OPINION: How Saraki made billions before joining politics. By Sulyman Buhari

Date: 2016-04-08

Born into the family of late billionaire business mogul and Senate Leader of the Second Republic, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki and Barrister Morenike Saraki, the incumbent Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, can be said to have come to the world with a silver spoon. However, it will be erroneous to conclude that being born into such an affluent and influential family was the sole ingredient that enhanced him to build a towering chain of investments and businesses or enabled him to rise to the zenith of corporate empire as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of many companies, both in Nigeria and abroad.

Though a medical doctor like his father, trained at University of London from 1982 to 1987, his intelligence, diligence, hardwork and prudence in the management of resources endeared him to his father at a very young age. His father entrusted him with the management and affairs of his investments, mainly housing estates within and outside the country and the Societe Generale Bank which has today metamorphosed to Heritage Bank PLC.

Between 1991 to 2001, Dr. Saraki floated and successfully midwifed popular corporate brands. Outside Nigeria, the investment-minded Saraki, though young, purchased and maintained shares in many high profile companies in both the US and the UK. These are all verifiable facts. From the little I know of him, the aforementioned are mere fraction of his legitimate earnings before he ventured into public life.

Since the commencement of the trial, the media has been awashed with many stories suggesting that the Senate President purportedly diverted money belonging to Kwara State Government for private purposes. Hence, the need to let uninformed and misinformed Nigerians know that the man, Abubakar Bukola Saraki was a billionaire in his own right before he joined politics and got elected as governor of Kwara State in 2003. The fact that he never bragged about his stupendous wealth like an average Nigerian doesn't mean he didn't have it. A meticulous perusal of the assets declaration form the Senate President filled in 2003 will show that he was well worth over N10billion in landed properties, shares in Nigeria and abroad, and cash at hand.

Unsurprisingly, the revelations thus far from the first witness lined up by the prosecution team, Micheal Wetkas, are not new. The allegations that appeared to have enraged some Nigerians have actually been in the public domain for many years. The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and the Special Fraud Unit of the Nigeria Police Force had investigated them. The allegations were falsely-conscripted and untrue. They were forced not to file charges against the Senate President because they found no merit in the allegations. The witness' testimony is just a side of the trial, Nigerians should be patient enough to wait till the defence team of the Senate President will have the opportunity to present his case.

However, with the drama and sensation the prosecution team has injected into the trial, it is clear the Senate President is being put on media trial in an attempt to present the Chairman of the National Assembly as someone who is worth many billions of naira. This might have been done in order to cast a web of doubt on his source of wealth and to possibly incite the public against him. Nevertheless, it a widely known fact that the Senate President was worth over N10billion before he ventured into politics in 2003.

The Senate President is not one of the politicians that can be accused of making soft and comfortable choices by joining politics. Accounts of family members and political associates have shown that he was practically begged before he joined the Kwara State governorship race in 2003. He had a rewarding job before he joined active politics. He was a wealthy businessman before he became a governor on the 29th of May, 2003. He joined politics to make impacts as shown by his achievements as presidential adviser, governor, senator and Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

It is no more news to all Nigerians that his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) bordering on false assets declaration is not an anti-corruption drive but about who occupies the office of the Senate President. Even though, a pattern of inconsistencies and unfairness have emerged in the ongoing trial of the Senate President, like the Senate President recently remarked, I believe if the trial is conducted fairly, he would be vindicated at the end of the trial.

Sulyman Buhari writes from Ilorin

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