Saraki and his controversial visit, counsel to Jonathan

Interestingly, politics they say has no permanent friend or enemy, but permanent interest.

Bukola Saraki, Nigeria’s former Senate president in the 8th National Assembly, was in the recently for leading a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) delegation to meet with former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The visit came amid speculations in the last few months that Jonathan was planning to dump the party for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

The rumour became intense recently after Jonathan allegedly met with some APC chieftains.

Saraki, who heads the PDP Reconciliation and Strategy Committee, visited Jonathan in his Abuja residence and was accompanied on the visit by other members of the committee, including a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Pius Anyim, former governors Ibrahim Shema, Liyel Imoke and Ibrahim Dankwambo of Katsina, Cross River and Gombe states respectively.

The former two-term Kwara governor had told reporters after the meeting that Jonathan assured the committee that he was ready to offer PDP his experience and resources if called upon to do so.

In an apparent reference to the ruling APC, Saraki said the former president was committed to seeing the PDP bounce back to national reckoning, stressing that he is not ready to go to another party.

He added that Jonathan also expressed his readiness to work with the reconciliation committee.

“We are members of the National Reconciliation and Strategy Committee set up by the party and part of our task is to meet with our former president, Goodluck Jonathan.

“We are starting off with our former president and we are here to let him know what our plans are and also to hear his own views and advice on what we need to do and how to do it as well as how we need to strengthen the party and reconcile aggrieved members in order to bring about unity and focus in our party.”

According to him, “It was a very useful meeting. He gave us his views, and we are very happy. He reassured all of us of his commitment to the PDP and he told us that he is still ready to offer his time, experience and resources to strengthen the party and that is very strong and important for us. Of course, you know there are funny issues going on but we are leaving this place very happy.

“That is a great step for the party. We have put that behind us – all those people from the other party that would like to come and disturb our leaders. Our leaders are here and they are ready to work for the party,” he stated.

He further added that “We spoke about what role former presidents like him will play and he left us feeling very happy that yes, he will like to play that role in the PDP and help our committee to move forward.”

However, Saraki’s effort has received mixed reactions among political watchers, while some applauded his effort as necessary in rebuilding the PDP ahead of the 2023 election, others said the former governor, should be ashamed of himself for leading some chieftains of the party to Jonathan’s residence, despite his role in destabilising the PDP, making it an opposition party, while thwarting Jonathan’s re-election bid in 2015.

Perhaps, the most vociferous voice against Saraki and his committee within the last few days has been that of the former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode.

In a message on his Twitter handle, Thursday night, Fani-Kayode had criticised Saraki’s decision to lead a team to Jonathan, after he had led opposition and some governors to defect from PDP.

“Interesting to note that the man that led the team to GEJ’s house to appeal to him not to leave the PDP yesterday is the same man that led the rebellion against him and the defection of governors from the same party in 2014 and cost him the 2015 presidential election. What an irony!” he tweeted.

Saraki who was elected the governor of North central state of Kwara in 2003, re-elected in 2007 under the platform of the PDP.

He was among several chieftains and leaders of the party who left PDP in 2013 after severe internal wrangling to team up with leaders of the now defunct, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), to form the APC.

Nigerian politicians and politics of shifting cultivation

In agriculture, the term shifting cultivation refers to a system of farming in which plots of land are cultivated temporarily, then abandoned and allowed to revert to their natural vegetation while the cultivator moves on to another plot. The period of cultivation is usually terminated when the soil shows signs of exhaustion or, more commonly, when the field is overrun by weeds.

Many Nigerian politicians could be said to be practising shifting cultivation in their style of politicking in the country. For them, as it is said, there is actually no permanent enemy or friend, only permanent interest.

They have become like a rolling stone that gathers no moss. They can be likened to nomads. They are migrant in nature; they keep migrating from one place to another. They have no enduring ideology and believe in none. They are ruled by the ambition of their heart. And to them, there is nothing like party supremacy.

So, because of their roving nature, their defection this time around was not a surprise to many people.

In 2014, when Saraki and others dumped the PDP for the then newly formed APC, they saw opportunities that were offered to them on a platter. And because they said unprintable things about their former party, they became hot cake to their new-found friends. It was a case of “my enemy is also your enemy”. They leveraged on this to become governors, senators, and some clinched political appointments.

He and other politicians left without looking back. They joined forces with the APC to oust the PDP, making Goodluck Jonathan to have an unenviable record as the only Nigerian sitting president to have been removed through the ballot.

But when they squandered the goodwill they initially enjoyed in the APC, they remembered the PDP.

In 2015, Saraki aligned himself with senators of the PDP to emerge the president of the 8th Senate in controversial circumstances, after defeating his party’s preferred candidate Ahmed Lawan.

He was elected unanimously by 57 senators present at the session, while the remaining 51 senators were at the International Conference Centre waiting for a truce meeting reportedly called by the leadership of the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari.

His tenure as Senate president was enmeshed with controversy, while having a running battle with the APC and the administration of Buhari which culminated in his return to the PDP.

Nigerians have been bitten several times by the bugs of unfaithful politicians who recycle themselves, jumping from one party to the other. It is not likely that so much hope would be built around such politicians who have proven over the years that they are just like a rolling stone that gathers no moss. The onus is, however, on them to prove Nigerians wrong.

In line with the saying in politics that what is constant is permanent interest, Saraki’s visit to Jonathan should be seen for what it is- reconciliatory.

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