It's transfer season in the nation's political circuit. Is Bukola Saraki about to jump ship to the PDP?
He was among the first inside the red chamber as soon as the doors were unlatched. A silky smooth operator, he had perfected his strategy months before.
By mid-afternoon, Saraki had become President of the eight Senate against all odds and against the wishes of his party, the APC.
57 senators from the opposition PDP who had smuggled themselves into the chamber, unanimously elected Saraki Senate President at a time the other 51 APC senators were still plotting to elect Ahmad Lawan into the position at the International Conference Center.
The problem with Saraki’s election was that his political party didn't see it coming and never backed him for the top job--an anomaly in the nation's political playing field.
As a consequence, recriminations from APC hierarchy were inevitable.
"The purported election of Senator Saraki and Dogara as the Senate President and Speaker respectively, is a clear transgression of both the tenets of democracy and Party politics. The APC must come down strongly to mete out sanctions and punishments against treacherous members that perpetrated this ugly charade," APC publicity secretary for Lagos, Joe Igbokwe, fired off in a press statement the day after Saraki’s election as Senate President.
Senator Remi Tinubu did her best to openly disrespect the senate president in the early days of the eight senate and Saraki was soon dragged before the code of conduct tribunal for charges bordering on false declaration of assets and corruption.
The senate president wasted little time labelling his trial a witch-hunt—a ploy by his political party to punish him for going against their decision and joining forces with the opposition PDP to emerge senate president.
When it comes to the APC, Saraki has long accepted he can do no right.
“Most people talk about the Senate Presidency position, but this was not my only offence. I have also been accused of helping to frustrate some people’s opportunity to emerge as President Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate. But I have no problem with anybody,” Saraki said a year after his election.
“My concern was that it would not be politically smart of us to run with a Muslim-Muslim ticket. I doubt if we would have won the election if we had done this, especially after the PDP had successfully framed us a Muslim party.
“I felt we were no longer in 1993. Perhaps, more than ever before, Nigerians are more sensitive to issues of religious balancing. This, my brother, was my original sin. What they say to themselves, among other things, was that if he could conspire against our ambition, then he must not realise his own ambition as well.”
Since the events of June 9, 2015, Saraki has somewhat functioned as an estranged member of the governing party--quite like the recalcitrant daughter who is only being tolerated within the family pending when a suitor comes calling.
While he has maintained a harmonious working relationship with President Buhari, the Southwest wing of the APC would rather not touch him with a ten foot pole.
Saraki has been sneered at by core APC loyalists, regarded as a snake who still has PDP blood flowing in his veins by some sections of the governing party and he’s been handed a raw deal by the Southwest press who still sway public opinion in Nigeria.
With Atiku Abubakar formally defecting to the APC from whence he came, will Bukola Saraki follow suit ahead of the 2019 general elections?
Saraki has never concealed his intention to become Nigeria's president someday.
After doing his time as governor, senator and senate president, the 54-year-old suave and urbane politician must consider himself ready for the nation’s top job and there’s no way he’s going to nick that from the current APC set up.
Asked about his political plans at a recent function, Saraki gave little away.
"Anytime next year from February, you can ask us about what are my intentions in 2019 or whether I want to come back to the senate", the senate president said.
While Saraki has been characteristically coy as it pertains to his probable defection to the PDP, the opposition party has been brazenly wooing him to return to the fold.
“We are waiting for the President of the Senate, Sen. Bukola Saraki, Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso, other senators, members of House of Representatives and APC governors who left the PDP. Let all of us unite and take back power from APC come 2019”, said Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin.