Senator Bukola Saraki – A step away from the Presidency
Senator Bukola Saraki is a chip off the old block. His father, Dr. Olusola Saraki, a medical doctor and successful entrepreneur, became one of the most powerful Nigerian politicians of his time. He was an outstanding Senate Leader, a Presidential aspirant who later became the Godfather and Kingmaker of Kwara state politics.
Senator Bukola, also a medical doctor and successful business man, may not have attained his father’s larger-than-life image yet, but he has already surpassed his father in order of protocols at the state and Federal levels: He was a two-term Governor of Kwara State, two-term Senator and President of the Senate for four years. He would be climbing one step higher than his father if he becomes Nigeria’s President next year – and he is almost there. The junior Saraki has joined the presidential race for the 2023 elections, the second time in four years. During his first outing in 2019 on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Saraki came third in the party primaries, losing the ticket to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Saraki is building his aspiratiion on the foundation of his “strong record” of performance. “As we prepare for the journey ahead,” he said in a four-paragraph declaration message on Facebook, “I hope we can all join hands to get the ticket of our great party, PDP, and build a nation that works for all of us.
“Join me to make our communities safer and provide real opportunities for you and your families. I have a strong record of delivering and experience in making tough decisions.
“Let’s build a new Nigeria that works for EVERYONE!”
A former Minister of State for Power and Steel, Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher, described Dr. Bukola Saraki as the best person that would unify and develop the country if given opportunity to become President. Hagher who is the Chairman of the Saraki Contact and Advocacy Council (SCAC) said: “Bukola Saraki is the candidate that is beyond zoning. He is the candidate for all. Nigeria is not about Saraki; it is about the kind of president that Nigeria needs when the APC leaves the scene because of its very poor performance.”
Saraki was born in 1962 to the family of former Senate Leader Olusola Saraki and Florence Saraki. He attended King’s College, Lagos from 1973 to 1978 and then Cheltenham College in the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1981, he obtained his M.B.B.S(London) from the London Hospital Medical College of the University of London from 1982 to 1987. He worked in the United Kingdom in a number of hospitals in London and surrounding counties for two years before returning to Nigeria to commence a career that spans over two decades.
In the 80’s, Dr. Saraki built a successful property development company that serviced a number of reputable international companies, especially in the oil and gas sector, due to the quality of their designs, architecture and engineering.
His companies are also leaders in trading in commodities like sugar, rice, fertilizer and much more. Saraki also owns a manufacturing company in the food and sector.
Prior to his entry into public service, Dr. Saraki was appointed to the board of Society Generale Bank of Nigeria. Shortly thereafter he was appointed as Executive Director. Under his leadership, the bank was the first in all of West Africa to introduce the use of Automated Teller Machine (ATM).
Saraki is married to Toyin Saraki (née Ojora), they have four children together.
Saraki’s journey into politics began when he was appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo to serve as a Special Assistant on Budget in 2000. He was responsible for preparing the 2000/2001 National Budget and equally initiated the Fiscal Responsibility Bill while also serving on the Economic Policy Coordination Committee where he was responsible for the formulation and implementation of key economic policies.
On completion of his service as Special Assistant, Saraki contested and won the Kwara State gubernatorial election in 2003 on the platform of PDP. As Governor, he garnered national and international acclaim for his innovative approaches to agriculture, health, education, fiscal policy and environmental reforms. His spirit of teamwork endeared him to his colleagues, and he was appointed as Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum. He championed a peer review mechanism among the Governors of Nigerian states and also used the platform to create a harmonious working relationship between the executive and the legislative arms of government at the national level.
In 2011, he contested for the position of Senator for Kwara Central Senatorial District and won. In his first term as Senator, he served as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology and was a member of the Senate Committees on Capital Markets and Finance.
In 2012, he was appointed into the Leadership council of the Global Alliance for Clean cookstoves, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation that aims to use public-private partnerships to create a thriving global market for clean cookstoves and fuels for over 100 million people by 2020.
Senator Saraki promoted the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency Amendment (NOSDRA) Bill to ensure that oil companies pay appropriate levels of compensation to communities affected by oil spills. He also spearheaded the issue of Lead Poisoning in the mining areas of Zamfara State as well the initiative for the Great Green Wall to combat desertification and climate change.
Following his re-election in 2015 on the platform of APC, Senator Saraki was elected unopposed as President of the Senate by an across-the-party alliance comprising PDP and APC Senators. Saraki had faced stiff opposition from Senator Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan who was the preferred candidate by a group of senators-elect within the APC. His deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu (PDP), emerged after a tightly contested election. During his presidency, the Senate under his leadership, surpassed all previous Senate Assemblies in Nigeria’s history, passing 201 bills and clearing 138 public petitions.
Saraki defected from APC on July 31, 2018, some days after 14 Senators defected to the opposition PDP. He blamed his defection on intolerance of the influential persons of his former party. Saraki declared his presidential campaign for the PDP presidential ticket in the 2019 election but lost the primaries to Atiku Abubakar.
He was subsequently announced as the director general of Atiku Abubakar’s presidential campaign for the 2019 presidential election which he lost to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. In the 2019 election Saraki recontesed but lost his Kwara Senatorial seat to APC’s Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe.
Of all his contemporaries, Saraki is, perhaps, one of the most investigated and charged to court or tribunal on allegations of corruption or improper declaration of assets. But he has consistently fought and rejected all claims of corruption against his person, and has won a series of court cases to that effect. He has described the allegations as political vendetta and “witch-hunt.” Unlike most of his political contemporaries, Saraki was significantly wealthy, being born with the proverbial silver spoon and having earned a sizeable fortune from successful business ventures before joining politics in 2000.
Saraki has a long list of honours to his credit. He was made the Turaki of the Fulani emirate of Ilorin during his tenure as governor. Years later, the Emir of Ilorin elevated him to the position of Waziri (or Prime Minister) of Ilorin. The title had previously been held by his father.
Saraki was the first serving Nigerian governor to be awarded the National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) in 2010. He was appointed onto the leadership council of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, an initiative led by the United Nations Foundation. Saraki was appointed the “Ambassador-at-Large” of the International Human Rights Commission (IHRC).
Saraki has been a permanent fixture on the national political stage since his days as Kwara state Governor in 2003. In 2007, he became Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. As chairman, Saraki increased his national influence and he led efforts for a more reformed and unified relationship with other states governors. The scope of his national exposure widened even further when he became the Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly. That position made him the head of the country’s legislative community which boosted his nationwide political network. His experience during his presidential aspiratiion in 2019 and his position as Director-General of the Atiku-Obi Presidential Campaign Organization in the last general election has made the national campaign ground a familiar turf for him.
Considering his antecedents, Saraki is as well placed as any other aspirant to clinch his party’s presidential ticket and win the election. He has, therefore, earned himself a place among The Top10 Magazine’s top 10 most electable presidential hopefuls for 2023.