Saraki for President is a real possibility now, but will he take the bait?

However long it was going to take, Bukola Saraki’s defection from the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been in the making since he emerged as President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly 36 months ago.

Last week’s crossover of 15 APC senators could not have been the fitting day for his own announcement, with the implications expected to follow a political grand figure of his stature. But when his defection was finally announced on the last day of July, it gave more credence to what most have believed for the best part of this APC-led Buhari administration. Portrayals of the disagreements between the Executive and Legislature as mere tensions of democracy are being shown up for what they truly are: the inevitable cracks of a hastily contracted polygamous marriage, whose individual parts have been falling ceremoniously out of place, one scorned bride at a time.

Remarkably, Saraki has quit the APC in the most gracious manner, thanking the party’s new Chairman Adams Oshiomhole and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for making efforts, albeit late, to forge paths of reconciliation. There is, however, no love for “fifth columnists” in other forms of leadership in the party at whose feet he squarely lays the blame for his departure. There are no thanks to either President Muhammadu Buhari or Bola Tinubu. Instead, Saraki ascribes his exit from the APC to “provocation, ridicule and flagrant persecution” which can be tied to his travails in courts and police stations virtually since he became Senate President reportedly against the wishes of some members of the party.

There is little doubt Saraki holds the Buhari-led Executive responsible for the current use of the Offa robbery by the Inspector General of Police’s office to attempt to beat him into submission; the second invitation and siege on his quarters last week may have proved the tipping point. The Police insist Saraki has a case to answer even if the Attorney General’s office has countered, saying there is nothing from its review that has thrown up a connection between the Senate President and the unfortunate incident which killed at least 31 persons in April.

He will now be answering to any further “provocation” under the shield of the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) umbrella, where his political career began at the Kwara state government house in 2003. In his fifteen years of political prominence, Saraki has won two terms as a Governor, led the Governors’ Forum, upgraded to the Senate and while there, engineered the splinter of his party to hitch up an opposition coalition that led the Federal Government for the first time. After four years of the failed experiment, he returns to his origins but not in any way diminished in stature or relevance. Excluding living former presidents (principally Babangida, Obasanjo and Jonathan), former Lagos governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, there is hardly a more nationally recognised politician so known for his influence that, in addition to Kwara Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, the APC’s National Publicity Secretary Bolaji Abdullahi has also defected from the party.

At 55, Saraki’s political future has the mileage to contest elections that most of his apparent persecutors may no longer have. Where the promise of change has failed to materialise in the APC, it is probable that his return to the PDP should be to prepare the ground for a push towards offices higher than he currently occupies. Seven months to the elections in 2019 and there is no clear frontline presidential candidate in the PDP; what could go wrong by stepping in and asking to be given the flag to bear? The possibility of a “President Saraki” has arisen at least once in the life of the current presidency when both President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo were away from the country but Saraki artfully waved Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe away. Now back to his father’s house, there will surely be more consideration to such suggestions. Kwankwaso, Tambuwal, Dankwambo and Atiku are all interested but it is not hard to imagine a truly democratic process producing the Senate President as the party’s candidate.

Perhaps not in 2019, or ever, but the legend of Saraki will only grow by this defection, not diminish. He now joins the three former presidents already mentioned and every other name in this piece besides Tinubu and Osinbajo in being against Buhari. Should the back-to-Daura push succeed by next February/March, he would have played a key role.