Emerging facts are pointing to the role played by former President Gooodluck Jonathan in the reconciliation of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, with some of his ardent political enemies in the Kwara State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). BIODUN OYELEYE writes…
Nigerians have been shocked by how soon some of Senator Bukola Saraki’s political foes in Kwara State, such as former National Planning Minister, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman, ‘easily’ accepted to work with the Senate President upon his defection from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Until last week the former minister had never wasted any opportunity to lampoon Saraki in the open but in a surprising move, the Professor of Political Science at the University of Abuja was quoted as saying that as a serious party man, he was bound to live with the decision of the PDP leadership while some of his former colleagues in the local opposition movement, decided to switch camp and move to the APC.
However, some sources within the camps of both Saraki and the former minister, who asked not to be identified, hinted that the leg work for the reconciliation was done by Jonathan, starting around June.
“The whole thing started about three months ago when Jonathan personally drove to the Prof’s house in Abuja to meet him and pleaded that his camp should give its maximum support to Saraki”, at least three reliable sources within Sulaiman’s camp said at different times during the week, adding that the former minister was greatly humbled by the move from his former boss.
“It was like, see this man coming here without announcing and he did not even ask that the man should come to him, he changed the order and that really got to the former minister and he told us that whatever it takes, he would abide by the plea from his boss”, one of the sources said.
Asked how Jonathan could have openly decided to work for Saraki given the gravity of what had transpired between them in the 2015, another source, regarded as a confidant of the former President in the state said initially it was tough, but Jonathan had to conceed because he was reminded of how Saraki dropped his ambition in 2011 to work for the former president.
“Oga was very bitter initially; particularly he felt that Saraki betrayed him but you know the kind of man he is, he decided to forget that and work for the overall interest of the party. That was when he called us and directed that we should work with the Senate President in the state”.
The source hinted that once Jonathan decided to work with Saraki, the duo began to meet on the way forward. “I can tell you that in the last few months they have met for at least three times that I know of, the Senate President has been coming to oga and we are ok with that”.
The former minister had, during the week, said he was constrained “to live and work for the good of” the PDP.
He said: “It is imperative to note, that while I am not oblivious of the local peculiarity, it is of uttermost necessity then that we must not forget that we have a greater monster to confront at the center.
“My new association, by virtue of the coalition would not impugn on my character and vision in any way. I stand by our collective agenda. I stand for the good of Kwara State. We must remain resolute and be determined to change our society for the betterment of our children and generations unborn. Let no one be under any illusion that all is well. There is indeed a long way to go.
“I can assure you that I have gotten enough assurance from our party leadership, our brothers and sisters that have joined us. An assurance, that every member of the party shall be treated equally regardless of your status and position.
“Arrangements for proper re-integration and harmonious co-existence continue. I would remain steadfast in the struggle, keep to my words and live within the dictates of Almighty God. Your mandate remains a trust. I shall uphold it till the last day of my life”.
Two groups of stakeholders in the Kwara, the PDP Stakeholders and ‘PDP One Umbrella Project’ had last week pledged to work with Saraki, allaying fears that his defection to the party would lead to the marginalisation of existing members.
The groups, whose leaders had parted with Saraki in 2015 and worked instead for Jonathan, addressed newsmen at separate occasions in Ilorin, the state capital, saying they had reconciled with him and were convinced that he had matured into politicking and could effectively lead the party to dislodge the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari come 2019.
The first group, PDP Stakeholders, comprises Deputy Chairman of the party, Alhaji Abubakar Sanni, former deputy governor, Chief Joel Ogundeji, former speaker of the state House of Assembly, Alhaji Babatunde Mohammed, State Women Leader, Hajia Fatimah Magaji, State Treasurer, Gabriel Olatunji, elders and leaders of the party including Alhaji Oba Ajara, Alhaji Atanda Soro, former commissioner for special duties in the state, Alhaji Razaq Lawal, Hon Ladi Edun as well as Olufemi Adekunle Apado and Mr. Mose Ibiyemi.
Others whose names appeared on the statement read by Sanni at the briefing but who were not present include the former National Planning Minister, former gubernatorial candidate of the party in the last elections, Senator Simeon Ajibola, renowned industrialist and former gubernatorial aspirant, Alhaji Jani Ibrahim , Chief Henry Olaosebikan and former member of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Yninusa Yahaya. Sulaiman had since then visited Governor AbdulFattah Ahmed at work.
The second group, PDP One Umbrella Project, is led by former Commissioner for Information in the state, Comrade Ben Duntoye and former chairman of Isin Local Government Area of the state, Prince Mike Oyinloye. Duntoye is from Oro, the same community as Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Duntoye, while lamenting that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari had brought untold hardship to Nigerians, added that Saraki as the national leader of the PDP would be fair to all members of the party, not only in Kwara but Nigeria as a whole. The PDP leaders, who welcomed Saraki back to the PDP.
He said: “And here in Kwara State, we cannot isolate ourselves from the misrule of President Buhari that is a more insightful reason why Senator Saraki’s return to the PDP is beyond a Kwara phenomenon. We believe strongly that development and service to the people is key and should be paramount in politics.
“No doubt, the political realignments preceding the 2015 elections is repeating itself. From that time till date, a handful of us remained in the party till date and the issues that led to the defection from PDP in 2015 may have been playing out again in the ruling party. If we may recall, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki gave among his reasons for leaving in 2015, lack of internal democracy, faulty economic policies which continued to endanger the future of the nation.
“He charted a pathway and led others out of the PDP to form the APC with other splinter groups. They had hopes that the elderly Buhari would bring his maturity to play in leading them to restore Nigeria back to the path of sure footedness and prosperity.
“Unfortunately, this was not to be. Self-centeredness, unwholesome policies and a host of factors continued to plague the nation under the APC led government and there appeared to be no room for amendment of ways. Incidentally, our repositioned party and the new leadership realised our mistakes and apologised to the nation. Alas, our leader, Senator Saraki, was vindicated in his decision to leave the party in 2015.”
On their party, the PDP Stakeholders not only welcomed Saraki with open arms but noted that his defection was the best thing to have happened in the recent history of the nation if Nigeria were to be salvaged. Their spokesman and Deputy Chairman of the party, Alhaji Sanni, said the party had learnt its lessons from the 2015 elections and is now reformed to position itself for electoral victory.
Sanni said anyone who did not want to work with Saraki and Governor AbdulFattah Ahmed in the PDP did not want the interest of the state and alleged that some people within the party were out to sell the state to outsiders in order to meet personal aspirations.
In his own remarks, Ogundeji, who was Saraki’s deputy for eight years until they parted in 2015, expressed joy at being able to be reunited again, saying he had learnt to play politics without bitterness. He tasked members of the party on the need to work together ‘so that doubting Thomases will know that PDP has arrived’.