Nigeria political scene is gradually changing. ‘Change’ is the mantra now as the new ruling party will like us to believe. We live in an interesting time and we can not but wait and see the new direction the present political pendulum will swing. Looking at the composition of All Progressive Congress(APC), the ruling party, we can see it is a conglomeration of different and diverse audience from many shades of life. There is the crowd from the three minority political parties coming together: ACN led by its chieftain, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, there is ANPP and there is CNPP led by the present incumbent Nigeria President, Muhammad Buhari. Then there is a crop of former ruling party members( PDP) like Senator Bukola Saraki and Co who joined the coalition just to wrest power from the then ruling party.
Though there was a common goal when the APC relationship was initiated/sealed but we can not but noticed the individuals desire to be relevant in the scheme of things. There was an open agreement with effect to the party’s will to remain binding on all but we also know many of the leaders of the various groups’ wishes were not buried. If at any thing at all, individual’s will, desire was just like a smoke covered with a see-through clothe.
We do know at a point, water and oil will find their levels. From the Presidential’s Primary election within the party, some contenders refused to step down for a ‘supposedly joint’ agreement to present a candidate. This led to many intrigues and permutations. Some lost money and desire to be the preferred candidate of the party for the number one job. We also heard, someone said he stepped down to position for 2019. But to achieve this, the individual planned to secure a ‘big position’ that will guarantee his being relevant throughout the tenure of the party’s Presidential candidate if he eventually wins the election.
Well with the outcome of the party’s primary and little ‘ego nurturing’ some accepted the people’s verdict and moved on. But we were not kept in the dark then that when opportunity present itself in the future, there will be few party members who will show the party their weights. Whaterever that means and represents.Nigeria’s 2015 General election came and gone and many were elected on the new wave of change into different political offices.
As soon as the dust settled, the scheme became pronounced as key National Assembly positions were supposed to be shared. The party ‘ supposedly’ had a position and sharing formula while few individuals believed National Assembly position should not be an affair of the party. Senator Saraki through the help of his former colleagues in the upper chamber as well as his former party(PDP) members was able to pull a string and won the Senate President’ election in constanation to what the ruling party, which he now belongs to, desired.
The same happened in the House of Representatives. But unlike what happened in the House of Representatives where the new Speaker quickly retraced’ his step and allowed some wishes of the party to come to pass, Senator Saraki ‘ s dilemma was the alleged promise he had made to senators who helped him to pull the wool on his party’s face. He had to flow with his personal agreed terms. If he indeed actually made any promise.
With this, there was an indication that ‘things had fallen apart and the centre can no longer hold’ tactically speaking. Though it was on record that the Presidency said it was ready to work with the leadership of the new 8th National Assembly. Today, we can say the situation of Senator Bukola Saraki is like the proverbial ‘hen that lands on the rope’. People say there may be no peace for the hen and the rope. The above background is essential for better understanding of the present trial.
Coming back to the issue of trial. About a month ago, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission invited the wife of the new Senate President, Mrs.Toyin Saraki, for a chat on some allegations. From what we gathered, the level of allegations were grave.These involved events that happened when Senator Bukola Saraki was the Governor of his home State. It also included his alleged financial relationship with a failed Bank in Nigeria. Before Nigeria woke up to a new dawn, there were issues bothering on alleged false declaration of asset to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) by Senator Bukola Saraki while he was Governor..
This led to the invitation of Senator Bukola Saraki’s by Code of Conducts Tribunal, a body charged with ‘judicial’ power to ‘investigate and sanction’ offenders. There had been a legal tussle on the use of the words in inverted comma. We can only wait to see the outcome of the debate also. With this invitation, the referred Senator Saraki approached another court to stop the proceeding of the code of conduct tribunal and he refused to show up on the first invitation citing the authority of code of conduct bureau to assume a judicial position it has no right to among other salient issues.
The issue of this legal battle had thrown up lot of theories in our policy discourse in Nigeria.A school of thought believed Senator Bukola Saraki is being ‘witch- hunted’ because of his refusal to submit to the overall party position. In fact at the hearing yesterday Senator Bukola Saraki did not mince words whe he declared openly ‘All this is happening because I am the Senate President’.Those who believe in this theory say the position of the Senate President should not be ‘put to shame’ as the occupant should not be seen in the dock. They also agreed that the alleged offences were as old as ten to thirteen years, why did Code of Conduct Tribunal wait till now before raising a foul play?.
Some also said even if the Nigeria President has no hand in this trial, as the Presidency had come out to say it is a judicial matter, why is the body language of the President pointing to the contrary?. Those who hold this position also claimed there are varied issues of corruption that are being overlooked. In fact it was pointed out that there are other grievous cases, accusations which should be pursued. They claimed there are about eighteen thousands allegations(??) before code of conduct bureau, why is it that the case of Senator Bukola Saraki is being singled out now by Code of conduct Tribunal?
This group also believe there is always a political solution to this trial if everyone involved is ready to follow that part. While this argument is tenable, we also need to see the issue from another point of view. As much as the ‘Senate Presidency Office’ is a great position, it is on record that Senator Bukola Saraki will not be the first in this kind of ‘show’. People say a former Senate President had gone through other forms of ‘alleged’ cases while in office during President Obasanjo’s tenure and no one saw any ‘political witch hunting’ in It.
Another argument was the fact that many of the people who say Senator Bukola Saraki is being witch hunted, especially members of present opposition party (PDP) had already asked the President to balance his anti-corruption crusade by balancing his act through putting a search light in his own party members whom they claimed are equally corrupt.
Now what do they want the President to do just because Senator Saraki is a member of the President’s party? We should also not forget that the initiator of these alleged offences of Senator Bukola Saraki is someone from his former political party -PDP. This so called ‘accuser’ hails from the Senator’s home state. But some had quickly puncture this argument by saying ‘ it is the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob’
Also Nigerians had been shouting for change and the urgent need to ‘kill’ corruption at the public places by making anyone occupying any leadership position in Nigeria with corruption tendency a scape goat. For some, this trial if pursued to logical conclusiin will show the new regime is serious.
So for those who believe in this position, Senator Bukola Saraki is just a coincidence and not a case of witch hunting. The opposing view had also held, why will Senator Bukola Saraki’s case be a coincidence? They claimed there are several hand writings on the wall which point to the contrary and why not allow ‘sleeping dog of over a decade be?
Those who believe there is no conspiracy or witch-hunting in the alleged offences against Nigeria Senate President did say all the allegations point to one thing – personal integrity. The question then is: did Senator Bukola Saraki actually committed the alleged offences? If not why the legal battle as it is a question of yes or no. Opposing party had said the answer is not that simple as yes or nay require fuller explanation.
Also, the anti- conspiracy group also said if Senator Bukola Saraki did not commit the offence as he had pleaded not guilty, why the rush to the Federal high court to stop the proceeding of the Code of Conduct Tribunal when the case had not been heard? When Senator Bukola Saraki eventually appeared before the Code of Conduct Tribunal after five days of back and forth, he told the Chairman of the Code of conduct Tribunal that he was just seeing the charges against him for the first time. Meanwhile he had gone to the Federal High Court to challenge the hearing. These and many others made the anti- witch hunting/ conspiracy theorist look smart.
The matter is now in both court of Public opinion and established court, we can only wait to see what the outcome of these theories will look like and what the court will say about these alleged offenses. Senator Bukola Saraki has pleaded not guilty and he will remain a free person until the Court says otherwise. We have no reason to claim the court can neither say yes nor no.