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Saraki vs Idris: ‘You Tarka Me, I Daboh You’

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Politics have always had its fair share of colourful characters, especially in the First and Second Republics. After that, it seems the gaiety and oratory of politicking was taken out of latter day politicians. However, the thrills and frill of the past still linger, and once in a while we have happnestances that remind us of the flambouyant, even if controversial characters of the past. One of such dramatic characters was the Benue State born politician of the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC), then the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), and later a stalwart of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), late Chief Godwin Daboh Adzuana.

Daboh, whose first foray into politics was in 1957, was to etch himself on Nigeria’s political lexicon during the dying days of the regime of General Yakubu Gowon. Daboh’s kinsman, the legendary Joseph Tarka, who was Minister of Transport and then Communications, had called on Nigerians to report corrupt government officials as a way to stem the pervading corruption in the system.

Encouraged by the clarion call Daboh, who all along had been waiting for an opportunity to upend his political adversary, responded to the call and provided damning evidence against the Minister. Confronted by the weight of what Daboh brought, Tarka was forced to resign. It did not end there, Tarka also looked for eveidence to rubbish Daboh, and it eventually became like  tug-of-war between the two and following that, the phrase “If you Tarka me, I go Daboh you” was born.

According to several commentators at that time, Daboh’s move was not wholly altruistic or was it out of any sense of moral probity, rather it was to diminish Tarka and supplant himself as the real McCoy of Benue politics. As the altercation between Senate President Bukola Saraki and Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris assumed a naked market dance proportion, , allusions have been made to the bolekaja engagement of Tarka and Daboh, with both high officials of the administration of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress struggling to diminish each other.

The enduring thing about political dramas is that they tend to give impetus to the epigram of the French journalist and critic, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, who wrote; “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” to mean “the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”, usually translated as “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Several years after the fall of one of Nigeria’s great political godfather, Chief Samuel Taiwo Oredehin, some persons have said history is about repeating itself, with the alleged links of Saraki to the tragic Offa robbery incident.

For those who do not know, Oredehin was a political godfather as they come: rugged, heavily connected and a tactician. His company was that of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Abiodun Akerele, Ade Akinsanya, J. O. Adigun, S. O. Shonibare, Ayo Akinsanya, and Olatunji Dosunmu, all founders of the Action Group (AG). But Oredehin, as told by Olanrewaju Onigegewura in his engaging piece; A Political Heavyweight that Became A Robbery Kingpin, serves as a reminder that nothing is impossible in history repeating itself; although the Oredehin family still insist their patriarch was framed, and that the framers later apologized for the act .The fact remains, however, that the man was sent to jail for the allegation.

While there is a gulf of difference between what happened with Oredehin and what is happening with Saraki, they are people who are already demanding for the head of the Senate President  on a platter, based on the alleged ‘confessions’ of five of the 22 robbery suspects now standing trial in court.

The Saraki/Idris faceoff by all intents and purposes goes beyond the normal failure to honour one invitation or the other, it is simply a failure of a cohesive administrative mechanism and utter disregard for institutional framework.

This you invite me, you cannot invite me should be properly situated to avoid confusion. It is unfortunate that the both institutions, vital to good governance and welfare of the people, are caught in a crossfire of blame trading. One would have thought that given that the National Assembly oversights every segment of our national administrative architecture, and as the moral pedestal of the country owing to its lawmaking functions, it ought to have insisted that its members caught in one criminal allegation or the other honours police invitation.

But the failure of the senate leadership to make demands on lawmakers like Senate Dino Melaye to honour police invite has placed it in a tenuous to compel the IGP to appear before it. This is by no means saying that laws should not be followed because one bad precedence is not an excuse for another. It is on the strength of the fact that bad historical precedence are not followed that IGP Idris ought to have honoured one of the invitations by the senate and could even have requested for a closed door session. Without a doubt, it is not always that the affairs of government should be subjected to the strictures of the law.

Do we now say that because a judge delivers a bad judgment that the ruling of the Court should be disobeyed? That is invitation to anarchy. The insistence of the Senate not to take a different route to get the IGP honour its invitation is what has threatened to ridicule not just the Senate as an institution but the country as a whole – that its President could be linked to common, hardened criminals.

While it is abhorrent, to say the least, that Saraki could be associated with common criminals, some have pointed to Shakespeare’s observation long ago that “there is no art to read the mind’s construction on the face.” If it is true that one of the suspects wore the ‘aso ebi’ of Saraki’s daughter’s wedding, does it now mean that because a souvenir of a party is found in a criminal’s possession, the event’s host is an accessory to the crime? After all, it is a Tarka me, I daboh you roforofo.

That said, the police have a duty to ensure that criminals are not allowed to run riot, therefore little or no political interference should stand in their task of bringing closure to the Offa tragedy and any other criminal enterprise for that matter. But this also requires tact and circumspection.

While the brickbats continue, governance takes a back seat and our foreign friends hold us in contempt even when they pretend to care. To demonstrate how damaging the imbroglio between the Senate President and the Police chief has become, the U.S Envoy to Nigeria, Ambassador W. Stuart Symington, had to hold a private audience with Saraki to get clarity on the grave allegations of being linked with robbers.

Is it not about time that President Buhari wades into the arrogance of egos between the two institutions and call for a halt to the public drama not necessarily a discontinuation of investigations into the heinous robbery in Offa? The President cannot be perceived to be aloof to the theatrics of the matter which has left some to suggest mischievously that it serves his greater political interest ahead of the 2019 elections to keep his perceived traducers busy with battling one allegations or the other. But does this serve the greater good of democracy and the country? After all is said and done, what matters the most is that let justice be served, if the heavens fall, let it be!




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