Immediately he sat on the seat, his face twisted into a fearful grimace and the gleeful smile that heralded his emergence soon gave way to a wry expression. His face didn’t inspire confidence and political certainty. Fear was obviously written on his face and I had concluded that Senator Bukola Saraki might not survive for too long the palace ‘coup’ he staged against his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on his road to becoming the Senate president, a position, which made him the number three citizen in the country. Senator Ahmed Lawal was APC’s choice for the Senate President just as Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila was the party’s anointed for the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
While senators loyal to Lawal were waiting to attend a meeting with the president in which Saraki and his group were also being expected, the former Kwara State governor pulled a stunt. He was at the National Assembly complex where he was elected by 57 senators comprising mainly those elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a few ‘renegade’ APC senators. Saraki dug his heels in against his party’s directive despite been trailed by the police who invaded his residence and the National Assembly to ensure the game was played according to the dictate of the APC. For this act, in the opinion of some people, a disloyal party man like Saraki deserved to be thrown under a fast moving bus.
This raised the issue of political ethics -the practice of making moral judgements about political actions and political agents. There have been arguments about whether or not ethics has a place in politics. For political realists, ethics and politics are a parallel line, a view, which is anchored on the fact that politicians can only be effective if they are not bound by moral rules. Yet, some are of the opinion that we need not pay so much attention to politicians and policies but we should rather focus more on the larger society where more serious ethical problems are the issues. But promoters of political ethics opined that while structural injustice should not be ignored, too much emphasis should not be placed on them at the expense of human beings who are the agents responsible for structural injustice. I am somewhat ambivalent on the issue of political ethics. For me, it is neither here nor there.
But if I am compelled to choose, I will walk a fine line between politics and morality. On one hand, Saraki must have been emboldened by the Machiavellian philosophy of “the end justifies the means”, a philosophy that says a desired result is so good or important even if it’s morally bad as long as it achieves the aim of the user.
But on the other hand, President Muhammadu Buhari must have been propelled by his impressionistic view that a true democratshould allow the three arms of government to run independently. While this sounds good on paper, the reality is that our democracy is not ripe enough for a president or governor not to show interest in who becomes principal officers of the legislative arm.
This may not necessarily be because of the need to have rubber-stamp legislative arm but to ensure there is harmonious working relationship between the legislative and the executive especially if the head of the executive and the majority members of the legislature are of the same party as in the case of President Buhari and Senate President Saraki.
The APC is its own enemy. If there is opposition from the PDP in the National Assembly, it’s infinitesimal compared to the damages done by lawmakers who are from the APC and are in the majority. Most of the disagreements are largely driven by self and selfimportance. It is rarely about the Nigerian people who elected them. The president must have learnt a bitter lesson and if reelected in 2019, he will show more than a passing interest in those who emerge as leaders of the National Assembly.
Saraki is aggrieved. His grievances may be for right or wrong reasons depending on individuals’ perceptions. His coming hard on President Buhari-led government after the Supreme Court upheld the earlier judgement of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) that he had no case to answer on the allegation of false declaration of as sets, speaks volume about his grievances.
I have never believed in selective corruption fight or targeting of ‘perceived political opponents’ being mouthed by some to rubbish the Federal Government’s anti-corruption fight. It has never added up for me and it cannot be an alibi for those caught not to be tried. My quarrel has always been anti-graft agencies’ penchant for media trial and lack of diligent prosecution that leave courts with no other option but to free those standing trial for alleged corruption. It is sad when corrupt people are eventually freed because prosecution knowingly or unwittingly bungled cases.
Cases cannot be won on the pages of newspapers. And judges cannot adjudicate beyond what is presented before them, since they are not expected to act like Father Christmas. And if government targets only ‘perceived political opponents’ as often being insinuated by those standing trial and their supporters, my position is always that when another government comes on board, it should also prosecute those been shielded today when the opportunity arises.
Just like Saraki did, I expect those who have been accused of corruption to get clean bill of health from the court. And since individuals who are dissatisfied with judgements given by lower courts have the right to appeal up to the Supreme Court, I prefer that these opportunity are exploited first rather than insinuating that the judiciary is corrupt except there are evidences to back such claims. Old cases can also be revisited if there are fresh discoveries and for this, I disagreed with the Senate President who felt the declaration of asset form, which he filled over 15 years ago, should not have been revisited. For the Senate President, his case is like one day, one trouble.
Like I said in my column when Saraki’s name was mentioned in the deadly robbery attack in Offa, Kwara State, it’s practically impossible for either the Senate President or Kwara State Governor, Dr. Abulfattah Ahmed, to be involved in the sad incident. But whether the two political leaders have or had any relationship with any of those marauders is what I cannot tell until it is proven by a painstaking investigation devoid of bias and politics. I have also not changed my position that the governor and the Senate President ought to have used their influence to facilitate the provision of an Amoured Personnel Carrier in a town that had been attacked in the past by dare-devil robbers who left sorrow, tears and blood.
But in what turned out to be a mice and cat game between Saraki and the police, the Senate President has proven to be smarter. Of course, the Senate President cannot be too big to answer questions if the police have genuine reasons to questions him on critical issues such as the Offa robbery.
But by virtue of his position, he deserves some level of respect, which was what he got when the police asked him to put his response into writing instead of appearing before them as earlier directed. Even in law, there is room for self recognizance. Although there has been lull in the case of the Offa robbery in the last one month, fresh angles could have been unearthed by the police especially in such high profile case, which could have warranted questioning of those that had been quizzed in the past. But the manner of summoning Saraki and the blocking of the entrance of his residence and that of his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremandu, before the time given by the police for the former governor to appear lapsed was not a coincidence but a ploy laced with sinister motive. Interestingly, the Senate President beat the police to it by leaving the premises before they arrived.
The position of the police that policemen in the convoy of the Senate President actually blocked his entrance is just another lie from the pouch of an organisation that lacks modicum of reputation when it comes to telling the truth. For me, I won’t touch the police after-thought with a 100-foot pole.
It beggars belief that it has not occurred to the police that making Saraki look like a victim or an underdog will sway the pendulum of public sympathy in his favour and increase his popularity. It is yet to be seen how victimising Saraki will help the cause of a party that got depleted by losing some senators and House of Representatives members just a few day ago. As a firm believer in the rule of law, the law should take its course if it’s established that Saraki or any highly placed individual has a hand in the robbery incident. There is a world of difference between prosecution and persecution .
The police should be wary of desperation to have some people nailed in the robbery saga in order to score cheap political point. While they are concentrating on their investigation, they should leave politicians to play their political intrigues. For the police that have credibility problem, compounding it will further rubbish their image in the eyes of a majority who already see them as fiends rather than friends they claim they are.
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