There arose a fatal scheduling conflict that enabled Saraki, a strategic thinker and schemer with a long antennae, to beat the APC apparatchik in the political game of jiggery-pokery.
Since May 2015, there has been a mortal war of wills between Dr. Bukola Saraki and the All Progressives Congress (APC) machine. By a fortuitous set of circumstances, internal and external, the APC coasted home in the 2015 presidential election with a roaring victory, which surprised many, including the APC itself.
Rather than hit the ground running, the party fell into a deep slumber, unable to share all the spoils of war within the two-month interval available to it after the elections. On a date scheduled for the inauguration of the National Assembly, the party stumbled out of bed, rubbed its eyes lethargically and asked the newly elected President to come over and sort out the long overdue matter of house-keeping somewhere in town. There arose a fatal scheduling conflict that enabled Saraki, a strategic thinker and schemer with a long antennae, to beat the APC apparatchik in the political game of jiggery-pokery. Saraki got elected Senate President and, in an unparalled and unprecedented conspiratorial perfidy, someone from the opposition party, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, nicked the Deputy Senate President’s position. From that day onwards, the party, having been defrocked and deprived of that share of the spoils of war, had declared that the ascension to the throne of the Senate by those whose names were not in the party’s book of life was tantamount to mortal sin by showing the world that their party was far from supreme. The buzz words were “party supremacy” but those who had ascended the offices by the gift of supreme cunning knew that possession was nine points of the law. They sat tight and consolidated their hold on power by the deft distribution of committee chairmanship and mouth-watering perks, seen and unseen, to fawning loyalists. The party chairman, Mr. John Odigie-Oyegun, and his co-travellers who had been bludgeoned into stupor refused to accept defeat. But they had no means of reversing the defeat and had no nerve to accept it. They merely put on display a marathon of empty sabre-rattling while the power-holders tightened their grip on its levers.
Unable to accept the shame of defeat and the truculence that enveloped it, the party titans turned the screws on Saraki and asked the police to find out by what magic he had acquired the chair on which he sat. The police found nothing with which to knock Saraki and his team off their chairs because there was really nothing to find. Political witch hunt is an art in which Nigerians are past masters. They have excelled in it through repeated exercise using various bags of tricks. When one trick fails, they adopt another. So, it suddenly occurred to them that Saraki may not have filled his asset declaration form without getting his comas and fullstops wrong. Bright idea. So, they dragged him to the Code of Conduct Tribunal to account for his stewardship when he was the governor of Kwara State many, many years ago. The judge thought the best way to humiliate the number three citizen of Nigeria was to put him in the dock marked “Accused Box.” The Senate, in an undisguised measure of revenge, also tried its own trick to humiliate or browbeat the judge by asking him to appear before them. The public could see through the trick and shot it down with a hunderous NO. The case ended in victory at the tribunal for Saraki. The government appealed against the judgement. The Supreme Court gave its verdict a few weeks ago. Saraki won, his traducers lost.
To roll back the tape, it is important to remember that Saraki’s wife, Toyin, had been invited by the EFCC much earlier in this political drama to answer some questions. She must have answered the questions satisfactorily or a few photo opportunities she had with the President’s wife, Aisha, may have worked in her favour. Whatever was the case, she was never invited again by the EFCC. But they did not keep their eyes off the ball, the real McCoy, Saraki.
After winning his case at the Supreme Court, Saraki was smelling like someone who had just stepped out of a perfumery. Those who shunned him before and thought that a Black Maria was waiting to take him to prison were eager to eat out of his hand. Even President Muhammadu Buhari brought himself to deliver a congratulatory message to him. But Saraki, who has said umpteen times that he is being persecuted because he became the Senate President against the wishes of some powerful people, was not fooled by Buhari’s message and smiles.
Nor is he entirely surprised by the Offa robbery issue because he knows as much as the rest of us that the robbery issue is a continuation of the dirty political war by other means. Throughout his trial, he of humiliation, and the fact that he was walking the knife-edge of danger. But the robbery issue is truly the heaviest artillery aimed at his heart. He understands the game though and has put it as succinctly as possible: “The plot aimed at compelling me and my associates to stay in a party where members are criminalised without a just cause, where injustice is perpetrated at the highest level and where there is no respect for constitutionalism is an exercise in futility and it will fail.”
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He spoke with harsh candour.
It is a shame that in the pursuit of political revanchism our politicians or their paid servants are willing and ready to bring a leader of one of the arms of government to disrepute and the country into opprobrium. It is doubtful, highly doubtful, that anyone in his right senses would even remotely link Saraki with a conspiracy to rob a bank. His illustrious father, Dr. Olusola Saraki, owned a bank. He, the rich man’s son, worked in the bank, ran Kwara State for eight years as its governor and has been a ranking Senator who has now clinched the top job at the Senate. In Nigeria, there is no governor who can be poor after serving in that office for eight years. Our system is opaque, the more you look the less you see. No one is asked to account for the humongous security votes that are approved for state governors every year. So, by what stretch of the imagination would a man who has held a couple of positions where money can be minted seek to do business with armed robbers? In any case, it is doubtful that even if Saraki is an extremely greedy man he would throw his touted presidential ambition into the dustbin. I doubt whether a man of his caliber would throw everything he has worked for in the trash can. The police may believe or be made to believe anything cynical about anybody but the public thinks this accusation is certainly apocryphal. No matter how much they try, the police will find it difficult to pin this robbery issue firmly on Saraki’s agbada. It just doesn’t wash.
The words of the Director of Public Prosecution, Mr. U.E. Mohammed, are germane in this matter. He says he has not been able to establish a nexus between Saraki and the robbery suspects: “For the Senate President and the Kwara State Governor, this office is unable to establish from the evidence in the interim report a nexus between the alleged offences and the suspects. Hence it is our advice that further and thorough investigation in this regard be carried out.”
After the operation of Tuesday last week, where the police blocked Saraki’s and Ekweremadu’s residences, it is crystal clear that public sympathy rests with them. It is also obvious that the entire purpose of the operation was to prevent the National Assembly from sitting that day, since it was clear that some members were likely to defect. But the drama did not play out the way the police and their ogas at the top wanted. Saraki’s inner warning systems had gone off speedily and he was able to beat the police trap and to conduct the day’s proceedings at the Senate. As the names of the defectors were read at both the Senate and House of Representatives it was obvious that the political landscape had tilted and rattled on its axis. The tension, which had been steadily building up over the years and months, had now reached a flashpoint. A creeping uneasiness had set in. Saraki and his opponents had now reached an irreversible moment of no return.
All along, Saraki’s opponents had thought that a stick was all the tool they needed to whip him into line. They forgot the carrot until now. From what we hear, the package consists of an automatic nomination and election as Senate President, while some juicy oil blocks are to be thrown into the bargain. His opponents have suddenly remembered that they can actually catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. But it is obvious that it is too little too late. The anger has been allowed to hang in the air like an invisible dagger for too long. Saraki’s eyes and those of his traducers may not have traded strings of malevolence but it was there. The need to play with dexterity the game of political pretence, which masked the real feelings in the long-drawn political push-pull, did the trick. Now the gloves are off and the punches are flying. Each side is playing hardball now.
Saraki, the strongman of Kwara politics, is gone. So is Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, who is being named also as a co-conspirator in the Offa robbery incident. Why would a governor whose responsibility it is to maintain law and order in a state under his watch be the one to disrupt it when he can conveniently have access to the state’s resources if he wants. This sounds like a joke taken too far. But at the end of the day, when this bogus balloon is punctured, the truth will sprint out.
The defections have only gone to confirm that most Nigerian politicians have no principles whatsoever. They can belong to any party once it offers them the opportunity to realise their ambitions. This is because there are no ideological differences between the parties. So, APC is the reverse side of PDP and vice versa. That is why it is easy for the members of each party to simply stroll across the aisle to the other side without any qualms.
However, the major advantage for the nation in the defections from APC to PDP is the opportunity for reducing the gap between the government party and the opposition. If we have a stronger opposi- tion, we have a chance of building a strong two-party system, which will be a bulwark against oppression and tyranny.