I must admit that while Lagos has the concentration of operational bases of most media in Nigeria by which it receives more news mentions, I frequent the other two states by virtue of my dual identities. My Parents were born in Ilorin, while I was born and brought up in Kano city.
Of all the governors in Nigeria who were elected under the platforms of godfathers, not related by family affinity, Governor Bukola Saraki was singlehandedly nominated and sponsored by his own father, Dr. Olushola Saraki to occupy his present office.
In Nigeria’s politics, the senior Saraki who holds one of the highest traditional titles, the Waziri of Ilorin, is truly a godfather and political tacticians that has remained relevant in every political era in the country. He is a professional political businessman, so skilful in ensuring that his candidates always have a place in every administration since his emergence in 1979 as the most powerful Senate Leader ever in the history of Nigeria.
Saraki, the father who is presently the leader of the powerful Northern Union (NU), an elitist club championing the cause of Northern Nigeria by also consulting other sectional leaders, is credited to have successfully influenced the elections of past previous elected governors in Kwara State from Adamu Attah of National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Shaba lafiaji of Social Democratic Part (SDP), Cornelius Adebayo of United Party of Nigeria (UPN) and Mohammed Lawal of All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP) before pushing his son to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to emerge the governor in 2003.
To prove to his opponents and other Nigerians that he is an undisputed political leader in the state, he nominated his daughter to be elected as a member of the Federal House of Representatives in 1999 under the platform of ANPP before moving her to PDP as a Senator representing the state. He even has another son, Adeolu Saraki appointed Special Assistant to President Umaru Musa YarÁdua, a promotion for the young chap who was Adviser to a former Minister of Housing and Environment.
In politics, once he makes up his mind on candidates, he always has his way not that he had not had some setbacks. In the past apart from the turn-of events and no-love-lost relationship with godsons in the state, he had embarrassing encounters at national level especially with the Bafarawas when they were together in ANPP and unpronounced disagreement with some retired Generals from his hometown who were influential in previous administrations. They were late General Tunde Idiagbon, Late General Abdulkarim Adisa and the third was defacto assistant to OBJ in Presidential Villa retired General Abdullahi Mohammed Adangba. Most of them denied him some privileges and recognition on issues affecting the state.
Many had expected that his past experiences with his sponsored governors in the state, who later turned against him or attempted to undermine his power of influence, would be repeated with his son on the saddle. Most of them might have been disappointed because the relationship of a father-and-son has continued to be strengthened and very cordial which makes one to wonder the possibility that they had an accord on each boundary limitations in the affairs of the state.
Sentiments apart, Governor Bukola Saraki has impacted positively on the state and lives of the people by providing enabling environment for businesses. From turning some areas to agrarian communities through mechanized farming under the skilful eyes of competent foreigners, and infrastructural development in the areas of housing, road networks and aggressive pursuits of independent power generation in the state. He has never gotten carried away like a pampered child to mess up because of his daddy-godfather and never attempt to engage the all-powerful daddy in altercation that could have drawn public attention. He nevertheless seems to be a man of his own and independent in his resolve to make the state great by creating enough job opportunities unlike his fathers whose generosity is in doling out money free to old people and youths who do nothing but praise him.
Trailing his father’s skilful art of networking, Governor Saraki has highly effective relationship with various political and social groups which influenced his unanimous nomination and election as the chairman of Governors’ Forum, an endorsement by other governors.
Though not much may be heard of the daughter of the godfather in the Senate, Senator Gbemisola Saraki who chaired a committee of the Senate on Transportation, her good diction and foreign accent when she joined other senators during Obasanjo era to defeat the Third Term Agenda, made many, since then to believe that she is not just daddy’s pikin but an intelligent and responsible Nigerian. She was also billed for the position of Senate President which was zone to North-Central region but for the high wire politics, where David Mark was unanimously chosen.
Recently, I had an opportunity to visit Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State and gauge the tempo of the ordinary people on speculated desire of the Saraki Family to ensure that after the tenure of the son-governor, the political equation on who gets what in the next dispensation for top offices would be purely Saraki Family Affairs.
The game-plan, the opposition claims is simple: The political godfather would influence the election of the senate-daughter to be Governor in 2011, the young son who is presently Presidential Adviser to be moved to the Federal House of Representatives as a legislator while the present Governor would move to the Senate where he could likely emerge the Senate President, a position zoned to the North-Central.
There is a big BUT in this simple arithmetic if truly that is the intention of the Saraki family.
Politics apart, from a moral pedestal, propelling his children to high offices on behalf of the state in top executive and legislative arms, (I doubt if any of his other children read law to have been nominated in judicial arm as Chief Judge), is inappropriate as it looks as if governance in the state is entirely Saraki’s family affairs.
As much as every Nigerian has the right to aspire to any position in the country, even though the success of such moves in our present politics is determined, to a large extent by influence of godfathers, the senior Saraki should by now, after being so blessed in having fanatical supporters even among our guardians and in and out of the state, soft-pedal in giving undue advantages to his children. A political godfather is not only a father of his children but a guardian of the entire people in his constituency including the so-called outsiders who have dwelt or contributed to the development of the society.
Therefore, in his retirement age, though I learn politicians don’t retire, he should provide enabling environment for all aspirants and candidates to prove their worth through their records and be judged accordingly at the polling booths. Any attempt to force candidates, including those that are not related to him may not be appreciated by the larger society that believes in transparent democratisation devoid of systematic disenfranchisement of electorates.
Therefore, since we are not practising monarchy or political dynasty associated with the Arab world where royal families control the resources and have the destiny of the citizens in their palms, political godfathers in Nigeria should encourage other citizens to aspire to public offices without exertive influence and coercion … a kind of generosity that will be remembered after they finally leave the stage.
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in Daily Trust August 11, Daily Independent August 13, Leadership August 13, National Life August 15, Triumph August 17, Vanguard September 3-4, 2009