Pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” The eighth and ninth verses from the fourth chapter of Apostle Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians aptly describe the tumultuous journey of Nigeria’s Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, in the last three years of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government and as Senate President.
It is true that anyone who desires to stand with the people and also become great in politics and any other good endeavour must pass through the furnace of severe adversity from the beneficiaries of the old order. The likes of Obafemi Awolowo, Nelson Mandela and other great men we celebrate in Nigeria and Africa today had at one point of their lives gone through political persecution from the state; it only made them heroes and legends even after their demise.
Saraki’s various travails and misery in the hands of the state, which looked unending, was finally laid to a permanent rest by the judgement of the Supreme Court few weeks ago. In the face of all the travails; but the tormentor, obviously agents of the state, thought they were causing him harm, unknown to them they were doing him more good by increasing his popularity and pushing him out of his closet as a North-Central champion to a major player in national politics and by extension global limelight.
Now, Saraki’s popularity, political dominance and prominence is increasing by the day. Truth is his personality has attracted more political admirers and followers across the nation than in 2011 when he stepped out of office after two successful terms as governor of the Kwara State and in 2014 when he was just one of the 109 members of the red chamber.
What influence would Saraki’s personality wield on the 2019 presidential elections? This seems to be another question any politically discerning Nigerian can provide adequate answer to. In 2011 when he had less national influence, Saraki was a big deciding factor of where the middle belt votes would tilt. In 2015, his departure from the ruling People’s Democratic Party, where he led a bloc of the party to the newly-formed APC then, cost Jonathan and the PDP the election. There is no doubting the obvious fact that the breaking away of the nPDP in 2014 was a major catastrophe for the Jonathan re-election bid.
Now history is repeating itself, but on a larger scale. Saraki now sits as the number three citizen of the nation, with more power, more influence, greater political and national prominence, slightly second only to the President (probably because of the power that comes with the office itself and not because the occupant has any goodwill or influence to be proud of).
Naysayers and palace jesters scavenging the seat of power have been going round town to dismiss the great disaster that will befall the APC should Saraki repeat what he and the nPDP bloc did to the PDP in 2014. Their gallivanting is laughable; they are no doubt on a wild goose chase. What they have failed to do, like those who were there before them, is to tell truth to power, because of their vested interest, crumbs from the table, and desperate attempt to portray themselves as being fit enough to step into the vacuum that would be left should the Senate President and his associates stage a walkout on the ruling APC. This is delusional estimate of their political clout, if at all there exists any.
Going into the 2019 presidential elections, Saraki’s electoral assets which hitherto lie in Kwara and, by extension, the middle belt has grown in leaps and bounds and extended across the nation in the last three years. On that, he owes the APC and the Presidency a special appreciation, first for the political persecution unleashed against him since his emergence as the Senate President in 2015.
Secondly, for the incompetence and cluelessness of the Buhari government which in the last three years has compounded the nation’s woes, this is where Saraki has shown to be more presidential than the occupants of the office, with his intervention and solution to national issues and for making the National Assembly better than Nigeria ever had. These acts of Saraki have forced many to ask severally, “who is the presidency?” as the sacked SGF, Babachir Lawal once asked.
All these factors have culminated to crown Saraki as the poster boy of the present democratic dispensation. As it stands today, Saraki has grown to become a huge factor to consider by any serious presidential aspirant or any party desirous of winning the 2019 presidential elections, ignore him at your peril. In Nigeria today he is the most talked-about politician. His proud identification with the millennial have continued to earn him huge respect and acceptance among the younger generation who occupy over 60 per cent of Nigeria’s voting strength.
Among the political class across the nation, Saraki, by the virtue of his office, goodwill, impact and influence, has made more friends with political heavyweights from the South to the North. hHe has built a relationship as solid as the wall of Gibraltar, strong enough to unseat any party, notwithstanding the political party he decides to support.
Should Bukola Saraki and his associates eventually leave the APC as it is presently being rumoured, then it would be safe to start bidding the ruling party goodnight for its sun that is about to set at noon.
Salako writes from Lagos