When otooge exploded Saraki’s dynastic mystique

Bukola Saraki. Pius Utomi EKPEI / AFP

Vote, a portent democratic weapon, when firmly wielded in the hands of the electorate, in a free and fair electoral contest, could unsettle claims to dynastic entitlement and dominance. And so Kwara people found otooge as rally battle cry into which they heeded and packed ancient and festering anger that would boil and bubble to the surface and spew out the Bukola Saraki yoke of political dynasty. Even they, the people, may still be in wonderment how it all happened that a name that had been so branded deeply into their waking consciousness in over 40 years is now a receding echo.

But such is the ephemeral nature of transient power. It is here today, but gone tomorrow, with the wind.

Saraki Jnr., too, must still be reeling from it all, his fall from his Olympian political height to the dust of history where Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) is set to duel with him in corruption charges. He must be ruing his punctured invincibility and how it all fell apart in one single electoral swoop. He would begin to understand that power is a reckless horse being ridden without reins to control it.

When the people ask for bread, no emperor should be so haughty, so arrogant to give them stones. It is the hallmark of Nigeria’s political leadership where development is seen merely in terms of the amount of physical structures they erect to immortalize their small themselves, but avenues through which they steal the people blind. And so in terms of strict accounting audit: what exactly did Mr. Bukola Saraki achieve for his people in eight long years as governor of Kwara State and another eight years as godfather to a sitting governor and then four as Senate President?

Unemployment is rife among the youth, and ordinary portable drinking water is a mirage, devil’s water on the road. Meruwa, a term for people who fetch water from unknown sources still make brisk business in Ilorin metrolis or private boreholes that have become norm across the country; the fertile lands in the state remain in subsistence formers’ hands who cannot mechanise them to maximize their productivity and profit. What happened to the Zimbabwean white farmers Saraki invited to the state? Failure has become the legend of Nigeria’s governance structure at the state levels just as billions of naira pass through the hands of these governors every month.

And for eight long years, Saraki, an English trained medical doctor, abandoned his stethoscope, like his father, to inherit his father’s rustic mafia political dynasty. His father, fondly called Oloye (chief), also abandoned his stethoscope to ply political trade in the Second Republic as a Senator, a trail his son was to follow years later. But Saraki Snr was an exemplar in the kind of local politics where the people flock to a single strongman as messiah who happily plays god before the multitude and directs them on what to do, good or bad. Saraki Jnr learnt fast, but he would soon surpass his father. He actually dethroned his father from the exalted godfather position he had held for so long and crowned himself king and kingmaker of Kwara politics.

As emergent Turk, he did not allow his father’s choice of aspirant succeed him as governor; he thwarted that effort and shoved the old man aside, retiring him from active politics. His own sister, Gbemisola, also fell under Saraki’s hammer; he succeeded her in the Senate and blocked her from getting the governorship. But she would later in 2019 exact her pound of flesh when she teamed up with All Progressives Congress’s (APC) otooge’s unstoppable train to stop her bullying big brother on all political fronts.

Saraki has obviously done well for himself. Born with a silver spoon and raised in the best education money can buy, it is doubtful whether he has bequeathed the same legacy to his largely impoverished Kwara society. If he did, the Otooge magic would not have caught on so phenomenally like bush fire in harmattan. The otooge success is testament that the lives and fortunes of Kwarans never got transformed in any appreciable way. Medical practice, as intended by its originators, thrives on the philosophy of compassion. For its practitioners to venture into the realm of politics and leave compassion behind or forget to apply it entirely in their work of making society better is perhaps a virulent assault on that society.

Before venturing into politics proper, Saraki was a director of failed Societe Generale Bank his father founded. Millions of Nigerians lost their life’s savings; many sank into deep depression. Yet others lost the zest for life. But when he signified his interest to lead the people, it was ironic that he was still counted worthy to be entrusted with public trust. But we know the grind; Kwarans’ was the sad fate of an impoverished people who do not get to choose who leads them, the choice being well outside of their reach.

And so from state power, he went onto the national stage and his recalcitrance that stopped his own father from political brokerage would pit him against the presidency. President Muhammadu Buhari and his entire APC failed to realise that Saraki, having brought a measure of electoral weight and fortune from his old fold, PDP, to bear on the emergence of Buhari, would not sit and watch them share the spoils of office without him getting a slice of it. For four years, Saraki became the tortoise imprisoned in APC’s wicker basket; neither of them knew peace all through.

But if anything, Saraki trumped Buhari and APC in the political battle that raged among them. The 8th Senate he presided over has been described as one of the finest in terms of legislative results. To achieve that as an opposition within the same party must be a feat only Saraki could pull off. But Buhari made sure he refused assent to most the innovative bills NASS Saraki and his colleague Dogara sent for assent perhaps to spite the men who defied the party. But while that triumph lasted, APC was busy plotting his fall. How astute Saraki lost sight of the battle on his home turf continues to baffle many watchers of his nine political lives.

He accepted to work for PDP’s candidate Abubakar Atiku as director general of his campaign organization but forgot to cover his flank. Meanwhile, Saraki’s tepid response with o tun ya (continuity) to counter otooge became belated balm; it came too little, too late. He lost out spectacularly. But the likes of Saraki are wily politicians who usually have a reserve of aces up their sleeves. He weathered the storm of Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the harassments meted out to him and remained on his seat as Senate President for four years. EFCC may just make a similar mess of whatever trial it is staging against Saraki; he may just survive it and bounce back into reckoning again.

What worse, APC may just play into his hands yet again if the current occupant of government house in Ilorin fails to operate the otooge (enough is enough) mantra to the letter as Kwara people expect him. Should his performance fall far short, the people, like the Israelites, just might cry to Moses to take them back to Egypt to resume slavery. In which case, Saraki may have the last laugh and simply continue where his godfathership was rudely interrupted. That is the uncanny nature of the tide of politics; it also washes ashore the bad and the worse and gifts them a new leash of life.

Whether they resume their new life in vengeful conquest or humble men and women is another matter altogether. But the people never forget; history also never forgets. For the short lifespan man lives on earth, those should be important markers. But man is always a blundering fool, who rather than serve another man as the best form of a well lived life, would rather serve only himself and, by so doing, sink into ignominy. Perhaps, Saraki will remember his Socratic Oath again and remember to dune his garb of compassion.

Only then will the people and history be kinder to him.

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