the Senate President. Still, the urge to write on his defeat was irresistible.
You know, I had caught myself asking nobody in particular: Of all the big names who failed in their bid to go to the Senate, and they are many (Governors Abiola Ajimobi, lbrahim Dankwambo – Oyo & Gombe – former Governors George Akume & Emmanuel Uduaghan – Benue & Delta – Senators Andy Uba & Shehu Sani), why the fascination with Saraki and Akpabio? Why pick on them? Here is the answer:
It’s not that those others don’t matter. Ah, big boys, they matter. I mean, look at Akume for example – a two-time governor, Benue’s political godfather whose ambition was, allegedly, the office of the Senate President, since 2015, the man who installed both Governors Gabriel Suswan and Samuel Ortom, and the man who, in the past one year, has fought Ortom every inch of the way and declared him a one-term governor. Big guy. But it’s just that Akpabio and Saraki are special in a couple of ways. So, their failure, even if temporary, is a big deal.
Akpabio is one of the most boastful men on mother- earth. And Saraki? Well, to him and his many followers, he is God’s gift to Kwara state!
But life, who would ever have thought that Saraki could be politically defeated in Kwara?
Saraki’s enormous political powers and influence go beyond him. A medical doctor, like his father, the late former Senate leader(PDP) and Kwara strong man, Dr. Olusola Saraki, power and influence were Bukola’s inheritance from his father. The senior Saraki, while alive, was a tin god in the state. Most Kwarans, both the rich and the poor, groveled before him. He made and unmade people. He installed and uninstalled governors and other political office holders at will. As soon as he got tired of them he dumped them. When he, one after the other, lost faith in the successive governors he installed, he remembered the saying: “charity begins at home.”
So, he dragged out his son, Bukola, from their family bank, the now defunct Societe Generale, into politics, and installed him governor. In same breath, he installed his daughter, Bukola’s younger sister, Gbemi, a Senator. Eight years in office, and, perhaps, unknown to his father, Saraki junior built his own political structure. He also, acquired power and influence, and was the Chair of the powerful Nigeria’s Governors Forum. Meanwhile, his father had gotten used to being called Papa Governor, Papa Senator, and wanted no end to it. What to do? Simple. An exchange in offices between his two beloved children. Gbemi, as governor and, Bukola as Senator. The old man didn’t reckon with the new Bukola who had grown wings. He disagreed with his father, something that was near unheard of in Kwara. Those who dared failed woefully. But not Bukola.
He backed another person, Abdulfatah Ahmed, the now out-going governor, against his sister and, their father. The old man was forced to quit the PDP, and founded another party from where Gbemi contested. She lost woefully.
That marked the beginning of a crack in the Saraki political dynasty. Bukola and Gbemi have since then, remained political enemies. They smile at each other’s political misfortune. But, it never subtracted anything from the Saraki political dynasty in Kwara. Saraki overtook his father, protocol-wise. The senior Saraki stopped at being the Senate Leader. But the junior became Nigeria’s number three man – Senate President. Anywhere Bukola went, Kwara followed.
He defected from the PDP to the APC, and Kwara, including the governor, followed. That marked the first death of the PDP in Kwara. When he, again, defected from APC to the PDP, the party resurrected in Kwara. But, unlike before, he had acquired dangerous political enemies. They decided to give him the fight of his life. They decided to demystify him; to cut him down to size.
It began with his objection to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s ambition to be President Buhari’s running mate in 2015. A Muslim-Muslim ticket, he, and a few others, argued, is a no-no. A patriotic stand, given the sensitivity of Religion in Nigeria, but hurt, Tinubu never forgave Saraki. He withdrew his promise to support him to be the Senate President. A question of “do me I do you, God no go vex.” But, Saraki out-smarter Tinubu, and became the Senate President, beating Senator Ahmed Lawan, who Tinubu convinced the APC leadership to back. Since then, nothing has been the same for Saraki.
He goes down in history as Nigeria’s most humiliated Senate President. He was dragged and docked before the powerful Code of Conduct Tribunal. After months of that humiliation, he survived it. The worst came when the police asked him to appear before its investigation panel to answer to charges of, beat this, armed robbery and murder. And, the Police, as if in celebration, inexplicably made a sing-song of those allegations. He survived that. A number of times, he managed to thwart impeachment plots against him.
But the real first sign that that he is gradually being demystified was a couple of months ago when his candidate lost the bye-election for the House of Representatives, in Kwara. The APC in the state, led by the Minister for Information, Lai Mohammed, celebrated no end. Don’t blame them, it had never happened before.
Now this. Saraki, has not only lost Kwara state, woefully, to the APC in the Presidential / NASS elections, he also lost his own bid to return to the Senate. Something, hitherto, unheard of.
And not a few people are celebrating and laughing. Lai Mohammed compared Saraki’s defeat to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Another said “it is the end of an era, the emancipation of the people. Somebody even suggested that February 23, of every year, be declared a public holiday in Kwara to mark the defeat of Saraki’s political empire.
How did Saraki lose the magic wand? Whatever happened?
Some people insist it is the law of Karma. He demystified his father, they say. In Nigeria, nobody, no matter how old, dies naturally. So they allege that his demystification of his father, contributed, largely, to the old man’s death. Others say it is a fitting pay back to his betrayal of President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP in 2015.
Whatever, they finally got Saraki. What the CCT and the Police and Tinubu couldn’t do, Kwarans have done in a manner akin to a tsunami. Saraki says he was rigged out. Perhaps. But who will listen to him? In this election, he faced the FG and its might, not his opponent. And, a more serious loss than the NASS could follow.
If his candidate does not win the Governorship election on March 9, then, a final nail would have been driven into his political coffin.
Will he recover one day if that happens? Not soon. At least, not in the next four years, especially, as his party has, not a few people say, unbelievably lost the presidential seat. That’s where Akpabio is a luckier guy than him. Inspite of Akpabio’s senatorial loss, he has hope. His target of becoming the Senate President has been dashed, but he may be given a Ministerial position or the Chairmanship of a money-spinning Board or Commission.
Finally, Saraki is a medical doctor. So, while in the Secondary school, he may not have read James Hardly Chase’s “The Way The Cooky Crumbles.” I still have a copy of it in my book shelf. And I read it now and then when things don’t add up for me. I, hereby, recommend it to Dr Saraki.