Saraki: When Leadership Overcomes Challenges

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By Danjuma S. Magaji

Abubakar Bukola Saraki is the President of the Nigeria Senate, the upper chamber of the legislative arm of the Federal Government, and the Chairman of the Assembly (both the Red and the Green Chambers). The journey has not been easy for him but he has shown a lot of good qualities of an effective leader in the presence of adversity. The success recorded so far under  Saraki’s watch in the Assembly is due to his effective leadership qualities.

The first challenge the former Governor of Kwara State faced was when he tried to exercise his fundamental rights as citizen and senator-elect that enable him to vie for the vacant position of the President of the Senate against the preferred candidate of a section of the party leadership.

 There were a lot of ignorance displayed about presidential democracy by the ruling party and most of the general public. Presidential democracy and parliamentary democracy although are all systems of democratic governments but their modus operandi differs in many areas. All Progressive Congress (APC) leaders failed to recognize the difference between a government institution and the party which many scholars regards as a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO).

Once senators are elected, they become one entity and every individual senator-elect reserves the right to vie for any position. This is what the leadership of  the APC by ignorance want to exert unmerited powers over elected officials and other top government officials. In presidential democracy,  there is no provision where party leadership will claim superiority over elected government officials. It must be noted that these elected officials were elected not only by members of their party but the entire Nigerian electorate to rule over them.

The second challenge on the Saraki leadership was his case at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

Based on procedure, an asset declaration form is issued to a public office holder at the point of assumption of office and expiration of tenure. One expects the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to investigate what such office holder had declared within a stipulated time. In fact, as a civil organization, it supposed to draw your attention when they notice inappropriate action. It is not an act of morality for the organization to just be interested in going to court without drawing the person’s attention. Unless they believe that human beings are infallible and they cannot make mistakes.

If Saraki made mistakes in filing his assets declaration forms, the CCB failed to act in time to draw his attention before going to the court. Saraki’s third major challenge since he assumed office as Senate President is the case of the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu. The Senate is erroneously being accused out of either ignorance or sheer mischief. The Senate did not confirm  Magu on the strength of the report from the Directorate of State Security (DSS).

The DSS is an outfit established by the constitution and its services are not meant for one individual or one arm of government but to the nation. All organs of government can reach this outfit for their service without having to go through a third party.

When a president sends the name of a nominee to the Senate for confirmation, the Senate has the right to investigate the personal record of such a nominee outside what the Presidency might have included in the curriculum vitae (CV) of the person. It is moral and constitutional for the Senate to further inquire about the personal records of Magu from other appropriate institutions and one of the right quarters is the DSS.

Apart from nominees for appointments even those that are interested in contesting any elections from the local government to the Presidency must have gone through and pass the DSS screening. The senate as an independent organ of the government under the leadership of Saraki is not out to unjustly confront the executive arm of the government, but rather wants to work in harmony for the development and progress of the country.

 In spite of the aforementioned challenges, Saraki has through deployment of leadership skills succeeded in overcoming the obstacles. The Senate President’s extraordinary ability to inspire others had helped in stabilising the once polarised Senate. As effective crises or conflict manager, he has the ability to understand the needs of others and the ability to behave wisely in respect of others. Saraki has mastered the elements of the art of persuasion including understanding people, the effective use of words and the ability to manage conflicts.

To resolve the conflict that arose in the Senate, the Senate President Saraki made for reaching considerations to achieve what he has so far achieved. He handled the issue calmly as he never confront, accuse, or insult any person but considered that the conflict was over issues and actions not personalities. The Senate President avoided personalized attacks. He kept the negotiations free of highly personal criticism, examinations, abusive language and especially jibes that inflict pains on others. He refused the win-lose strategies of negotiation as he carried along everyone.

 Saraki having secured peace and unity in the Senate and the whole National Assembly is set to lead by example, communicating his vision, keeping up morale and maintaining a positive attitude.

Furthermore, he is set to provide value based leadership, team-oriented, participatory and humane leadership that will make each Senator and other Nigerians happy.