SUNDAY NARRATIVE: It’s APC That’s On Trial
Yes, Saraki has been summoned by the Code of Conduct Tribunal to answer to infractions pertaining to assets declaration. He will answer to the charges and so shall it be. But there is a larger canvass on which this particular matter rests, which is that the APC is finding it hard to get quickly organised. Every political system is work in progress, but participants must submit to that fact and make conscious attempts to move to the next page. The next page for the APC, after coalescing roughly and winning election, is to blend its disparate partners and surrender to one thought process. That is not happening and may not happen, because nobody is willing to surrender. They have a sore thumb, which virus had long spread to other parts of their system, but they are in a hurry to chop it off. Saraki, no doubt, is a sore thumb in the APC and they want to chop him off. Lest they forget, in Saraki’s place, many sore thumbs are waiting to germinate and this is what owners of the party are dancing around.
By the facts of its coming together as a coalition, the APC could not have prevented the coming on board of anyone, who had some capacity to inflict collateral damage on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Saraki, like the others who abandoned the PDP, were all very useful in achieving that task. But once the goal was achieved, the different platforms in the APC have become eager to return to their primordial constituencies. They did not put all the cards on table for transparent engagement and apportioning.
Let it be told that all those, who joined hands to make APC what it is today, did not come to offer free service. Saraki was doing well in the PDP; he benefited hugely from that party. He was governor for eight years and planted a protégé back in Kwara before going to Abuja, still on the platform of PDP. On a good day and with good conscience, he had no reason to despise the PDP, but he did. The APC was equally greedy and conscienceless not to envisage a payback time. Saraki decided to pay himself when he perceived the party had no equitable sharing formula to compensate his effort. This, according to him, is the reason why he was docked last week. And a number of outsiders agree with him, that using extraneous effort to hound and harass the ambitious politician contravenes natural justice. The man was of great use when the PDP was to be dismantled. At that time, nobody remembered that he had some dusty file at the CCB, but this has been resurrected, because he had compensated himself with the seat of Senate President. Assuming Saraki had lain very low in the background, very likely, his file would be deep down beneath the heap it had been consigned.
You do not pick and choose in a sincere war against corruption. The perception is that President Buhari’s anti-corruption war has started on a wrong note of vengeance. Though the Presidency has denied being responsible for Saraki’s travail, not many people are convinced. We have been regaled with tales of a cold war between PMB and Saraki since June 9. We are told that there is a stalemate in the relationship between the two men, and that the President gives the number three man some cold-shoulder. We are told that despite entreaties, Buhari does not want to engage Saraki now and does not have him booked in his schedules anytime soon. And some APC leaders and top commentators are happy about this.
I think Buhari needs a seasoned political adviser, someone who will lecture him on the spirit and culture of democracy. He should be told that democracy is about engagement and not cantonment rule, where senior officers sequester themselves from the rank and file. Saraki, whether by hook or crook, is Senate President, and until he is unmasked,, he does not need to beg to be engaged. The NASS is an institution of democracy and an arm of government; it is not an arm of APC and should not be dragged in the mud. If the APC was so disorganised not to assert its internal governance system, the deficit should not be spread on the entire country. We need a very strong and independent NASS, not some pliable and docile legislature.
Little wonder governance has been stagnant since May 29. The executive is carrying on as if the legislature is of no consequence, all because of Saraki. The executive is spending monies that the National Assembly is not aware of. The government is reluctant to engage the NASS on the crucial matter of sending a list of ministerial nominees to form a broad government and begin to brainstorm on challenges of governance, even as the economy maintains a slide into eventual recession. The Federal Government is yet to commence preliminary work on the 2016 appropriation, just because there is no economic team in place. Does that mean Nigeria will not move forward, because of Saraki?
Maybe a lesson on how the PDP dealt with similar issues in those trying years could be of help. After the PDP formed government in 1999, it had issues with forming leadership in the Senate. After former president Obasanjo had his way temporarily, senators planned their ‘coup’ and removed Evan Enwerem as Senate President. After Chuba Okadigbo came, it did not take long for members to be instigated to shove him aside. In those early years, it was a ding-dong between the Presidency and the NASS, but the legislature displayed great capacity to deal with and contain inordinate external influences. And in all of that, government was not brought to a halt. OBJ was masterful in dealing with the legislature; he engaged and at the same time, stoked mischief. He did not make himself aloof like some scorned, unforgiving and vengeful old hag. He danced with Mrs. Okadigbo on the eve of her husband’s ouster. That is realpolitik.
In the first place, the trouble in the NASS will not be this infectious if the President had displayed some initial political sagacity. He sent the wrong signals that he was not interested in the process of selecting the leadership. It became a free for all. So, whence come this cold-shoulder for the Senate leadership?
Lest we forget, there is a sizeable PDP membership in the Senate, which has to be engaged very robustly and respectfully, in the spirit of democracy. If care is not taken, that number will expand very soon, unless they leave Saraki alone. Not that the man should not be investigated, probed or jailed. No. But let the slow and sluggish grinding mill of justice take its due course, without let or hindrance. When justice comes naturally, no one can deny it. Even the offender will confess and beg for forgiveness.
To do otherwise could programme the APC for an irrecoverable plunge. Buhari as a person will not sorrow if the APC scatters. The man is close to retirement and has won a beautiful medal for himself. The toll will be on those who have invested time and resources to build one huge, but still incongruous party. The man could even afford to rip apart his membership card, like OBJ did to the PDP, after using and dumping that party. Let the real politicians seek wisdom in this delicate task to consolidate APC and democracy.
And the way to doing that is not to continue to spin ugly propaganda all over the place. When there is trouble in the house, stakeholders should gather in truth and sincerity and place the cards on the table. Now they say PDP senators are set to pick a new president, in the event that Saraki is thrown out. Saraki did not realise the political ambition of mounting the Senate presidency by being antagonistic to the opposition. He engaged and did not erect some iron curtain borders.
Finally, let APC know that it has sufficient enemies within to cause an implosion. But its pact with the people is its lifeline. Should it fail on that count, the crash will be faster and colossal.