By Owei Lakemfa
SENATE President, Bukola Saraki, a light heavy weight politician has punched his way up the political ladder with memorable knockouts. His rise is so phenomenal that he has quickly moved to the heavy weight category.
Today, he, not the people, our welfare or needs, are the issue. When he moved from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, fourteen other Senators moved with him. He is also a bad influence on House Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
If I were to enumerate the three most significant fights of the Buhari administration in its over three years in office, they will be those against corruption, insecurity and Saraki.
The Senate President has been quite resourceful and skillful in the political ring. When the ruling party with a clear majority put up an official candidate as Senate President, Saraki, employing the legendary political acumen of the Ilorin, defeated him hands down. He dragged senators across party divide to his trials at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
When the police accused him of aiding and abetting the Offa robbery, he succeeded in getting the Senate to back his innocence. As Senate President, Saraki suspends fellow senators who step out of line including those backing the Presidency rather than the Senate.
Early in his political career, he had shown the stuff he is made of by defeating and retiring his biological father and the godfather of Kwara politics, Oloye Olusola Saraki, from politics. He also knocked out his sister, Senator Gbemi Saraki to become the undisputed champion in that state.
Saraki has so far won all the bouts against his political opponents including the Presidency. However, the latter and the ruling APC are determine to get rid of him as Senate President by all means necessary. They are banking on their supposed majority in the Senate. But they fail to take into consideration, the personal interests of the APC senators which may not tally with those of their party or the Presidency.
For instance, the Presidency in funding the 2019 elections and some other projects is asking for virement of the funds approved in the 2018 Budget for the Senators constituency projects. Most senators would not want these funds tempered with. So, even within the APC senators, if a secret ballot is taken on Saraki’s removal as Senate President, the required two thirds or even simple majority, may not be attained.
Generally, I stand with Saraki, but not in his advertised quest to wrest the Presidency from incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 elections. I think Saraki will be boxing way too high from his weight. First, politics in Nigeria is war and Buhari as a retired general, dwarfs Saraki, a mere medical doctor. Secondly, in terms of experience, the latter has contested the Presidency four times with one victory while Saraki has never contested.
Thirdly, Buhari has been Minister, GOC and Military Head of State before becoming President of the Federal Republic. In contrast, Saraki has merely been a banker and governor before being Senate President. Most importantly, unlike President Buhari, he has not shown Nigerians he is healthy and physically fit.
Just last Tuesday during Eid Mubarak, the President embarked on a record breaking 800-metre walk from the Eid ground to his Daura home. Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu memorably captured that historic walk when he told Nigerians:
“I think the President has done one thing today – that the issue is not how old one is but how fit he is; how healthy he is. Now that the President has proven his fitness,(his) well-being to continue in office is a settled matter. I think that if people want to campaign against him they should do so on issues that are of significance to Nigerians. The President is fit, he is healthy; he is good to go.”
One point Saraki, a medical doctor needs to learn from Garba Shehu is that it is not only medical doctors who can give one a clean bill of health, other professionals like journalists, can also issue such medical certificate. With an opponent as formidable as President Buhari, my advise to Saraki is, drop out of politics.
Then, there is the competing politics in Oyo State. We all agree that the position of State Governor is a very high political office, but when its occupant cannot rise to the demands of such an office, he has no alternative but to lower the office to his level.
What you then get as governance is cretinism which to the uninitiated would look comical. With this, the acts of the occupier of such an office becomes more and more comical and the Government House is transformed into one big theatre where the public is entertained for free.
That is why whenever a new performance is on in Agodi, Ibadan where Governor Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi,69,is Executive Producer, Director and Lead Actor, I leave whatever I am doing to watch. He once had a running reality show which included a magical performance increasing the Olubadan kingship from one to twenty two.
In another production, this time with students protesting against the closure of their institution for months, the Governor declared that he is “the Constituted Authority” in the state; he needed the students to know that.
In the latest drama, he caused a media house owned by musician, Yinka Ayefele, to be partially demolished. I am not in a position to dispute his claim that the 10-year old structure violates town planning regulations, but it was his response that seemed to have further angered the populace. He mocked the physically-challenged proprietor of the radio station as a cripple who is not above the law.
Many are angry with Governor Ajimobi about this, including the fact that the State Government denied in open court that it is responsible for the demolition carried out under its instruction. But I think their anger is misplaced because they demand of the governor what he does not possess.
Ayefele with traditional rulers in tow, has wisely gone to make peace with the governor. The Yorubas say, what you do with the wicked, is to beg him; you even apologise for being his victim. So I stand with Ajimobi and look forward to receiving him in Abuja next year where he is likely to make an appearance in the Senate which has become the retirement home for many former governors.
Permit me to end with a Yoruba song in praise of the Constituted Authority: ‘Gomina Ajimobi, ma ba se relo, Ajimobi, ma ba se relo; ise re tewalorun, ma ba se relo!’ “Governor Ajimobi, continue with your good works, Ajimobi, continue with your good works; we are satisfied with your performance. Continue with your good works!”