What has Saraki got to offer?
By Lawrence Attah
Roll back to mid year 2009. The nation was caught in political crisis. The then President, late Umar Yar’Adua lay in throes of incapacitating terminal ailment. The exact nature of the affliction and the whereabout of the president was shrouded in secrecy. His deputy, Goodluck Jonathan was not only kept in the dark, he was also prevented from assuming the responsibility of piloting the affairs of the state as required by the constitution, as those close to the ailing president held firmly on to power. The nation floundered. The citizens’ initial concern turned into agitation. Led by rights activists like Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Church, Lagos Lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN and sundry pressure groups, Nigerians took to the streets to demand that the nation be saved from the naked threat to our evolving democracy.
As the nation shook, the national assembly which ought to have waded in promptly to bring about stability, dithered. Something urgently needed to be done to save our democracy, nay our dear nation. Entered the Nigeria Governor’s Forum, led by Dr. Bukola Saraki, the then Kwara State Governor. Date was February 9, 2010. The Governors having watched as the nation inched towards the brink, decided to wade in and save the nation. Rising from an emergency meeting at the Kwara lodge in Asokoro, Abuja, the Governors, led by Saraki went over to the National Assembly where they met with both the Senate and the Reps and urged them to direct the vice president to take over as the acting president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Thus was born “the doctrine of necessity” proclaimed by the Senate President, David Mark upon which Jonathan became the nation’s No 1 citizen. The rest, they say, is history.
The patriotic move by the Governors at that time, save the nation from what was obviously a potential crisis of unimaginable proportion. A more vibrant and proactive national assembly would have acted more promptly and save the nation the trauma and international ridicule the unfortunate situation exposed us to……….
Bukola Sarkai’s antecedents in public office stands him out. In 2011, while winding up as Kwara State Governor, the question of whether he would consider going into the senate as most governors do after leaving office, came up. Addressing select editors on the issue, Saraki said frankly that going into the senate would only be an option if he is going to make a profound change and impact on the nation’s legislative culture. “If you expect me to just go there, sit down and be sharing money, then you can count me out,” he told the stunned editors, adding that with his resolve to confront the forces negating good governance, best practices and transparency, it is doubtful whether he would last in the senate. It was a miracle he did. The first bombshell was the issue of PMS and kerosene subsidy which he raised on the floor of the senate in 2011. This subsidy,
Saraki exposed is a conduit pipe of corruption through which billions of the nation’s wealth finds its way into private pockets. While he won the hearts of the populace by this rare shows of courage, Saraki earned the wrath of the powers that be. He became a marked man. He had to battle with government sponsored corruption charges and other sundry harassments. Saraki remained undaunted. Perhaps, his traducers did not reckon with his antecedents. Saraki is a consummate public administrator, one totally committed to public good. For him, public interest will always take precedent over personal interest or a relationship. And this he has demonstrated in all the public offices he has found himself. As the chairman of the Governor’s Forum, Saraki took over at the time Nigeria’s democracy ranked low in international reckoning, and quality of governance was anything but inspiring. The forum, under Saraki’s leadership decided then, that there is urgent
need to rescue the situation. According to the Saraki led governors, for democracy to thrive, for good governance to be provided for the increasingly hopeless populace, there is need to engage political office holders on capacity building. There is need to inculcate in them, good governance, best practices, transparency, accountability and all other values that strengthen democracy and delivery of quality services to the people. The Governors believe this could be better achieved through collaboration and partnership with credible international agencies. One of the fall outs of these laudable ideas was the peer review policy of the governor’s forum which opened a new chapter of governance for the people of Nigeria.
As the governor of Kwara State, Saraki charted a new course for other governors to follow. The commercialization of agriculture which not only put Kwara, a hitherto civil service state on global map, but also became a model for several states in the federation, ranks among his major achievements. President Jonathan corroborated this when he recalled at a gathering, his move to embark on commercial agriculture as the then governor of Balyesa state. According to him, he had consulted the then president, Olusegn Obasanjo on his plans. Obasanjo, without hesitation told Jonathan to go to Saraki if he wants to succeed in his agric venture. Aside agriculture, Saraki also initiated a community insurance scheme where with a paltry N200 one can have access to primary health care and free medical treatment. This scheme received the commendation of the then United Nations Secretary- General, Kofi Anan. Kwara under him was also rated best in primary health
care in the country many times.
In order to attract investment and build a prosperous Kwara, Saraki embarked on construction of World Class Infrastructure.
To provide stable power supply, he took over Ganmo transmission station and lobbied to get it included in the National Integrated Power Project, NIPP. When the NIPP was stalled across the country, Saraki mobilized funds to complete the one in Kwara, thus making it the first NIPP to be completed in the country.
Saraki believes in hard work and ability to deliver. These he put above all other considerations when seeking office. In 2007 when he was seeking re-election as governor of Kwara state , some political editors met him in Abuja and asked what role his father, the late Dr. Olusola Sarki would be playing in his re-election bid. Saraki’s response was, if his achievement in the state for four years cannot win him re-election then there is no need asking the people to return him, even as he acknowledged his father’s valuable support.
That’s essential Saraki.
*Attah, a public analyst writes from Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State.