The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, is gunning to be the president of Nigeria but he won’t be the first from his lineage to take a shot at the number one position in the country.
His father, Olusola Saraki, who was the majority leader during the second republic, vied for the position of the president twice but fell short. He competed under the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in 1983; and in 1999 under the All People’s Party (APP), a now-defunct party.
Will the son succeed where the father failed?
The answer to that question depends on the outcome of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primary taking place in Rivers State.
A brief sojourn into the political journey of the aspirant is necessary before we analyse his chances at the primaries.
A BRIEF POLITICAL BACKGROUND OF THE SENATE PRESIDENT
Bukola Saraki started his political career in 2000 when he was appointed as Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on budget. In 2003, he contested the governorship election against his father’s former godson Muhammed Lawal, which he emerged victoriously.
During his time as the governor, he served as the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) before he resigned as a result of his an interest in the presidency during the 2011 elections. He, however, withdrew from the race following the adoption of Atiku Abubakar by the Ciroma-led Arewa Elders forum.
He subsequently supported the then President Goodluck Jonathan whilst gunning for the Kwara Central Senatorial seat after the abrupt withdrawal of Isiaka Gold. A fresh primary was conducted and Saraki emerged as the PDP Senate candidate.
Meanwhile, his relationship between Jonathan did not last long, as Saraki who was then the Chairman Senate Committee on Ecology in September 2011 moved the motion on the investigation into the Fuel subsidy scheme in a motion entitled: “A motion to investigate the current fuel subsidy management and consider the challenges it poses to the implementation of 2011 budget.”
This motion triggered a series of events that trailed the removal of subsidy by President Jonathan in 2012. Saraki was also at the heart of the final blow against Jonathan’s administration, as he played a vital role in the formation of the N-PDP, with his kin, Kawu Baraje serving the Chairman of the faction.
This crisis subsequently led to the defection of 5 governors and several lawmakers, including Saraki and all his allies into the coalition that metamorphosed into APC.
Saraki’s emergence as the Senate President led to the domination of the Senate Presidency by the north central (David Mark is also from the north central and served 8years as Senate President) region against the party’s decision of zoning to the north east.
The north east was compensated with the emergence of another N-PDP member, Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
This move completely blocked the south west’s agenda of being the head of the House of Representatives. What followed his triumph at the Red Chamber is the Code of Conduct Tribunal Trial and a series of reports that strained his relations with the executive arms.
While the jury is still out on the performance of the 8th Assembly led by Saraki. There has been a series of political drama and political tension.
Two senators; Ali Ndume and Ovie Omo-Agege were suspended for views suspected to be different. Suspension of the former led to the unprecedented invasion of the hallowed chambers and carting away of the ceremonial mace.
Aside from the tension in the Senate, Saraki’s relationship with security agencies has been cold rather than cordial.
The list of estranged relationships amongst the security apparatus include the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, the Controller General of Customs, Ali Hammed and the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, while his relationship with the former head of the Department of Secret Service, Mamman Daura is under investigation following the siege and blockage of the National Assembly after Saraki defected from the ruling party.
Saraki in a move that bears semblance to his 2014 defection from the PDP, also decamped from the ruling APC with all his elected allies and supporters under the platform of R-APC.
REGIONAL ANALYSIS AND OTHER FACTORS
NORTH EAST (Swing region)
This region is definitely a strong ground for the incumbent. Whilst the wave in 2015 might have reduced, there is still strong followership and adherence to the President’s leadership style.
But the opposition party can mount a strong assault on a pocket of states such as Adamawa and Gombe, in addition to Taraba that has remained a PDP stronghold.
Although making any headway in these states is subject to how the PDP primary is handled, due to the fact that Gov Dankwanbo and Atiku Abubakar who would have participated in the primary will dictate the direction of the two states.
Mitigating the damage from Borno, Yobe and Bauchi is very important to the Senate’s President emergence.
This region would have been assumed to be the natural stronghold of the Senate President, but far from it, this region is one of the most dynamic and pluralist regions in the country. Not united by culture, religion or politics.
Save the 2015 election, the region has always voted along with ruling party, but never in a bloc.
The President remains popular in Niger and Nasarawa. Kogi State is a bit dicey and while Kogi South appears to be under the control of PDP (one senator and the two Reps are members of the PDP), the Governor’s re-election hangs on the return of the President, so it remains a battleground.
With the effect of the herders/farmers clashes in Benue and some part of Plateau, there appears to be resentment of the President that could have political consequences for the current administration ergo, a proper campaign coordination could make it a win for Saraki.
Kwara should naturally be a non-contest for Saraki, but to further highlight the effect of multiple identities in north central states, Kwara north where Nupe and Baruba people are in majority could still swing in favour of the President.
Also, there is a lot of anti-Saraki movement in the state, and that lack of sense of unity or cause could be tapped against the Senate President on his turf.
According to Dele Momodu, the publisher of Ovation magazine, the Senate President because of his name (Bukola) could “technically” rival the current Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo but from all political calculations, this seems to be a miscalculation at the very best.
An election is all about the mobilization of votes, and the APC has a firm assurance of going into the 2019 election with 6 out of the 6 states. The region which also has the second largest voters’ population has been a major beneficiary in terms of political appointments in the current administration.
However, just like 2015, the election might not be a matter of bloc vote, but nothing suggests voters’ sympathy toward Saraki in the south west. Although Lagos state due to its cosmopolitan nature (presence of south-easterners) could vote for Saraki.
It is also not sure if the region will be willing to abandon a Vice President ticket unless Saraki has a plan to pick a running mate to balance his ticket.
It will be easier for the biblical needle to pass through the camel eye than to get votes for Saraki in the main fortress of the President. Ethnicity remains an integral part of our politics and there is nothing on ground to suggest voters’ revolt.
Despite the high profile decamp of Rabi’u Kwankwaso and Aminu Tambuwal, the region save for Kaduna south remains in full support of the President, especially against a non-Hausa/Fulani candidate. Hard core Kwankwasiyya would have a hard time selling Bukola Saraki in Kano.
Just recently, Katsina North Senatorial election witness a voters’ turn out of over 400,000, despite the fact that the president who is from that senatorial district was away in London.
The is clearly a stronghold for Saraki, this region will back any Presidential candidate other than Buhari. The region considers the Senate President an ally, following the symbolic handshake across the Niger through the emergence of Ike Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President.
The region is also perceived to have received less appointment from the current administration. But the region also has one of the lowest voters’ turnout in the country. The entire votes from this region could be swallowed by Kano and Katsina.
While a Vice Presidential ticket could be a good play, APC has also been raising the idea of Igbo presidential candidate for 2023, but the misgivings against the current administration are stronger than the promise of a 2023 candidate.
Also, APC has been quietly building a strong base through pockets of old politicians such as Orji Uzor Kalu, Ken Nnamani, Former Enugu State Governor Sullivan Chime, and the likes.
Another reason for concern is Anambra State, the state has the largest votes in the region, however, while a collaboration between APGA and PDP was possible in 2015, the state Governor, Willy Obiano considers both parties as opponents.
While voting against Buhari in the southeast requires a little campaign, but the most critical factor is the mobilization of voters which is where governors are always critical.
Another state is Ebonyi State, there appear to be lots of friendship between the state governor and the president.
Here is another region that naturally should be an easy win for the Senate President, but from 2015 to this point, lots have changed.
Any candidate against Buhari would win this region, but in Akwa Ibom for instance, Godswill Akpabio may not be able to deliver the state for APC but could control the bleeding Buhari would naturally have sustained.
Same is true for Rivers State, where the Minister for Transportation and Director General of Buhari Campaign Organization, Rotimi Ameachi would be in war part with his erstwhile political-ally-turned-foe.
Also in Delta state, the defection of the former governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan to the APC will put to test the James Ibori political machine.
The Senate President could be a victim of the wars of godfathers and godsons in places he should easily have won.
Kingsley Moghalu definitely will not have the type of political machinery that will be at the disposal of Saraki, however, his core voters are the youth which is what the Senate President would be hoping for.
It might not seem feasible due to lots of political restraint, but a Saraki/Moghalu ticket would be tempting. However, this will come at a price because it will be termed as a sellout by admirers.
OBY EZEKWESILI AND HER RED CARD MOVEMENT
Oby is another factor that would be an obstacle to the ambition of the Senate president. Her movement which has been preaching an alternative to the APC/PDP hegemony is doing little to the incumbent but rather creating a bloc vote at the core of the potential votes that Senate President would be hoping for.
If you need to end any career, just tag it with corruption, it’s hard to survive, just ask the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
Despite the fact that different courts have delivered favourable judgements for the Senate President, the jury is still out in the court of opinion.
Managing the campaign will require beating the corruption tag at the court of opinion. The embarrassment that occurred at the Ojude Oba festival in Ogun State readily lay credence to this, in a video that went viral online.
When the Senate President was making a speech, chants of ole (thief) could be heard in the crowd. Although Saraki shrugged it off and continued with his speech, the incident would not have missed by his campaign team.
NORTH CENTRAL DILEMMA
A Yoruba man from Ilorin is in a clash of geopolitical/ethnic conundrum.
The southwest only remembers you when they need your support; same way the core north needs you for votes, but remember your ethnic/geopolitical dilemma when its time to share the spoils.
This dilemma is what the Senate President is going to face, just like his father before him.
This piece was sent compiled by Bakare Al-Majeed and edited by Mayowa Oladeji.