Myth, Reality and Lessons From Saraki’s Fall. By Kayode Abdulazeez
It is no longer news that the incumbent Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who has been tipped as a potential President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria due to his strategic political calculation, network and sagacity to achieve whatever he set his eyes on and his political progression in the country that eventually made him number three citizen in the country, would not be returning to the upper chamber again.
No doubt, Saraki is intelligence personified and a goal setter and getter, and a story published by The Watch Magazine in the late 2002 when he was eyeing governorship seat of Kwara State lent credence to the assertion. The publication lucidly gave account on how scion of Saraki dynasty jettisoned a medical profession for real estate business and how he was doing fine in that business with his ability to take risk by exploiting every opportunity towards recouping his investments, which eventually made him one of the youngest millionaires among his contemporaries.
Although, he came into Kwara politics with the support of his late father, Dr Olusola Saraki, who enjoyed the support of the downtrodden in the state, considering his generosity and humility. But the economic intelligence and exposure of Bukola Saraki cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand, and this alone made some elite, who were opposed to late Olusola Saraki's dominance in the polity to embrace junior Saraki and support him to become governor in 2003 general elections.
Saraki's legacy as governor of Kwara State from 2003 to 2011 and his influence amongst his peers when he chaired the Governors' Forum made him more popular at national and international spheres. Some Kwarans are still proud of his performance till today. His achievements as governor included establishment of Kwara State University, Shonga Farms, International Aviation College, Kwara Diagnostic Centre and other infrastructural developments like Post Office Flyover Bridge.
Saraki was seen as new political Professor in the State by those who worked with him at various positions while others perceived him as someone they need to keep impressing if they want to continue government patronage both at the state and national.
This eventually paved the way for sycophants and praise-singers alike to penetrate him and like a Greek tragic character began to act like a tin god. In what is typical of flaws of the tragic character, he fell for the sycophants. He has his own way of selecting those he commits political responsibility to without paying attention to consequences. Nobody dares tell the ‘almighty leader’ the truth; therefore stop telling him the reality of what is going on in town and state generally. This made the 55years old politician lost touch with the electorate as they only fed him with sweet information, which is at variance with the true reflection of the scenario since they see it as best way to make him happy and get monetary and political rewards in return.
His downfall started when he forcefully emerged President of the Senate against wishes of the political party, All Progressives Congress (APC) he rode to become Senator again in 2015. This, according to political observers, led to his persecution by Buhari led-government, which he worked for its emergence against all odds.
Beside, reliable sources accused Saraki of using Kwara State resources to fund his nearly three years legal tussle at the Code of Conduct Tribunal in connivance with the governor he singlehandedly installed.
The residents started feeling the negative effects, especially civil servants, public office holders, contractors, students, and general masses. They suffered the effects of non-payment of salaries, allegedly diverted to fund his CCT trial in hiring frontline legal giants and mobilising people from Kwara for solidarity with Bukola any time the case came up for mention in Abuja.
State Civil servants started experiencing percentage in salary payment, political appointees began to experience pay cuts and as well as no money to balance contractors that had completed their work or award new major contracts, no more bursary for indigenes of state schooling in and outside, and low inflow of money in the state to boost economy and patronage of those doing small scale businesses.
Enlightenment of the masses and majorly civil servants by main opposition party through different radio programmes led to uncovering of lapses and corruptible tendencies of the then APC turned PDP led government in the state.
The above and other factors cleared the log in people's eyes and when the opposition party, All progressives Congress (APC) came up with the one of the most embraced political slogan 'O to ge' ( ENOUGH IS ENOUGH ), it only needed little or no effort in getting the nods of the masses, and suddenly it became a household name anywhere you go in the state and outside and even up to the Presidency.
Gang up of elite in the state also contributed immensely to fall of Saraki political dynasty. Many educated indigenes of the state were never happy with the way Saraki was controlling the government affairs and how he boasted that kwara political party is ‘Saraki party’ and as such, he is the only person that can determine who gets what in terms of appointment at the state and federal, to the extent that anybody that needed political and non-political appointments or government patronage must know him or get a letter of recognition from him in which the elite perceived as a big shame on their intelligence and must come to an end.
According to a top politician in the state, Saraki was never in the good book of majority Kwarans and as a result most of the previous elections he won for himself and his stooges were always rigged with the support of federal 'might' through security forces. And this can be easily confirmed by outcome of last Saturday elections.
Bukola got his calculation wrong by leaving APC to PDP due to what people saw as personal ambition to retain the senate president seat, which he believed may not be realised if he returned to the senate under APC. He took this action without paying requisite attention to federal might he leveraged in all previous elections. Saraki was said to have gone into bargaining for senate president seat with PDP, which he confirmed by himself at one of his campaigns that “PDP has agreed to make him senate president when they win next presidential election and Kwarans should support and vote for PDP based on this” but unknowing to him, many of his supporters and political observers in the state saw his action of taking them away from APC as personal interest. It was expected that Bukola would be smart enough and endure whatever persecution he would have been passing through in APC since no condition is permanent and consider consequences of leaving government at the centre.
Election reality and the 2019 National Assembly election that eventually resulted into what looked like the end of Bukola Saraki political reign in Kwara was protest votes against what electorate perceived as unpleasant style of Bukola politics, which has impacted negatively in their lives, especially the civil servants.
Furthermore, many people are not happy with the level of infrastructural decay in the state and never stopped saying the truth to the hearing of those in government but as a winning politician he believed that he would be able to buy the conscience of the electorate and electoral umpire with money any time election comes up. But it was a wishful thinking for him.
The beneficiaries of Bukola's fall that are now the new emergents in Kwara politics should see this as a big task and opportunity to right Saraki's wrongs. It is believed that only time will tell how far they will go politically compared to 16 years of Bukola reign in the state.
Senator-elect Dr Ibrahim Oloriegbe for Kwara Central and other elected federal lawmakers should not see their emergence as a result of their political popularity or capacity but count themselves lucky ones that contested when all forces were tired of Bukola Saraki political reign that people perceived to be causing retrogression in all ramifications in the state. They should capitalise on this uncommon opportunity to write their names with golden pen.
The lessons from his downfall are, with the level of political awareness and easy access to real and fake information through social media, any politician that wants to continue dominate the game must be ready to be transparent to the people and do the biddings of majority.
Politicians should never undermine the power of masses in waging war against perceived enemy of progress. Political mandate belongs to the masses and masses are ready to support any politician, who exhibited transparency and ready to give them basic needs of life to make them comfortable and going about their daily activities without any let or hindrance.
Politicians should be careful not to be carried away with unnecessary praise-singing coming from people around them especially, the sycophants, who are only ready to say what pleases them and not the reality on ground.
Physical achievements and good policy that would make life meaningful to the people are key to political sustainability for any politician that wants history to remember him or her for good.
Abdulazeez writes from Ilorin, the Kwara State capital