From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Godwin Tsa and Fred Itua, Abuja
The Presidency and Dr. Bukola Saraki were yesterday locked in war of words.
The embattled Senate President fired the first salvo with his allegation that the administration of Muhammadu Buhari has been hijacked by powerful forces.
“What has become clear is that there is now a government within the government of President Buhari who has seized the apparatus of Executive powers to pursue their nefarious agenda,” he said in a statement he personally signed, shortly after the Federal Capital Territory High Court granted him bail.
He said if losing his personal freedom was the price he had to pay for not yielding to the nefarious agenda of a few individuals bent on undermining the nation’s democracy and destabilising the Federal Government to satisfy their selfish interests, “let the doors of jails be thrown open and I shall be a happy guest.”
But the presidency in a swift reaction dismissed the allegation as a product of a troubled sleep.
According to Mr. Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, to claim that Buhari was anybody’s stooge was not only ridiculous, but also preposterous.
“It is not in the character of our President,” the presidential spokesman said.
He added: “This claim by Senator Saraki would have been more worth the while, if it had been backed with more information. If he had proceeded to identify those who constitute the “government within the government,” it would have taken the issue beyond the realm of fiction and mere conjecture. But as it stands, the allegation is not even worth the paper on which it was written, as anybody can wake from a troubled sleep, and say anything.
“The Attorney-General of the Federation is the Chief Law Officer of the state. It is within his constitutional powers to determine who has infringed upon the law, and who has not. Pretending to carry an imaginary cross is mere obfuscation, if, indeed, a criminal act has been committed. But we leave the courts to judge.”
Saraki, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, immediate past Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa and the acting Clerk, Mr. Benedict Efeturi are facing charges for allegedly forging the Senate Standing Rules used on June 9, 2015 to conduct the election that brought Saraki and Ekweremadu to office as principal officers.
But Saraki described the trial as diversionary and accused the government of President Buhari of witch-hunt.
Saraki said in the statement: “In our view, the charges filed by the Attorney General represent a violation of the principle of the Separation of Powers between the Executive branch and the Legislative branch as enshrined in our Constitution. Furthermore, it is farcical to allege that a criminal act occurred during Senate procedural actions and the mere suggestion demonstrates a desperate overreach by the office of the Attorney General. These trumped up charges is only another phase in the relentless persecution of the leadership of the Senate.
“This misguided action by the Attorney General begs the question, how does this promote the public interest and benefit the nation? At a time when the whole of government should be working together to meet Nigeria’s many challenges, we are once again distracted by the Executive branch’s inability to move beyond a leadership election among Senate peers. It was not an election of Senate peers and Executive Branch participants.
“Over the past year, the Senate has worked to foster good relations with the Executive branch. It is in all of our collective interests to put aside divisions and get on with the nation’s business. We risk alienating and losing the support of the very people who have entrusted their national leaders to seek new and creative ways to promote a secure and prosperous Nigeria. As leaders and patriots, it is time to rise above partisanship and to move forward together.”
The embattled Senate President added: “This latest onslaught on the Legislature represents a clear and present danger to the democracy Nigerians fought hard to win and preserve. The suit filed on behalf of the Federal Government suggests that perhaps some forces in the Federal Republic have not fully embraced the fact that the Senate’s rules and procedures govern how the legislative body adjudicates and resolves its own disputes.
“Let it be abundantly clear, both as a citizen and as a foremost legislator, I will continue to rise above all the persecution and distraction that have been visited on me. In the words of Martin Luther King Junior, ‘the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at a time of challenge and controversy.’
“I will remain true and committed to the responsibilities that my citizenship and my office impose on me. Without doubt, the highest of those responsibilities is the steadfast refusal to surrender to the subversion of our democracy and the desecration of the Senate. This is a cross I am prepared to carry.”
Besides the current forgery suit, Saraki is facing another trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over claims that he under-declared his assets as governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.