By Abdulwahab Oba
This week’s celebration of the Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki and the coming birthday of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, call for a reenactment of a discussion, some time this month, I had with a long time friend with whom I operated closely as chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Lagos State Council, when he visited me in Ilorin. It was a great reunion which afforded us an opportunity to catch up on the past given the fact that this golden comrade has been out of Nigeria for a long time. Thus, we reviewed politics, we reviewed policies, we reviewed elections, we reviewed sports. Almost everything that caught our fancy, but more importantly those things we consider dear to out commitments.
I have decided to share some of our exchanges today again, as I did on this page last week, with additions, because I consider them very germane to an understanding of several issues, especially the men, Dr Saraki and Dr Ahmed, since most of the issues we discoursed revolved around, though not limited to, them. Coincidentally too, both men have their birthdays this month.
Expectedly, one of the topics that featured prominently in the just two days my London based friend spent with me was the Saraki factor in Nigeria and Kwara politics. “The man is seen as an oppressor. People say he’s arrogant, too rigid, never smiling, never mixing with the people he calls his followers”, my friend cried out as if that was his mission for the visit. He concluded with the big question “why?”
But I was not surprised with this kind of footled and skewed perception about the senate president. I have had to contend with such insinuations, even as the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Lagos State Council. They are contemptuous biases against percceived northern hegemony by elements outside the zone . Way back in 1992, a friend in Lagos had once queried why the late Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki was still in politics. “The same reasons why Chief Obafemi Awolowo died in politics,” I answered him simplicita. They both had the mission to work for a better country.
So, today, I’m not rattled that similar questions are being asked about his son. “That’s the impression some people want others to have about Saraki. If you accuse him of being an oppressor, the question is, in what ways? Is it by assisting and supporting people who ordinarily would never have thought of being where today are because of their background of being children of the less privileged?
In the political system of south-west Nigeria today, is it possible to remove the Awolowo factor? How was Awo able to dominate the politics of the region despite the various opposition antics? Was it not because he met the needs of the people through policies and programmes? The opposition saw his hold on the region as oppressive too, but his people knew he was a God-sent.”
“The same with Saraki and Kwara. His opponents would continue to cry and give him all sorts of names, but the people on ground, who daily, in one way or the other, are exposed to his impacts will continue to queue behind him, come rain, come sun. That’s the truth.” I said. A number of professionals, technocrats, academia, artisans, including the men on the street have found their ways to the heights of their competences.
I asked my friend to let’s visit some communities in Kwara central senatorial district where Saraki’s constituency projects are ongoing. How many of his ilks are doing that? What of his current empowerment programme? How many of those who accuse him of oppression are doing one tenth of that? It is easier to tag someone like Saraki as an oppressor because that simply gives his opposition something to latch on.
At the accusation that he frowns all the time, I smiled and asked him if a man should laugh just for him to be seen as so doing. Again, come to think of it, those who make such pedestrian allegation, how many times have they had personal contacts with him? And let’s even assume this to be true without conceding, is it by smiling that you help your people? Those who claim to have the capacity to laugh and hug the masses, how many have they lifted up in life? Why is it that the masses keep flocking to the house of a man “without a smile”?
I told my friend to discard that allegation. And then he landed on my boss, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed. Why is he not in charge of Kwara, he asked. “Who told you the governor is not in charge here?” I asked. “Of course, to the opposition, he’s not in charge because he pledges allegiance to his political leader. He’s not in control because they expected him to steer political crises in the state; of course, that’s where political jobbers eke out their living. Gov Ahmed is not in charge because he’s desirous of leaving a positive footstep in the political and economic history of the state. He’s well focused on what he needs to do within the privileged time he has to be at the helms of affairs in the state,” I told Idrees, my friend.
“The truth is,” I continued, “only a God fearing man, conscious of posterity, will behave the way of Governor Ahmed. There are very few of such men around. Most are pretentious and deceitful. They dress in borrowed ropes to get want they wanted and become their true self, traitors. Go and inquire from his cabinet members and aides and get to know the truth instead of accepting mere speculations. “Governor Ahmed is fully in charge of the administration of the state,” I emphasised.
The truth many are not willing to accept in our evolving democracy is that leadership would keep emerging and allegiance would keep evolving. It is all part of politics. We should not see loyalty as a negative quality but rather as a virtue. Personally, for instance, I’m not very comfortable with what some APC leaders in the south-west are doing in this regard. No matter the offence or misunderstanding, virtue does not teach us to throw mud at our destiny helpers. Saraki is a destiny helper for Ahmed and none of the Holy Books teaches us to treat such men with disdain just because we are in a position of honour today. Dr Ahmed is a study in humility, resourcefulness and loyalty. Dr Ahmed initiates and implements policies and programmes of his administration and fully takes responsibility for the results.
In any case, the truth that I know is that Saraki is too busy in Abuja than dictate to Ilorin. Governor Ahmed is too loyal to his conscience than block lines of communication between him and Saraki or deny his leadership. The earlier some people realise and accept this, the better.
As you both celebrate your birthdays this month, please, accept my warmest regards and that of my family. Congratulations, Your Excellencies.
*Oba can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org