I’ll reverse brain drain, boost health insurance coverage from 7 to 50 % —Saraki

By Emmanuel Aiyedogbon

SINCE Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki ventured into politics in the Fourth Republic, he has proved beyond reasonable doubt that he is determined and focused to bring out the best in whatever task given to him. He has over the years, through perseverance and forthrightness, distinguished himself in business and political circles.

He has also excelled in private and public life without soiling his hands. Today, he is among Nigerian politicians who stand tall in the polity, without any stain hanging on his neck. Saraki can be described as an accomplished Nigerian, who has contributed to the development of the country in different capacities, especially as a medical doctor, banker, special adviser to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Governor of Kwara   State and as number three citizen of Nigeria in 2015 to 2019 legislative years in the Senate. He has selflessly served his fatherland diligently and meritoriously.

Saraki is not a greenhorn in politics, he is a committed and patriotic party man a consummate professional, a respected nationalist, a committed philanthropist and a true family man. Addressing the media and some political associates during a breakfast meeting titled, “Why I Am Running for President”, organised by Saraki Support Group in Abuja, which was part of his stakeholders’ engagement ahead party’s primaries, the immediate past Senate president disclosed that the country needed to be fixed urgently from its failing state. According to him, Nigeria cannot afford to make the mistake of not putting the right person because of the numerous challenges the country is currently confronted with.

Saraki, a two-term Governor of Kwara State, said if elected, he will be President for all, and will represent a Nigerian identity that is truly diverse, inclusive, and truly Nigerian. He also stated that he will be the bridge between the young and the old, and that he will equally be the bridge between the private sector and the public sector. “I will be the bridge between Muslims and Christians. I will be the bridge between the North and the South. because I am the Nigerian for all Nigerians,” he added. Although he acknowledged the great efforts of all past leaders over the years, he, however, said as long as there is a child in Nigeria that cannot read or write, then the job is not done.  “And it is for this one child that I want to run for President because I will ensure that the law on compulsory basic education is enforced and quality of teaching improves in all public schools,” he said.

He was of the candid view that the nation has experienced setbacks in the last couple of years that no one could have imagined possible only less than a decade ago. According to him, 2023 presents a great moment of decision for Nigerians. “2023 presents the moment to choose hope over hopelessness; the moment to choose peace and security over fear and terror; the moment to choose unity and inclusion over division and exclusion; the moment that we draw a bold line in the sands of history and say, ‘no more’ and then move ahead as one people, as one nation, towards our God-assigned destiny as the greatest black nation on the face of the earth.”

The PDP chieftain continued: “We all have reasons to be worried about the future of this country. But this is not the time to surrender and wallow in despair. Rather, this is the moment, when all patriots and citizens of goodwill must show courage, rise above those lines of divisions that have kept us apart over the years and ask this very important question: where do we go from here? I do not have a grass to grace story to tell. Some may even consider me privileged. But I never take my privileges for granted. I learnt as a young boy growing up under the watchful guidance of a father who loved this country so dearly that to whom much is given, much is expected. Therefore, I can say that even the privileges of my childhood were easily matched by a dominant culture of giving, created by a father whose politics was defined by a deep commitment to helping and uplifting others. I learnt from him that life is truly worth living only when it is lived in the service of something that is bigger than yourself.”

Reminiscing on his past and humble beginning to where God has placed him today he said: “I decided to become a doctor because of this ingrained desire to help and to serve others. And when in 1999, I joined government as Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo, I became even more acutely aware of the limitless possibilities for service through government; and of how political power in the hands of a committed, competent and courageous leadership can solve real problems and uplift the destiny of a nation and her people. It was this same realisation that motivated me to contest and win election as the Governor of Kwara State in 2003.

“Even back then, many did not give me a chance to succeed. They thought I was too young and too much of a political neophyte to make an impact. ‘He is private sector and privileged,’ they said. ‘So how would he understand what the poor people in the state want or what they are going through?’ But I believe I proved them wrong in the end. Armed with a deep passion to serve, and to make a difference, I did my best to impact lives and to leave a lasting legacy. I did not solve all the problems, but in eight years I left Kwara State better than I met it. We were able to confront old problems with new and innovative solutions. We implemented bold education reforms that brought children back to school, and improved the quality of teaching across the state. We established a State University and the International Aviation College to create jobs and expand access to higher eduction.

“We rolled back malaria, we defeated polio, and we introduced the first community health insurance in the country that brought thousands of rural poor under insurance coverage. We opened our state to commercial aviation, built road and housing infrastructure. We ensured value-for-money in government expenditure and became the first sub-national government in Nigeria to submit itself to a Fitch Rating, which returned with a national long-term rating of AA-. As a Senator, I was able to rise above ruinous partisanship and challenged the massive scam perpetrated under the cover of fuel subsidy. As Senate President, I defended the integrity of the National Assembly, sometimes, at great personal cost. And even in the face of daunting challenges and conspiracies, we passed important legislations to make legitimate businesses easier in our country, and to support enterprise. We developed a 21-point Economic Agenda and designed a new security architecture that if fully implemented would have left us in a different place in our fight against terror. We promoted youth participation in politics and passed the law to lower the entry barrier for young people. We did so much more.

“In all the positions that I have had the good fortune to occupy, I have been driven by the deep conviction to serve, to help, to proffer solutions and to leave behind a legacy of courage, of hard work and of unyielding commitment to making a difference. Perhaps more importantly, I have gone into each of these positions with clearly thought-out plans, decided well in advance. Working with some of the best brains around, I took my time to study situations, decide on what to do, and agree on the best implementation strategies. I never muddled through. On every occasion, I have had to break through the walls of doubts and cynicism from those who thought that it could not be done; those who thought that the odds were too stacked against us and we wouldn’t stand a chance. But each time, we were able to prove them wrong because we had the courage of conviction and we had God on our side.”

Aiyedogbon, a banker, wrote from Abuja.

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