Saraki: Nigerians divided over calls for his resignation
• He Should Go • No, He Should Not
• ‘Why Sen. President Must Step Aside’
• Leader’s Trial Will Destroy APC, Warns Ex-Senator
With no signs of subsiding, arguments for and against the resignation of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, are growing louder, with more Nigerians coming out to take sides on the contentious issue.
Saraki is currently undergoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja, for alleged false declaration of assets. Several efforts by the Senate President to halt the trial have met legal brick walls, even as more allegations of massive corruption continue to emerge.
Urging Saraki to dig in and fight to the last are two former senators, Nosike Ikpo and Francis Spanner Okpozo.
Ikpo, a two-time senator in the Second Republic (Bendel East, now Delta North), said Saraki’s ordeal is the fallout of persecution by the All Progressives Congress (APC), which didn’t want him to be Senate President and is therefore seeking means to bring him down.
Warning that APC’s grouse with the Senate President has the capacity to destroy the party, Ikpo said: “I will not ask him to submit to the wishes of those who want to persecute him. I will tell him to keep fighting. He has not been found guilty. Some of his mates even said that he has a very good case as regards what they are accusing him of. We should watch and see when he starts his defence.
“The CCT should not correct Tinubu’s mistake with Saraki. The CCT admitted it made mistakes. If a mistake was made in the case of Senator Bola Tinubu, should you now correct it with Saraki? It is not right. They should have continued with the same mistake. APC is destroying itself by toying with the wonderful opportunity it has. Things are not going well for them. Things are bad in the country for everybody. If there is an election today, nobody will vote for them.”
On his part, Francis Okpozo (Delta South) also urged Saraki to “stay until the outcome of the case.” He described as premature calls for the Senate leader’s resignation when he has not been found guilty. “There is no way he can be forced out, and we should not pre-empt the court’s decision,” he added.
But former national chairman of Justice Party (JP), Chief Ralph Obioha, noted that the case against the Senate President is an indictment, hence “the honourable thing for him to do is step aside, pending the conclusion of his trial.”
He said: “Saraki cannot be sitting as head of the legislature, presiding over activities of those who may, one way or the other, have similar cases. Morally speaking, there is no justification for him to continue to hang on to power.
“A precedence has been set in this kind of circumstance. Evans Enwerem was Senate President, Chuba Okadigbo was Senate President, as well as Adolphus Wabara; they had different cases that touched on morality and they all quit their positions while their trial lasted. He can always reclaim his position when he successfully goes through his trial. I do not see it as a do or die thing. I believe it is even in his interest that he does not influence the process of the trial using his position.”
Former Chief Whip of the Senate and PDP chieftain, Roland Owie, also opposed calls for Saraki’s resignation, saying the Senate President’s ordeal is a clear case of persecution.
He said: “Saraki was governor from 2003 to 2011, elected to the Senate in 2011, and re-elected in 2015. What Nigerians need to ask the CCT is: was the CCT in detention between 2003 and June 2015, when Saraki became the Senate President?
“This is a clear case of persecution. Period! A Benin parable says, ‘a child who says his mother will not sleep won’t sleep either’. Since those fighting Saraki are just unhappy that he is Senate President, he must not resign until this case runs its full cycle to the Supreme Court.
“Agents of darkness did it to late Senator Chuba Okadigbo and Senator Adolphus Wabara. They stepped aside. And at the end of the day, when they got victory at the courts, it was too late to return as Senate Presidents. Saraki don’t resign until after the Supreme Court judgment!”
Agreeing that the better option could have been resignation, the Deputy National Secretary of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Jerry Obasi, thinks this is no longer tenable because according to him, the court has behaved like an interested party, going by alleged improper comments by the trial judge.
“In advanced societies, he should have quit until the matter is sorted out. But as it is, now, I can say the onus lies on him to resign or continue to stay in office. This is because there are certain interests that want to ensure he leaves office at all cost. Look at the outburst from the court, which is a clear indication that it has an interest it is protecting.
“I believe it is a trial on our democracy and if we must safeguard it, whatever is good should be done to make it work for us. I want to say that already many are seeing the matter as a controversial one. And that is why you cannot expressly ask the Senate President to resign and face his trial,” said Obasi.
Also backing calls for Saraki’s resignation is human rights activist, constitutional lawyer and APC chieftain in Cross River State, Chief Utum Eteng, who argued: “There have been too many controversies in his Senate Presidency, and in the face of all these, the best option is throw in the towel.”
On moral grounds, prominent lawyer, also in Cross River State, Mr. Etim Inyang, believes Saraki should step aside, as he has the burden of going to the tribunal daily. He, however, added that there is no legal premise to justify a resignation because the accused is still presumed innocent. “It is only when the court makes a pronouncement, and not even a pronouncement from the tribunal. There must be a final decision in court before he is said to be guilty or not,” Inyang noted.
Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba, described calls for Saraki’s resignation as ill conceived, stressing that the leader is still innocent.
According to him, “those calling for his resignation are merely exercising their constitutional rights. If you say he should resign, what if he finally wins the case at the CCT? What would follow?”
For Rivers State APC spokesman, Mr. Chris Finebone, however, the fall of the Senate President is only a matter of time, and his ordeal is self-inflicted.
“I am sure that everybody understands what played out, right from the very moment the National Assembly was inaugurated, and particularly the way the APC tried to take the interest of everybody into account. But in a twist of fate, it appeared some persons allowed their own personal interest to supersede that of the party. That has really put the party in jeopardy. We still feel bitter that the inordinate ambition of the present Senate President has put a lot of stumbling block on the path of the party and the Presidency,” he said.
The National Organising Secretary of Action for Democracy (AD), Abdallah Ibrahim, noted: “Saraki should come to terms with reality, resign and face his case.”
For public affairs analyst in Ogun State, Mr. Ola Roberts, the APC “should have thrown him out. He should have resigned and even resign from the political party or be forced to resign from the position by the party. I do not think I can find better words for what the senators are doing by following him to the trial, than say it is a show of shame.”
From Ilorin, home of the Senate President, APC chieftains, Ishola Balogun Fulani, Chief Wole Oke, and Yusuf Maja urged Saraki to continue in office, citing his innocence until convicted.
But Chief Iyiola Oyedepo, chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state and two human rights lawyers, Abeny Mohammed and Salman Jawondo, advised the leader to resign on moral grounds and preserve the integrity of the Senate.
According to Mohammed, “I am not saying he is guilty, but with quasi-criminal charges against him, he should not resign as a senator, but as the Senate President. I have seen sycophants at work. Because of what they think they are getting from the crisis, they are not telling him the truth. It is not morally sound for the Number Three citizen of this country to be put in the dock everyday.”
Former senator, Domingo Obende (APC), however, called for caution on the part of the party’s leadership and President Buhari.
Obende, who represented Edo North between 2012 and 2015, said: “The issue is already in court. The lawyers will have to look at it. I am of the view that the party is supreme in everything, but they must sit down together, the leadership of the party and the parties, and let there be serious discussions. And if there is going to be a soft landing, let it be. But whatever the party decides, that is what will take pre-eminence.”