THAT’S what Fela called it, a government of people engaged in mutual backslapping, cover-up and self-protection: paddy-paddy government. When members of such government or indeed, ruling class fight dirty as if onto death, never trust the outcome of such a fight as the fight is never based on principle. And that is what the recent discharge and acquittal of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, by the Code of Conduct Tribunal CCT, has demonstrated- the Nigerian ruling class is one and the same no matter the epoch. It is a ruling class in which self-interest trumps any sense of service to the people. It is a ruling class that protects its own, and it does not matter for how long it pretends to be at war against itself this conclave of thieves ultimately finds a way to come together as one.
In the last two years Nigerians have been regaled with the circus that was the trial of Bukola Saraki for false declaration of assets. The comic spectacle by which Nigerians were taken, deceived that another sheriff in the person of President Muhammadu Buhari was in town, started shortly after the emergence of Saraki as Senate President. This was against the wish of his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC. Saraki, a turncoat from the Peoples Democratic Party PDP,colluded with his former colleagues in the PDP to pull off a devastating defeat of his party’s choice for senate president. He did not stop at that- he went on to fill other positions of leadership in the Senate with individuals, including members of the opposition, ranged against the leadership of the APC. In short, Saraki was not prepared to work according to the dictates of his party if not in direct opposition to such dictates.
It was in these circumstances that the government of Muhammadu Buhari decided to look in the books in search of filth against him. As every Nigerian knows, it’s never too difficult to trace filth to a Nigerian politician provided you’re prepared to look long and hard enough in the right places. It was soon discovered that Bukola Saraki had made false claims concerning a few properties located in choice areas of the country. The offence itself had been committed during Saraki’s two terms as governor of Kwara State. This ought to have warned everyone as to what would be the outcome of the investigation that followed the ‘discovery’ of this offence against the new senate president. Many people of influence within the ruling party and outside it pleaded for mercy but the Buhari government said the matter was one between the senate president and the CCT.
Danladi Umar, the youthful looking trial judge, assumed a severe stance and would not brook any nonsense from Saraki and his cohorts. He was prepared to return fire for fire as he assumed an impartial mien. All through it all Saraki had the full support of his constituency of senators who followed him to the tribunal in bus loads. They displayed solidarity with their leader at each trial session. Although the number that accompanied him to the tribunal diminished over time but the senate supporters of Saraki never wavered. They could see that they were all guilty of what Saraki had been accused of doing and the only way they could save themselves from investigation and possible prosecution and conviction was to support their principal all the way. This they did with much aplomb and over time their loyalty began to pay off.
Justice Umar himself showed signs he was relenting and prepared to ‘play ball’ after he offered Saraki water to drink during a session of the trial. Saraki rejected the offer. By this time rumours of corruption had been swirling around the judge himself. It must be clear now to Umar that he had been used for a job he did not understand. Saraki now has the last laugh. Not because he has no case to answer (only politicians like him and others who support him believe that) as the CCT now says. Nigerians know better than to believe the voodoo means by which the CCT discharged Saraki of all 28 charges against him. It was a clear case of ‘wuruwuru to the answer’ which goes to underline why Nigerians must look out for their own interest. The present ruling class as were its predecessors serves none but itself.
There is an increasing culture of celebrating corruption in the country. Everyone, especially the country’s leaders, is out looking for how best they can be corruptly served by the system. From the executive, through the legislative to the judicial arms of government, the government of the day and the entire ruling cabal in Nigeria continue to defeat any attempt to put Nigeria first. The APC government of Muhammadu Buhari has been compromised and rendered toothless by the activities of its members including the ailing president that is prepared to govern from his sick bed rather than resign. The National Judicial Council saw nothing wrong with judges found to have enriched themselves and compromised their office. From day one it did not support the trial of seven judges accused of corrupt enrichment. It has now asked that the judges return to continue their activities on the bench.
Our legislators have never pretended to serve anybody but themselves and the discharge and acquittal of Saraki has only emboldened them to continue their acts of perfidy against the Nigerian people. Nigerians themselves are probably not less guilty than their leaders. Many, it would appear, see nothing wrong in all that goes on in government and among politicians of the ruling class. Those who do might have become so frustrated to the point of being sinister. Hence their call for the release of the billionaire kidnapper-cum-armed robbery suspect who lived a life of luxury and comfort by bringing tears to many. Surely, there is hardly anything to separate our politicians and many others in position of leadership from the common criminals that the police routinely parade before the cameras. Nigerian politicians are worse than kidnappers or armed robbers who are many times the creations of the politicians.
There is nothing to trust in or look forward to from those we have chosen to lord it over us. Time now for Nigerians to begin the process, as we did for the military, to rid the country of men and women whose very presence in our lives means our lives will never be free of crisis. We are now truly celebrating and democratising crime, extravagance and corruption of all kinds by our refusal to begin the process of mobilisation that would bring about accountability in government. Until Nigerians rise to confront the present ruling oligarchy there can be no rest for us all.