By Olawale Olaleye
It has emerged that Senate President Bukola Saraki has queried his Chief of Staff, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, over his “brazen involvement” in the summit held at the weekend by northern leaders, where about 18 northern groups, including the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), condemned the current leadership of the country, pointing out that his chief of staff acted without his knowledge and clearance.
THISDAY learnt yesterday that a disappointed Saraki was shocked to learn like every other person that it was Baba-Ahmed, who read the communiqué of the group and subsequently became uncomfortable with the interpretations which immediately followed it and created the perception that must have acted on the instructions of his principal.
Although Saraki was said to have appointed Baba-Ahmed chief of staff, based on his administrative competence as a former federal permanent secretary and his understanding of the politics of the North, he however did not envisage that he would abuse such privileges at the risk of his position and office as the Senate President.
A source close to the Senate President hinted THISDAY that on hearing the news, Saraki immediately called Baba-Ahmed on the phone and expressed his disappointment at taking such a dangerous and politically discomforting position at a time when circumspection should have been his watchword.
“One, he didn’t seek clearance from the Senate president and was at the summit in his personal capacity. Even at that, he should have known that as the incumbent chief of staff to the Senate president, a majority of his actions would be interpreted to mean they were on behalf of Saraki.
“But on this particular occasion, he has been warned to always take his boss in consideration whenever he is doing anything in the North, because of the likely interpretation this might be extended to his actions.
“He is getting too emotional with his northern and Kaduna politics, unfortunately, at the risk of his job,” the source said.
He noted that the Senate president reminded him that he once went on air to say that he (Saraki) was not going to compete in 2019 for the presidency without clearing with him and that combined with the meeting with the northern leaders, the chief of staff appeared to be overreaching himself.
“It is true that the Senate President has never said anything to anybody about 2019 but to go on air to state categorically that he would not run in 2019 was too absolute coming from his chief of staff, it is not something anyone would brush aside.
“It was for this reason the Senate President said his seeming excesses were getting out of hands and next time would make the query official.”
No fewer than 18 northern groups last Saturday rose from a crucial summit in Kaduna State and criticised northern politicians for the poor state of the region’s security and economy.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the summit held at the Arewa House, Kaduna, and read by Baba-Ahmed, the groups said the region’s political leaders had failed to lift its people from poverty and want, saying they needed to be replaced at the next general election in 2019.
Although they did not mention the name of President Muhammadu Buhari, the general conclusion was that the meeting was targeted at Buhari, especially when the group said: “The hopes that leaders, who have exercised power since 2015 will reverse the abuse and neglect of the region in the previous decades have been betrayed.
“Weak governance, gross insensitivity and unacceptable levels of incompetence have been compounded by battles of attrition in which northerners have sapped each other’s strength.”