In less than a month from now, Dr. Bukola Saraki will take a bow from the Senate as its president after a tortuous and eventful four-year reign. And unless the expected happens, Saraki may not be too visible in the Nigerian power equation both in his home state of Kwara and at the national level, writes CHARLES AIDOGHIE
As the 8th National Assembly winds down in few days time, one person who will continue to dominate discussion is its chairman and Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
Regardless of how one views the scenario, the National Assembly, especially the senate under Saraki has made some laudable contributions to the over all task of strengthening Nigeria’s democracy especially in the areas of enacting laws that will help fortify our democratic institutions. Indeed, the Saraki leadership of the 8th NationalAssembly will form topic of discussion for years to come.
Wherever the pendulum swings, whether for good or bad, Saraki will certainly not be entirely out of the public glare as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) led by Ibrahim Magu has another arrangement for him.
Going by the latest investigation of the outgoing Senate president by the anti-graft agency, it is very clear that the powers that be may not have forgiven Saraki for jumping the gun to emerge the president of the 8th Senate in 2015.
Of all the battles he had fought against the All Progressives Congress (APC), his colleagues in the National Assembly, the Presidency and some powerful politicians, Saraki seems to be heading for the fiercest or toughest war in his political life. This time, it is against EFCC.
Many political pundits had predicted this war but never expected it to be too soon. And Magu seems not to be pretending about it even though he uses the anti-corruption cloak as a cover. Many Nigerians know the cause of this looming battle. It is all about revenge. Like one of Nigeria’s popular artistes sang, it is a case of “do me and I do you, God no go vex.”
When President Muhmmadu Buhari sought the Senate confirmation of Magu as the EFCC boss, the Senate collectively declined citing security report from the Department of State Services (DSS), which in civilised climes it was the proper thing to do. But not so in Nigeria.
So, very soon, Saraki would be out of power and there are fears that he could leave the country and possibly be off the hook like Diezani Aliso- Madueke and Magu will not get his pound of flesh from this arch-enemy who stopped his confirmation as the substantive EFCC boss. To every discerning Nigerian, this is the basis for the fresh investigation of Saraki and the occupation, seizure and takeover of his property in Lagos.
The second basis for the epic legal battle that will result from saraki’s probeis the quest for the enthronement of the new leaders of the National Assembly. As he did in 2015, there are fears that Saraki could play the spoiler’s role again.
Is Saraki corrupt? The courts have so far cleared him in all previous trials. And unless arraigned and convicted in the impending trial, Saraki remains innocent.
His fate from all indication may not be different from that of former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose. The outgoing Senate president may be promptly arrested by the EFCC. This is what awaits Saraki before or soon after the inauguration of the 9th Senate.
The stage for the looming arrest and trial of Saraki was set recently when the captain of the Lagos politics football team accused him of sabotaging the current administration. Even though Saraki fought back with facts, the ground for his arrest and trial has been well-oiled for the EFFC to latch on.
So, what does EFCC and Magu want from the outgoing Senate president? It is one question that may generate several answers, depending on who is responding and his or her position in the seemingly skewed anti-corruption crusade of the federal government.
There are speculations that Magu is acting on the instruction of some persons in the corridors of power, to bring down Saraki and silence him both now and in the future. In the same manner, there are fears that the EFCC by its current chase of Saraki may rubbish the anti-graft efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari because there are people worse than Saraki in the incumbent administration.
The critics of the present action of Magu easily ask while the likes of the APC chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, are still in power when a case of corruption has been filed against him with pleas on EFCC to act. But the commission has choosen to look the other way. Questions are also asked why with all the petitions the Rivers State government has written to the EFCC based on the reports of commissions of enquiry, nothing has happened to Governor Nyesom Wike’s predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi. More disturbing is the way the trial of senator-elect, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, has suddenly gone epileptic or taken a snail-speed because he joined the APC.
The same questions are asked over what the EFCC is doing with its now-rested probe of Senator Godswill Akpabio over alleged N100billion fraud before he defected to the APC. Nigerians are further disturbed that the likes of the minister of communication, Adebayo Shittu, is still walking free and remains in power when he jumped the one-year mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Shittu’s media aide, who parted ways with him over the non-payment his allowances took him to the cleaner over his overnight stupendous wealth and ownership of choice property in Abuja. The minister only threw back feeble punches that he acquired them with bank loans in so short a time. Yet the EFCC did nothing.
Therefore, it is high time Nigerians began to differentiate between real issues and politically-motivated intimidation of Nigerians by security agencies either working on instructions or simply acting to please their employers or even themselves.
While in the real sense of it, security agencies should work independently and apolitically, observers need no further clarifications to conclude that some agencies are openly selective in their dispensation of justice. The EFCC must particularly save the country from the embarrassment arising from its seemingly calculated attacks on perceived political opponents of the incumbent administration.
The curious fixation on Saraki by some security outfits in Nigeria calls for caution in that if not addressed, these security personnel only act more as attack dogs of some persons in the executive instead of operating professionally in the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians amid the burgeoning national security challenges.
Watchers of the Nigerian political landscape are not oblivious of the fact that Saraki has been through many orchestrated travails, which discerning minds are aware were targeted at silencing him as he was considered anti-Buhari, anti-APC and its national leadership after he emerged Senate president without the ruling party’s approval.
From September 22, 2015 when Saraki’s trial began at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over false assets’ declaration until when the Supreme Court on July 6 affirmed the June 2017 decision of the CCT, which ruled that the prosecution failed to prove the case against the Senate president, he never knew peace because in the belief of his foes in the APC, he had also murdered peace.
In fact, when Oshiomhole became the APC chairman, he carried on as if his sole mission was to remove Saraki from office. Without hiding his ambition, Oshiomhole at a point declared that “Saraki will fall this week.” That week eventually came and passed, and Saraki was not impeached by the Senate.
The Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson-led Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja had struck out 15 of the 18-counts amended charges of false assets’ declaration brought against the Senate president by the federal government and ordered the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to conduct a fresh trial on three of them The remaining charges were eventually struck out, exonerating and vindicating the former Kwara State governor, who sustained his argument that his trial was politically-motivated.
Celebrating his legal victory then, Saraki said that “God has vindicated me today before the judgment of man, and I am most thankful and humbled at His grace and infinite mercies.”
That, however, was not the end of his travail as the forces regrouped and implicated him with the deadly Offa bank robbery of April 5, 2018 where 32 persons were killed, including a pregnant woman and nine police officers.
Not much can be said of that case because it is still ongoing in court, but Saraki has maintained his innocence. Suddenly, the prime suspect in the incident died in police custody, adding another curiosity to the matter.
No doubt, the relationship between the executive and the National Assembly under Saraki remains very strained; it will not change because the time is over. We are now in the injury time. There is no room for Saraki to mend fences. In fact, there is no fence to mend because it has been broken.
One of such sad episodes of the no-love-lost relationship between the executive and the legislature was when masked men of the Department of State Services (DSS) took over the National Assembly and prevented the lawmakers and journalists from gaining access into their chambers.
That event of August 7, 2018 was due to the fact that Saraki had summoned an emergency meeting to discuss issues which included the massive defection that affected the ruling APC, majorly the rumour of plans to impeach the Senate president and the pending 2019 general elections supplementary budget, among others.
Shocked by the development, the then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) directed the sack of the director-general of DSS, Lawal Musa Daura, with immediate effect. Again Saraki survived.
Even after being dislodged from the politics of his home state of Kwara and the National Assembly, it appears that his enemies still feel that he can influence the emergence of the leadership of 9th Assembly.
His associates believe that this is why the EFCC has also gone after him. Only time will tell.
After concluding that the APC had taken over the National Assembly and does not need the opposition to remain in charge, Oshiomhole has suddenly seen the hand writing on the wall that the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly cannot be imposed. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Saraki are now dreaded and have become targets.
Reliable sources close to Saraki have said that the politically savvy of the outgoing Senate president has something up his sleeves in the build-up to the election of his successor while on the other hand the APC at every level is itching to take absolute control of the next Assembly. It is the more reason Saraki must be silenced and that is exactly what is playing out and the lawmakers are aware of it.
The EFCC, in a letter signed by its zonal head, Isyaku Sharu, noted that it has commenced fresh investigation to probe all salaries, allowances, estacodes, and payments Saraki received as governor from 2003 to 2011. The curious probe is coming a few days after the International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) named Saraki as its “Ambassador-at-Large”, and eight years after he left office as governor of Kwara State.
The notification contained in a letter to the state government, through the permanent secretary, Government House, dated April 26, was titled: “Investigation Activities: Dr. Bukola Saraki.”
Isyaku wrote in the letter that: “In view of the above, you are kindly requested to furnish us with the full details of all his entitlements to include but not limited to emoluments, allowances, estacodes, other fringe benefits and severance package while he held sway as the executive governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
“This request is made pursuant to Section 38 (1) & (2) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004 and Section 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.”
This latest move is welcomed provided that it is not another attempt to rubbish the Senate president before the international community and also destabilise the leadership of the 8th Assembly at the tail end of their tenure and render Saraki irrelevant in the emerging succession battle. There is no sane Nigerian that will not support the EFCC on this matter, but the impartiality of the commission is the concern of everybody.
Magu is therefore admonished not to throw caution to the wind as goes about his business of probing Saraki’s salaries, allowances and estacodes. He must have it at the back of his mind that people in other parts of the world are watching the activities of his commission.
The advice to Magu and the EFCC is that they must work to convince Nigerians, who consider the outfit as an attack dog against perceived political opponents of the present administration.`
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