Is Bukola Saraki An Emergent Statesman? By Adamu Bello
Senator Bukola Saraki is not doing bad at the moment. He is enjoying a media spotlight, heavily paid for. On Tuesday, April 15, he posed for what looks like a well-choreographed photo-op showing him donating blood at an Abuja hospital for victims of Monday’s dastardly bombing at Nyanya motor park. Police say 72 died in the bombing; 134 injured according to updated figure. There were calls for citizens to donate blood to save compatriots. Saraki turned himself in. That is a good idea. Aside him, speaker Aminu Tambuwal was also seen in a photograph donating blood. But while Tambuwal stopped at the photo-op probably meant for campaign, Saraki went beyond taking a selfie at a scene of national mourning to sending out a statement announcing he had donated blood for the victims. That is not bad on the surface. But it becomes a show-off when you then discover that no less than 20 senators and several other House of Reps members made similar gesture at the same place – some of them before Saraki. Several other high-placed Nigerians also donated. Guess what: they made no show of it. This writer is aware that some other principal members of the National Assembly also donated blood, among other things.
In the week before then, Senator Saraki personally issued a public statement criticising the budget passed on the floor of the Senate. He is a serving senator. He probably had contributed to the debates before the budget was passed. As is typical of democracies worldwide, minority does have its say while majority has its way. Flawed as this principle could be sometimes, it is what is called democracy worldwide. So, what was Saraki trying to achieve issuing a public statement deriding a collective job of 109 senators? Was he driven by altruism? Facts from Kwara State budgets do not show this to be true. Like some other states, Kwara State under Saraki’s stooge, Governor Abdulfattai Ahmed, has one of the worst budgets in Nigeria where – in spite of its very poor infrastructure – only 47% per cent of its budget will be spent on capital expenditure.
Although Kwara State is among the most indebted states in Nigeria with 14% of its 2014 budget going for debt servicing, Saraki flies around in private jets fully paid for by the poor state. Despite prodding from the opposition, ‘statesman’ Saraki has refused to make public the amount he collects as monthly pension. It is rumoured that he collects approximately N100m. Kwara State pensioners had won a case against the state government as far back as June 2010, but the government has refused to pay the money. It is worth stating that Kwara state workers earn the least salary among the states created in 1967, 1973 and 1987 combined.
Kwara had in 2009 approached the capital market for a N30b bond, scaled down to N17b. It has not finished paying back, having till August to do so. But the government under Saraki’s guide is not just approaching the capital market for another N23b bond, it has proceeded to borrow another 4.4b. In 2012, it borrowed N10b and another N1.2b from different banks. Not minding this huge debt which perhaps led to the CBN recently declaring the state ‘unbankable’, Saraki flies around in private jets. He goes around in Ilorin in motorcade longer than even the governor! This is a waste and unsustainable habit unbefitting of a man wanting to be called a statesman.
Senator Saraki has a number of corruption cases hanging around his neck. Contrary to his public statements, he is doing everything to suppress probe into some of the issues. For instance in February this year, he rushed to a court to stop police from continuing with their investigation into the case. In a suit numbered CR.3000/X/SFU/Adm/BFC/Vol.17/2014, he is asking the court to declare fresh invitation over a money laundering cases as unlawful – the kind of prayers James Ibori had sought at the height of his impunity.
At any rate, people with sound memory have been asking when Saraki became a progressive and pro-people politician. Research shows that Saraki’s ‘progressive bent’ began only after the cabal he headed under Yar’Adua presidency became impotent. At the height of his reign as NGF chairman, the forum was the worst tormentor of Nigerian democracy. For months, the Saraki cabal ruled Nigeria through the backdoor cashing in on Yar’Adua’s ailment. At the height of that power, Saraki made no positive effort to fight corruption and ensure transparency or the rule of law. Indeed, he had led the crusade to frustrate Nuhu Ribadu out of EFCC. He is notorious for – alongside Ibori – bringing Madam Farida Waziri to the EFCC. The rest is history.
That is not all. Saraki recently took a swipe at Jonathan for sacking the Sports Minister Bolaji Abdullahi (his crony) on account of politics. But typical of all hypocrites, Saraki as we speak has spearheaded the unlawful suspension three times of a Kwara State House of Assembly member Ilyasu Ibrahim over some trump up charges of alleged assault on fellow member of the House. This purported assault occurred outside the confine of the Assembly. It is known worldwide that whatever happened between two lawmakers outside the chamber cannot and should not be an official business of the House, but in this case the House is suspending Ibrahim. The reason is clear: Ibrahim did not follow Saraki to APC. So, having done to Ibrahim what he did, what moral stamina has Saraki to attack Jonathan? We should never forget that Saraki – until he was cut to size by the Senate – was boasting that Prof Oba Abdulraheem will not get reappointment as Federal Character Commission because, according to him, Oba needs to give another person a chance. Clearly, the reason was because he thinks Oba – appointed a professor when Bukola Saraki had barely achieved anything in life – was not submissive to him. Arrogance! Indeed, Saraki is the least qualified to ask anyone to let positions go round. Here is an individual who concluded his two-term of eight years as governor in 2011 and succeeded his own blood sister as senator representing Kwara Central in the same year! Why didn’t he give somebody else a chance to serve? Or does it mean there was no one else in the whole of Kwara Central qualified to be senator? Indeed, Saraki had said it was immoral for his sister to succeed him as governor. I guess it wasn’t immoral for him to succeed his sister as the senator representing Kwara Central! We need another definition of hypocrisy.
For me, Saraki is pretending to be a pro-people politician when very few Nigerians can rival his penchant for corruption and contempt for the poor masses – forget the handouts he gives to the very people he has impoverished with his lavish lifestyle. Did Nigerians know that Saraki as governor always asked civil servants to sign their resignation letter well before they are given any appointments? Ask the permanent secretaries and directors in Kwara civil service who took the pay of junior workers. The policy was: talk and get booted out of the service. If you doubt that Saraki committed such impunity, read the Supreme Court judgment in the celebrated Dele Abiodun vs KWSG case in which the apex court condemned Saraki’s lawlessness. The gist of all these is that Nigerians should watch who they see as their lover! There are too many wolves in sheep clothing. Me thinks Saraki fits this bill.
*Bello writes from Kaduna
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