2023: Making a Case for Bukola Saraki Presidency

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The 2023 presidential election is going to be a decisive one for the country in the sense that a completely new President is going to be  elected by eligible Nigerian voters to pilot the affairs of the country for the next four years, other things being equal.

The 1999 Constitution allows a President to do a maximum of eight years in office, four years per term, upon which the person can no longer vie for the highest elective office in the country.

It’s against the foregoing that President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress(APC), first elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019, will be stepping down from power come May 29, 2023, having exhausted his constitutionally permissible two terms in office.

Although the country’s electoral commission, the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), has not declared the electioneering process regarding 2023 general elections open, it is pertinent to begin to set an agenda for the sort of President the country wants, being the most important office in the country.

Already, alignment and realignment of political forces have begun in earnest. Those who are interested in taking over the reins of power from the incumbent have also begun to make subterranean moves using allies, proxies and shadowy groups to drum support and build momentum for their aspirations.

One of the foremost Nigerians who have made a case for the sort of President Nigeria needs in 2023 is General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, military head of state between 1985 and 1993.

In an exclusive interview with Arise TV recently, the retired Army General and ex-military President, popularly called IBB, advocated that the next President to take over from President  Buhari should be someone who is in his 60s(or below), smart, broad-minded, intelligent, healthy, have friends across the various ethnoreligious and socio-political divides that dot the entire political landscape, appealing to Nigerians regardless of tribe, among other relevant considerations.

After a careful assessment of the current aspirants being touted for the plum job and even among those who are yet to so declare their interest either overtly or covertly, the most fitting person for the position is Senator Bukola Saraki, a two-term governor of Kwara State and immediate past Senate President.

Interestingly, Dr Saraki, a United Kingdom-trained medical doctor, like his late illustrious dad, Dr Olusola Saraki, was a presidential aspirant in 2019 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. He lost the ticket of the party to Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President from 1999 to 2007. The implication of this is that Saraki is not a newbie to the presidential race.

Aside from his uber-education coupled with his rich experience – governance and political, which he has garnered for the past two decades, Saraki has a dossier that’s filled with exciting results of verifiable achievements wherever he has had the privilege to serve in the past either as Special Assistant to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 201l, Senate President from 2015 to 2019, against all odds and even in the private sector.

For example, as President of the 8th Senate, it is on record that the Senate under his leadership in the 4th Republic remains, without any iota of argument, the most productive in terms of legislative outputs(bills and motions) and oversight responsibilities.

When compared and contrasted with the current senate, it is a statement of fact that the Saraki-led Senate did perform excellently, warts and all. And the above-average performance was recorded despite the overbearing and meddling influence of the Presidency to tame the Senate and rein it in so that it could be a rubber stamp Senate.

It’s to the eternal credit of Senator Saraki that the Senate under him remained as independent as it could be thereby enforcing the principle of the Separation of Powers among the three tiers of government – the executive, legislature and the executive. This, no doubt,  pitched him against some forces who felt the senate should be subjected to the whims and caprices of the Presidency.

By the way, his period as Governor in Kwara witnessed unprecedented agricultural revolution never before seen in the annals of the history of the state. This is in addition to other sterling impacts he made in the public service sector through reforms that repositioned the state civil service for optimal service delivery, youth and sports development, health, education, among others.

Except for career merchants of political mischief who say otherwise, Saraki’s tenure in Kwara as its helmsman is today a model for how governance should be, using the masses as the epicentre of whatever government’s policies and actions should be. It’s a common occurrence today, more than a decade after,  that Kwarans still call on Saraki whenever he is home to come and be their governor again even though the Constitution does not allow him that luxury again.

What about his cosmopolitanism? What about his bridge-building capacity, openness and top-notch cross-cultural communication skills which are lacking in most Nigerian leaders these days? Truth be told, Sakari will make a good President comparable to any other leader where democracy is practised.  Most importantly, Nigeria in 2023 needs a pragmatic leader who can bridge the widening and expansive fault lines in the country and rally Nigerians around a common course. Saraki perfectly fits the bill.

Nigeria needs a leader who can multitask, unencumbered by tribal and religious sentiments, at home with economic issues yet won’t be a stranger where geopolitics and global relations are the subject matters especially now that there is a growing predilection of voters for a knowledge-driven system of governance across the world. Nigeria needs a modernist yet cultured leader. 2023 is the time and Dr Bukola Saraki has the necessary wherewithal and gravitas to be. Let’s give him a chance.

Maxwell Babajide is a Public Affairs Analyst based in Abuja.