On Saturday, March 31, 2018, Dele Momodu ran a story in his newspaper, The Boss, announcing that Senate President Bukola Saraki has joined the 2019 presidential race.
“The Boss can exclusively reveal that Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has joined the 2019 Presidential race”, Momodu’s story read.
“There is no doubt that he would be a formidable force that should not be ignored because only few politicians in Nigeria today have the pedigree, the experience, the clout and the connection of Senator Saraki”.
Momodu also said Saraki will be picking Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu as his running mate.
“Impeccable sources reveal that as he plots his move for the presidency, he is said to be considering building alliances with all Nigerians of like minds.
“He is also considering using the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu as his running mate. Having already exhibited the ability to work seamlessly with politicians from the two main political parties, it is a path he can easily thread”.
The rest of Momodu’s story read like a praise-singing expedition. The Ovation publisher would go on to describe Saraki as a man who has “all the criteria that a modern Nigerian president should have. He is tall, urbane, suave, charismatic, cool and collected. But behind this charm, is a man of steel who is never afraid to pursue causes that he feels are right and just”.
Weighing his options
My first reaction was to dismiss Momodu’s ‘exclusive’ as a PR, image laundry stunt. The essay was more ‘opinion’ than ‘exclusive’.
It was also possible that Momodu was simply flying a kite.
A couple of minutes later, I sent Saraki’s spokespersons text messages which they haven’t found the time to respond to, three days after.
However, another aide of the Senate President who craved anonymity, told me to disregard Momodu’s story because it was simply speculative.
“He may or may not run. The likelihood is there. But it might not happen at all. He is reading the times and weighing his options. It’s what politicians do”, this aide said.
In the course of our chat, the aide told me that factors like Saraki’s ongoing case at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), his deference to a Buhari presidency, whether the APC would even consider handing him a ticket or whether he has to switch camps to realise a lifelong ambition, are all stacked against him.
The aide had a point. If Buhari chooses to run (and there’s every likelihood of that happening), Saraki would have to defect to the PDP where an Atiku Abubakar for instance, is waiting in the wings to neuter his presidential bid.
And should Saraki defect to any other political party, he would lose the position of Senate President without guarantees that joining a new political party will see him becoming president of Nigeria.
Saraki is not that reckless when it comes to making political decisions. The way I see it, Saraki would rather remain president of the senate than embark on a wild goose chase for the position of Nigeria’s president. He’s a very calculative, manipulative politician who ponders deeply before making a decision. A Bukola Saraki won’t want to go to another political party and emerge empty-handed. My guess is that he won’t run for president until the coast becomes a lot clearer.
At the moment, that coast is foggy and hazy.
In any case, Saraki’s Special adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu (who was one of the aides I sent a text message to after Momodu’s story broke), has dismissed Momodu’s tale as a baseless fabrication.
“The report is false. If it is true that he is contesting, you would have seen the report in major dailies since last week Saturday when the news broke out on social media. But as you can see, there is nothing like that,” Olaniyonu told journalists.
Of course Saraki would love nothing more than to become Nigeria’s president. After serving as Governor and lawmaker, the next step in his political odyssey should ideally be the nation’s number one job. He once tested the presidential waters on the floor of the senate and floated a presidential bid before the 2015 elections.
Those who know Saraki would tell you that he is a ruthlessly ambitious man and ambition is a good attribute to possess in life. But now is not the time for him and like the smart politician he is, he knows that.
With the corruption baggage around his neck and his reputation taking a beating every other day for leading an opaque senate, the smart money should be on Saraki keeping whatever presidential ambition he has on ice for the moment.