Loyalty /lↄIəlti/ (n): the quality of being loyal, a strong feeling of support
Dear reader, I apologize for beginning this piece with a google meaning of a word whose meaning you already know. Nonetheless, this was done to remind you of the exact meaning of this word and how it has become a rarity in our use of English today- chiefly because we do not have cause to use it as there seem to be no worthy subject to go with the word. Rather, we are more accustomed to its long distance antonyms like betrayal and duplicity.
This phenomenon is more pronounced in our politics, a reflection of who we are, where news of political backstabbing and break ups no longer make front page as they have become the norm. A politics where the maxim of having no permanent friend and no permanent enemies has fast become a strict code of conduct and not a mere guide in matured decision making; a politics where the young always seek ingenuine ways to outsmart the old and continuity is fast becoming by bloodline and not by ideologies because no one can be trusted with carrying on the legacy of a Governor, for instance, except his son-in-law.
We have a Political system where elder statesmen (as they prefer to be called) who installed their Boys (as no one likes to be called) into lucrative political positions no longer have “control” of those boys. Where those who were invited to eat of the National cake decide to seize the cake to the detriment of their invitees. While I won’t want to bore you with pre-colonial and colonial history, this has been the bane of Nigeria Politics since the Awolowo/Ladoke Akintola saga to the Tinubu/Fashola and Uba/Ngige era and has continued to rear its ugly head in all our election cycles and republics causing a great number of deaths amongst followers who do not have the discretion to understand that they are just pawns in this game of allegiance.
However, in all of these imbroglio from geo political zone to geo political zone and state to state, one dynasty has continued to stay far above the fray- The Bukola Saraki Dynasty. They seem to be the only political dynasty in Nigeria that has never had a voice of dissent from within their camp in the past few years; they are a dynasty where the leader is well established in his role, his vassal states comfortable in theirs, and the proper obeisance paid regularly in the right direction.
As at the time Dr Bukola Saraki began his political career, some of the present heavyweights were already on the landscape and others well established in their ways. As those who are “self-made” usually condescend to children of privilege, many thought he would be a flash in the pan and hence did not think to align with this freshly trained physician who would be a leader of destinies. Like the Macedonian born conqueror, Alexander the Great, Dr Bukola Saraki made his most difficult battle his first by going against his father’s wishes of a governatorial (yea, it’s a word now) candidate and in the process earning himself lifetime loyalists while sending his father into political retirement.
Unknown to many, the London trained Surgeon had used his 8years at the helm of affairs of Kwara state to build a network of political arteries to survive a heart bypass, and had laid the foundation for a new order of things to come for his comrades by defining his expectation of loyalty by his own example. Bukola had shown his men (not boys, for he treated them like brothers) that he considered them higher than his biological family- that he considered them his true family. He had inevitably won them over by giving himself. Perhaps his Christian wife taught him this part of the Bible.
In his first 4years as a Senator from 2011-2015, Saraki was once again late to the party as most ex-governors were already in their Second term. He didn’t mind, he was ready to do the dirty work and earn the respect, admiration and ultimate loyalty of his new colleagues. It was Saraki who pushed the motion to end the fuel subsidy regime in Nigeria. Although not from anywhere close to the Niger Delta, Saraki’s work as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology which included his contribution in strengthening laws on the clean up on oil spillage and his National Oil Spill and Detection and Response Agency Amendment Bill seeking to ensure oil companies pay appropriate levels of compensation to communities affected by oil spills earned him the respect of his colleagues from the South-South geo political region. Saraki’s influence as a first term Senator also extended to the North. He was stacking up goodwill like chips at a casino blackjack table, and was yet to lay his cards.
That Saraki benefited from the troubles caused to the GEJ administration by a bill he proposed before cross carpeting is, to me, a master stroke of political dexterity. He was never vocal about the Occupy Nigeria campaign but he needn’t have been as his Luca Brasi was already on the scene with a scorecard t-shirt (that was before his multiplatinum selling single) steering votes to the opposition to which Saraki now belonged.
Fast forward to June 9 2015, and in his second stint as a Senator, Saraki became Senate President against the will of his party. He had cashed his blackjack casino chips from the PDP block of the South-South and South-East Senators who were now “friendly” opposition. The APC Senators, of course, paid lip service to pulling him down but how could they? Saraki had been Chairman to them under the aegis of the NGF during his second term and their first term as Governor, and they had greatly benefitted from his restructuring of the NGF so much so that it had been a tool in the pulling down of the GEJ administration (ask Amaechi). Who could blame them? Even the Party leaders knew he could not be touched at this point. The CCT was an exercise in futility, just to show that the Party dog could still bark though we knew it was a pet dog that never could bite.
Since being appointed DG of Atiku Campaign Organization, Saraki has been almost as popular, if not more popular, than the Vice President who is spear heading the ruling Party’s campaign- We hardly see their campaign DG. This is because, once again, Saraki has given of himself to his new Boss. I will not be surprised if he was instrumental in Atiku’s US visit. Not as an aide though.
Saraki is the sort of man who has succeeded in inspiring unprecedented levels of loyalty amongst his supporters, protégés and even superiors. A self-assured man who is not afraid to lose himself in his service to another man, Saraki’s attitude has caused men to seek new ways of proclaiming their loyalty to him. They just seek to please him.
Around other leaders, we find sycophants and opportunists whose primary aim of loyalty is to achieve their personal ambition and then become Godfathers in their own right especially when they feel they are not given free reins in their territory or they feel that the power of their Godfather is waning. Meanwhile, with Saraki gratitude is no longer a burden but a pleasure for which you feel at will to express as you desire.
Also, Saraki has not sought to enlarge his territory as we have seen attempted in the South-West geopolitical region, albeit not directly. Saraki’s model seeks to enlarge his sphere of influence, empower his protégés and send them forth to take territories on his behalf. Perhaps another classic example from the Bible that conserves his energy and keeps him focused on his basics.
As a keen observer of human flaws and frailties, I am always obliged to celebrate excellence whenever I am opportune to notice it. Although I may not agree with his policies and political antics (what do I know?) In Dr Bukola Saraki, since arriving on the political stage in the past 17-18 years I have seen that there can be new dynamics to an old mindset. He has shown that change does not necessarily have to be upheaval, that loyalty still has a known meaning in Nigeria’s Politics, and harmony can always be achieved by a leader who inspires rather than dictates.
P.S: I somehow got lost writing this, I almost felt like I was writing Saraki’s Biography. That would be a dream come true.