Possible Repercussions Of Saraki’s
VARIOUS scenarios would definitely play out in the days to come about the current travails of President of Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, over his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Could it be that the intendment of the trial is to make the Senate President as a living example of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption design? Against the backdrop of Saraki’s preambles before taking his plea at the CCT, can the tribunal convict and imprison him? Is there any plausible hint that there could be a plan to dispense the matter as soon as possible, so that Buhari’s presidency could harvest that as a low hanging fruit of his anti-corruption thrust?
The CCT fixed the trial to hold consecutively from October 21 through 23, 2015. A record three days of legal pugilism. When the President of Senate stated that he was hearing about the charges against him for the first time, he seemed to be carried away by the spirit of the letter, more than underlying reasons in the interpretation of the law. How far the CCT trial would go by abiding with the laid down processes would tell to what extent Nigerians are ready to practice democracy.
Unfortunately, the climate of hate and division that trailed the recent general election is still prevalent among citizens. It would amount to arrogance, if what Saraki was suggesting was that ‘he ought to have been invited and briefed by the CCB in his capacity as the Senate president.’ He said, “I am the Senate President and I have respect for the rule of law. Mr. Chairman, I observed that they have made reference to the good work the Senate has done in the administration of criminal justice. If there is an allegation of false declaration of assets, the Code of Conduct Bureau shall refer the person involved to the tribunal after giving the person an opportunity to explain if the facts are true. But in this case, I was not given the opportunity.”
Even among lawyers nowadays, it is not easy to strike a meeting point on issues of interpretation and application of law. Whether their counterpart on the bench have grown or matured beyond such dissonance would be seen as the Saraki trial runs its full course. Perhaps, when the case drops off from the Supreme Court, it would be obvious whether the framers of the legal dictates in code of conduct intended better behaviour among public officers or a sort of ambush or trap to catch them.
Would the cause of justice been served if CCB had called the attention of the author of the depositions to the evident discrepancy or anticipatory assets declared. Does that failure to call Saraki’s attention to those slips provide a window of reasonable doubt against his trial? While the lawyers, as well as, politicians have a lot to learn from the present case, there is doubt that the trial would impact on the APC administration.
The immediate implication of the trial is that if President Buhari fails to release his list of ministerial nominees by September 30, APC may point to Saraki’s presidency of the Senate as cause. Plausible as that excuse may be, the failure may, in the light of the denial of a document titled ‘contract with Nigerians’ negate the President’s integrity quotient. Above all, the statement credited to the Lagos State spokesman of APC, Joe Igbokwe, would show that Saraki’s trial was indeed a witch-hunt.
Stating that the President of Senate brought the predicament on himself, Igbokwe, blamed Saraki for disrupting the wish of his party by conniving with ‘a gang of forty thieves’. The ominous tone of Igbokwe’s statement was his declaration that: “APC does not want Bukola Saraki as the Senate President and neither does APC want Ekweremadu as the Deputy Senate President. Saraki has caused enough implosions within the party. He has brought public opprobrium to the party, he has slowed down the Party’s machinery from taking off smoothly; he has portrayed us as a weak party. Now is the time for him to go. Saraki has no choice than to go otherwise he will have himself to blame. Again, if Bukola Saraki feels his hands are tightly glued to the exalted seat of the Senate Presidency and therefore cannot be removed, APC may be compelled to tear or cut his hands off, so that the National Assembly can move forward. No man is an island, and none can claim that he is the final word in APC.”
With such intemperate tantrums as Igbokwe has splashed on major national newspapers, it does not take rocket science to see the foul weather threatening the nation’s polity. ‘Cutting off Saraki’s hands’, as Igboke suggested may likely spew blood. In the attempt at ostracizing Saraki, APC may make things hard for president Buhari. It may serve the president’s purpose if the National Assembly goes asunder. But it is yet to be seen how far Mr. President could go in his solo throttle. Apart from ministerial screening, the 2016 appropriation bill is not subject to the whims of the executive, as it needs must pass through the NASS.
NOT much is known about those stoking the trial of Saraki. Political leaders in the north like Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso and Governor Nasiru el Rufai do not hide their obvious contempt for the Saraki Senate presidency. Incidentally Governor Rufai is named as one of the prosecution witnesses. In the ensuing political class war in the north, development would remain stunted in that region. Instead of the one north being broached, the region would further move apart as mutual suspicion and vendetta take centre stage.
One politician who has not made his views public in the current Saraki is former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Atiku may have found himself in the intricate mesh of power play among the emergent leaders from the north. Also, former President Olusegun Obasanjo is yet to ventilate his opinion. At least as the navigator of APC, though without a valid membership card, it is yet to be known where he stands in the travails of his aide. Could clearing the political highway towards 2019 be responsible Saraki’s trial? Knowing that President Buhari may not be as strong or enjoy similar support to serve as second term as president, could it be that both Kwankwaso and el Rufai want to keep the coast clear, knowing that with Saraki out of the way, it would be a herculean task for Atiku to pick the APC presidential ticket in 2019? Would the College of former State Governors allow Saraki to fall into disgrace? As the division among the various interest groups and cleavages continue, how far would the federal government go in pursuing its programmes?
ONE question that is yet to make headlines is whether President Buhari would intervene in the impasse. Most likely, there is precedence. When the wrangling over the majority leader position gained traction, Buhari moved out of his shell and intervened. So, when the dingdong over Saraki’s position gets to stalemate and governance is being affected, Buhari may be forced to intervene to break the deadlock. After all, moral suasion alone may not sway Saraki to resign even as impeachment seems very remote. It is the nature of Buhari’s intervention that would dictate how far his administration will go in delivering on its three-point agenda.
So far, the President has shown a poor adaptation to party politics. His continued aloofness in the political intrigues within APC may likely shift attention away from what the party can achieve together to considerations of where the road to political future leads.
The fallout of the present power struggle among APC strongmen would definitely affect the outcome of governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa, where the APC primary election brought about some tension and upheaval. APC has said that the president’s economic blueprint will be made clear when the economic management team is appointed. Chances are that the empanelling of that crucial team may take some time following the rush to resolve the Saraki trial and have a ‘stable’ Senate.
It is not yet known what Saraki’s legal team has up their sleeves. But going by the Senate President’s allusion to certain sections of the Code of Conduct Act, it is possible that should the legal team formulate a position, which only the Apex court could handle, the trail may suffer some delay not envisaged by the protagonists. The Eid el Kabir celebration provided parties with some time to strategize, but things may not definitely go as easy they seem in the three weeks leading to the trail of Dr. Saraki at the CCT. Commercial and economic activities would mirror the general feeling of suspense and apprehension. For now, a political solution seems not to be an option yet.