Senate President Bukola Saraki has in a leaked audio attributed his major grouse with President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to the alleged suffering of Kwara State indigenes due to the absence of federal appointments despite committing resources to the president’s electoral success in 2015.
Mr Saraki also alleged that during the campaign for Mr Buhari’s election, out of the 36 states of the federation, he paid money running into over a billion naira for election logistics in 30 states.
The senate president, while addressing some party members in his native Kwara State recently, said the federal government had no plan for Kwara State and its people, adding that the people would not have suffered if they had been offered key appointments by the government.
Mr Saraki spoke largely in Yoruba in the leaked audio clip, ostensibly recorded while he was addressing young Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members in Kwara State.
The audio tape, recorded for about 33 minutes, has since gone viral across social media platforms.
Kayode Ogundamisi, blogger and social commentator, first posted the audio via his verified Twitter handle.
In the audio, Mr Saraki, who defected from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the opposition PDP few months ago, said he benefited little from his membership of the ruling party.
He told his audience he never deceived them, adding that his agenda was to ensure the growth of the youth in the state through ‘empowerment’. He attributed the suffering experienced by the youth since the inception of this government to ‘human factor’ and what he said was God’s design. He said he understood how difficult it was for the youth leaders to ‘market’ their party in Kwara State because they did not benefit from their membership of the party.
“I agree with you that the last three and half years have not been easy at all,” he told his audience.
The senate president in the audio clip claimed that during the run-up to the 2015 general elections, he spent money campaigning for Mr Buhari across every geo-political zone in the country except the South-west. However, Mr Saraki said he received no compensation in terms of appointments that would have trickled down to his followers in Kwara.
“When I left the PDP for the APC in 2014, I was campaigning for the APC like never before (and) we went to every state to campaign with Buhari up until the election time in 2015,” he said.
“Out of the 36 states, I paid money for election in 30 (states). Some collected N300 million, while some collected N400 million, some collected N200 million. The only six states where I had nothing to do with was in the South-West. There was no other state where we (didn’t) support Buhari’s election.
“Even on the phone, I was calling and giving banks instructions. Our thinking was that when we get elected––what would happen next?––we would get the majority of appointments. I even told majority of you then that we shall all be going to Abuja together after the election. I thought some of you would be appointed to head federal agencies like road maintenance like FERMA, NITDA, NPA and others. Because I know that if any Kwara son becomes even just the ED of UBEC, I know what he can ‘sign’ from his desk. Whether N1 million or N2 million.
“But for the first time since we joined politics, you have a President of the Senate or even a Speaker that cannot appoint a cleaner. I am not referring to board appointees––like director, which is non-executive––who just collect money per sitting.
“If you look at the agencies they appointed executive positions, what do you want me to say? Or when you labour and spend billions and things fall in place…even if you aren’t going to offer us appointments, let us have our peace. I went to court 1, court 2, court 3, court 4; for three and half years!”
The senate president also appealed to party members in Kwara, saying they should work for the success of the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar. He also vowed to ensure that Mr Buhari is not re-elected as the president of the nation in 2019.
The former Kwara State governor said many of those who worked for the ruling APC have since regretted their actions, citing examples of politicians who invited him into the party ahead of the 2015 general elections like the Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun; and Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari.
Messrs Yari and Amosun, alongside other members of the APC, are at loggerheads with the leadership of the party after they had issues in the recently conducted primaries in the party. Both outgoing governors have been unable to esnure their preferred candidates get the governorship ticket of the APC for the 2019 elections.
Mr Saraki, who joined the APC from the PDP in 2014, defected from the ruling party before the primaries.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, would officially lift the embargo placed on campaign activities on Sunday and politicians are expected to begin jostling for the peoples’ votes. Commentators on social media say the new audio material will expectedly generate reactions from the camps of the two major political parties in the coming days.
Twitter users are largely divided over the authenticity of the audio content, but many have said that Mr Saraki only spoke the mind of the average Nigerian politician.
On Saturday night, Mr. Saraki’s office officially responded to the leakage of the audio.
Oluwole Onemola, the special assistant on new media to the senate president, said in a statement, “For the record: we always restrain from responding to inconsequential issues that we can otherwise ignore. However, in order to put this issue to rest so that we can move on to real issues, these are the facts:
“The audio recording that is being circulated online by known anti-Saraki henchmen is a doctored recording. It was probably part of the mix of manipulations that APC decided to employ for today’s bye election in four LGAs in Kwara South.
“We will not allow people like Ogundamisi and other mercenary “influencers” to create false and mischievous impressions that may easily be consumed by the otherwise unsuspecting public.
“Dr. Saraki, in his response to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in August, stated emphatically that he left the APC because ‘the minimum conditions for peace, cooperation, inclusion and a general sense of belonging did not exist’.
“Additionally, in that same response, Dr. Saraki emphasized that he “never discussed any (such) personal and pecuniary benefits with anybody.” We still challenge that anybody who has contrary facts should come forward.
“Finally, we ask the public to understand that in their desperation to hang on to power, agents of the ruling party are stooping to new lows by doctoring and releasing such audio files. We expect more of such desperate moves from them. Fake news, remains fake news. Their lies will remain lies.”