BY ABDULWAHAB OBA
These past few weeks, I have had the opportunity of ‘roaming’ around, visiting several parts of Kwara state, collecting materials for a project on advocacy. The freedom to roam was courtesy of my Principal, Dr Abdulfatah Ahmed, who in unassuming leadership style, approved my unusual departure from office. I therefore owe him much gratitude for the opportunity and promise not to abuse it.
The ‘adventure’, which also took me and some colleaques outside of the shore of kwara, I must confess, afforded me a rare opportunity of meeting one-on-one with Kings, the high and the mighty. One of such opportunities was the privilege to meet one on one with the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki at Abuja. Get it right, I have always been meeting him, both privately and publicly. The uniqueness of this meeting is that I was behind the wheel dictating the direction of “our movement.”
We had earlier been scheduled to meet at Ilorin, but twice the appointment was shifted due to his highly tight and unpredictable schedule. For me, that meeting in Abuja, which eventually held in the wee hours of Monday last week, eating deeply into an already overstretched schedule for the Senate President, turned out to be a great opportunity to see Saraki at close quarters and in different robes.
Yours truly, since I started working around the Saraki political establishment, that meeting was the longest and most intimate I have been privileged to spend with the Leader, alone and calling the shots. That night, I was not the Chief Press Secretary to the Kwara State Governor, but an inquisitive researcher prepared to squash water out of the desert.
And I left that meeting with some strong perceptions about his personality, reinforcing my rigid but patriotic impressions about the leader. The first was about his humility; thrice, and in a space of an hour, he apologised profusely for the ‘wahala’ he took us through before the meeting. That caught my attention deeply because back home, those hawks try to justify their betrayal with such comtemptuous and provocative insinuations such as arrogance. Because of leader’s zero tolerance for slopishness, they pin his character to such despicable attribute. And in the course of putting this together, I heard the testimony of a young man who works in the Government House during Saraki’s reign as Governor. The young man was said to have sent a private mail to the governor complaining about a damaged transformer in his area. The governor responded to the mail and promised action. That week they got the transformer. The young man also got special recognition from the leader. Unfortunately, such stories are not told in public.
The accusation of arrogance however rocks well with Saraki’s opponents and when spread with the mischief that opposition politics often exploit in this clime, it assumes the appearance of truth. But the kind of experience I had last week, which was without promoting and unnecessary given my official position, told me in very loud voice that contrary to those accusations, a close meeting with Saraki will reveal his unequal humility, especially given his privileged position.
But while people like me worry about such accusations, Saraki himself told me he has developed a thick skin against them. They now go with the stride for him. For him, it has become a price to pay for venturing into the murky waters of Nigerian politics. It certainly is one huge price to pay and not meant for the lilly-livered.
Another aspect of the Saraki enigma that fascinated me was his clear grasp of many issues on Nigeria. But recollecting that he once drew presidential applause when he identified each senator by name at a meeting with President Muhammad Buhari; should one be surprised when Saraki start reeling out statistics about key issues on Nigeria?
We spoke about agriculture. We spoke of economy. For instance, looking at why government policies in certain areas such as dairy production, irrigation, commodity marketing etc, have failed, in very clear terms he laid bare the missing gaps in our national policies, without mincing words and without standing to defend his party.
His comments hinted at his passion about making Nigeria really great, not just the practice of mouthing and bragging about an empty greatness. We looked back at his introduction of large scale commercial farming in Kwara when he was governor and one could identify in that singular policy which included the invitation of white Zimbabwean farmers into the state, the picture of a man with a tunnel vision; a man who runs doggedly to projected destinations.
To him, only a more coordinated agriculture policy; especially by promoting commercial and large scale farming; promotion of local industries, less dependence on foreign goods, among others can take the country out of the woods.
At the end of the encounter, every one “smiled.” Your Excellency, I’m waiting for another opportunity soonest.
*Oba, can be reached via email@example.com