Why I am being ‘persecuted’ – Saraki
Senate President Bukola Saraki has said that his refusal to back a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket on the platform of the All Progressives Congress was the chief reason behind his ongoing trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
Saraki is currently standing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal on alleged false declaration of assets when he was the governor of Kwara State.
In a reply to an open letter addressed to him by the publisher of Ovation, Dele Momodu, Saraki said that his ‘offence’ was not that he emerged as senate president against the wish of his party’s leaders.
“Most people talk about the Senate Presidency position, but this was not my only offence. I have also been accused of helping to frustrate some people’s opportunity to emerge as President Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate. But I have no problem with anybody,” he said.
“My concern was that it would not be politically smart of us to run with a Muslim-Muslim ticket. I doubt if we would have won the election if we had done this, especially after the PDP had successfully framed us a Muslim party.
“I felt we were no longer in 1993. Perhaps, more than ever before, Nigerians are more sensitive to issues of religious balancing. This, my brother, was my original sin. What they say to themselves, among other things, was that if he could conspire against our ambition, then he must not realise his own ambition as well.”
Further in the reply, the Senate President said while he did not expect to be shielded from prosecution by APC because of his contribution to the party, if there was genuine basis for such action to be taken against him, he said he had “reason to expect not to be persecuted by the party that I contributed so much to build.”
“The New PDP may not have given APC victory in 2015, but it was an important factor in the dynamics that produced that victory. And with all sense of modesty, I was an important factor in the formation of New PDP; in leading that group to the APC; in ensuring our group’s support for the candidate during the primaries and in mobilising substantial resources for the election.
“For these, I have not expected any special compensation. Rather, I only expect to be treated like every loyal party member and accorded the right to freely aspire!”
Saraki also debunked rumours that he struck a deal with senators elected on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in order for him to emerge as the senate president.
“I did not have to because even before the PDP Senators as a group took the decision to support my candidature on the eve of the inauguration of the 8th Senate, 22 PDP Senators had already written a letter supporting me,” he said.
He further said that those that made it possible for PDP to claim the deputy senate president position were those who decided to hold a meeting with APC senators elsewhere at the time they ought to be in the chambers.
“What the PDP Senators did was to take advantage of their numerical strength at the material time. They simply lined up behind Senator Ike Ikweremadu while those of us from APC voted for Senator Ali Ndume. It was a game of numbers, and we were hopelessly outnumbered. If the PDP had nominated their own candidate for the Senate Presidency position that day, they would have won. It was as simple as that.”
With regards to senators following him to the CCT, Saraki explained that the lawmakers did so out of their belief in certain principles.
“The Senators have freely accompanied me to the Tribunal not because they are loyal to me as Abubakar Bukola Saraki, but because they are committed to the principle that produced me as the President of the Senate,” he said.
“The same principle that produced Ike Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President and produced Ali Ndume as Majority Leader. They see all of us in the Senate leadership as manifestation of their jealously guarded right to freely choose their own leaders. Because they know they made us their leaders without any external interference; they are confident that they retain the power to remove us whenever they so wish.
“They also know what this trial is all about. They believe I am being victimized because they have expressed their right to choose their own leadership. This is why I am not in any way perturbed by my absence in the chambers during this trial. Because I was not imposed on the Senate, I feel confident that the Senate will protect its own choice whether I am present or not. It is never about me.
“It is about the independence of the legislature. It has always been so since 1999. It is so today and it would be so in 2019, it would be so in 2023, and as long as we practice a democracy that operates on the principle of separation of powers.”