With the political leadership of Kwara State wrested from the grip of the outgoing Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Olawale Olaleye examines some of the factors that left the sweeping defeat of his party in the state
It would be naïve to assume Senate President Bukola Saraki didn’t ponder the possibility of an invasion from the already and clearly identified enemy camp. What, perhaps, he might not have envisaged was the extent to which they planned his political annihilation – leaving nothing to chance.
But as it eventually turned out, the results of all the elections – presidential, national assembly, governorship and state assembly – in Kwara State were an anti-climax. The party and structure that had been in control of the state since the return of democracy in 1999 was retired in all of the elections.
Thus, to fully understand the weight of what happened in Kwara, one of the simplest ways to put it is that Saraki’s political structure, which he inherited from his late father, Dr. Olusola Saraki otherwise called Oloye, moved from a position of total control of all the elective offices in the state to currently having none.
Of course, except for the undiscerning, in a normal election, which features the same level of discontent against him, Saraki’s hold on the state could have been reduced significantly, but to say he would lose all belies simple logic.
His defeat in Kwara was no doubt orchestrated, and executed from a place higher than those who claimed the victory locally, even when a majority of them can hardly muster their households to the poll. Whilst many of those angling for his exit would pass as mere e-rats, others were elites, who sat in the comfort of their homes in different parts of the world and watched their prayers answered.
It is therefore pertinent to emphasise, at this point, that the O to’ge movement as an idea was a façade, the actual factors responsible for Saraki’s defeat is beyond the comprehension of the locals as they had nothing whatsoever to do with it. The movement was the cover; the real plan was insidiously orchestrated and pushed to fruition.
Therefore, do not be surprised if the real brains behind the temporary collapse of the Saraki dynasty smirk at the folly of those taking the glory for what they had no clue how it came about.
Naturally, since the elections and their shocking outcomes, many people had toyed with different postmortem analyses and contemplations on what might have happened on February 23 and March 9 elections respectively.
But unknown to a majority of the people, since the many failed attempts to get rid of Saraki as a senate president especially that his leadership of the Senate and National Assembly had always come handy as the reason for some of the failures of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in the last four years, some of the president’s men were since determined and had glibly boasted they would use the elections as payback for Saraki, often reiterating their desire to retire him politically, both from the senate and the control of Kwara.
Some of them even contemplated burying him by ensuring he is not politically relevant again on all counts, short of admitting they already had a solid plan to make it happen. However, those angling for his fall didn’t hide their disdain for him.
The list is long but not limited to some of those who had publicly declared war against him. And when you ponder, albeit for the discerning, it was not because these people had any intelligent plan to take out Saraki except that they banked on the presidency’s full weight to take him out, since they could not afford the return to the senate of an individual they all concluded was the problem of the government, the president and the presidency, being Nigeria’s number one lawmaker, who effectively deployed the powers of his office to checkmate the presidency. But when you are done toying with these ideas, you’d want to ask: what were his sins, really? Here is one.
He had insisted that the APC, which he helped to install, should embrace an all-inclusive government, based on justice in which offices are properly shared among the legacy groups that formed it.
Curiously, this has always been the position of the wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, but Saraki’s bravery pitted him against the party establishment. Many of them saw his emergence as Senate President against the wish of party establishment as a coup and therefore not forgivable. They openly assaulted him throughout his tenure, often without regards to the rule of law and constitutionalism.
The attacks, of course, would not play down on the fact that the outgoing senate president had always rooted for the independence of the legislature and the judiciary with inherent checks and balances as separate arms of government particularly, in a presidential system of government. He canvassed inclusiveness and justice in a multi-ethnic modern state as well as the need to develop system and institutions as against building individuals, while seeking the need for a virile opposition in a democracy.
Unfortunately, those who controlled the levers of power at the top considered his position as sheer dissent to the ruling APC, which they reckoned created an opposition within in the National Assembly and the party as well as prevented them from benefitting in the ways they deemed best.
Thus, for abandoning the ruling party to become the national leader of the opposition PDP, contesting for the presidency and creating a scenario of the number three citizen against the number one, before becoming the Director General of the campaigns of the leading opposition candidate, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, had created the much needed atmosphere and opportunity to move against him, stealthily.
The APC was all out against him menacingly. From massive security deployment to indulging the APC in the state and deploying a police commissioner of choice, it required no spiritual consultation before determining where the election was headed.
In fact, one of the incumbent senators from the state, who was a candidate in the election, Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara South) was arrested on the eve of the polls and was only released after the elections. Many other foot soldiers of the Saraki political machine allegedly suffered similar fate, while others scampered to safety. And you thought he was fairly defeated?
With obvious official backing, which guaranteed the APC could get away with ‘blue murder’, the Saraki group was simply overwhelmed, forcing the structure to yield and of course, that paved the way for the APC victory and celebration.
Interestingly and against the thinking of his traducers, Saraki chose to stand on better grounds of decency and maturity. Rather than being drawn out for further humiliation, he accepted his fate and took the defeat in his stride. Like a true democrat, he also acted right by congratulating the winners and wishing them best of luck. He had since returned to Abuja, to gracefully complete his current mandate.
Without doubt, Saraki might have his faults too, some of which might have aided the Kwara invasion, including the not-so-impressive performance of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed in almost eight years; he is not the devil that his adversaries struggle to paint. He has definitely set a high standard in civilised politics. He remains the smart, intelligent, urbane and cosmopolitan Nigerian politician with a secure place in the foreseeable future. And when you consider his age, capacity, efficiency and experience, he not only will rise again, he is certainly a material for the future.
It also offers an interesting study in advanced political science classes that a certain people from a certain state in a certain country chose to give up their son, who occupies an eminent position in the country for those who cannot pull a string and therefore amenable to being muscled by better positioned forces in the body polity.
That he is finishing good, both as a senator and the Senate President with more achievements and walking away with the trophy as the leader of Nigeria’s most productive senate, the invaders can have their days for now, Saraki definitely will bounce back even to the shudder of the hypocrites, who think he is their problem, when indeed, they had always contributed their quota to the collective challenge in Kwara. But for now, it is okay to pay the price of daring to be different.