When Will Saraki Become Humble?

The image of Bukola Saraki, former president of the senate, in a viral video being whisked away in a vehicle amidst shouts of “Ole, Ole”, the Yoruba word for thief, must still be fresh in the memories of many people from Kwara State.

The video was circulated in the days leading to the 2019 general elections which his party, the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) lost woefully. Saraki, who until then was the Alpha and Omega of Kwara politics, not only lost his senatorial seat, but lost the state.

 AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of the All Progressives Congress, a political neophyte at the time, polled 331, 546 votes to defeat Saraki’s protégé Razak Atunwa of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). To show the total disdain in which Saraki and his party was held at the time, the PDP lost the election in all the 16 local governments of the state. APC also won all the 24 state assembly seats and the three senatorial seats.

It was a demolition of the Saraki dynasty built by the late Olusola Saraki, Bukola’s father,  which had prevailed in Kwara State since the First Republic.

‘O to ge’, which was the political movement that collapsed the dynasty, was a response to the lack of vision, purpose and the corruption which had characterized the leadership of the Sarakis in the state. It was a revolt by the people to bad governance.

For eight years that Bukola Saraki was governor of Kwara, the only legacy anyone can remember is the Shonga farms where farmers from Zimbabwe were engaged to do mechanized farming at the expense of the locals. Saraki invited foreign farmers who had no capital of their own into Kwara State, gave them large hectares of land and spent Kwara State funds to set up the farm. 

At 40 years of age and with his education and exposure, Kwarans expected him to transform the state and turn it into a reference state in the country. But that did not happen. He left the Government House and installed a crony who also ruled under his tutelage for eight years and never did anything worth remembering.

Saraki loves to be a godfather but lacked the vision, discipline and commitment to common good that keep politicians rooted among their people. He was born with a silver spoon and saw himself entitled to power. He became conceited with power and what matters was no longer the good of the people, but his continuing hold on power.

In 2019, he gave the governorship ticket  of the PDP to a crony many among his associates thought was unsuited for the job. But he did not care as long as the candidate was one that would be loyal to his dynasty. So the people revolted and made emphatic statement that enough was enough (O to ge). The peoples revolution in 2019 completely swept Saraki from power and the man went underground for months.

Now he has recovered from the shock and is crawling back into political relevance. The people of Kwara State, my state, would expect that he would at least have the humility to admit he did some things badly while he was in charge of Kwara either as governor or godfather.

Instead, Saraki has chosen to insult the people who rejected his politics in 2019. He is still his old self!  He is proving the wisdom in the saying that a leopard truly never changes its spots.

On Tuesday when he appeared on Arise Television as an interview guest and one of his hosts asked him if he had any regrets about 2019. I watched the interview keenly as, I’m sure, many Kwara people would. I was waiting to hear what he would say; to know whether he got the message of O to ge. The host actually asked him what he had learnt from the O to ge revolution.

What did Saraki say? He was too insufferable and too condescending to admit that it was a movement about bad and ineffective leadership. He couldn’t bring himself to say “ I have learnt that its unwise for a politician or leader to be disconnected with the people.” Or to just simply say, “ I have had time to reflect and I admit we made some mistakes while in power.”

But what did he say? He insulted his people again! He said Kwarans voted against him because of sentiments and propaganda and now they are reaping the fruits.

He said, “Elections have to do sometimes with sentiments or propaganda. if you come to Kwara today and talk to people, you’ll find that a lot of them will tell you that ‘we were sold lies and propaganda…we have made certain mistakes in following up the issues’ and that at the end of the day, they were better of then than now.

“So, one of the things you also learn in politics is that you must also accept that sometimes the electorates will go. The electorates are always right, they will go with their emotions at times and later the electorates too can come back and say “I think we got it wrong here”.

So, for Saraki and his group, it was the electorate that made mistake by voting him out! But the people have now seen that he’s the messiah! That’s Saraki’s message to the people of Kwara State.  He is such a brilliant mind!

Now he wants to come back as the protagonist that is incapable of shedding his tragic flaws. The best politicians are those who seek power for the general good, to actualize a vision and transform their societies. They are the politicians who never die in the minds of their people. What is Saraki’s vision for Kwara? He never articulated any such vision publicly and Kwara State had no masterplan under his governorship and during his 16 years leadership of the state.  

But Saraki is coming back again and the people must beware.  After the PDP concluded its state congress in Kwara State recently, Saraki charged the new executives of the party to recapture power from the ruling APC in the state. He said “You should begin to work in earnest to ensure overall victory for the party at the 2023 general elections. As soon as you leave this venue, work should begin. The peaceful conduct of this congress has confirmed to me that we are indeed ready to take back power in Kwara.’’

The former strongman of Kwara politics is still obviously living in the past. He must be telling himself that he could capitalize on the economic hardship in the country, and especially in a civil service state such as Kwara, to manipulate the people into believing they were better off during his time in charge of the state.

Saraki should grow up and play people-oriented politics, not politics of personal or clique aggrandizement. While there’s no doubt he’s an intelligent man with influence and charisma, he has so far failed to deploy those for the benefit of the ordinary people of Kwara. He will not regain the love or trust, until there’s evidence of his redemption.

Suleiman is a journalists based in Abuja.

Disclaimer: This article is entirely the opinion of the writer and does not represent the views of The Whistler.

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