Bukola Saraki's Moral Burden
The recent report that Dr Bukola Saraki has picked the PDP ticket for the Kwara Central Senatorial district generated headlines. According to reports, Saraki, a medical doctor, and former PDP presidential aspirant, who was never known to have an interest in being a Senator, won the re-run primaries following the 'withdrawal' of Alhaji Isiaka Gold who emerged victorious in the original primaries for the seat on January 7, 2011. In the re-run primaries, Saraki was said to have polled 1,044 votes to beat Mallam Yonus Abdulrahman who scored 13 votes and Alhaji LAK Jimoh who polled seven votes.
Several observations could be made about Saraki's senatorial ambition.
One, there are many things going for Dr Bukola Saraki. At just 48, he is already completing a second term as Governor of Kwara State. Before becoming Governor of the State, he had been an Executive Director of Societe Generale Bank (1990-2000) and Special Assistant to the President on Budget (2000). Since 2007, he has been Chairman of the influential Governors' Forum and many people believe that the body became more pro-active under his leadership. As Governor, he is generally given above average pass mark, especially in the area of agriculture, where his invitation of the White farmers spurned by Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe is said to have led to an upturn in the fortunes of agriculture in the state. As a presidential aspirant in the PDP, his campaign was intense and focused, surprising many people who thought he joined the race as a front for one of the major candidates. Many people believe that though Saraki may have been born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, he appears determined to rise above his privileged background and make his own mark through his own efforts. He is the first son of Chief Olusola Saraki, the wealthy Godfather of Kwara politics.
Two, Dr Bukola has had a celebrated 'quarrel' with his father over his half sister, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, reportedly favoured by the older Saraki to succeed Bukola as the Governor of Kwara State. According to reports, Dr Saraki believed that it would be morally improper for his sister to succeed him at a time he was among those clamouring for the PDP to respect its constitutional provision on zoning and power rotation. At that time, Saraki's purported position resonated very well with many people who felt that the feudalisation of Kwara politics by the Sarakis negated the whole argument of Northern opposition to Jonathan's candidacy. One of the likely effects of Saraki's sudden interest in succeeding his sister as the Senator representing Kwara Central Senatorial district is the unwitting invitation of legitimate character and moral questions: If it was morally improper for his sister to succeed him as Governor, why is it morally proper for him to want to succeed his sister as Senator? Did he really believe in zoning or was clinging to it just an opportunistic political move? At what point did Bukola begin to develop interest in the Senate? Given that President Goodluck Jonathan is the leader of the PDP, and that the party has the final word on the names of candidates that are sent to INEC, did this senatorial ambition conflict with the MOU he signed to wholeheartedly support whoever emerged as the consensus candidate of the Northern Political Leaders' Forum (NPFL)?
In an interview with the Compass of January 25, 2011 , Bashir Bolarinwa, a member of the House of Representatives who contested the last Governorship primaries under the PDP in Kwara State said of Saraki's support for Atiku: 'Let me tell you what really happened. Governor Bukola Saraki is a doubled-face man. He changed gear at the eleventh hour, when he realised that President Jonathan has won the sympathy of other states.' Bolarinwa further inferred that the celebrated 'quarrel' between Dr Bukola and his father could possibly be contrived: 'The Governor is one leg in PDP and another leg in ACPN, which Dr. Olusola Saraki and his daughter, Senator Gbemisola Saraki defected to,' Bolarinwa claimed.
Three, related to the above is the issue of integrity - the honesty, consistency and truthfulness of one's actions. Generally regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy, Chinua Achebe tells us that one of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised. This simply means the discipline to remain loyal to one's core beliefs and principles despite temptations to do otherwise. Saraki alluded to this quality as another cardinal principle he would bring to governance if he won the PDP nomination and subsequently became President. For instance in an article published on his Facebbook on October 18 2010 entitled: ' Nigeria at 50: Capable Leadership for a New Nigeria' Saraki wrote: ' Our nation has not lived up to its full potential, or to the promise of independence …. Too many political games and too little progress…. The old days and the old ways simply cannot get it done. It's time for a new generation of leadership'. My understanding of 'generation shift', especially in the Nigerian context, is not just a change of baton from older to younger persons but a paradigm shift from the old ways of doing things to newer and more progressive ways. In fact if generation shift were to be defined only by chronological age, then those who have been short changed and should rightly claim to be marginalised are people above 60 years old because most of the country's leaders have been people under 50: Tafawa Balewa for instance became Prime Minister at 48, Aguiyi Ironsi became Military Head of State at 42; Gowon at 32; Murtala Mohammed at 37; Olusegun Obasanjo's first coming was at 39; Muhammadu Buhari at 41; Babangida at 44 and Abacha at 50. The crucial question here is whether there is anything in the way Saraki went about the Senate seat that indicated a paradigm shift? Today, his critics connect the dots between his sudden quest to become a Senator to the 'Abubakar' that also suddenly became his first name when he was a presidential aspirant and conclude that opportunism could be at play.
Four, Saraki's emergence as the PDP Senatorial candidate raises other issues of political ethics: Did the original winner of the primaries Alhaji Gold really jump or was he pushed? Not many people believe that a candidate who won nomination as a PDP senatorial candidate will willingly withdraw from the race without anything in return. Though both the Electoral Act 2010 and the PDP Constitution appear silent on this, should there really be a re-run when a winner in a primary withdraws? Wouldn't the logical thing be for the runner up to step up as the winner? Perhaps this is another issue that the Electoral Act failed to address as part of the efforts to sanitise the electoral system.
Jideofor Adibe (