Raheem Akingbolu with agency report
Despite spirited moves by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to remove him from office, Senate President Bukola Saraki wednesday dropped hint of his interest to run for the office of President in February next year election.
The hint of interest came through an interview he granted a foreign media platform, Bloomberg, after months of speculations and torrent of third party endorsements.
The Kwara State-born politician, who spoke at his Abuja residence said he was consulting and actively considering running against President Muhammadu Buhari and other candidates who might be interested in the position.
“I am consulting and actively considering it. I believe I can make the change,” he said.
Saraki, 56, who recently defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC) also pointed out that if he decided to run, it would be under the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party.
Since 2015, when he emerged President of the Senate, against the wish of his erstwhile party leaders, his relationship with the president has not been cordial, considering the frequent clashes between the executive and the legislative arms of government, a situation many pundits believe has slowed down the business of governance in the country.
He was a former member of the PDP who despite joining the APC, often went against the party line.
His defection last month back to the PDP came amid a wave of such departures from the APC, including dozens of senators and at least two state governors.
After security operatives surrounded Saraki’s home last month for undisclosed reasons, the secret police temporarily blocked access to the National Assembly on August 7, in what Saraki said was an illegal attempt to remove him from office. The head of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Lawal Daura, was dismissed over the deployment.
Reacting to the ugly development, Saraki simply said, “If a government can go and lock up an arm of government, and it’s never happened in our history, we should all be very concerned.”
While preparing the minds of Nigerians for what the 2019 election would look like, Saraki said they should not be surprised that the ruling party would use security agencies for elections.
He also stated that investors and citizens have lost confidence in the president.
Meanwhile, Buhari’s election victory in 2015, which marked the first time an opposition party won power at the ballot box and put an end to 16 years of PDP rule, came after he pledged to fix the economy, improve security and fight corruption.
While Buhari’s administration has raised record amounts of money in oversubscribed Eurobond sales and increased revenue to boost investments in roads, rail, ports and power, poverty remains widespread in Nigeria and the nation is still dealing with deadly violence in several regions.
To win the PDP ticket at the party’s primaries on October 5 and 6, Saraki would need to beat another presidential aspirant, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who also defected from the APC last year.
Saraki said Nigeria needs to be governed by a genuinely pro-business administration that will be able to tackle recurrent security issues.
Reviewing investment under the current administration, Saraki stated that most of the inflows that have come in are merely hot money, adding that that is because the oil price has gone up.
“Investment in the real sector is not seen. The private sector, in my view, has probably taken a position that the confidence is not there in the government. The country requires a government that is truly pro-business, and a president that sees himself as a chief marketing officer,” he said.
On the involvement of security forces in political matters, the Senate president stated that there has been a persistent disregard for due process and a lack of neutrality for some of these issues. He added that for Nigerians to have credible elections there must be safe elections.
According to him, “The fundamentals of whatever we are going to develop are going to be based on sound democracy, credible elections, freedom of choice of Nigerians. If we don’t have that as a foundation, then everything else cannot happen.”
On gasoline subsidies, he said, “If we are going to have a subsidy, we should have a budget for it. Because once we have a budget for it, the private sector can also play a role in the importation of petroleum products. And if the private sector plays a role, definitely the cost of the subsidy will go down and there will be more efficiency in the delivery of products. But in the environment we are in today, where it’s only the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. that’s doing that, it’s going to be inefficient, it’s not going to be transparent.”
Coming down to his new home, PDP, Saraki said the party had learnt its lesson from the loss in 2015, stating categorically that APC did not learn from its victory.
He said, “While negotiating with the PDP, we listed a number of issues. We talked about how to sustain and improve the fight against corruption; the issue of providing more powers to the states; inclusion and having a more nationalistic approach on things we do; to continue to improve the environment that will ensure investments. We listed a number of items during the discussions with the PDP, and there is a written agreement to that. We trust that we can hold them to that.
“We would ensure that the party is strong on security. The APC too have not done well on the issue of security. We have the opportunity with the right kind of presidential candidate and president to provide the leadership for the party. The party has a good opportunity to lead the country in the right direction.”