(By Olu Onemola)
“As Saraki has now bowed out of the APC presidential battle royale, he has become one of the umpires of the race that will bring about Nigeria’s most formidable opposition candidate since our return to democracy in 1999. Despite his withdrawal, he has pledged to consult the relevant stakeholders that backed his bid in an effort to announce his endorsement of a candidate over the coming weeks – with many believing that such an endorsement will come before the APC primaries scheduled to hold in December“.
When the news broke late Sunday night/early Monday morning, that Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, and immediate-past Governor of Kwara State had suspended his Presidential bid, social media caught on fire.
The reactions poured in instantaneously, as many young Nigerians who had hoped that the former Governor Saraki’s progression to Senator Saraki, would ultimately culminate with his rise to becoming ‘President Saraki’, were left with a bitter-sweet taste in their mouths after the announcement. ‘Bitter’ because, the 52 year old Senator has been hailed as one of the most vibrant and socially inclusive politicians in Nigeria today, and his supporters hoped that his proximity to them on social media and in-person, would signal a new era in people-centered politics if he ever became Nigeria’s Commander-in-Chief. ‘Sweet’ because, in this day and age when politics has been perceived as a do-or-die affair, Senator Saraki has sent a loud and clear message to young Nigerians and his colleagues in the political arena that: sacrifice for the country is the true testament of a leader.
As Saraki has now bowed out of the APC presidential battle royale, he has become one of the umpires of the race that will bring about Nigeria’s most formidable opposition candidate since our return to democracy in 1999. Despite his withdrawal, he has pledged to consult the relevant stakeholders that backed his bid in an effort to announce his endorsement of a candidate over the coming weeks – with many believing that such an endorsement will come before the APC primaries scheduled to hold in December.
In the hours that followed Saraki’s announcement, commendations also poured in from Nigerian and APC leaders, with the Buhari Campaign Organization describing Saraki as “eminently qualified” to become President. The statement read:
“There is no doubt that Saraki is eminently qualified to run for president going by his enviable achievements as Governor of Kwara State, being the heir of the political dynasty of the famous majority leader of the Second Republic Senate, Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki, of blessed memory and the decisive role he played in enriching the APC with progressives from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).” The group further urged other candidates to become like Senator Saraki and become a “part of the solution” – urging them to stand as citizens of change in a time that all progressives must bind together to achieve victory at the polls.
As Nelson Mandela put it: “”Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.” In this regard, as Senator Saraki’s 2015 presidential candidate saga ends, it must be noted that throughout his public service career, he has stood out as an adept public servant with a penchant for people-centered solutions. His withdrawal in a race that could have ended up as anybody’s ballgame has shown that to him, securing change for the nation as a team player, is more important than attempting to achieve it alone. His actions have matched his tweets, statements, and press releases throughout the year that have all emphasized the same unifying message: “Nigeria is bigger than all of us.”
With President Goodluck Jonathan being propped up as the de facto presidential candidate of the PDP, it now remains to see who of the APC front-runners will clinch the ticket, and still have enough momentum, political machinery, and monetary support to unseat the incumbent President. Analysts previously argued that Senator Saraki stood the best chance of doing so, being a political powerhouse from Kwara Central – a state that bridges the Northern Hausa/Fulani, with the South-Western, Yoruba-speaking part of Nigeria. However, with his exit from the race, the calculations have been altered, and the world watches and waits to see who will ultimately compete to unseat Jonathan.
Olu writes from Abuja.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”