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Saraki’s double blow has become a big concern for Atiku


Saraki’s double blow has become a big concern for Atiku

Senate President Bukola Saraki suffered two blows yesterday. First, a problematic leaked audio recording from a meeting with youths in his state portrayed him as a politician simply interested in money sharing. Then his party, PDP, suffered a shock defeat in a House of Reps by-election conducted in Kwara on Saturday. That loss signalled that his much touted total lockdown of the state might be a bubble.

Why it matters

One: If there is one person that would be more bothered about the events that happened to Mr. Saraki than the victim himself – that person would be the PDP presidential candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Atiku has continued to fight a corruption narrative that hangs over his reputation like a plague. The leaked audio of his campaign chief reinforces a perception of Atiku as the status quo politician who has no problems with the endemic corruption and the patronage system, which Buhari purportedly seeks to dismantle.

Saraki who was campaigning for Atiku, the PDP presidential candidate was heard in the audio lamenting that he was not patronised in spite of spending billions on the Buhari 2015 campaign. In the leaked audio, Saraki was heard saying in the audio, translated from Yoruba:

“When I left the PDP for the APC in 2014, I was campaigning for the APC like never before (and) we went to every state to campaign with Buhari up until the election time in 2015,” he said.

“Out of the 36 states, I paid money for election in 30 (states). Some collected N300 million, while some collected N400 million, some collected N200 million. The only six states where I had nothing to do with was in the South-West. There was no other state where we (didn’t) support Buhari’s election.

“Even on the phone, I was calling and giving banks instructions. Our thinking was that when we get elected––what would happen next?––we would get the majority of appointments. I even told majority of you then that we shall all be going to Abuja together after the election. I thought some of you would be appointed to head federal agencies like road maintenance like FERMA, NITDA, NPA and others. Because I know that if any Kwara son becomes even just the ED of UBEC, I know what he can ‘sign’ from his desk. Whether N1 million or N2 million.”

Two: The orthodox belief that Mr. Saraki controls the heart of Kwara politics has been shattered by the defeat of his backed PDP candidate by the Lai Mohammed backed APC candidate in what was framed by many analysts as a supremacy contest. Notwithstanding Mr. Saraki’s claims of rigging by the APC in collusion with the security forces, it was clear that he no longer held sway over the state with building resistance among the grassroots against the long standing Saraki dynasty and the determination of the APC to flip the state. He is not invisible.

Recall that President Buhari was reported to have personally instructed the APC to dislodge the PDP in Kwara. Mr. Saraki’s base is significantly weaker than it has always been – Saraki lost the entire PDP leadership structure and some of the ranks to the APC after his forced control of the party structure sequel to his defection. This has bolstered the ranks of the APC in the state. Though the victory does not mean that the APC would win Kwara in the presidential elections. It has become clear that they would make more impact than envisaged. This recent electoral defeat of the PDP in the Kwara HORs election has become a new cause of worry for Atiku who must have considered Kwara as safely in the bag for his campaign.

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