OrderPaperToday – Late Dr. Abukakar Olusola Saraki was a prominent and accomplished national political figure before his demise in 2012. Albeit holding the politics of Kwara State under an iron-cast grip, he took a shot at the presidency of Nigeria on two occasions: first, under the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in 1983; and in 1999 under the then All People’s Party (APP). Now, his scion and successor to the throne, Olubukola Saraki, is threading same path for the presidency of Nigeria. Will the junior Saraki triumph where his father failed twice? Majeed Bakare reports:
A bold move for Buhari’s job…
Two weeks ago the President of the Senate and former governor of Kwara State, Bukola Saraki, picked a symbolic place to declare for the presidency in 2019: a consultative forum by the #NotTooYoungToRun movement. The platform represented exactly what Saraki’s campaign team will want to sell his candicacy as: youth-inclined, cosmopolitan, savvy and most importantly, opposite of current President Muhammadu Buhari. The move however, was badly implemented with a boomerang effect attending the event as the organizers condemned the Senate President for hijacking their event for personal political advantage.
Saraki’s political trajectory…
Bukola’s late father, who attained the height of Senate Leader in the Second Republic, towered over the politics of Kwara State until he was dislodge by his son in a rather unceremonious manner that some argued hastened his transition to the great beyond.
But there is no controversy whatsoever that it was the senior Saraki who groomed and nurtured a sure path for his son in politics. Bukola Saraki started his political career in 2000 when he was appointed as Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Budget. In 2003, he contested the governorship election against his father’s former godson, the late Muhammed Lawal, and emerged victorious. Bukola rode on that pedestal to serve two constitutionally allowed terms in office. He was also shrewd in seizing maximum political advantage using that office.
Accordingly, he served as the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) from 2007 and eventually declared interest in the 2011 presidential election but withdrew from the race following the adoption of Atiku Abubakar by the Northern power bloc. He then settled for the Kwara Central Senatorial seat, after the unexpected withdrawal of the then candidate, Isiaka Gold, paving way for a fresh primary to be conducted.
If there was any romance between him Jonathan it certainly did not last long as Saraki who was then the Chairman Senate Committee on Environment in September 2011 moved the motion “to investigate the current fuel subsidy management and consider the challenges it poses to the implementation of 2011 budget.”
This motion set the ball rolling for the anger that trailed removal of subsidy by President Jonathan in 2012. Saraki again was also at the heart of the final blow against Jonathan’s administration, as he played vital role in the formation of the New PDP (N-PDP) with his Kin and political lapdog, Kawu Baraje serving as chairman of the contrived faction. This crisis subsequently led to the defection of 5 governors and several lawmakers, including Saraki and all his allies into the coalition that eventually metamorphosed into APC. It was on the platform of the APC that he, like scores of others, secured election into the Senate.
Saraki’s chequered senate presidency…
Saraki’s emergence as the Senate President on June 9, 2015 was heralded by high drama. Unwanted by the APC and faced with a cold indifference from the Buhari presidency, the Kwara-born politician had to scheme a coalition with the opposition PDP to emerge as the number one senator of the extant assembly. Although, Saraki’s assumption led to the continuous stay of the senate presidency in the North-central geo-political zone (his predecessor, David Mark, being from Benue State, served 8 years as Senate President), this upset the zoning arrangement of the APC which had zoned the position to the North-east.
But Saraki had murdered sleep as it were. He reeled from one battle to the other. From a prolonged Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) trial that pushed up to the Supreme Court, to several brushes with key operatives of the Executive who confronted the Senate, Saraki battled one prosecution or persecution or the other till he left the party to the PDP on July 31, 2018.
Saraki’s relationship with security agencies has been cold rather than cordial: the list includes the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, Controller General of Customs, Ali Hammed and the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Magu, while his relationship with the former head of the Department of Secret Service, Mamman Daura is under investigation following the siege and blockage of the National Assembly after Saraki defected from the ruling party.
In all these, the Senate President maintained an iron grip on the red chamber, using the sledge hammer on erring and errant colleagues perceived to be agents of his traducers. Two senators: Ali Ndume and Ovie Omo-Agege were examples, although the latter fought back fiercely and is shielded by the court for now. While the jury is still out on the performance of the 8th Assembly led by Saraki, the Kwara political kingpin declared for the presidency in 2019, upping the stakes in an already tensed polity. This was not long after he decamped from the ruling APC with his allies and supporters under the platform of R-APC.
Saraki’s chance with the PDP ticket
Can Bukola Saraki trump heavyweights like Atiku to pick the PDP presidential ticket? Can he ride over the likes of Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto, ex-gov Sule Lamido, and others to emerge flag-bearer of the opposition party in 2019? This is the big question even as Saraki has launched out ferociously in series of consultations with key national leaders, including ex Heads of State, Ibrahim Babangida and Goodluck Jonathan, among others.
Does his Kwara ancestry offer him any advantage, especially given the perception that being a Yoruba man from Ilorin is in itself a clash of geopolitical/ethnic conundrum? This is one dilemma the Senate President is going to face, just like his father before him.
History repeating itself?
The views of an article published on Sahara Reporters in 2010 and authored by Abdul-Rahoof Adebayo Bello, an academic staff of the National Open University of Nigeria, bears restating here: “Governor Bukola Saraki’s attempt at ruling this country suffers the same fate like that of his father because of his identity crisis but ironically, he fails to learn from history. In 1983, Dr. Olusola Saraki made a frantic effort to contest for the presidency on the platform of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) but was told that the incumbent President Shehu Shagari was to go for second term but he was not satisfied because President Shagari was a reluctant candidate.
“The fallout of the power game led to a grand conspiracy and discrimination against the elder Saraki, which led him to seek a political asylum with the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). To take his pound of flesh from the NPN, he directed his supporters to vote for the UPN’s gubernatorial candidate Senator C. O. Adebayo. Another attempt was made by him under the Social Democratic Party but had to chicken out for a more formidable power bloc formed by the late Chief M. K. O. Abiola and late Gen. Shehu Yar’Adua. “Again in 1998 when the presidency was zoned to the southwest to compensate for the injustice done to Chief M. K. O. Abiola, Dr. Saraki attempted the APP ticket but got disappointed by the northern cabal in the party who preferred to go into alliance with the AD for the 1999 presidential elections. How else does Dr. Olusola Saraki want to be told that he has overstayed is welcome in the north? If your religion cannot change you, then change your religion.”
Over three decades after, has anything significant changed to make for success for the Saraki scion where his late father failed? The coming weeks will surely tell.


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