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Saraki in his own stew

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By Ochereome Nnana

AREN’T you amused at this federal agency called Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB)? And the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for that matter? These two supposed anti-graft agencies can no longer hide the fact that they have become willing tools in the hands of politicians seeking to settle scores and consolidate their strong arm hold on power.

The EFCC grabbed Mrs. Toyin Saraki who ceased to be a governor’s wife EIGHT years ago! This happened a couple of days after her husband, Dr. Bukola Saraki, defied the All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders and emerged as the head of the eighth National Assembly in cahoots with senators from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); a political party which he used to govern Kwara State for eight years and later joined in flushing out of power. APC’s supreme leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, and his cat’s paw from the South West, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, felt humiliated and swore to settle his hash.

Bukola Saraki
Bukola Saraki

Tinubu’s newspapers and electronic media, including his online social media franchises, were mobilised to spew vitriol on Saraki and his House of Representatives neighbour, Speaker Yakubu Dogara. Recently, the anti-Dogara invectives have been toned down since he made his expensive “burnt sacrifice” of jettisoning his principled federal character formula for the sharing of House principal offices. He appeased Tinubu and Buhari by conceding the Majority Leader position to Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.

Saraki felt he could overlook or ignore Tinubu’s whining. After all, he too was a governor and the political godfather of his own state, Kwara, just as Tinubu was of Lagos. He even dismissed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as a “mere commissioner”. Indeed, Osinbajo was a commissioner in Tinubu’s cabinet in 2003 when he (Saraki) was Governor of Kwara State. Saraki, at a point, made feeble but ineffective efforts to raise his own media counter-forces.

Saraki did not reckon with the fact that Tinubu was not alone in the fight to bring him down. He did not expect President Buhari to be this serious in siding with Tinubu. After all, the president had pledged to work with whoever emerged as the leaders of the National Assembly. Buhari, who is reputed to be a man of his words, was not expected to turn around and lead the war to destroy Saraki.

Buhari started by simply ignoring Saraki and Dogara. Till date, the president has refused to meet with Saraki even perfunctorily. Normally, you would expect the president to crave the support of the leader of the National Assembly to make his own work easier. Buhari simply shut out Saraki.

Now comes the Code of Conduct Bureau into the picture. The CCB dives into its dust-covered archives and unearths a tatty, twelve year-old security document: the assets declaration of Saraki when he assumed office as Kwara Governor. CCB says it contains “false” declaration, and has dragged Saraki to court. Saraki says it is all politics, and he would meet his political enemies in court. Fine. Let the fight begin. I am sitting pretty at the front row of ringside with a cold bottle of zobo drink.

But wait, where was the CCB all these years after Saraki made this “false” declaration? I agree, crime does not rot. It can be acted upon any time. But in this case, a matter that was never mentioned by the CCB or any other “anti-graft” body has now become the “banana peel” that could railroad Saraki out of office and probably into Buhari’s jail, if he does not take care.

Before I go on, let me remind us of what this Code of Conduct Bureau once did which made me wonder what manner of “anti-graft body” it is. When on June 29th 2007, the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua decided to make his comprehensively packaged assets declaration public (unlike Buhari’s shallow declaration which did not allow us to know his real worth), this same CCB protested! It advised President Yar’ Adua that though his gesture was “noble”, publishing his assets would “put pressure on other office holders to do the same”!

How can a genuine anti-graft body say no to a measure that will facilitate the fight against corruption? Why protest against a “noble gesture”? I expected the CCB to call on other public office holders to emulate President Yar’ Adua but CCB chose to go in the opposite direction. We pointed out discrepancies and unwholesomeness in Buhari’s declared assets. Why has the CCB not said anything about it? Or does the CBB exist only to protect the interests of a ruling president and his favoured public office holders? Why is Saraki the only politician on trial for alleged false declaration?

Saraki is really in soup. His enemies have him by the balls. By the time he has been photographed and videoed in the dock as a “big catch” in Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade a number of times, the resolve of his supporters among the senators will be sorely tested. They would increasingly be painted by Buhari and Tinubu’s media, supporters, lawyers, online busybodies, civil society groups and opinion leaders as supporters of corruption. How long can they really hold out? Buhari and Tinubu have an enormous array of options against Saraki, and their case is helped by easy gullibility of the Nigerian public who only get to know they’ve been played after the game is over.

Saraki is cooking in his own stew. He was one of those who ganged up and brought down the PDP and former President Goodluck Jonathan. The former “new” PDP promoters now nestling in Buhari/Tinubu’s APC will eventually be systematically rendered irrelevant, not just in the party but also back home where they now hold sway. A few of them could end up in jail, and the rest will be forced to line up behind Buhari and his erstwhile “long-suffering” disciples who are now indisputably in power.

Our elders advised us, long ago, to be careful about dressing up masquerades because they could turn their canes on us. Nicolo Machiavelli made it clear that those who support princes to gain ascendancy are often the first group of people he eliminates in order to tighten his hold on power. Former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, demonstrated his coldblooded Machiavellism when he calmly signed the execution warrant of Major General Mamman Vatsa, his childhood friend, schoolmate and fellow anti-Buhari coup plotter.

Buhari realised his ambition to become the second military ruler to govern Nigeria as an elected president through the instrumentality of two major impetuses: the Buhari/Tinubu alliance for the formation of the APC merger, and the movement of the rebel “new” PDP group into the APC. Without either of these events, Buhari would never have emerged. Saraki’s bum is being roasted because he was the first to show his hand against the president’s political interests. He is being shown who’s the boss around here.

Since Buhari assumed power, he has totally turned his back on the “new” PDP. He has never offered them anything yet. Buhari has only marginally carried Tinubu along. It is quite possible that by the time he has consolidated, Tinubu might also be sidelined with most of his erstwhile disciples assimilated by Buhari’s erstwhile “long suffering” acolytes in a “new” APC.

The CCB, EFCC, ICPC, NSA, DSS, INEC and the lot, which are controlled by Buhari’s “long suffering” disciples or made to “tow the line” are formidable agents of state which Buhari has primed for his power consolidation.

Politicians who worked for “change” have gotten it. We will soon see if it was the change they bargained for.

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