Dear Senator Bukola Saraki: I was reading through the facebook page of my brother, Professor Pius Adesanmi, when I came across a post about your launching of suggestion boxes at the Senate. I checked the information through multiple sources to be sure it was real. There you were in full digital colour separation launching the boxes. While I had learned like most Nigerians not to be surprised by any news from our motherland, this one genuinely shocked me.
I was vaguely aware of your professional profile but I needed to check again. Senator Saraki: You, a medical doctor, former bank director, former state governor and global traveler launching suggestion boxes in 2015? Whose idea was it? Who convinced you that this was a good idea? Did any of your family, friends or staff try to stop you from executing this anti-idea? How much was spent on the boxes? Did you sleepwalk into the “symbolic” launching ceremony? The optics are really bad for your reputation. Somebody should have tried to convince you to prevent the embarrassment.
I wanted to be sure to inform you amidst the obloquy that this action continues to generate that launching suggestion boxes is beneath your integrity. A state governor once sponsored a mass wedding of some constituents. I thought that was an entertaining albeit intellectually lazy course of action. But this is worse precisely because you were involved. This action feeds into a long lineage of idiocy masquerading as political gimmicks in Nigeria. This is no gimmick, dear Senate President. Like many Nigerians, I am disappointed and offended that you stooped that low.
I do not think calling people names and epithets advances a reasonable conversation. I would like to appeal to your inner angels: You are better than this. Nigerians deserve better. Have you thought of what the Senate might do for our young people through school facilities, scholarships, etc.? Have you considered improving healthcare in the country? How many laws have been passed since you assumed office? How relevant are they to the smooth running of the country?
You are in your political prime at roughly 53 years. You are number three in Nigeria. You are second in line to succession in a government popularly elected by the Nigerian people. The APC government was sworn in amidst astronomical optimism among Nigerians. This action dampens that optimism and presents you as just another political opportunist and know-nothing. I think you can still salvage your name. I wrote a piece some time ago on the danger of the anti-intellectualist tradition fostered by years of misrule.
Governance in Nigeria can be a frantic and frenetic exercise. There seems to be little to no room for critical reflection and thought. Your day begins quite early with groups of people seeking contracts, jobs, cash, and miscellaneous favours. Most appointments rarely run as scheduled, therefore, you are guaranteed to have guests late into the night. I understand that some politicians are lucky to get up to four uninterrupted hours of sleep on a daily basis. My advice would be to reduce the hangers-on and have a moment every day to think. A failure to think critically might have played a role in the anti-idea that you and your team executed. I am tempted to remind you of the need to ensure that you find time to read books. I worry that many years in politics have clouded your brilliant mind.
I would strongly encourage you to issue an unreserved apology to all Nigerians who were offended by last week’s launch of the suggestion boxes. You may also consider taking practical steps using your good offices to positively impact the lives of the Nigerian masses. Nigerians are forgiving people.
Finally, Senator Saraki, I lived in Ilorin for about one year in the late 1990s and saw first-hand the veneration and the public adulation of the Saraki name. From the campuses of the University of Ilorin and Kwara State Polytechnic to soccer fields at Tanke, Fate, Taiwo Road, etc. It was clear that the people adored the Saraki name. Perhaps times have changed as demonstrated during Sallah.
Nonetheless, it is a shame that the Chief Inheritor of the Saraki name launched suggestion boxes as president of the Nigerian Senate. Baba Oloye must be unhappy in his grave. You may wish to re-evaluate the quality of the counsel you are receiving as Senate President regardless of who came up with the thought. I am willing to believe that the notion of launching suggestion boxes could not have flown through your fine brain. You are kowtowing to the lowest common denominator of political life in Nigeria: An overabundance of intellectually vacuous politicians. Senator Saraki, your first name is “Bukola”. I respectfully encourage you to ask yourself: “What I’m I adding to my family name? What legacy do I wish to leave for Nigeria and humanity?” May God be your guide.
‘Tope Oriola is professor of criminology at the University of Alberta, Canada. Twitter: @topeoriola