The plots and conspiracies for the 2023 presidential election have begun. Permutations have intensified on who will eventually capture the ticket of the two major parties. With the body language of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) looking up north, presidential candidates from the north seem more favoured to win the ticket of PDP.
Former Senate President Bukola Saraki, a Yoruba from north-central Nigeria, is believed to be a strong prospective contender for the ticket. A Muslim from the “Middle Belt” Kwara State, Saraki is well placed to bridge north-south divisions.
However, one of the challenges that Bukola Saraki might face is how to convince the core North that he is one of them, as he is seen as a Yoruba, even though Kwara State, where he hails from, is one of the 19 northern states. His father, Senator Olusola Saraki, who contested for the presidency in 1992 and 1999, faced the same challenge. The development made him to produce two posters with two first names. One bore Olusola, which was the Yoruba first name he was known to bear for years; and Abubakar, which was one of his lesser-known names that would have resonated with voters in the north.
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Already, in latest moves towards the 2023 presidential election, campaign posters featuring Bukola Saraki have begun to crop up in the FCT. On this note, Saraki stands out as probably the first credible and notable candidate that has openly shown the intention of succeeding President Muhammadu Buhari.
Saraki’s current role in the PDP is to unite warring party members and factions as the Chairman of a six-member reconciliation committee.
The committee includes former Secretary to Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; former governors, Liyel Imoke, Ibrahim Dankwambo, and Ibrahim Shema; and one-time House of Representatives Majority Leader, Mulikat Akande.
In his capacity as PDP peacemaker, Saraki has managed to bind the grassroots of the party to the elite, impressing them well enough to still have hope in the former ruling party.
Saraki is working hard to consolidate on the strength of his party derived largely from the weaknesses and ineptitude of the ruling party. Despite this effort, the PDP seems to suffer from a lack of organisation, discipline, absence of a rallying opposition figure, poor precedence rating and a weak, ineffective media and propaganda unit.
Can Saraki step in to fill this gap and coast along to win the presidential ticket this time around? Whatever steps he takes from this time onwards might very well decide where the tides will fall for him.
Bukola Saraki was the Governor of Kwara State from 2003-2011 coming from the influential Saraki family, that shaped governance and politics in Kwara State, for over 3 decades.
He was later elected into the Nigerian Senate in 2011 and won a second-term to serve as a Senator in the country in 2015. He was elected the Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria the same year.
A Medical Doctor by profession, Senator Bukola Saraki attended the prestigious Kings College, Lagos (1973-1978) were he was classmate with the former Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi.
He studied for his High School Certificate at the Cheltenham College in the United Kingdom (1979-1981), and obtained his M.B.B.S from the London Hospital Medical College of the University of London(1982-1987).
Saraki started his career as a medical officer at the Rush Green Hospital, Essex from(1988 to 1989), but became more involved in politics, leadership, and governance.
In 2000, he was appointed the Special Assistant on Budget to then President Olusegun Obasanjo, to which he was credited with initiating the Fiscal Responsibility Bill. He was a member of the Economic Policy Coordination Committee, formulating and implementing key economic policies for Nigeria.
One of his greatest legacies as Governor was the development of the Shonga Farms programme with the help of displaced white farmers from Zimbabwe. This has been replicated across the nation.
After his first term as a Senator in 2011-2015, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki defected from the People’s Democratic Party to join the All Progressive Congress, and played a major role in the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 general elections.
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Due to disagreement with his party hierarchy he returned to the PDP. However, in a major political Tsunami, Saraki and his party lost virtually all elections in Kwara State in 2019.
Presently he is battling to regain control of a state he once had absolute political control and called the shots as far as political power was concerned.
Will the hope of light at the end of the tunnel become real for his supporters, particularly with the determination of Dr. Bukola Saraki to take another shot at the PDP presidential ticket? It has always been the prayers of many who want younger, energetic personalities to take up the challenge and lead the country come 2023. For someone like Saraki, can 2023 be the magic year?