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REJOINDER: IS BUKOLA SARAKI AN EMERGENT STATESMAN?

Source: thewillnigeria.com
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Today, the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the whole world is focused on the hunt our 276 missing daughters.

In the past week, the eyes of the world have been focused on our country and its contradictions, we held the World Economic Forum in Abuja and have been demonstrating to find ways of getting our daughters back from the mindless terrorist who abducted them. So far nearly six hundred people have been abducted, or killed in less than a month within our borders, and yet whilst this is occurring and the world is making frantic efforts at tackling the scourge of Boko Haram, there are those within our media space whose minds are too lazy for serious investigative journalism but prefer to spend their time in scurrilous allegations and rumors.

Let this be clear, like every other politician and community leader, Bukola Saraki is determined to do whatever is in his powers to support the federal government, work with national and international partners to tackle the snowballing scourge of terrorism wherever it occurs both within and outside our borders. Bukola Saraki recently wrote a detailed piece in the Guardian (UK) where he enumerated two key elements we would require in the circumstances to deal with the insurgence we are witnessing; leadership from the federal government and co-operation across all political and religious divides. In that piece he urged that we should work closely with international partners to fight this scourge.

It my believe that Saraki's views have not changed, indeed they have become more rooted as Nigerians are massacred and our children are kidnapped in their hundreds.

This is why regardless of the point the writer was struggling and twisting his tongue to put across (unconvincingly by the way), it is very disappointing that at this time when all concerned Nigerians are being urged to put aside politics and politicking and focus on bringing back our girls to safety, some elements in our society still feel that it is appropriate in their own wisdom to further pedal the kinds of lies and political mudslinging over our efforts at saving lives and saving our country, a trajectory to continue to reflect badly on our national and international reputation. This should not be the time and the moment.

Let me put the story straight and counter those spurious allegations for record purposes and erase any doubts so we can all get back to the job at hand of find our daughters and defeating the forces of destabilization.

Firstly, the writer insinuated that the gesture of the distinguished Senator donating blood to the victims of the April 14th Nyanya bomb blast was a 'show off'. A mind bearing this notion in the mist of the carnage, death and destruction we witnessed in the Nyanya blast would need to be examined. Is the writer trying to suggest that the distinguished senator would risk the loss of over 1 litre of his blood and the possibility of contracting disease from blood donation just to 'show off'? 'show off what'. It is unthinkable and unimaginable in the 21st Century that any writer would pick up his pen and systematically condemn an altruistic gesture to donate blood for those that need it at a critical time of their lives as a 'show off'.

The writer may well be informed that the senator being a doctor himself knew the benefit of this gesture and encourage all his aides and like minded Nigerians to join him to donate their blood because the more blood the better. The idea of being photographed as all others were photographed was to show to others who are unconvinced to join the bus to donate more blood and a lot of people where touched and convinced and came by to donate their own blood.

The writer had insinuated that over 20 senators, House members and leadership of the National Assembly came and donated their blood and did not make a show of it. Again, this flies on the face of the matter. Without necessarily drawing anyone into this matter, we would like to get evidence of this fact from the writer. If this were to be so, I really think that Nigeria is on the road to self-recovery then. But the fact as we have it is overwhelmingly against this reckless postulation, which I dare say, is the pigment of the writer's warped imaginations designed to spite.

To our dear Adamu Bello, or howsoever called, I would urge caution, always caution, in rushing to do the bidding of your patrician, you do not play with the lives of your fellow citizens who had survived a bomb blast of the magnitude witnessed in Nyanya and who are in critical conditions, needing blood to save them from impending death.

It will also interest you to know that the Coordinator of the centre had single Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representative out for commendation as they where the the first Senator/house members to have donated blood aside other dignitaries not in government who have come also. Both Saraki and the Honourable Speaker did call and encourage other Nigerians to lend a helping hand. It's baffling that the writer will single out Saraki for condemnation and indignation for his daring to be compassionate and share with Nigerians in their moments of grief and despair. Was Saraki the only Nigerian that visited, donated blood and picked up by the media? Both he and the speaker had been comments in the media urging citizens to come out and donate blood, so why pick on him. This clearly demonstrates the parochial interest the writer has over the senator' issue. It clearly shows that this attempt to malign him is personal and subjective. Besides, it will be good to know if this same writer given his own blood ever before to save the life of a Nigerian? I dare say your guess is as good as mine.

The writer had in furtherance of his agenda to deride the person of senator Saraki and show him in bad light amongst his peers in the senate said that the Senator had 'criticizing the budget passed on the floor of the Senate'. This is hogwash journalism, the worst of its kind. If the writer needs education, Sen. Bukola Saraki' comment on the budget passed by the Senate is in order as legislators all the world has the right to address their constituents on their stand on issue of public interest. The essence of legislative deliberation is not for everyone to speak with ONE VOICE. In fact a legislator's greatest responsibility is to uphold the interest of his constituency and the country as a whole, in doing that he is to apply his judgment to the moment and agree or disagree but the majority must carry the day. This is a canon of legislative practice, which the senator is fully alive to but he is not one of those you would expect to be an o-yes-member. He would never loss his voice of reason on the fear of being seen as a dissenting voice. Everyone who is a follower of activities at the senate whether in chamber or committee can testify to his rich in-depth contributions to legislative proposal.

Even in the United State, and most recently you have had it being mentioned of members who not only disagree with the budget but who have gone ahead to produce and push alternative version of the budget for consideration. A case in point is House member Ryan Paul. This member of the United States Congress in 2013 push a separate budget other than the one sent by the president for passage. Even though his budget did not pass he has not stopped criticizing the federal budget. We may have an opinion on his reasons for criticizing the budget the point is that his being a member of the congress did not estop him from criticizing the product of the congress. But do we even need to go far? At every for a where budget is being discussed experts have lent their voices to the growing call for a revisit to our budgeting system and processes as it is a no brainer today that it needs a lot of reform for efficiency and effectiveness.

The writer had unfortunately for him ventured into talk about a topic I am sure he should be regretting by now- The Kwara Budget. Why do I say so? The reason is simple. While the distinguished senator was saddled with the affairs of the state up on till now Kwara still holds an enviable record of performance on budget. If the idea he had was to compare Kwara budget achieving 47% capital budget with that of the Federal Government, the his logic must be walking with its head down. If the idea was to attempt a performance evaluation with the FG, which has been running its budget on between 25-28% capital for 4 years in a roll, then the president and his men would have no where to hide as the difference is a cleavage.

For the records Senator Bukola Saraki does not fly around in private jet paid either in part or in full by the state. The distinguished Senator has even before assuming public office been privileged enough to carter for his personal needs. The writer's market gossip-like rumour of the senator receiving a 100m pension from the state is also not true and belongs only to the idol mind of the writer and his fellow traducers.

It does not take a close look to deconstruct the intentions of the writer. And it is simple. Malign the senator beyond moral bounds. How else do you describe his insinuations that he has been suppressing cases against him in court? Discerning Nigerian can see through the veil, the vicious attempt to keep the man quiet through intimidations and cohesion but so far it has not worked because of his believe in the rule of law and the triumph of good over evil. Additionally, as a staunch believer in the rule of law, Sen. Saraki strongly believe that all public servants should be publicly accountable. Saraki have and always will, make himself available for public scrutiny; in fact he had earlier led the calls for public accountability and this is on record. If he is a man tainted as suggested by this writer, it is inconceivable within our political climate that he will be the one leading calls for the reform of the Fuel subsidy management and several other investigative calls he has championed in his short stint at the National Assembly so far.

As a former Governor of Kwara State, his administration was the first state in Nigeria to open all it's accounts to public scrutiny, and consequence to this, it became the first Nigerian state to gain an incredibly prestigious Fitch credit rating. As a former Governor, he was committed to open and accountable governance and today as a Senator he practices and call for the same.

Further to his stand on transparency and accountability, In 2003/4, whilst Governor, Senator Saraki gave up his immunity to answer questions on SGBN and till date he is one of only two governors in the history ofNigeria to ever give up their immunity to allow the law to take it course . Saraki was equally given a clean bill of health In September of 2006, when Nuhu Ribadu, then Chairman of EFCC, took to the floor of the Senate while fielding some questions, he gave a clean bill to six states, of which kwara state is one. Over the last few years Bukola Saraki have been the subject of investigations by the SFU. Political analyst across the country have come to the logical conclusion that Saraki is usually being invited for one question or the other whenever he raises difficult issues of national interest against the Government. An immediate reference here is the fuel subsidy scheme which eventually turned out to be beneficial to the country as billions of naira has been saved in the process.

Suffice to say at this juncture that the office of the Attorney General of Federation through the office of Director of Public Prosecution in its legal recommendation to SFU did found and state that , 'After a thorough consideration of the investigative report and the relevant laws applicable thereto, the allegations against Saraki are unfounded and manifestly unsupportable in law'. Indeed at one stage, the repeated calls to the SFU attracted the attention of the the globally published Economist in October 2013 who noted that 'all the signs are of a deliberate witch-hunt against Senator Dr Saraki.' this actually speak for itself.

As to accountability in Government, Saraki voice resounds around the precincts of the National Assembly and at all occasions where there has been call for scrutiny, anyone who has appears in a committee where he is features can testify that he is a thorough interrogator and a spotless senator. You would be proud to call him your senator and you will need no evidence to discountenance the idea of him being corrupt in his motive or interest will be immediately erased.

Come to think of it, why would he have gone to expose fraudulent oil marketers and their colluding public officers over the fuel subsidy and be vigorously push for the full and complete review of the NNPC accounts when he could have gotten a better deal by cutting a deal with this very rich and dangerous cabal? I am sure in the mind of the writer you are only people minded if you carry placard or go to a television house and lead a 'we-no-go-gree' campaign against government. I am sure the mind of the writer is too sluggish to comprehend that one of the best ways to save the masses and the country apart from electing quality leadership to run it is to ensure that our commonwealth is closely guarded and protected and indeed spent according to the budget passed by the National Assembly. That is the core mission of the National Assembly for which he is a member.

The writer had tried to suggest that Sen. Saraki is ill motivated in his call for probity as he never criticized government when his friend Yar Adua was in office, nothing can be further from the truth. If the writer knew his history he would have recalled that at a time when the Yar Adua government through the Minister of Agric then sought to introduce the Agriculture intervention fund through the commercial banks, he one the first the vehemently oppose it as the risk of annoying his friend the President and the then minister of agriculture.

As to allegations of Bukola Saraki relationship with Kwara state, common sense should dictate to whoever cares to know that Saraki motorcade whenever he comes to his state is not filled by Government cars, but rather his supporters and lovers who come out joining him. Is it logical to state that hundreds of motorcade of Saraki's supporters belong to the state government. As I earlier outlined above, Kwara state government books are public documents and are open to all. I urge the writer of the article to visit the state and avail himself of this and it is easy to see that allegations of alleged corruption and expenditure against Sarki are utter nonsense.

As regards to the writer when he asked whether Bukola Saraki is an Emergent Statesman?, this popular phrase can best describe the writer, He who knows not and he knows that he knows not, thinking that he knows when he knows not, is a fool.

It is very easy to deduce from the article coupled with the manner in which the issies raised was selected and put together, it is my conviction that the writer Is a paid writer and the article itself was sponsored . It is a sponsored article by those who feel threatened with the high profile of Bukola Saraki on what he stands for and his believe.

In truth following Saraki' actions so far for which the writer is rankled, from his visit to donate blood to his insistence that the budget can be better reformed; his idea that resources of government are being fraudulently diverted and could be better used and his desire to see that we call to scrutiny government actions and insist on accountability, I will agree with you that Sen. Saraki has earned the right to be called a distinguished statesman. If so, what he deserves is a pat on the back not indignities and vituperation. He is not emerging he has emerged. It is understandable that Saraki's intolerance for corruption and mismanagement in our government and it's agencies and his comments on other national issues coupled with his leadership role to move people out of PDP to APC is causing major headache to the powers that be and their cronies. One thing is clear though, Senator Saraki is unflinching and unapologetic in his believe in the principles of good governance, the truth, justice and fairness. Saraki's detractors will not succeed in their attempt to malign his person and rubbish his name and that of his family. He worked for it and others should emulate him.

In as much as I know the person of Bukola Saraki, these are serious times. Serious times call for intellectually robust debate to tackle the challenges facing our country not the tossing of unfounded allegations back and forth.

Let the agent of destruction knows that no matter what we face as a nation, there will be light at the end of the tunnel and Nigeria shall rise again. Saraki will not allow himself to be subjected to intimidation, harassment and unfounded and baseless allegation but rather, he will continue to preach and pursue those issues and matters that concerns us as a nation and which he believes will do us good and the generation to come and posterity will judge all our actions and intent towards our dear country.

Bamikole Omishore, is a media aide to Senator Bukola Saraki.

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