Rafiu Adebayo Ibrahim represented Kwara South Senatorial District in the 8th National Assembly. He was also Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance. He talks to select journalists in Ilorin on the 58th birthday of Immediate past President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, his leadership style among others. Hammed Shittu was part of the chat. Excerpts:
What is your relationship with Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki?
Perhaps, contrary to public guess, my relationship with Dr. Saraki is completely brotherly. He is a big brother (he personally adopted me as one, long ago), an outstanding one for that matter. He is a mentor, a guide both in personal and public life, and a very loyal friend. He radiates loyalty – reciprocal or not. In my own case, in fact, I believe he is more loyal to me than I am to him. What makes our bond very natural is that Baba Saraki, the late Waziri, personally handed me over to him. Baba himself was a father figure (I wish I could tell the entire story here) who gave us, sons of no bodies, the opportunity to not only succeed but to make impacts in life. So, how Dr. Bukola Saraki is my brother is unequivocal. Our bond is beyond political interest or gains.
On this birthday occasion, how would you describe Dr. Bukola Saraki, his person, leadership style and modus operandi especially as it concerns critical decision making?
Let me first of all offer hearty birthday wishes to my leader and mentor. Abiding health, prosperity and greater exploits are my prayers for him and his family as he celebrates another year in life. He is to me and millions of others, an exceptional human being ahead of his time and an exemplary one just like the late Waziri of Ilorin, Dr. Olusola Saraki. This means he is Olusola Saraki incarnate. But if I can distil him into one word, he is an enigma. Bukola Saraki is a twenty-first-century builder, national pathfinder, a democracy warrior with the farthest vision. He is the architect of the modern day Kwara State both in infrastructural development initiatives and human capital development; hardworking and competent. On these two qualities, I have known him for, I take a personal pride in the fact that no mediocre or hero-worshipper can survive for too long around him.
Dr. Saraki’s leadership acumen cut across all ramifications. He is popularly called leader. His leadership is entirely formed by his passion for human development, most especially his immediate constituents, the people of Kwara State, and the leadership that is unmatched with any persons or group of persons that had surpassed any one that I have ever seen in my entire life journey. To speak more about leadership, Bukola Saraki is honest and loyal to a fault. He is shrewd yet very open to superior opinions. He is a good listener, extremely focused, hardworking and, above all, undauntedly passionate about Nigeria’s development. I have never seen him take decisions without inputs from his team members. I have seen him in many occasions make personal sacrifice for his own team members especially at national level. The examples, I mean different events, scenarios both in Kwara and whilst he was the Senate President, among others were many to mention but I can confirm that consultation and teamwork are the bedrock and fulcrum of his style. That said, I must note that he is a strong fighter against injustice. So he is not a very good adversary to look for.
You talked about loyalty, Saraki’s team spirit and respect for superior opinions. What is one collective decision that you were part and proud of?
The answers to this question are too many but I’ll restrict myself to your limit, just one; and that is our collective decision not to challenge the conduct and outcome of the 2019 general elections in Kwara State despite various and conspicuous irregularities including the unlawful arrest of my person, two days to election. The undeniable truth is that the elections were flawed by many electoral malpractices, manipulations and militarisation. The point is, if we had decided to challenge the whole election results, from senatorial downwards, I have no doubt we would reclaim our victory. But we decided not to toe that path, and I am very pleased and happy with that resolution.
What do you think makes him thick? Personal accomplishments, philanthropy or political conquest?
Dr. Saraki is a man that Allah uses to create and sustaining the systems for the teeming masses of Kwarans and others in the parts of the country. He dwells on the development of people across all spectrums. He has a huge knack for philanthropy, a trait which he obviously picked from his father, Oloye. This is what makes him thick, legendary and, of course, the major cause of the void in Kwara today. No one dares to compete with his philanthropic gestures and politics because of his wide exposures in the management of human resources that he had exhibited while serving as the two terms governor of Kwara State, as a former senate president and others areas of endeavours that he had served.
In your own view, how did Dr. Bukola Saraki influence Kwara Politicians in the national space especially during his Senate Presidency?
Like they say, charity begins at home. So let me approach this question by first drawing attention to how Dr. Bukola Saraki influenced Kwara politicians even before the Senate Presidency.
The summary is that he made people, creating and expanding the space for every valuable asset of Kwara to flourish and spreading prosperity. In this area of human capital development, he has to his credit tons of products (and beneficiaries) whose lives were tremendously impacted beyond politics. Starting with myself, just to mention a few, you have the likes of former governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, former honourable minister Bolaji Abdullahi, Rt. Hon. Dr Ali Ahmad, Rt Hon. Rasaq Atunwa, Hon Moshood Mustapha, Alh. Abubakar Kawu Baraje, Hon. Zakari Mohammed, Hon. Aliyu Arman Pategi, Hon. Ganiyu Cook Olododo, Mallam Yinka Aluko, Alh Ladi Hassan, etc. On this basis, it is both unsurprising and irrefutable that his reign as Senate President and Chairman of the eighth Assembly was the greatest blessing to Kwara State and indeed its politicians. Most important of this influence is the affirmation that Kwara was no more in the back seat of national leadership. I mean Dr. Saraki’s emergence as Senate President translated into the biggest motivation and opportunity for Kwarans. The number of appointments, political elevations, jobs, meaningful empowerment programmes, infrastructural projects and many other things that are meant by “federal government presence” is unquantifiable.
I give you an instance. Rt. Hon. Ali Ahmad, in his time as member of the House of Representatives, sponsored the highest number of bills by any lawmaker in the Green Chamber. As much as many of them facilitated change in the country, some were not allowed to make the desired impact. But with Dr Bukola Saraki as the Senate President, Kwara legislators made more impacts on the national stage. The passage of just two of my sponsored bills – the Credit Bureau Reporting Act 2017 and Collateral Registry Act 2017 – got Nigeria up 24 places in the World Bank’s 2018 Ease of Doing Business Index, specifically from no 44 to no 6 in Getting credit Indicator.
In essence, Saraki’s Senate Presidency offered Kwara politicians (those with value) to shine and make unprecedented impacts. I am not even talking about politicking here. Without him being the Senate President, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity of chairing the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, whose oversight covers the entire financial market and monetary policy of the nation, and an opportunity from which we got nothing less than 100 people engaged including top managers and directors. Saraki’s Senate Presidency is clearly in record as the best since the First Republic. The eighth senate, under him, performed creditably well in terms of institutional strengthening of the legislature and economic reforms through law making and various laudable interventions at critical and strategic times.