When news filtered in that the president of the Senate and godfather of Kwara State politics, Bukola Saraki, lost his third reelection bid to the Senate to a less popular candidate, it appeared too good to be true. But the reality is that like other major upsets, Saraki was not reelected.
Political pundits who have keenly followed Saraki’s brand of politics, vis-a-vis, the one he inherited from his late father, Olusola Saraki, are yet to come to terms to what could have happened. They have also raised some posers. Was Saraki tired of fighting? Was he overwhelmed? Was he rejected by his people? What could have gone wrong?
On Sunday, February 25, just two days after the presidential and National Assembly elections, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Saraki, Yusuph Olaniyonu, dissociated the Saraki camp from a message being shared on WhatsApp which had stated that the PDP and Saraki had congratulated the APC and its candidates.
In the statement released, Olaniyonu further stated that the position of the Saraki camp will be communicated to the public later that.
“The public should disregard any fictitious statements being issued and shared on WhatsApp by the PDP in Kwara. Our position on the election will be communicated later today. In the interim, the APC should stop issuing statements congratulating itself and ascribing it to our camp,” Olaniyonu had stated in the press release.
For his supporters who were hanging on to the last strap of hope, they had expected that some magic wand will pop up and Saraki will be announced winner. Their hope was dashed when Olaniyonu released another statement on behalf of his principal.
In the statement, he stated that while the election was generally peaceful, there are inadequacies like the card readers not used in over 70 percent of the polling units while there were multiple voting, over-voting and other discrepancies that were reported by agents of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) across the state. He added that the state chapter of his party will take a position on the right response to these inadequacies.
“However, whatever the final outcome of the election, I wish the candidates that have emerged all the best in their attempts to serve our people. It is my prayers that the good people of Kwara State will always have the best from any government both at state and federal levels.
“As a product of a family and a political structure that is, from its foundation, devoted to the service and development of our state and its people, it is my wish that our people will always have a good deal at all times. The new development will even provide the people the opportunity to compare and contrast. After all, the people who have emerged from last Saturday’s election are not my enemies. They are fellow Kwarans.
“As we prepare for the March 9, 2019 Governorship and House of Assembly elections, let me reiterate my position that the candidates of the PDP in the election represent the best materials for our dear state, Kwara. Therefore, I enjoin our people to come out en mass on Election Day and vote for them. I am going to work with our party leaders to further sell the PDP candidates to the general public.
“I thank all Nigerians for their goodwill and to enjoin all of us that as we patiently await the outcome of the presidential election, we pray for peace, unity and genuine development in our country. It is also our prayers that at all times, the wish of the people will always prevail in the choice of the leadership and the electorate will always enjoy the benefit of good governance,” Saraki stated.
What went wrong?
A top aide to Saraki, who had a long chat with Daily Sun, detailed what transpired in Kwara State during the general election. He said Saraki waged a war against the Federal Government, which deployed human and financial resources to wrest power from him. He further revealed that Saraki decided to hold back to avoid unnecessary bloodshed and loss of lives.
He also revealed how a Deputy Director of the Department of State Services (DSS), top Police officers, military and billions of naira, were deployed to the state. According to him, those deployed to the state had one mission and that was to stop Saraki at all cost.
He stated: “Many people have asked me why Saraki didn’t put up a fight. People who understand his brand of politics will agree that he didn’t want to be remembered as the man who orchestrated the death and killing of his people. He could have resisted the invasion and deliver his candidates. But in the end, will it be worth it?
“Unknown to many people, elections didn’t hold in Kwara State. There was no use of Card Readers. Saraki’s supporters were harassed and arrested by security agents. Billions of naira were spent on that election. Saraki had to personally intervene and stopped his supporters from retaliating.
“Some of the highest security agents were deployed to the state. Kwara State had more security agents than states where there is insurgency. Their plan was to instigate a fight and then blame Saraki for it. The Senate President knew and decided to let them have their way.
“For me, what the Senate President has done is an act of sportsmanship. Many people didn’t expect it from him. Even some senators were wondering how he could still be calm in the midst of the storm. He has made it clear that his people need to also have a taste of another person and judge which one is better.”
Saraki’s many battles
Saraki’s ascension to office as President of the 8th Senate, didn’t come without a battle. He was not the bride of his party, All Progressives Congress (APC). The party had anointed the current Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan from Yobe State. Joining forces with members of the PDP, Saraki emerged as President of the Senate.
He was yet to settle down, when the Federal Government dragged him before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), over claims that he under declared his assets, when he held sway as governor of Kwara State. He was docked and for several months, the Senate was literally shutdown, as senators always accompanied him to the Tribunal.
While his travail at CCT was yet to abate, his wife, Toyin Saraki was summoned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to explain some financial dealings a petition had falsely alleged she undertook when she held sway as first lady of Kwara State.
Mrs Saraki had affirmed her integrity at the time of honoring the EFCC invitation, noting in a statement issued, that while she had always maintained herself as a private citizen without recourse to public funds, the 2012 petition upon which she was belatedly invited to attend an enquiry at the EFCC in 2015, made no reference whatsoever to herself or her Wellbeing Foundation Africa, and thus observed that petition to be a malicious petition of unknown and unverified provenance.
The anti-corruption agency has not made further moves since then.
Saraki, again in mid 2016, was dragged before an Abuja High Court, alongside his deputy, Ike Ekweremandu, over alleged forgery of the Standing Rules of the Senate, 2015. They were both granted bail based on personal recognition. The case was instituted by the Federal Government, through the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).
In 2018, Saraki survived many ‘coup’ plots. In April, the Senate was invaded by armed thugs who carted away the Maze while the chamber was in session. As soon as the current chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole took over in June last year, he spearheaded Saraki’s removal plot.
Series of meetings were held and plans were perfected. The climax was the blockade mounted by DSS operatives at the entrance of the National Assembly. Lawmakers were barred from gaining access. It took the intervention of some daredevil lawmakers to break the siege.
Again, in January, just before the Senate adjourned to enable lawmakers return to their constituencies to campaign, a final move was made to oust Saraki. Again, he survived it when he cancelled a planned emergency plenary he earlier summoned.
Last year, the immediate-past Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, had a long battle with Saraki over a deadly robbery incident in Offa, Kwara State. Some of the robbers arrested allegedly named Saraki as a sponsor. The report by the Police was rubbished by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami. But the case is still ongoing.
What’s next for Saraki?
“Saraki is a young man. He’s not old and he’s not sick. He will bounce back. This is a temporal setback. Power doesn’t last forever and Saraki understands that. The current occupiers won’t be there forever. Saraki will always remain a force. He will continue to speak for his people and for Nigerians whenever he’s needed,” Saraki’s aide told Daily Sun when asked on what lies ahead for the Senate President when he steps down in June this year. Will Saraki truly bounce back? How long will it take him, one, two, three, four or more years? It seems only time will tell.