By Tony Ademiluyi
2011 was a decisive year for Dr. Bukola Saraki. He was nearing the end of his tenure as Governor of Kwara state and the issue of his succession was in the front burner.
His godfather dad, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki wanted his sister Gbemisola Saraki-Fowora to take over the mantle while Bukola preferred that his Chief of Staff, Alhaji Abdulfatai Ahmed take over from him. It was a battle royale as father and son greatly clashed with the son carrying the day. The legendary Olusola Saraki who had only lost one election in 1964 was demystified by his first fruit whom he brought from the banking sector into the murky waters of politics.
Bukola’s victory reminded us of the battle between Alvan Ikoku and his son, Samuel Ikoku who fought for a seat in the Eastern Regional House of Assembly. The son triumphed over the dad and effectively retired the renowned educationist from partisan politics. Bukola’s victory was a case of history repeating itself.
The scion of the Oloye of Kwara politics found his way into the Senate in 2011 like his father had earlier done in 1979 and 1983 in the hey days of the defunct Second Republic.
Bukola was quite vocal in the Senate and was no bench warmer. He contributed to the comatose Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) amongst a host of others in his capacity as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment.
In the build up to the 2015 elections, he defected to the then opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) and ensured that he delivered Kwara to the party. It was a gargantuan risk that he took and he could have lost everything if the election results had gone the other way.
As an ambitious man, he had his eyes set on becoming the nation’s number three citizen and defied the party directive on a choice candidate – Ahmed Lawan who had been penciled down for the plum job. He took advantage of a misinformation that Buhari wanted to meet with the national assembly members of the party to win the elections in which he was the sole candidate present in the red chambers. As a man blinded by raw ambition, he went into an alliance with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who then produced the Deputy Senate President in the person of Senator Ikechukwu Ekweremadu. This act and the fact that Saraki is from Kwara state makes us recall the Yoruba warrior Afonja who enlisted the help of the Fulanis to defeat his enemies in Ilorin. After the war, the Fulanis refused to leave and became permanent settlers in the emirate town.
The APC hierarchy was miffed at the apparent betrayal by Saraki in sharing power with the opposition party that they had only recently chased out. The body language of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who doubles as the National Leader said a lot as he was the most visible spearhead of a Lawan led Senate Presidency. Saraki, having learnt some politricks from his father had outsmarted them all they could only lick their wounds.
The ‘subtle persecution’ of Saraki then began. He faced a trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for not declaring some of his assets. Some of his opponents contended that he should step down while the trial lasted. He didn’t bulge and after some months of rigmarole, he was let off the hook.
The medical doctor turned politician seemed invincible – more like a cat with nine lives as he survived the landmines and booby traps set for him by his political adversaries.
Then came the 2019 elections. He was so confident of his skills as a political spin doctor that he defected to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and sought the presidential ticket under its platform. He lost out at the party primaries but was compensated with the Director-Generalship of the Atiku Abubakar campaign team.
There was resentment in Kwara state against Saraki’s stranglehold. The once slavish and docile populace was tired of serving the Oloye dynasty with nothing but misery and poverty to show for it. They had served the father faithfully and now they were condemned to serve the son. It was high time they threw off the yoke of serfdom and bondage in order to acquire the status of a freeborn. The otoge movement was then born as a child of circumstances to liberate the state from Saraki’s vicious grip. Dr. Ibrahim Oloriogbe also a medical doctor and former consultant to the World Health Organization roundly defeated Saraki in the Kwara Central Senatorial Elections. The APC also went on to emerge victorious in the gubernatorial elections.
The fact that Saraki isn’t contesting Oloriegbe’s victory at the Elections Petitions Tribunal shows that he has accepted his fate as a soon to be yesterday’s man. Many of Saraki’s minions were also left in the cold. The Governor and his Man Friday, Abdul Fatai Ahmed lost his senatorial bid. Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi who has been his loyalist since 2003 when he was first appointed as his Special Adviser on Strategy was forced to resign as APC National Publicity Secretary and withdrew from the gubernatorial race. Many of his loyalists are now left in political limbo since their master’s fall more devastating than that of humpty dumpty.
When Kayode Egbetokun, the Kwara State Commissioner of Police was posted to Kwara after his rejection in Lagos, I knew that Saraki was the prime target and so his loss at the polls wasn’t surprising. The security agencies were also complicit in the largely flawed 2019 elections as rightly observed by many of the international observers. Saraki’s foes seems to have finally triumphed over him as they must have been clinking the glasses since his huge fall.
Revenge is best served cold. Post June 2019 will be the best time to deal ruthlessly with Saraki. The code of conduct tribunal trial may be exhumed in addition to the collapse of the Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria (SGBN) where millions of depositors lost their life savings in 2003. His passport may be seized by the Department for State Security (DSS) in order to prevent him from going on a self imposed exile. In politics, there are neither permanent friends nor enemies – only interests enjoy a permanent status. His numerous supporters would with the passage of time rapidly dwindle since its only stomach infrastructure that has been the glue that has kept them. Bukola would discover this reality painfully perhaps in a hot room in solitary confinement.
Saraki’s fall should serve as a lesson for all politicians who don’t think like statesmen. They should think of ways to immortalize themselves through their actions. Stomach infrastructure which was the hallmark of Bukola Saraki’s career is not only short-sighted but extremely wicked as the hoi polloi are perpetually condemned to receiving the short end of the stick. There will be no fond memories for the purveyors of stomach infrastructure. Who still goes to the house of the late Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu?
We remember Zik of Africa for his nationalism; Obafemi Awolowo is remembered for his free education policy and the rapid development of Yorubaland. Chief Anthony Enahoro would never be forgotten for the motion he moved for independence in 1953. What in God’s name will Saraki be remembered for?
Ademiluyi wrote from Lagos