Bukola Saraki, the Niccolo Machiavelli of Nigerian Politics -By Oluwafemi Akinfolarin

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Oluwafemi Akinfolarin

Oluwafemi Akinfolarin

 

…where everything gets downright devious is when a candidate of a party, who has every right to contest for elective office under the banner of that party, decides to enter a pact with another party to get into the office he seeks desperately and offers a position to that opposition which is normally assigned to members of his own party in order to get the opposition party’s support. That was a move drawn from the game book of the Italian prince, Nicolo Machiavelli (primarily known for his cynical disregard for morality and focus on self-interest), breathtaking in its deftness and audacity, but forever marking the person out as one with an overarching ambition, who would do absolutely anything to attain his objective (morality be damned).

There is a lot to admire in Dr. Olubukola Saraki. A lot indeed. Here is a man who attended Kings College, Lagos, then Cheltenham College in London, went to the London Hospital Medical College (the first school in the United Kingdom to be granted an official charter for medical teaching in 1785), where he earned a medical degree. He subsequently practiced in the United Kingdom before coming home to work as a special assistant to the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, in the budget office. He was also a director in the family owned Societe Generale Bank Nigeria Limited for 10 years. Dr. Saraki was a two term governor of Kwara State and a member of the Nigerian senate for a four-year term before recently becoming senate president at the beginning of his second elected tenure in the red chamber. He comes from a core political family and was sired by one of the best known political strongmen of the post-independence era, Olusola Saraki, a titan of Kwara and indeed national politics, who also served in the Nigerian senate from 1979. By all definitions, he is perfectly qualified to serve as the senate president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and, I am pretty sure, he is one of the most qualified holders of that position ever.

Back in the early heady days of the APC, immediately after the presidential primaries, a look at the party team showcased several interesting characters who were obviously talented and suitable for high office. Mr. Fashola looked potentially like a great minister of justice who would easily recover a lot of Nigeria’s looted funds; Mr. Amaechi, a strong defence or petroleum minister (though he would need to be kept under close watch in that post); and Dr. Saraki, an astute personality in a leadership position in the national assembly. Saraki is qualified and, more importantly, experienced for such a role, after a term in the senate. Unfortunately, the way he set about getting into the office of the Senate President has completed destroyed any favourable impression many have of him.

Like Icarus who flew too close to the sun and paid for it with his life, it is too late for Dr. Bukola Saraki now.

We all know what happened at the National Assembly on June 9th this year, for which a number of people have blamed Mr. Tinubu because of his penchant for installing people in public offices. They are partly right. One of the reasons why the 2015 gubernatorial election in Lagos was so close was because of protest votes against Mr. Tinubu. However, I find that argument a bit disingenuous because for the last 20 to 30 years, the Sarakis – whether the grand old man or the son – have consistently chosen the governors and all other elected officials of Kwara State, in just the same way that Tinubu has done in Lagos State so far. In fact, it’s no secret that the incumbent governor of the Kwara State is a creature completely owned by Dr. Bukola Saraki, even more than Mr. Fashola was a handyman for Mr. Tinubu in Lagos (Mr. Fashola at least attempted to push back against Tinubu). In this particular case, one is not better than the other.

In addition, fundamentally, what is wrong with a party picking candidates for high public office? The PDP informed its members to vote for one candidate only. Isn’t that a case of selection? So why is it wrong for APC to do the same?

However where everything gets downright devious is when a candidate of a party, who has every right to contest for elective office under the banner of that party, decides to enter a pact with another party to get into the office he seeks desperately and offers a position to that opposition which is normally assigned to members of his own party in order to get the opposition party’s support. That was a move drawn from the game book of the Italian prince, Nicolo Machiavelli (primarily known for his cynical disregard for morality and focus on self-interest), breathtaking in its deftness and audacity, but forever marking the person out as one with an overarching ambition, who would do absolutely anything to attain his objective (morality be damned). This has been a consistent trait. Dr. Saraki will do whatever is necessary to further his ambitions. Remember that he once forced out his own father from the Kwara state PDP and destroyed his sister’s political machinery in the state.

Dr. Saraki now needs to try to burnish his image by instituting probes in the Senate.

No one in the APC can now trust Mr. Saraki, which is why Mr. Buhari has refused to formally meet with him, and also why Dr. Saraki now needs to try to burnish his image by instituting probes in the Senate. Like Icarus who flew too close to the sun and paid for it with his life, it is too late for Dr. Bukola Saraki now.

I sincerely wish he had bided his time, won his colleagues’ confidence, and eventually when the anointed candidate of the party stumbled, then seized the opportunity to ascend to the throne. Now, he will never be admitted into the inner sanctum of Buhari’s bedchamber where important decisions are taken, and he is further away from the dream he and his late father cherished of him becoming president of Nigeria.

It would do Dr. Saraki a service to remember the end of the aforementioned Machiavelli, who died alone and forgotten in his estates after being removed and imprisoned for conspiracy by the Medici’s in 1527.

Oluwafemi Akinfolarin, a lawyer, writes from Lagos.

 

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