Is 2019 Saraki’s Albatross? By Ike Abonyi


I have never regarded politics as the arena of morals. It is the arena of interest. –Aneurin Bevan

The political space in this country since May 29, 1999, when the country returned to full democratic rule, has been dominated by all kinds of conflicts, but that notwithstanding, Nigerians are yet to get habituated to it as they continue to react to them as if hell is about to let lose.

Why is it so, you may ask? Simple! We have refused to take advantage of the words of wisdom on what democracy and modern world is all about. Thomas Merton, one time American Catholic writer and mystic, who was also a poet and social activist, long gave insight into the cacophony of modern nation and went further to advice that, “If you want to study the social and political history of modern nations, study hell”.

Possibly because President Muhammadu Buhari galloped to power wearing a high moral garb, Nigerians may be speciously trying to posture the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as made up of cluster of an all Buhari anti-corruption characters, forgetting Aneurin Bevan’s saying that politics is not an arena of morals but an arena of interest. There is also a strongly held view that in any relationship politics not excluded where there is no conflict, there is no interest.

You may be wondering where this my philosophical premise is leading to and what type of conclusion my audience expect from this musing. May I welcome you into the latest avoidable political conflict in the land, involving the number three citizen of the country, Dr. Bukola Saraki and some powerful belligerents in his party. Senator Saraki suddenly became the bad boy of his party for having the temerity to make his party’s eggheads look ordinary when he outwitted them in the game of stratagem that saw him become the head of the country’s parliament on June 9, 2015.

For almost four months now, political watchers have been treated to a ‘cat and mouse’ game by Senator Saraki and his party leaders including President Buhari who had to renage on his initial statesmanly remark that he would work with anybody, the legislators elect as their leader and is now crying even more than the bereaved.

From charges of forgery, to charges against his wife by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and now, the Code of Conduct Tribunal, there is a growing concern that all may be arm-twisting strategy to beat the recalcitrant Saraki to line. The question on the lips of many observers is, why is Saraki the target?

Did Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker of the House of Representatives not also go against the dictates of his party in running for the position he now holds? Saraki’s tormentors could easily argue that he was not as rueful as Hon. Dogara, who allowed the party hierarchy to determine who becomes what in the rest of the House leadership.

They could also argue that even though the Speaker romanced with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that enabled him defeat the party’s Prince, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamilla by eight votes, he did not allow them pick his deputy unlike Saraki who saw the opposition PDP produce the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu. But such argument and comparison is away from reality, as the 59 senators capacity of the APC and 49 of PDP are not as strong as the 223 APC members in the House as against PDP’s 137 members.

That is to say that APC is stronger in the House than they are in the Senate. Given the obvious division in the APC that June 9th morning, obviously helped by the bloomer of the ICC meeting, if PDP wanted, it could have taken the Senate Presidency and the deputy. Instead, it chose to take only the deputy, yet the adrenalin of APC has refused to come down. But the truth, which must be told, is that there is more under-current behind the pull-Saraki-down project.

Most political watchers believe that it is about 2019, not about good governance, not about the Senate, not about the downtrodden; it is not about any geo-political and religious interests, not at all. It is about a clash of ambition. Anytime you see two varying political groups come together to purse an interest, know it that a common enemy has been identified and needs to be commonly tackled.

In APC, the five political groups that merged to form the ruling body are in a deadly rivalry, that, if not well handled, would not only destroy the party but also affect the four years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime. The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN ) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), having produced the President and the Vice see themselves as senior partners and as a result want to determine who takes what, among the other parties, an ambition Senator Saraki and his group from the PDP are trying to truncate.

For the leading two, the others; the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) were to depend on them for anything, but that did not work out as the new PDP, although a joiner in the APC project, entered the club with some credentials that would be difficult to ignore.

The present crisis in the polity since June 9 is apparently a fallout of moves to belittle a formidable political opponent. Since every politician thinks about election, the focus of the warring groups may have already been set on the next election in 2019.

If Saraki is being whacked now, it is because he and his current strong supporters led by the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar are formidable allies in the party for 2019 and the duo must be checked if ACN and CPC must remain the principals in the project. If watchers are seeing the Buhari group joining forces with Tinubu group to wedge Saraki, it is not for good governance or anti-corruption mission, as they may want the public to believe. It is not about any geo political or ethnic interest, it’s about ego.

After all, if it is about Yoruba interest, Bukola claims one. If it is about Fulani interest, Saraki is also there. In this instance, it is about party interest. In all these permutations, Nigerians are watching helplessly as the National Assembly has virtually not taken off because of the scheming over 2019.

We are all watching as the anti-corruption crusade is entering a ‘network problem’ all because they have dragged 2019 into it. It is not good at all to say that in the four months of the Buhari-led APC government, the apparent inactivity and lack of clear-cut direction is beginning to take the place of the much-desired change that the people craved for. As these ‘elephants’ settle their scores politically, clearly, the voting population remains the victims.

As insurgents continue to maiml Nigerians, with the latest killing of over 50 and 90 others injured, the attention of the country is on Saraki being docked because that is where government interest lies. So unfortunate. God bless Nigeria.

Sallah Footnote

Today is sallah, back in the golden days in THISDAY newsroom in Apapa most staff looked forward to today as the ‘Alhaji’ of the newsroom would always bring basins of fried Sallah meat with drinks for the staff. As the Muslim World marks this revered festival today, that Thisday newsroom Alhaji, Yusuf Olaniyonu is embattled as he faces a huge challenge in his new role as the Special Adviser to the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki on Media and Publicity.

Who knows if Alhaji would still be disposed to send meat anywhere today? Barka de Sallah Nigerians.