The recent statement by Senate President and chairman of the National Assembly, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki indicating his intention to run for the presidency has attracted sharp response(s) from the presidency described by some analysts as a defeatist approach to the issue? But is the camp of President Muhammadu Buhari actually jittery over Saraki’s presidential ambition, Head Politics, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM examines the issue.
Last week, the Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki jolted the polity when he provided answer to one of the most anticipated questions that has troubled the minds of many in the political circle about his political career when he hinted on plans to contest for the highest seat in the land. The disclosure coming few weeks after he announced his defection from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will see Saraki squaring it out with President Muhammadu Buhari if he wins the presidential primaries of his new party which has already zoned the seat to the north. Saraki is expected to slug it with the likes of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, former Kaduna and Jigawa state governors, Ahmed Makarfi and Sule Lamido respectively, Governor of Gombe state, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, former Governor of Kano state, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and another former Governor of Jigawa state, Alhaji Sanimu Turaki among others presidential aspirants.
According to the Senate President who had commissioned visits to former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida while making “consultation” on his presidential ambition he accused his former party of being bad managers of its 2015 victory adding that the PDP has learnt more from its defeat than the APC since the last general election.
In an interview with Bloomberg, an international news outfit in his residence in Abuja, Saraki gave reasons why he was throwing his hart into the ring this time around. According to him, “I am consulting and actively considering it (running for the president)… I believe I can make the change. We have the opportunity with the right kind of presidential candidate and president to provide the leadership. The PDP has a good opportunity to lead the country in the right direction”, he submitted.
But since that declaration, his former party, the APC, has reportedly gone haywire and seem to have graduated the tantrum thrown at Saraki by its new chairman, comrade Adams Oshiomhole and insisting that Saraki must quit the seat of the Senate President or face impeachment “by fire by thunder”. Apparently realizing the folly in that position especially after some die-hard apologists of the presidency but who are staunch Saraki enemies like the chairman Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagey faulted Oshiomhole on the issue, the tactics from the presidency appears to have changed.
Following several grandstanding statements, name calling and even threat that dominated the responses of the APC and presidency on the issue which appeared to have failed to rein in Saraki, it seem Saraki’s opponents have resolved to adopt the position of criminalizing him to whip up sentiment in favour of its candidate using the corruption mantra.
According to some political analysts, the latest move not only show the helplessness of the ruling party over the issue of Saraki contrary to the boast of its chairman, the party still rues the huge loss to the opposition and doing everything both civil and irrational to score political points over him and the PDP before the next election.
For instance, shortly after Saraki declared his decision to contest for the seat of the president, the APC as a party surprisingly began a destructive campaign of calumny against his person.
According to the National Publicity Secretary of APC, Yekini Nabena in a statement on Monday, the APC amusingly “raised alarm against the use of stolen public funds to finance elections in Nigeria and allegedly accused Saraki of not giving the electorates the free hand to choose their preferred candidate for next year’s presidential election despite boasting that President Buhari would cruise to victory at the poll irrespective of his opponent.
“Against the backdrop of the litany of corruption allegations trailing the Senate President, Saraki’s declaration brings to the fore our earlier call to anti-graft agencies to check the use of stolen public funds to finance elections in this country. We reiterate our position that the Nigerian electorate must have the opportunity to choose from candidates that can pass the integrity and anti-corruption test”, the statement added.
The party then went on to list corruption cases against Saraki including blaming him for all the lapses and failures of the government since it came to power. And funny enough, some of these cases include “The multi-million dollar white elephant Shonga Agricultural Project in Kwara State when Saraki served as two-term governor, falsification of Senate standing order, Saraki’s link to the N298m armoured Range Rover SUV seized by the Nigeria Customs Service” and that he “oversaw budget padding in the National Assembly”.
The APC added that “Nigerians should be wary of Saraki because his personal ambition will always supersede the interest of the majority and national interest citing the alleged refusal of Saraki to reconvene the National Assembly to consider the 2019 election budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), an action it noted was deliberately taken to sabotage INEC’s ability to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections in 2019.
To many pundits, is the APC now acting as the judiciary or why didn’t it institute the alleged cases in court and let the judiciary decide the matter if they are convince the offence were really committed. Curiously, the party didn’t find this “tactics” handy when other presidential aspirants like Atiku, Kwankwaso and other former governors declared their interests. Why is the party resorting to media trial when it comes to the Senate President or is it that it has lost confidence in the judiciary? Many believed this is very ridiculous and smacks pettiness on the part of the party. If the APC is hoping to ride on the mantra of president Buhari’s corruption fight, it must do that on the basis of facts and figures and not regurgitating the rumours believed to have been formulated in the first instance by those opposed to the ambition of the Senate President.
However, in a swift reaction, two senators loyal to Saraki, Isah Misau (Bauchi) and Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara) of the PDP accused the APC of focusing on Saraki and making him the subject of all its discussions.
The senators asked the ruling party to devote more time to tackling the various issues confronting the country.
“This is the first time in the history of the country that the ruling party will leave the issue of its achievements and start blaming its failure on just one individual. It is also the first time a ruling party will plan to hoodwink Nigerians by saying everything wrong under its watch is due to the action and inaction of one man.
“APC has devoted all the time and knowledge of their national chairman, national leader, publicity secretary, four senators and two presidential aides to the daily abuse of Saraki, such that it appears as if Saraki is the only politician in Nigeria today. They have made Saraki the issue in Nigerian politics today.
“If these individuals devote the energy they are exerting on Saraki to finding solutions to the security problem, economic crisis and collapse of infrastructure, among them, they will come out with some action plan, except they are only skillful in mischief making.
“We can see through this plot. The plan is to get Saraki so engrossed in the battle for survival in the senate and the pummeling from the APC cabal such that he will have no time to pursue his aspiration for 2019. However, this is a short time strategy. It will not work. That is why the man remains unfazed by the antics”, the senators submitted.
They said they are surprised that all the decisions that the senate took as an institution is now blamed on Saraki asking whether Saraki will also going to be given the credit for all the achievements recorded by the senate as well.
On the issue of senate recess, the two senators exonerated Saraki from any blame and castigated APC principal officers who are leading lights in many of the senate decisions for keeping quiet because of selfish interests.
“Senate leader, Ahmed Lawan who moved the motion for our adjournment till September 25 and the minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio who seconded the motion are in APC, yet they kept quiet when all the falsehoods were being peddled now that Saraki unilaterally and hurriedly adjourn the senate. These senators kept quiet about their roles simply because they want to be good boys. When the motion for adjournment was carried by voice vote, no dissenting voice was heard. How can those who play key roles in the senate now turn round and be blaming everything on one man? Is Saraki now a superman? Is he not just one senator like each and every one of us? Let us play back all the tape records of the senate proceedings. Which of the decisions that are now being crticised did the APC pretenders in the senate oppose? Of the ten-man senate leadership, five of them are in APC. Those who enjoy privileges in the senate now look the other way when the presidency is complaining”, they submitted.
Interestingly, Saraki has emerge stronger from all the narratives going on around him and recently said in Ilorin that the PDP will kick out Buhari to produce the next president. He also said he is not losing sleep whatsoever about the impeachment threat by Oshiomhole and his cohorts.
For his presidential ambition, the Bloomberg verdict on him the last time added international dimension and acceptance to the issue. While naming him among the top power brokers in the country few months back, the New York based Bloomberg described Saraki, the third most powerful person as the Senate President, as one with the reputation of one of the most ruthless (political) strategists in the country adding that even if Saraki chooses not to run, those seeking the presidency will… need his support to emerged as the president of the country”. This is aside the numerous prophesies on his impending emergence as the next president by many clergymen like Primate Elijah Babatunde Ayodele and Prophet Joseph Tope Omotosho, founders of INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church and OTJ live ministry respectively.
And for those who think Saraki has committed a political hara-kiri because of his defection to PDP from APC pitching him against President Buhari, his loyalist and former Acting National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje has this say: “Anything that is politically blended is politically possible. Saraki considered a lot of things before decamping. For those of us who know him know that he consulted widely before taking a decision. In fact, he consulted up to a fault before decamping to the PDP and did a lot of consideration and for those who think he has committed a political suicide; they should wait for next year’s election.”