Saraki: The sandwich of sinners
Long before June 9, 2015, when he became the President of Nigeria’s Eighth Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki had become a prominent political figure in Nigeria. Recall that he served in the President Olusegun Obasanjo presidency as Special Assistant and later headed back to his home state, Kwara, where he won the governorship election of 2003. Many believed that he was assisted in the victory by the towering political presence of his late father, Oloye, Sola Saraki, the former Leader of Nigeria’s Second Senate.
But when in 2011, eight years after serving out the constitutional limit of two terms as governor; Saraki contested and won election to the Kwara Central Senatorial seat; little did he know that events of the preceding eight years would rise as an albatross against his meteoric rise in the political ladder of the country.
Yet, having arrived in the senate, ABS, as he is fondly called, proved that the good education bequeathed to him by his parents was not evidenced by the degree certificate he obtained in Medicine alone. He touched on the essential issues of legislation and oversight. The lid on the injurious impact of the petroleum subsidy, on the nation’s economy, was lifted by the distinguished senator.
Recall also that in that same 2011, the former governor of Kwara State aspired to be president of this country. Recall also that he was sidelined during the search for a consensus candidate from the north to contest the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), flag with President Goodluck Jonathan.
Given that turn of political event, Saraki’s berth at the senate was seen as a consolation price for missing the presidential ticket. Although not many may still remember, it was the same Saraki that gave cohesive leadership to the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), until it turned into a rancorous political pressure group. He set a number of forward-looking agenda, particularly the peer review mechanism and periodic workshops, for state governors across party divides.
It is not those innovations and ideas that have put Saraki on the lips of most Nigerians and on front pages of national newspapers. It is not his return to the senate for a second term, either. The decision to contest the presidency of the senate, was what opened up the Kwara0born politician to the current travails.
When his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), was in the making, Saraki was a full-fledged member of the PDP. But as a man given to adventure, despite being well-heeled in the temperate traditions of British etiquette, Saraki sided with those who disdained the attempt by the PDP leadership to support the breach of the party’s gentleman’s agreement. So, Saraki migrated to the inchoate APC, to enjoy the fresh opportunities it promised and help in its augmentation.
Together with his newfound allies, he also helped to traduce their former party as being made up of selfish men, sinners and jokers. With vim and vigour, they campaigned and helped to dethrone their former party from its lofty perch. And victory was won.
Could it then be that the search for the quarry prevented APC buddies from recognizing that the new fold was peopled by those with freckles, spots and smear? Whatever, but from June 9, 2015, Saraki was found to have eaten the repast reserved for true-born. And from the lofty chair of the senate president, his ordeal began as he became game to the horde, whose chants have remained, away with him!
Thus, Senator Bukola Saraki’s trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for irregularities alleged to be contained in his assets declaration form, filed while he was governor of Kwara has many sides.
The tangle between the Senate, which president is on trial at the CCT and the CCT chairman, Umar, who was also investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), gained traction penultimate week after the Federal High Court ruled on the fundamental rights matter brought before it by Saraki.
Feeling that the mission to conclude action on the Saraki matter at CCT had suffered undue delays, Umar saw the latest court ruling as clearing the coast for him to tackle the Senate President on the 13 charges framed against him.
From the onset, the trial of Saraki at the CCT progressed from his historic emergence as president of the Eighth Senate and the standpoint of public perception that the CCT ordeal was intended to persecute him for contesting the senate leadership against the designs of his party’s big men.
However, many months of the ruffle and shuffle at the CCT, it seems that Nigeria’s economy and the citizens are also under trial at the CCT. Everybody has become involved. From the vociferous partisan political actor to the bitter opposition protesters; from beleaguered commuters engaged in daily battles to source the premium motor spirit to the housewife, who cannot understand the sudden change in the way cost of daily need items are going up the roof tops; everybody wants to know how the matter would end.
For Saraki, the long search for due process has been translated into a sort of guiltiness, while his prosecutors believe that they have a point to prove that this government is working at delivering at its mandate, notably the fight against corruption.
But narratives from the prosecution witness and progress of the trial on various episodes do not show that the case was a product of a new drive to instill institutional probity or curtail official corruption.
It so happened that instead of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), the prosecution witness belonged to the EFCC. Only the CCT chairman knows what to do when facts and law tangle in a confusing march.
The procedure being adopted is that of quick march. And it gives the indication that Saraki is being taken to Golgotha, where his head would be shaved of all political machinations. He seemed to have seen the signs a long time ago. And he cried out that it was just for the sake of the Senate presidency that he was being dragged about.
Now, that which he dreaded has started happening. The testimony of the prosecution witness may not hold much water after all, but the narrative reels out as if the main purpose is to name and shame.
By now Saraki should be engaged in heartfelt prayers, asking when the extra-territorial sitting would end. In fact he should be praying that the cup should pass over him and that his enemies and foes that came to eat him up should stumble and fall.
In his mind’s eye, he would be seeing the events of June 9, 2015 when he stealthily drove to the premises of the National Assembly and waited for the day’s business to begin. How he forced the crown of President of the Eighth Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on his head.
He would fast forward to the events of the screening of the ministerial screening, the budget padding and other less than smooth transactions from the presidency. And suddenly he would hear the echoes of the CCT chairman ordering his lawyer, “Sit down, sit down, I said sit down!”
Saraki would chew on Lawyer Oluyede’s words: “My Lord, we have a pending application asking you to excuse yourself from this matter” …. “My Lord I will not sit down, I have a right to be heard by this tribunal! It is our position that you have too many cloudy relationships with the EFCC that is why we are asking you to disqualify yourself from this case.”
All said and done, Senator Saraki should recognise that he has become like a sandwich for sinners. He should decide which way to go. While he maintains his innocence, the pressure on the Senate and the country have become emblematic of the power play among the various interest groups in his party.
To stay put and allow the trial full course appears his obvious choice. And just like he said in a recent statement, his original sin was sticking out his neck against the machinations of some power brokers to enthrone all Muslim candidates as presidential candidate and running mate of the party.
Having found out his sin, Saraki may have to either accept to plead mea culpa, which his stepping down would mean or allow the process to rubbish him and the system. The son of Oloye should also recall that he has other sins, including his defection from PDP, his ambition to be president, his fiscal assets and his politics. It may not be that easy, therefore to pinpoint the particular sin that is haunting him or for which is being hunted.
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