Gbemisola Saraki: The Rise Of The ‘Master’ Strategist By Aishah Sambo
Sometimes late last year, I wrote a piece titled “Why Gbemi Saraki must come out of hiding Now!”. Therein, I gave quite a number of reasons why Sen. Gbemisola Rukayat Saraki should come out of the cover of her Abuja high rise mansion and provide a refreshing and a more humane alternative to the incumbent political leadership of the state. I had reminded her that at no other time do Kwarans yearn earnestly for a leadership with some human face than now. In the article, I had challenged her to dust her sandals, step out of her comfort zone and lead the way, trusting that ultimately, her gentle, subtle touch was the greatest singular tonic needed at this time to ignite a change in the status quo in Kwara state (no exaggeration intended!)
But throughout the ‘lifespan’ of the article, especially on the social media, it hardly ever occurred to me that Gbemi herself, let alone the Presidency and of course the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was reading and taking notes. But happenings in the last two months or thereabout, especially in the life of the politics of Kwara state, have convinced me beyond doubt that my effort in penning down my thought then is not in futility after all.
There is however no better evidence that succinctly put this in proper perspective than the screaming headline of Weeklytrust newspaper of Saturday, 8th March, 2013. The paper had predicted that barring any last minutes change in the political applecart, the duo of Sen. Gbemisola Saraki and Mallam Ibrahim Sheikarau, two of a kind from Kwara and Kano respectively, were on their way to becoming Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So far, other Nigerian dailies have followed suit, with the Nation newspaper appearing more controversial than it was authoritative.
As a student of history and politics, I would be the last to allow the lesson of Gbemi’s rumored nomination as a Minister to be lost on me. Gbemi’s nomination by President Jonathan is pregnant with meaning; it goes beyond just the nomination! From a narrow prism, I suspect she is being prodded for a role much more demanding than just signing cheques and sitting at FEC meetings like the everyday Minister. She is being surreptitiously challenged by the Presidency and the leadership of her party, just like I did in my previous piece, to lead the way in Kwara. This certainly is NOT a bad idea, especially coming from a Presidency that has come under severe deserved and undeserved attacks from apologists of the sacked Minister of Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi.
Love her or hate her, Gbemi Saraki is unquestionably a first-rate political strategist, one who cut her teeth from no less a place than the Source itself! She had the singular privilege of being born into the cradle of politics in Kwara. And being the closest of the Saraki siblings to the late grandmaster of Nigerian politics himself and the Waziri of Ilorin, she has learnt, from very close quarters, the art of politics, generosity and public mobilization. It is little wonder that the Presidency has an equally high rating of her, thus the ministerial gambit. Much as I am no fan of the Jonathan Presidency, I must however concede the fact that the President and his handlers have taken one of the most politically strategic decisions ever. That is if the rumor of Sen. Saraki’s nomination is anything to go by.
But like every normal mortal, Gbemi has her other side too. Her weaknesses include her being too trusting of people around her and her almost zero ability to use the enormous power of media propaganda to her advantage, two character flaws that have been feasted upon by political opponents to deal a dirty, wicket blows to her personality and political career. But what she lacks in political shrewdness, she makes up for by coming across as a serious minded and steady leader. This is because despite her bitter, almost predictable defeat of 2011, where she courageously contested under the platform of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), she had nevertheless remained faithful to her singular ideology of not compromising principle on the altar of filial relationship; a fact that had endeared her to the critical mass of the Kwara’s voting populace. She firmly refused to align with the bandwagons, the charlatans that are presently plundering Kwara. This is even in spite of the fact that her blood brother, the one she grew up with, is at the centre of the pillaging!
This rare trait of sacrificing personal inconvenience for the greater good has by no mean potentially made her the most liked and talked about popular political figure in Kwara state today. This type of profile makes GRS, as she is fondly called by her admirers, a huge asset to President Jonathan’s second term aspiration. She will not only add to the momentum already being built around Jonathan and the PDP, especially after the exit of the ‘leprous hands of the PDP’, but also significantly consolidate on it.
Thus, if the much hyped rumor of Gbemi’s nomination eventually comes to fruition, I can bet it on my honour that it would be a watershed for Kwara and by extension the PDP. Working hand-in-hand with other credible stakeholders of the PDP in the state, she would certainly give the APC, and her brother, Dr. Bukola Saraki, a run for their money at the polls. For whoever cares to know, Gbemi is Bukola’s greatest political threat, and the latter doesn’t hide this much when confiding in close associates. At several fora, I have overheard Bukola Saraki’s handlers confess that Gbemi is their gravest concern among the gladiators that PDP presently parades in the state.
So, win or lose, Jonathan has scored yet another goal with the Gbemi gambit. The outlook can only be positive for the PDP and Kwara.
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