If Competence Is The Watchword, @BukolaSaraki Is Perfect For Senate Presidency, By Ayobami Oyalowo
Posted On May 19, 2015
Let me quickly state that I am not a fan of zoning. The PDP as a party brought zoning into our consciousness and while it may appear laudable, in the sense that it allows for so called regional balancing, zoning is counter-productive. The danger of zoning is that it may stifle brilliant and capable minds from contributing to national development simply because a particular office has not been zoned to their region.
The case of the current speaker of the National Assembly, Hon Aminu Tambuwal comes to mind. Nigeria would have lost the brilliance and vibrancy his leadership offered the outgoing House of Representatives if he and other nationalistic members of the house hadn’t taken the bull by the horn and ignored the PDP zoning arrangement.
Having said that, I write as an interested Nigerian to support the candidacy of Senator Bukola Saraki as he vies for the position of the Senate President in the Nigerian National Assembly. Senator Bukola has won me and many other youths over owing to his sagacity, youthfulness and willingness to make himself available to not only discuss burning national issues, but he’s also gone on record as a man who walks the talk.
Let me remind my readers of an issue that caused massive uproar online some time ago. Bagega!
According to Wikipedia “An annual immunization programme in Northern Nigeria led to the discovery of a high number of child deaths in the area. An investigation showed that they had been digging for gold at the times of their deaths, in an area where lead is prevalent. It was thought by the villagers that all the children had contracted malaria but Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) found unusually high levels of lead in the blood during tests. The BBC suggested the contamination of water may have contributed to the high mortality rate. Blacksmith Institute was called in by the Nigerian authorities to assist in the removal of toxic lead.
It is thought that the poisonings were caused by the illegal extraction of ore by villagers, who take crushed rock home with them to extract. This results in the soil being contaminated from lead which then poisons people through hand-to-mouth contamination. Others have been contaminated by contact with contaminated tools and water.”
By January 2013, the problem had become endemic leading to many deaths and unexplained sicknesses. The Nigerian authority turned a blind eye to the devastation and slow wiping out of an entire generation of Bagega children until the problem was picked up online.
A hashtag, #SaveBagega was born and for days Nigerians in the social media space made it a burning issue until it got to the attention of senator Bukola Saraki. Within days he took it up, went on an assessment trip to Bagega and used his office as the Chairman senate Committee on Environment and Ecology to ensure funds were released immediately for remediation.
This episode struck a chord with me. Bukola Saraki is not perfect and which human is? But one thing was clear, here is a man who will do what he believes is right and in time too. Another factor I consider is his accessibility. We have raised so many questions online in the past, with little or no result, but Saraki has shown that he is a man that can be reached and be relied on to act whenever his attention is needed.
Senator Saraki also was the first lawmaker to move a motion on the oil industry and the fuel subsidy. It was this motion that finally led to the ongoing scrutiny of the Nigerian oil sector, revealing the rot and monumental scam inherent in both the NNPC and ministry of petroleum.
Saraki has shown that he is a man who will do the needful as at when due without caring whose ox is gored. It was clear from the onset that his motion on the fuel subsidy and general rot in the oil industry might affect some of his friends and political associates, but a man on a mission that he is, Saraki would do what is needed to be done.
As Governor, he delivered a series of reforms to vital state services such as health and power. This included increasing power generation and extending local electrification and the installation of new transformers in rural communities; wide-ranging reform of primary health care services designed to reduce maternal and child mortality; as well as the implementation of a state-wide programme of hospital development. In reforming health care in Kwara, Dr Saraki has worked closely with a range of international organisations such as WHO and UNICEF.
During this time, he also held the position of Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Nigeria’s national body for state governors. His Chairmanship was noted for its success in strengthening collaboration between state governors across Nigeria and developing new platforms for sharing best practice between states. Dr Saraki has worked closely with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to deliver the Immunisation Leadership Challenge, which was a radical programme designed to reward states that made significant improvements in polio and routine immunization.
During his Chairmanship, the Forum also successfully signed a range of Memoranda of Understanding with international bodies such as the World Bank, the UK Department for International Development, UNICEF and UNDP.
Recently re-elected to a second term as Senator for Kwara State Central, Dr Saraki has campaigned extensively on health, food security, education and the environment.
If competence and “can do” spirit is what we seek, Senator Bukola Saraki is one man whose leadership the Nigerian Senate will benefit immensely from.
Ayo Oyalowo is a member of the APC