“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat”
- William Shakespeare
Men of the future must not only understand their past but also the forces that forge the present. The Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki seems to understand the forces that forge the Nigerian nation. Alluding to him as a dark horse in this presidential race is even an understatement. Yes, a dark horse is a candidate or competitor about who little is known but whom unexpectedly wins or succeeds.
A dark horse is also a person who keeps their interests and ideas secret, especially someone who has a surprising ability or skill. Dr. Saraki fits these dimensions perfectly. He is well-known though, but very little is known about his presidential ambition. Saraki is being made also into the face of Nigeria’s democracy by his persecutors, who have been fighting to force him out of office since his emergence as senate president in June, 2015.
The rise and rise of Senator Saraki reminds one of how Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB was catapulted into national and international limelight by his ill-advised incarceration, persecution and prosecution. Saraki has resisted and survived all odds and each new ordeal brightened his public perception, helping him to carve the image of one Nigerian who is unafraid and populist. That is the stuff exceptional leaders are made of, the kind of leader Nigeria needs at this most trying moment.
Alas! His geographical location has always made bookmakers weary and to be giving his chances as Nigeria’s President only little premium. The way Nigeria is configured zones out some persons from certain geographical locations when it comes to permutations for likely persons to occupy Aso Rock. Nigeria has evolved into such an intricate and complicated entity with very vicious centrifugal forces tearing at the nation’s heart since independence. The nation out of necessity has employed extreme containments in attempts to pacify and carry sides along.
There may be no laws regulating some of these interests and sentiments, but the issue of federal character is fully contemplated in the nation’s constitution and some other extant laws. It is trite noting that from the recommendation of Sir Henry Willinck’s commission in 1957, the concept of federal character found its ways into our constitution at various stages of the nation’s development.
The 1999 Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria as amended, by section 7 of the third schedule, elaborately provides for federal character. But where it comes to the office of the President, the constitution says nothing concerning zone or zoning. However, through practice and conventions, it is now given that a Nigerian President from the southern divide of the country would have to pair with a northerner as vice and vice versa.
Then, the next most important factor requiring delicate balancing in Nigeria is religion. Even in military regimes, heads of state of Nigeria had always maintained Muslim-Christian parity, except in 1983 when Muslim-Muslim head of state and deputy in the persons of Generals Muhammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon emerged. Again, the nation came close to producing a Muslim President and Muslim Vice in the botched June 12 Presidential election, which MKO Abiola ( a Muslim) unofficially won with another Muslim, Amb. Babagana Kingibe as the vice.
Nigerian Military politics and the soldiers of fortune it produced truncated that dream, leaving it a stillborn and sore spot in the nation’s evolutionary history. An attempt was made to pair Buhari and Tinubu for the 2015 Presidential election, but it met a brick wall, one of the reasons they are persecuting Saraki today. If Jagaban were a Christian, he would perhaps be Vice President of Nigeria today, and may be waiting in the wings also to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki appears zoned out in like manner. But nature has a way it reshuffles events to give every being some sort of equal opportunity. Today, the country Nigeria seems to be in strait and dire need of a compromise candidate, one who is a natural bridge between north and south , Christians and Muslims, old and young, educated and uneducated, and between all else dichotomies.
When the factors forging the present-day Nigeria are dispassionately considered, Saraki more and more fits the mold needed to move the nation forward. Situational leadership prescribes the kind of leader needed to fix the challenges confronting it.
Let us take a closer look at the man Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki…
Saraki hails from Kwara State; a Yoruba State, yet from the lineage, which is a Fulani stock. Saraki is therefore technically both Yoruba and Fulani. In him therefore is embedded both north and south Nigeria.
His mien has also validated him as both cosmopolitan and urbane, a most detribalised Nigerian alive. As the scion of the Oloye fame (the Late Senator Dr. Olusola Saraki) he typifies what can best be described as ‘Nigeria First’. He is relatively young (he will turn 56 December this year) and therefore a bridge between the old and new generations.
As Governor of Kwara State, he was so creative he divested the state into many frontiers, and a relatively poor state rose from an IGR of less than N5 bn annually to nearly N20 bn 8 years after. He made his tenure so sublime that he left great footprints in the areas of Power generation and electricity, Primary health care, Agriculture and farming and Infrastructure development. As a natural leader, Dr. Bukola Saraki was also Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum at his time.
As Senate President, despite being so distracted, Abubakar Bukola Saraki is still one of the most successful senate presidents, going the number of Bills and Motions passed, maintaining legislative independence and holding the fort at the senate and national assembly against all the disabling odds.
Through deft politics Senator Saraki emerged Senate President and remains so despite politics of perfidy and use of brute force to disentangle him from the office. He has been dragged through Nigerian courts by the Presidency over what turned out to be trumped up charges and Police at the moment still working hard to link him to Offa bank robbery, even after the Supreme Court had cleared him.
Saraki's travails and trials are actually blessings in disguise since it helped to show how resilient he is, and more importantly, threw up his integrity. Before he was cleared by the Supreme Court, the campaign and propaganda against him almost succeeded in making Nigerians believe Saraki was integrity-challenged. Now they know better. Any leadership without integrity, which is the foundation of everything leadership, will never stand the test of time.
In terms of training, Senator Bukola Saraki trained as a medical doctor. He attended King's College, Lagos, Cheltenham College in the United Kingdom and University of London. He is a thoroughbred for topflight leadership.
He has such unique factors going for him. Now that PDP is hit with an avalanche of presidential aspirants, the party would soon come to realise that what would resolve the win-win conflict is to locate the common denominator, which is none other than Bukola Saraki.
It is a dictate of situational leadership as Nigeria has never been so divided along ethnic and religious lines. The nation is in a dire need of a healer and leader who can inspire fresh confidence, a leader who can bring Nigerians back together.
Apart from the Boko Haram terrorism ravaging northeast Nigeria, fault lines have been allowed to form and fester all over the country. Herdsmen have been given free rein and are killing all over also without consequence. The heinous crimes committed by these rampaging herdsmen and reprisals from victim communities have sown so much hatred that would take a leader like Senator Saraki to heal. Saraki can bind the nation's wounds and restore the hope betrayed.
Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, medical doctor, former governor, senator, senate president. He has seen it all, having played at top levels at both the executive and the legislature. Geographically positioned and bred as a bridge builder, innovator and an exceptional leader, Saraki is but the dark horse in this race. He holds the promise of the new Nigeria craved for by true Nigerians and therefore he is an idea whose time has come.
- Dr. Law Mefor is an Abuja-based Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist, e-mail: [email protected]