By Luqman Ambali Olokooba
As a little boy; in the very early 1980’s, growing up in Sabo Oke; a middle-upper middle class neighbourhood which was mini – Nigerian in terms of people residing there, in Ilorin, Kwara State, I attended; like most of my peers, one of the many Public Primary Schools within the community. Though from a Muslim background, Bible knowledge (BK for short); later changed to Christian Religious Knowledge, was one of my favourite subjects. I recalled that as a result of my proficiency in the subject, the writer won many gifts from the Class Teacher, impressed that “Luqman a Muslim boy always beat other pupils including Christians…” his words.
Back then, I got really fascinated by the numerous stories in the Bible which my Class Teacher effortlessly explain to pupils with the precision, candour and depth of a theatre and artistic generalismo. Amongst the inspirational stories, one stood out. This bothers on true friendship, relationship and selfless service. It is the story of a man who was spared death by a King because of some good deed his father extended to the King. The King; back then, never knew he would someday be in a position to re-pay the gesture extended to him by the young man’s father. It is a classic illustration of how every positive deed; in the past, deserves corresponding appreciation – one good turn deserves another.
This timeless brotherly gesture was replicated in Nigeria in 1979 by and between two great politicians, philanthropists and nationalists. Though the dramatis personage are not Kings (as in the Biblical story above), but they are great men by every standard. According to reports, during the race for the position of Senate Leader in the Second Republic (1979 to be precise), Leaders and Senators of the ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN, were in a fix about whom to pick between Senators Olusola Saraki and Joseph Sarwuan Tarka, the battle was fierce, as both Senators were eminently qualified. Senators Saraki and Joseph Tarka were colourful, cerebral, educated, intelligent and had massive appeal and popularity. Aside these, both were from the North Central geo-political zone; Saraki from Kwara, Joseph Tarka from Benue.
In a rare display of selflessness, maturity, sacrifice and humility, the Tiv-born Senator Joseph Tarka, shocked his supporters, Party Members and Leaders by conceding the Senate Leader position to the Oloye of Kwara, Senator Olusola Saraki. It was said that Senator Joseph Tarka’s uncommon gesture and unquantifiable magnanimity, which took the entire National Party of Nigeria by surprise, elicited massive applause, encomium and commendation. While the Party, Leaders and Members were still basking and riveting in the euphoria of peace, unity, serenity and order that enveloped NPN; as a result of Senator Joseph Tarka’s personal sacrifice, a very influential and leading Member of the Party was reported to have said inter alia “… this is unprecedented. I do hope that Senator Olusola Saraki, the people of Kwara State, North Central and our great party will have an opportunity to pay back this unusual sacrifice that has saved the Party from crisis.”
Indeed, the Party Chieftain may not realise the potency and power of spoken words; he was being prophetic. Somehow, an event that took place about forty years back, is about to be replicated – if good reason, conscience and morality prevail.
Weeks after the March 28th 2015 National Assembly elections, the entire political space has witnessed frenzy activities. Race for the Senate Presidency of the 8th Assembly has been very fierce, such that the tension in Nigeria’s polity is so high. The race for the No. 3 position occupies discussion in the media; almost on a regular basis.
Regrettably, the All Progressive Congress which ought to have put its house in order; by taking firm position on the zoning of National Assembly position, appears to have been caught up in the on-going battle. This has led to the emergence of various real, imaginary and shadowy groups, canvassing, promoting and advocating the candidacy of interested Senators. These groups resort to numerous strategies and formulas to sell the aspiration of their Candidates. In the past weeks, Nigerians have witnessed a gale of twists, turns, intrigues, endorsement and more.
Though there are three main contenders for the Senate Presidency, for the purpose of this discourse, the writer will focus on Senator Bukola Saraki and George Akume. The two Senators are eminently qualified to assume Leadership of the Red Chamber and Chairman/Head of Nigeria’s National Assembly and Legislature, respectively. Senators Bukola Saraki and George Akume though from Kwara and Benue States, respectively, have many things in common. Both are well-read, have cosmopolitan background, extensive network of goodwill. Saraki and Akume have working knowledge of the Executive arm of government; whilst Saraki was Governor of Kwara State from 2003 to 2011, Akume governed Benue State between 1999 and 2007.
As the countdown to the Inauguration of the 8th Assembly is on, and Election of Nigeria’s No. 3 position draws near, our highly respected Senator Bukola Saraki – Sai Bukky, should imbibe the counsel of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo that, “… it is not life that matters but the courage one brings into it, by taking timeless decision at critical times for posterity”.
Senator Sai Bukky Saraki should be more circumspect in his pursuit and quest for the Senate Presidency. Though Senator Saraki is seen as an emerging political colossus, he should draw lessons from a renowned Philosopher – politician who said, “desperation is never a positive aspect of political sagacity”. Indeed, our dear Sai Bukky should think deep and reflect on the honour done to our legendary Oloye Kwara emerging as Senate Leader when Tiv-born Senator Joseph Tarka abandoned his aspiration. Sai Bukky should consider Senator Joseph Tarka’s decision as the greatest expression of love, respect and good neighbourliness by the Tiv people of Benue State to Kwara State.
As a beneficiary of the Late Oloye Kwara’s benevolence and unparalleled philanthropy, the writer urges Sai Bukky to re-consider his aspiration by throwing his cross-cultural, cros-ethnic and massive goodwill behind Senator George Akume to emerge Senate President of the 8th Assembly. In doing this, Sai Bukky will be fulfilling the prophesy of 1979; a development that the spirit of our revered Oloye Kwara will be pleased with. Thus, Senator Bukola Saraki will be deepening the political relationship between Kwara State and Tiv people of Benue State.
Indeed, the positives of Sai Bukky sacrificing his aspiration for the emergence of Senator Akume as Senate President are numerous. A new phase of political relationship and maturity will be opened, with Senator Saraki as the trail blazer. His influence in the Senate, National Assembly and the All Progressives Congress will be vast; being a natural kingmaker. Sai Bukky will be re-writing his past political history. All negative perception of Senator Saraki being a power hungry, over-ambitious, selfish, arrogant and greedy politician will evaporate; immediately.
Finally, the writer strongly urge Sai Bukky to leverage on this rare, once-in-a-lifetime golden opportunity to re-position himself in Nigeria’s political development as a colossus, nationalist and selfless leader. This will, surely, open fresh opportunities into higher responsibilities; in the near future, for Senator Bukola Saraki. Our dear Sai Bukky should make the words of James Cash Penney, “… responsibilities are given to him on who trust rests. Responsibility is always a sign of Trust”, his guiding principle. With Sai Bukky dumping his ambition and supporting Senator George Akume, he will earn the TRUST; a very significant and strategic attribute in politics and governance, of APC Leaders and Members as well as Nigerians.
•Luqman Ambali Olukooba writes from Adewole Estate, Ilorin