By Ejima Ummuna
As the 2023 General Elections approach, one of the major contenders whose name consistently appears in analysis and news articles about potential aspirants is the former Senate President and an erstwhile Governor of Kwara State, Senator Bukola Saraki.
Saraki, who is widely believed to have stabilised the leadership of the National Assembly in the 8th Assembly (2015 to 2019), was initially said to have been one of the roadblocks that hindered the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the period between 2015 and 2019.
However, with Saraki out of the National Assembly, many Nigerians and commentators have begun to shift ground — stating that Saraki was not the problem that many of the propagandists made him out to be when he was the Senate President, he was the individual that helped to provide the appropriate check and balance to the executive.
Now, as the Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) National Reconciliation and Strategy Committee, a committee that has been inaugurated to address the existing issues in the party ahead of the 2023 General Election, Saraki’s committee has been meeting with stakeholders from the opposition across the nation.
So far, it has recorded successes in reconciling aggrieved factions in the Borno, Plateau and Ogun chapters of the party — with another recent success recorded just this week in Oyo State when the Committee extracted a commitment from stakeholders to work together under the leadership of the Governor Seyi Makinde.
However, while Saraki has been working to stabilise the party, back in Abuja, there are indications that many members of the ruling party are uncomfortable with the newfound stride in the former Senate President’s step.
Several sources have confirmed that sensing the fact that Saraki, who is from the North Central — a Fulani and a Yoruba man by birth — could provide a formidable presidential candidate in 2023, there are efforts to ensure that he does not clinch his party’s nomination if he does decide to run.
Perhaps, this is why, just last week, following his attendance at Senator Shaaba Lafiagi’s daughter’s wedding in Abuja, when Saraki voluntarily visited the offices of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to discuss the issues that they sought to clarify with him, the news was awash with stories that Saraki had been detained and arrest by the financial crimes watchdog.
Later that evening, when Saraki’s media office released a statement to state that the Senate President was back at home, and that he had visited the EFCC voluntarily, Nigerians began to ask if there have been efforts or attempts to clampdown on Saraki, in the same manner, that governments since Obasanjo’s era have attempted to silence their political opponents.
One thing is clear, whether Saraki does decide to run or not — at this time, he is considered a major contender and frontrunner in the PDP.
This is because, since he left office, he has consistently stayed abreast of issues in both politics and governance, and has also courted and perhaps clinched the support of a critical voter demographic, the youth.
As we all continue to watch the way everything plays out, many Nigerians hope that the EFCC, under its current Chairman — who seems to have the body language of an unbiased professional, will not be used to fight proxy political wars or settle any pending political scores.
Ejima writes from Imo State