SARAKI: Has The End Come For A Corrupt Dynasty? By Bayo Oluwasanmi
Politics in Kwara State has been under the control of Saraki family for years. It is normal for a politician’s son, wife, brother or other kinsman to run for the same or other government office. This is known as political dynasty. In political science, the equivalent is oligarchy.
In 1979, Dr. Olusola Saraki, father of Senator Bukola Saraki, was elected Senator in the Second Republic and became Senate leader. In 1983, he was re-elected into the Senate on National Party of Nigeria (NPN) platform. In the 1980s, Olusola Saraki founded Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria (SGBN) an offshoot of the Societe Generale Bank of France. Based on 2013 data, SGB is France’s third largest bank by total assets and the sixth largest in Europe. Founded in 1864, SGB France is one of the oldest banks in France.
Once his political tentacles were firmly entrenched in Kwara and in the Senate, Olusola Saraki wasted no time to launch the Saraki family corruption dynasty.
As the powerful and influential national vice-chairman and Kwara State chairman of NPN, he became the kingmaker in Kwara politics and decide who gets what.
With his political connections and the SGBN in his kit, the elder Saraki got better in the corruption business. The entire Saraki family was baptized with catechism of corruption, anointed with extreme shamelessness and greed. The family became polluted and degenerated. Corruption was the glue that kept the Saraki dynasty together. The family became a center of licentiousness and depravity of corruption and influence peddling.
The SGBN became the nominally powerful institution that fostered official and family corruption. Members of the family clan – Bukola Saraki, Gbemisola Saraki, and Toyin Saraki – were instrumental in the demise of the SGBN. They are well known for their legendary reputation for financial as well as political corruption.
To the Sarakis, honesty in business doesn’t matter. Efficiency doesn’t matter. Progressive vision doesn’t matter. Corruption, greed, and power matter. Olusola Saraki and other directors of SGBN crippled SGBN. Nuhu Ribadu, former EFCC chairman and his team were to launch an investigation and arraign Saraki and nine others – Robert Mbonu, Hafiz Bakare, Toyin Idowu, G.A. Oyenola, Yinka Fagbemi, Kennedy Izuagbe, Dele Iluyomade, Noah Olopoenia, and Lana Haastrup as accused persons.
Ribadu intended to prosecute Bukola Saraki but could not because he enjoys the immunity clause bestowed on serving governors by the Nigerian Constitution. The trial of Olusola Saraki and other accomplices would have commenced pending the expiration of his son’s term as governor, but because Bukola Saraki was a member of President Umaru Yar’Adua’s kitchen cabinet, the suit got buried and Ribadu was disgraced and forced out of EFCC.
Bukola Saraki was elected Kwara Governor in 2003. He replaced his father’s former political godson, Mohammed Lawal. It was under his watch as the vice-chairman of SGBN when the bank collapsed. Ten months into his tenure as governor, the House of Reps summoned the then Central Bank Governor Joseph Sanusi to explain how SGBN overdrew its capital base by N1 billion.
While SGBN was in financial distress, on November 29, 2001, Bukola Saraki bought a mansion in London for four million, two hundred and fifty thousand pounds. The house with title number NGL 805616, located on 70 Bourne Street, London SW1W8JW, is not far from Buckingham Palace road. The three-story edifice has been described as “a house worthy of a king.”
On March 20, 2003 NDLEA and EFCC were drafted to investigate some allegations of fraud at SGBN perpetrated by Saraki family. Olusola Saraki, his wife Florence, son Bukola and daughter Gbemisola and other shareholders were accused of money laundering. They were accused of using depositors funds to buy shares in the ailing SGBN contrary to the Banking and other Financial Institutions Acts (BOFIA). The presidency intervened and the case never saw the light of day. By early 2004, the bank and its top management were accused of defrauding the bank of N37 billion .
Barely two months after Bukola Saraki and his criminal gang in the Senate forged Senate Standing Order that got him elected as the Senate President, his wife, Toyin was invited by EFCC. Toyin Saraki scheduled to appear at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja July 28, is wanted in relation to “questionable inflow of funds into companies where she has interest.”
The question on every lip of right thinking Nigerians should be: “How could Bukola Saraki from the well known corruption dynasty got away with many murders so many times without being caught, prosecuted, and punished? How could he have spearheaded the forgery of the Senate Standing Order and installed himself Senate President? Is the Senate the den of robbers, Zombies and Bozos?
With Buhari in Aso Rock, the chickens are coming home to roost. Until now, the Sarakis – a byword for corruption – seemed unassailable despite their conspicuous greed and soaring ill gotten wealth. There is no question that the Sarakis are outright thieves and that the dynasty has a series of reoccurring scandals. After flourishing for decades, with the possibility of Toyin Saraki being convicted for money laundering and Bukola Saraki going to jail for forgery of the Senate Standing Order, certainly, this is the beginning of the end of the Saraki corruption dynasty.
Billions of Naira were swindled by the Sarakis from Nigerian depositors and from the general public. Like many complicated systems, the Saraki corruption dynasty grew brittle and inflexible. It could not adjust to new realities. Addicted greed, out sized fraud, outlandish personality, pride, unrestrained appetite for graft and corruption and power will ultimately eclipse the dynasty sooner than expected.
Corruption patterns in Nigeria have become more complex, sophisticated, and deep-rooted. One case leads to another. But it might also reflect the resistance from those who have benefited from the existing system and face losing everything.
The anxiously awaited police report on the forgery of the Senate Standing Order has been submitted to President Buhari. The police report confirmed that Standing Rules used to elect Saraki and his deputy Ike Ekweremadu on June 9, 2015 were forged. The culprits in the Senategate scandal – David Mark, Saraki, Ekweremadu, Victor Ndoma-Egba, Ita Enang and the National Assembly clerk Salisu Maikasuwa – must be prosecuted without delay. They should receive the maximum jail sentence for the crime to serve as deterrence to other lawbreakers operating as lawmakers in the National Assembly.
We have no doubt that the Buhari administration is genuinely concerned about the challenge that corruption poses to its credibility and the country’s ability to function. Corruption entrenches and widens economic inequality. It disproportionately affects the poor. Watching a parade of officials like Dasuki, Saraki, Yar’Adua, etc., being shamed offers at the least a sense of vengeance, at best a hope of future justice.
We love to see corrupt officials being brought down. But the system that makes corruption possible remains unaffected by the crackdown. We need powerful investigators something that would be anathema to Nigerians. We need a strong court system with judges that money cannot buy. We need to prune and purge corrupt judges who are allies of the criminals. We need efficient and professional state and local government police charged with the 21st century community policing in terms of crime prevention, detection, and prosecution.
Let’s have the first casualties of war on corruption! ?