AROWONA ABDULAZEEZ and SULAIMAN FASASI x-ray the intrigues of determining who becomes the senate president with the APC being in the majority and forming government at the centre
There is no doubt that the Nigeria’s political atmosphere is charged due to the tussle of who succeeds Senator David Mark as the senate president owing to the aftermath of the 2015 general elections which produced members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as the majority in the senate.
With this development, David Mark is also preparing along with President Goodluck Jonathan, who the world believes has given the nation the best electioneering opportunity so far in the anal of Nigeria’s democracy to relinquish his seat and pave way for his successor who possibly should come from the APC.
As the tussle of who succeeds Mark rages, there have been much lobbying and endorsements since it was learnt or even rumoured that APC has zoned the slot to the North Central, though this is still subject to ratification by the party’s National Executive Council, NEC.
Party chieftains and other stakeholders have been throwing their weight behind interested candidates and this has heightened the stake. The president-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari is believed to have declined to support any candidate who has any outstanding question to answer with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, for according to him, it would go contrary to his avowed stance to fight corruption.
As the struggle to clinch the coveted senate position continues, pundits have singled out two prominent frontrunners as the favorites because they hail from the North Central zone, which is widely being speculated as the zone favoured for the slot.
They are Senator Bukola Saraki from Kwara state and Senator George Akume from Benue state. The duo have their supporters and even those who vehemently oppose their ambition. They have many things in common especially that they were former governors on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
However, those who oppose Senator Saraki’s ambition argue that he falls into the category of the candidates the president-elect, General Buhari has vowed never to support. He still have many outstanding corruption cases to settle either with the EFCC or the Special Fraud Unit of the Nigeria Police or both.
Speaking on this issue, President General of Orisun Igbomina, Chief Gbenga Awoyale said: “there are multiple cases of corruption hanging on Saraki and he needs to find answers to them before
picking up any national assignment otherwise he will rubbish Buhari’s government.
“It’s no longer news that Senator Bukola Saraki has many criminal records before, during and after becoming the governor of Kwara State in 2003. The way he ran the defunct Societe Générale Bank, The Intercontinental Bank loan saga, conversion of Kwara State government properties to his personal one, Shonga farm saga etc. On the last count, Senator Saraki was having about 11 criminal cases with the Economy and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), ICPC and Special Fraud Unit (SFU).
“APC leaders agreed to the term that, the party cannot be said to be fighting corruption by supporting people who have corruption cases to answer. It will amount to betrayal of Nigerians who massively voted for a positive change. Can Saraki even speak Hausa if really we want to use the platform of the north?” he asked.
Apart from allegations of corruption against Senator Saraki, his oppositions have taken the argument to another perhaps inconsequential level; his true state of origin. Some of Saraki’s opponents argue that since the Senate President is expected to come from the North Central, barring any last minute change by the party, Bukola Saraki might have to
resolve his origin question first before considering himself fit for the position.
Those who are bandying this as a minus to Senator Saraki’s ambition argue that resolving the origin question on the neck of Saraki is a task that might be too much for the former governor to resolve since his father, till he died, could not be authoritative as to whether the family truly originated from Abeokuta in Ogun State, Iseyin in Oyo State or from Ilorin.
They tell a story of what happened in 1992 during the elder Saraki’s presidential campaign in Abeokuta to seek for the vote of party supporters where he was said to have categorically told the people, including journalists that his root was Ago-Ika in Abeokuta North area of the state.
Further findings by Nigerian Pilot revealed that Saraki’s paternal great grandmother was from Idi-Oparun in the state capital just has the same Saraki is also laying claim to have originated from Iseyin in Iseyin local government area of Oyo State.
Alhaji Imran Olayiwola Balogun, a onetime acting chairman of All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP in Oyo State and an indigene of Iseyin narrated that until 1998 when All Peoples Party APP, lost in the local
government, the political structure of Iseyin was in the hands of Olusola Saraki.
Balogun explained that Saraki’s paternal grandmother was from Ijemba in Iseyin and traced the source of Sarakis in Ilorin to the popular scholar, Gari Alimi.
Bukola Saraki’s ancestral attachment to Abeokuta and Iseyin, but claiming Kwara, if that is correct, might defeat the aim of having a balanced representation since the speaker of the House of Representatives has also been zoned to South West.
One thing is very clear about the Sarakis, they have always attached themselves to the North anytime they needed the support of the Northerners but have always been quick to claim they are from the South whenever the Southerners are needed. This according to his opponents smacks of unreliability.
According to the source who pleaded anonymity, the reasons for opposing Saraki’s senate president ambition by most Northern senators stems from the role he played in denying the north the presidency in 2011.
It will be recalled that Saraki submitted himself for the 2011 northern presidential consensus agreement chaired by Adamu Ciroma, but subsequently ditched the Northerners by allegedly maneuvering Kwara delegates to vote for Goodluck Jonathan against Abubakar Atiku who emerged the north’s consensus candidate at the PDP presidential primaries.
While majority are opposed to the emergence of Bukola Saraki as the Senate President, others especially from his home state are of the opinion that there is nothing much to show for the eight years he led the state as governor.
Also, the role played by Saraki in the formation of ‘New PDP’ and later defection to APC cannot be ignored. He nearly truncated the peace hitherto enjoyed in the senate if not for the ingenuity of Senator Mark.
It is an indisputable fact that Saraki can go to any length to get whatever he wanted, nor minding who is involved, this is evident in the way he has been sponsoring endorsements from across-board
including the international organizations in the last weeks and the alleged hobnobbing the PDP caucus within the Senate, these are people who were classified as evil, according to Saraki and his people in the ‘New PDP.’
Saraki was from the ‘New PDP’ in the legacy party that formed the APC and since the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is also said to have his eyes on being, chairman Board of Trustees of the party, the party would do itself a great service not to empower the defectors with too much power in the new alliance.
Curiously, those who oppose Saraki seem to be at rest with Akume arguing that he is more accessible, and better positioned to lead the senate with the calmness and maturing Mark has led the senate in the past eight years. According to Awoyale, “Akume is accessible and pragmatic. He is even senior to Saraki because he has been in the chamber since 2007. Having being a principal officer for four years, he should also be considered, considering that he has the requisite experience.”
However, with the unprecedented interest shown so far in who becomes the next senate president, the stakes are no doubt higher and this will certainly make the contest more interesting. Politics can be described as biscuit; nobody can be sure where it would break from. The days ahead promise to be quite interesting because politics being what it is, the position may even elude these two most mentioned frontrunners for a completely unknown dark horse.