If not for Saraki’s patriotic magnanimity… By Yomi Odunuga


Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Kwara State-born politician and, by all sense of the word, a true inheritor of his late father’s exploits in the political terrain, takes his vocation more seriously than many would have imagined. The former banker, two-time governor and aide to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo recently plotted a coup that saw him perching at the prestigious seat of Nigeria’s President of the Senate, even to the consternation of the leadership of his party, the All Progressives Congress. Some say he is perching precariously on the tip of a dangling rope. That is neither here or there. With the benefits of hindsight, I have no shred of doubt that Saraki must have exploited all the wily tricks in and out of the books to – with cold calmness – manoeuvre his way to the seat. Some say the feat was achieved through a combination of treachery and stone-cold ambition. I beg to disagree. I see his emergence strictly from the prism of what his supporters call Saraki’s patriotic magnanimity.

Who else, if not Saraki? Were it not for Saraki’s selfless love for country and party, we wouldn’t have had a Muhammadu Buhari as President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces today. What greater love could a man show other than sacrificing the Number One seat for our Buhari and then, settling for the lowly, albeit, inconsequential seat of a Senate Presidency. Yet, we heckle him for that. Would the heavens have come down if this man had stood his ground and contested the APC presidential primaries with Buhari, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso and Sam Nda-Isaiah? Would we have called him a traitor as we so treacherously label him today? Why are we bent on rubbishing the good deeds of this latest hero of our democracy in the post-Jonathan era?

I have read quite a number of obnoxiously annoying remarks by some persons, saying Saraki carried the joke too far by alluding to the fact that his decision not to run for the Presidency paved the way for Buhari. They even argue that Saraki’s claim is preposterous. Says who? Well, I think these persons underestimate the potency of Saraki’s pouch of political wizardry and his insatiable appetite for success. Didn’t they say he did not have the capacity to send his father to a late retirement from Kwara politics? Didn’t they say he could not muster enough support to install a governor in that state against Senator Gbemisola Saraki, the preferred candidate of his father? Didn’t they forecast his doom when he jumped ship and joined the APC with the incumbent governor of his state? And did he not reformat the party’s machinery in Kwara state to suit his design such that his candidates emerged victorious in the 2015 elections? So, is there anyone out there who is yet to see the light that we all owe Saraki an appreciation for giving us Buhari at a time when we all clamoured for change at the centre?

If you like, throw your nose up in pessimism, thinking that this is one of those satirical pieces by Knucklehead. Well, you are on your own. I am dead serious. Any man that could perfectly play the stuff reserved for an iconic figure in the 007 movies in real life can become whatever he chooses to become. Abubakar Bukola Saraki is the James Bond of Nigeria’s modern politics. From what he said in a recent interview, we can make a deduction that this fine northerner with a Yoruba name merely bid his time in the run-off to the election and hit his party in the groin at the most auspicious time. That, in itself reflects a unique sense of calculation. After all, the most calculating and even, selfish men have emerged as leaders in many climes. It is not by any stroke of providence that Saraki outdid everyone to be selected as the unopposed President of the Nigerian Senate. It took meticulous planning, deft moves and killer punches. We may not like his style but we have to give it to him that he got his party leadership foaming in the mouth and flailing with needless rage. By that time, he was already holding aloft the prize of his patriotic magnanimity with all the triumphalism that goes with it.

In case anyone is in doubt about how far Saraki would go in his determination to lead the 8th Senate, he offered snippets into what he had to do. His schematic prism is apt and tested: all is fair in war even if you have to dine with the devil with a shorter spoon. This is not textbook logic but tactical pragmatism. For a man who swore he never had any deal with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, it is interesting that the PDP senators found Saraki too irresistible as a worthy bride for the Office of the President of the Senate. He said he would be the last person to sell his party cheaply for a pot of porridge but the APC came out of that session completely battered, deflated and shred of all modicum of respect. He rode to fame defaming a platform that now nibbles in anguish. But that should not be seen as a crime; after all, we all knew that he had helped PDP to its demise after being given the opportunity of high office. Or we saying he has given the PDP a renewed vigour to gloat?

His traducers now say that if there was any error in how things went awry for a party in which Nigerians reposed so much confidence, Saraki was that error. And so, when he made reference to a “combination of errors” leading to the election of Senator Ike Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President, it shouldn’t be that hard for him to locate the mastermind of such tragic errors. Even his episodic rendering of the events indicts no one but the talebearer of that beer parlour rant. First, with placid innocence, Saraki said that the overwhelming support he got from the PDP senators was of “strategic interest” to the PDP as a party. What else would have pushed them to a more pliable, ready-to-play-ball candidate in the first instance? Then, Saraki dramatically announced his ‘pains’ that Senator Ali Ndume lost the election to Ekweremadu as he had thought “the two groups within the APC would meet and agree on a candidate.”  What faction was he referring to? The one he refused to meet with whilst dancing naked in the marketplace with the PDP hawks and hiding in ‘small cars’ in the dead of the night at the National Assembly parking lot? Could it be the same faction that obeyed President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to converge on the International Conference Centre while his ‘election had come and gone’ before anyone could bat an eyelid?

Now, hear him at his sanctimonious best:

“As early as 4am or 5am, I had the contingency plan that by 8am, we would get to the National Assembly. But I was advised that it might not be safe for me, that if I wasn’t in the chamber, it would be impossible for anybody to nominate me. So l had to find my own way, as l was in the National Assembly complex as early as 6am that morning. I stayed in my small car at the car park until quarter to 10am.It was at quarter to 10am that l got the information that the clerk had entered into the chamber. This is the gospel truth. I was there without any communication. Anybody that said he spoke to me was lying. I did not even know. All l was doing was to be monitoring how people were arriving. It was at quarter to 10 that l got the information that the clerk had entered into the chamber.So, l got out of my small car, stretched myself and put on my Babaringa and walked from the car park into the chamber. I didn’t know anything. When l was in the chamber, the only thing l knew was that some of the senators were not present, but l noticed that people were arriving in batches. So, by 10am, the event started and before we knew it, my election had come and gone.”

Now, this must be the stuff Hollywood thrillers are made of. Such thoughtfulness is clearly beyond Nollywood. I may not know how the journalists present at the press briefing reacted to Saraki’s canticles but I sure know the key elements of moonlight tales. It takes an extraordinary man to remain incommunicado and yet get minute-by-minute information on when to stab his ‘colleagues’ in the back! He professed not knowing anything but it turned that he knew everything. The dramatist calls it a perfect setting for a treacherous script. Some say it is a betrayal. No, I disagree again. That is dignifying what never was. You are betrayed by those close to you, not by someone who never makes pretences about where he belongs to when the chips are down. These ones play strictly by their own definition of patriotic magnanimity which was also reflected in the shameful drama that played out during the nomination of leaders in the Senate.

At least, we all saw how Saraki writhed in ‘pains’ as he picked the party men that aided the realisation of his ambition as Senate leaders. Regretfully, he could have shown how committed he was to the party by acceding to the choices made by the leaders if not for the fact that his hands were ‘tied” just like that of his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Speaker Yakubu Dogara.

For those who do not yet know, we are indeed living in strange times when shame has taken a flight and people now wear their garments of infamy with pretentious dignity and vacuous innocence! Pity.

Editor’s Note: This piece was first published on July 14 and is being repeated following what Saraki calls “political victimisation for being Senate President”. Meanwhile the KNUCKLEHEAD Column will be off till November as this writer goes on a vacation. Cheers.