Nigeria Matters

Saminu Turaki’s Weird Kites

Saminu Turaki, former governor of Jigawa State who now sits among the 109 wise men and women in the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a man that exudes a certain allure. I have never met him. But as a young man who was sworn in as governor at 36 in 1999, served for two terms and presently sits as a senator, he parades an impressive CV. From records, Turaki attended Federal Government College , Kaduna and is an alumnus of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria . But my fascination with the man is not for any intellectual accomplishment: my enthralment derives from his penchant for weird ideas.

As governor of Jigawa State , Turaki came up with a stunning plan to import frogs and snakes (of all things!) from China to breed for export so that the state could earn foreign exchange from Asian delicacies. When that kite failed to fly, he came up with another creepy idea: to transform his state from an agro based economy to a modern economy powered by information and communication technology. His target, ostensibly, was to make the state capital, Dutse, the regional hub for software development and for the assembly of hardware. In a state weighed down by high levels of illiteracy and poverty, poor infrastructure, low school enrolment, pandemic levels of VVF and HIV/AIDS, critics wondered if Turaki’s was acting out of foresight or short-sight and warned that the governor may be suffering from delusions of grandeur.

At the expiration of his second term, Turaki was one of the former governors hauled before the Federal High Court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged money laundering. Arraigned before Justice Binta Nyako on a charge of laundering over N30b, he did the unthinkable: he burst into tears. It was a novel kite. While many wondered how a man of Turaki’s status could take recourse to such infantile display, others pointed out that it was Turaki’s way of underscoring the axiom in the popular TV serial: The Rich Also Cry. Lest the sentimental outburst assumes the place of a robust defence, critics with a sardonic sense of humour argued that the tears were not real but were of the variety better known as crocodile tears.

Undaunted, the clever politician continued the display of his brilliant talent for comedy by claiming that a third of the money that he was alleged to have dry-cleaned was actually used to fund the infamous third term agenda of former president Olusegun Obasanjo! For a man who was elected on the platform of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), a rival party to Obasanjo’s Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), it was the height of inventiveness. With the transfer of Justice Nyako and the recent re-arraignment of Senator Turaki before Justice Adamu Bello, he may yet be gearing up to open a new compartment in his box of incredible kites.

Now, as a member of the National Assembly Joint Committee on Constitution Review, Senator Turaki has hoisted another kite to add to his rising profile as a master of slapstick: he has made a highly bizarre call for tenure extension to enable the administration of President Yar’Adua complete its development programmes. By the proposal, legislative fiat would be used to secure for Yar’Adua two terms of 14 years to terminate in 2021. The ‘Turaki Tenure Extension Act’ would take retroactive effect from May 29, 2007.

But Senator Turaki swore to protect the constitution. What is he doing now? Is he flying another kite? Was he inadvertently exposing a plot to ensure that the new constitutional review initiative is still-birthed? Is he planning to use the Yar’Adua tenure extension project to prop up his status as a tenure extension guru? Or is he taking liberties with his constitutional right to freedom of speech?

No one should be deceived by Senator Turaki’s gambit. Not even the president should welcome such a Greek Gift. Whatever may have fired his fertile imagination, Nigeria is only just emerging from the throes of political discombobulation to which the country was dragooned by the activities of Turaki and his ilk in the last dispensation. A great opportunity to fine–tune the constitution was lost and enormous resources wasted. The new pet project of the senator is, to say the least, condemnable. It is reassuring that the senate has come out like other concerned citizens and groups to distance itself from Turaki’s pollution of the political atmosphere. But by his (mis)statement, Turaki has shown that he holds a position prejudicial to his membership of the Joint Committee on Constitution Review appointed to prepare the grounds for the much desired review of the 1999 constitution. The senate, therefore, has a duty to restore the integrity of the committee and to reassure the public that the nation is not being taken on another wild goose chase. To do so, Turaki should be made to apologise or, in the alternative, to withdraw from the committee. That is only fair to Turaki – and to the nation.

One Comment

  1. It is the hallmark of African politicians to exhibit selfishness and crass opportunism at every turn. What a shame! Good write up.

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