Next week Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari will formally inaugurate the Eighth National Assembly. Immediately after the inauguration the federal lawmakers are expected to elect the principal officers. In this piece MIKE ODIAKOSE x-rays the two leading contenders for the senate presidency.
If there is any individual that is giving some of the national leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, sleepless nights over the contest for the senate president it is the former governor of Kwara State, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki. Since Saraki, a medical doctor, entered the race he has torpedoed the plot by some leaders of the APC to remotely control the Eight National Assembly through imposition of a Senate President. The position of the Senate President is a very influential one as the occupier of that office automatically become the Chairman of the National Assembly and the third most powerful person in Nigeria.
APC leaders that were plotting to foist a stooge on the Senate had reasons not to underrate Saraki. The role played by the former governor in the success of the APC in the just concluded general election cannot be underestimated. Saraki was one of the major moving force that saw the depletion of the number of Governors in the PDP. The Saraki-led defectors that joined the APC boosted the political base of the party and the party recently benefited handsomely from the defection of former PDP members to its fold.
Senator Bukola Saraki proved he is not a push over in any political contest in 2011 when his anointed governorship candidate in Kwara State, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed trounced the candidate of his late father, who was hitherto revered as the godfather of Kwara politics. Since that historic event Bukola Saraki became unstoppable. During the last General Election he was reported to have told APC leaders and its presidential candidate not to lose sleep over Kwara State and he will hand over the trophy to the party on Election Day. And he delivered on his promise.
To APC leaders, Saraki’s case is akin to the fly that perched on the scrotum, and one must be very diplomatic in handling it. Saraki is said to have the backing of almost all the former governors in the Senate and it is believed that PDP senators may also vote for him to re-enact the Aminu Tambuwal scenario and take their pound of flesh on APC leaders. The fears in the top election of the APC is that if they conspire to shortchange Saraki the party may also as well kiss the entire Kwara state goodbye as the party members in the state will defect with Saraki at the click of a finger. That is one development that the APC cannot afford now that it is trying to consolidate its rising profile.
Unlike some political candidates that are pushed into electoral contest by unseen hands, Saraki appears to have come into the race fully prepared with well articulated agenda of what he intends to do if elected by his colleagues as the Senate President. In an interview with reporters in Abuja, Saraki said if his colleagues give him the opportunity to serve them as President, he would ensure openness, transparency and accountability in running the affairs of the Senate.
According to him, the Senate under his leadership will take responsibility for ensuring good governance through proper oversight functions. Saraki said his confidence had been further boosted by the quality of men and women who would be part of the 8th Senate. This, he said, would make the task lighter because he and his colleagues would be on the same page in the area of probity and accountability.
He said, “One of the things I have observed and in looking at all our areas of responsibility, it’s largely the fact that in our engagement with Nigerians out there, they wonder, ‘what do we do there? What happens in the National Assembly? There’s no connection between the National Assembly and the Nigerian people. I hope that the Eighth Chamber, under our leadership, would begin to bring a closer relationship, a better connection between the Senate and the Nigerian people.
“Some of the laws that we would pass are laws that would have direct impact on the lives of our people. Secondly, in the areas of representation, we must improve in being able to connect, and interact with the people we represent.
“I also think there are some bills that are priority bills in doing that, I think, one, in the area of delivery of justice; I think it’s a key area. All the things we talk about, whether its security, rule of law, anti-corruption and even on the commercial side, we need to look at that.
“We need to look at electoral reform because that would strengthen our democracy. These are bills I believe are key,” he proposed.
Bukola Saraki was born on 19 December 1962. He attended King’s College, Lagos, from 1973 to 1978, and Cheltenham College, Cheltenham, London from 1979 to 1981 for his High School Certificate. He then studied at the London Hospital Medical College of the University of London from 1982 to 1987, when he obtained his M.B.B.S (London). He worked as a Medical Officer at Rush Green Hospital, Essex, from 1988 to 1989. He was a Director of Societe Generale Bank (Nig) Ltd from 1990 to 2000. He was appointed special assistant to the President on Budget in 2000. Ceremonially, he also serves as a tribal nobleman of high rank in his capacity as the Turaki of the Ilorin Emirate.
Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki’s political career began when he was appointed Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Budget in 2000. While holding this position, he initiated the Fiscal Responsibility Bill and served on the Economic Policy Coordination Committee, where he was responsible for the formulation and implementation of several key economic policies for Nigeria.
In 2003, he ran for the office of the Executive Governor of Kwara State on the platform of the PDP and won. He was sworn into office in May 2003. He ran again for re-election in 2007 and won his second term. As governor of Kwara, he led reforms in agriculture, health, education, finance and environment policy. One of his major achievements was inviting displaced white farmers from Zimbabwe to Kwara State and offering them an opportunity to farm. This led to the establishment of Shonga Farms programme, which is now being replicated across Nigeria. His charisma among his fellow governors got him appointed as Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum.
Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan
Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan is believed to have been propped up for the race by the former governor of Lagos state, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and this is working against him as those against his candidature are out to cut Tinubu down to size. The anti-Tinubu APC lawmakers may not be against Lawan as an individual but uncomfortable that if Lawan emerges key decisions in the Senate will first be cleared by Tinubu before it is brought to the floor of the Senate.
Beyond the alleged Tinubu connection, Senator Lawan is eminently qualified for the plum job on his own merit. Senator Lawan came into political lime light in 1998 when he was elected the pioneer Vice Chairman of the defunct All Peoples Party, APP, Yobe State Chapter and in 1999, he served as the Secretary of the Electoral Committee of APP National Convention in Abuja. He contested and won a seat in the House of Representatives, as a member representing Bade/Jakusko Federal Constituency in 1999—a position to which he got re-elected in 2003. In the House of Representatives, he served in various capacities, including: Deputy Chairman, Committee on Environment; Deputy Chairman, Committee on Gas Resources; Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture; Chairman, House Committee on Education; and representative for the House of Representatives in the Joint Parliamentary Assembly, ACP/EU.
Dr. Lawan contested and won election in 2007 into the Senate as a representative of Yobe North Senatorial District. In 2011, the people of his senatorial zone re-elected him for another four-year term. In the Sixth Senate, he served as: Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts; Member, Constitutional Review Committee; President, West African Association of Public Accounts Committees, WAAPAC; and a member of five other standing Committees of the Senate.
In the Seventh Senate, he was re-appointed as Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts and also appointed Chairman, Ad-Hoc Committee to Investigate the Privatisation and Commercialisation Activities of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, from 1999 to 2011.
Born into the humble and peace-loving family of Late Mallam Ibrahim Lawan and Hajia Halima Ali in Gashua on the 12th of January, 1959, the commenced formal education at Sabon Gari Primary School, Gashua, in 1967 and proceeded to Government Secondary School, Gashua in 1974. In January, 1980, he gained admission into the University of Maiduguri, Borno State to undertake a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geography. Upon graduation in 1984, he proceeded to Benue State to serve his country for the mandatory National Youth Service Programme, NYSC.
Fresh from his NYSC programme, Senator Lawan gained employment into the Borno State Ministry of Education as an Education Officer III in 1985, and moved on to the newly established Advanced Teacher’s College and now College of Education, Gashua in 1986, where he served as Assistant Lecturer I as well as, Head of Social Sciences Division. He transferred his services to the University of Maiduguri in 1987 as a graduate assistant and later proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1989 where he bagged a postgraduate diploma in Land Survey and then to Cranfield University, United Kingdom where he obtained both Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy, PhD degrees in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System, GIS, and Remote Sensing in 1991 and 1996 respectively.