Saraki: Going Into Political Purgatory, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú


Very few Nigerian politician ever left politics on their own terms. They are either term-barred or consigned to the Montana cabin of the voter’s mind. Political survival anywhere depends on excellent people management tactics and a few essential character traits. Saraki is getting educated after this devastating defeat, that leaders who deprecate voters and political partnerships because they think of themselvpes as infallible, invincible or that no one could replace or supplant them, are grossly mistaken. To such leaders, electoral loss is often a shock and thoroughly humbling experience. In the past, political victory came to Saraki easily. It was so easy, he forgot who his bosses were. He became haughty and prideful. His experience is a warning to the successful, the proud, the arrogant and the conceited, that no one, except God, is powerful by himself or herself. Power is given, bestowed on or granted and it must be kept in trust with reverence or it will be retrieved. Saraki got invested in himself so much as to take his people for granted and hold them in disdain. He held court like an emperor. He thought the festival would never end.

When I wrote in this column on June 27, 2015 that Saraki was Buhari’s first mistake, many would not believe I once sat with this man at the same table at a wedding reception, in which I was “chairperson”. We exchanged banter and he was quite personable, likeable and young. Senator Saraki belongs to my generation. He represents a generation which saw a Nigeria that worked and a demographic that got the best education Nigeria ever offered till date. It was only natural that time and space was ripe for him to show his generation and those before and after them, that he could lead, without the grab all, avaricious zealotry of those before us. There is nothing wrong with ambition, but there is everything wrong with vaunting ambition. Vaunting ambition blunders the ambitious into thinking everything is fair game, it reduces their humanity and exposes an ugly side that is very alienating.

Politically, Saraki has the best resume to be anything in this country. He was governor for eight unbroken years. He was chairman of the Governor’s Forum, which meant he led 35 of the most powerful men in various states at the time and championed their interests. He was in the Senate for eight years, which meant he new at least three most powerful political players from each states of the federation.

Saraki would sit on his chair in his vast living room and old men would crouch on the floor with him nodding at them with mindless inattention. He divvied up Kwara State resources with such reckless wonder. He thought he was Kwara State.

From birth, Saraki was never in lack. How could a man so blessed be so greedy and petulant? How could a man so privileged and young, let us down? Like Dimeji Bankole, he had it all and squandered it all. That was my major angst. Saraki would sit on his chair in his vast living room and old men would crouch on the floor with him nodding at them with mindless inattention. He divvied up Kwara State resources with such reckless wonder. He thought he was Kwara State.

Without his Machiavellian move to become the Senate president, he could still have won the Senate Presidency without that level of intrigue and subterfuge. He had all the bona-fides, the connections and the alliances to win. I wanted him to pay for his many sins from the days of Société Generale, Trade Bank and even the generational sins from his father’s dealings with Biwater Shellabear. His handling of his Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) appearances was an egregious abuse of office. It would have been different had he played victim instead using the Senate as his tool. Nigerians were offended seeing their senators attending court sessions with Saraki. His conduct obscured the legislative wins of the eighth Senate under his leadership. Kwara handed Saraki a stunning defeat and Kogi rewarded his factotum with a decisive victory. As the Yoruba often say: the river that forgets it source will dry out.

Saraki woke up this morning in political purgatory. He knew what he did wrong. He knew the sins he committed. Weep not for Saraki. He will do the time and pay his dues. From the day he lost the election, I saw a humbled Saraki. He will seek absolution of his sins and work to be rehabilitated. I read his valedictory speech and I can’t but agree that he worked. He worked more than ten David Marks. We did not give him and the eighth Senate credit because we mobilised opinion against him. Personally, I ridiculed them at every turn and scoffed at their victories. When one’s enemy hints down a grasscutter, it is easy to classify the kill as a mouse.

Senator Bukola Saraki, thank you for your service. Go and work for your restitution. I suggest you start by apologising to your people and to us in your generation for whom you were a bad example. For me Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, that stunning loss was all I needed to forgive you. I know you will be back. Go, and sin no more! Good luck on your path to restoration.


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