The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki made a triumphant entry into his hometown Ilorin, Kwara state, last week after the landmark judgment by the Supreme Court that pronounced him innocent over false and anticipatory declaration of asset brought against him by the Federal Government. He was featured as a guest in a live radio programme monitored in Ilorin. Excerpts
What is your view about youth participation in governance?
If we look at the last congress we did in our party, with the courage at the ward level, I think close to 70 per cent of the executives of the party in the ward now are youths. There is nowhere else in the country where that is taking place, and that shows how very strongly I believe in the youths. When I was Governor, it was during my time that you find a lot of young people as SA’s and you find a lot of young people in the local councils. So, this is what we’ve done now, but for a lot of young people, I want to encourage them to participate in becoming part of the executive and party structure. From there they can go for election at the council, state and national levels, but they must participate at the party level; they must be part of it because it is the party that is the bedrock of the foundation to elective positions. So those that sometimes wants to start straight at some of the elective positions should also know that they have to participate at the party level because the party is also important and there are certain things that go to party structures and if they are there and are part of it, then some of their issues can be addressed.
These are some of the things we addressed at the last congress, there was a major shift in how the youths will participate. I am sure you will see in the next few years that other states in this country will follow suit because we’ve always been the one that set the pace in this kind of things. It’s a good development and I strongly believe in it and I challenge the youths in those positions to see it that way also. I challenge them not to misuse the opportunity because a lot of people will ask what happened when the youths were leading party structures. I want them to make sure that they make a lot of difference and run the party well. It will help in bringing the youths to participate in governance.
How do you react to your recent invitation by the police on the issue of Offa Banks robbery?
It is an unfortunate incident. It is an act of rascality and irresponsibility for the police organization to really try to make a political situation of robbery that took place in Offa. I was the first government official to go to Offa to find out what happened. I was in Abia when I heard of the incident that so many people have been killed.
I went to Offa to find out. I was at the palace (of Olofa) to condole the people. I made a donation, because I heard that most of the people that had been killed actually were police officers. Because the persons that carried out the robbery first went to the police station to shoot and also take the arms from there.
And there at the palace, I called the IG (Inspector General of Police), to tell him this is the situation here. We need immediately to get an APC (Armoured Personnel Carrier) for the community, we need a police station. He commended me for my prompt approach, and I made a donation of N10million to the community there.
Even I had to get the Governor of Central Bank (of Nigeria) to ensure that what happened in Omu-Aran where after the robbery for a long time, banks never reopened in Omu-Aran, that please ensure that the banks in Offa were still opened for the convenience of my people, some of them having to come from Offa to Ilorin for trading activities.
And to my shock and horror, then I was told the police arrested the ringleader and those involved. And then simultaneously, coincidentally, we were in the period where the Senate, not me, demanded that they needed to see the IG to explain a lot of the killings that were going on and all of a sudden, police now tried to say that those that carried out the robbery had to do with boys, who happened in their own view, to be associated with me and the Governor.
And the amazing part of it is that throughout the whole period when this allegation was being made, there was no written or any kind of statement from the ring leader to say such a thing, and there was no evidence to suggest that either I knew the people or even had any association with them, neither did the people say at any given time that the Senate President told us to go and carry or whether there is even any communication in all the records connecting the people that carried it out with the Senate President. It is largely politically motivated.
It is all parts of the kind of persecution that one has gone through under this government. There is nothing else. The total amount, I’m told, that was in the (bank) vaults was N7million. I just said that the day I visited the place, I donated N10million. Where at my background, my integrity, I was Governor, I fought against cultism in the state, I work on how to contribute to many people and their lives, I would now go and give money to some people to go and kill my own people, to rob and share the money.No matter how far fetched, it is evil, and at the end of the day, the way they are going about it, where had the case gone? Where is the ringleader? They cannot produce the ringleader and they are not saying anything more about the case. So, it was all done with an aim to try and see how they can file another case to go to court, try to embarrass and prosecute. It is just so ridiculous and there is no iota of truth in it.
Elections are around the corner, what message do you have for your people, especially at this critical point of preparation for the 2019 election?
That is a very good question. I think where the country is now… my great concern since I became the Senate President has been how do we provide for our people? How do we make their lives better, how do we improve on their education, how do we improve on their health, if we have a more educated and healthier citizenry… we have to get to a point whether you are rich or poor, you should be able to afford medical service. That is a priority for us. We should have a government that talks about justice; we should have a government that is concerned with security and that is the approach for us at the National and state levels. For me, I think I am particularly blessed for giving me this opportunity to lead people and for people to have confidence in me. My focus is that we should look for people who are popular and more accepted. I want us to ensure that this time, we enlarge the coast, making sure that we have the right kind of people to represent us at different levels. I want to encourage those that believe they can participate to come in. For me personally, I believe this is important so that we can continue to develop the state and have competent and right people holding these positions
Do you have confidence in INEC towards the forthcoming 2019 general election, going by what happened in Ekiti during the last gubernatorial election?
Well, I think what is important is that one has not seen more than what is heard and I don’t want to use Ekiti alone as example. I think INEC has a responsibility… What is the responsibility? Whether you like it or not, today, Nigeria is a key player in the global community. As a country, we are the largest economy in Africa, so we must set standard for other countries of the world.
So, in 2019 election,,, we have seen what happened in 2015. 2019 must be better than 2015 election, must be the type of election Nigerians would be proud of. I want to assure our people that they will be able to vote without hindrances from the police or other security agencies.
We must have a safe and credible election. 2019 election is beyond party, it’s beyond individual and all the official of INEC must do what is right; we of the National Assembly must support them to do that. Anything short of that would not be acceptable. And I am sure that both the Chairman of INEC and the officials know that the whole world, apart from Nigerians, is watching. This is what will bring about peace; that is what will bring unity and that is what will provide a better country. So, all of us must make sure that we are accountable for free, fair and credible elections.
Your final word sir?
I take note to communicate with my people. We have a great state so let us work together to make it greater. There is no state that we have political stability like ours (Kwara) though there is no perfection in individual.