After being discharged from an apparently politically inspired charge of false assets declaration, the sights of the Senate President may have been raised towards lifelong political aspirations. However, his political rivals and foes are not resting on their oars.
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
The gist in Abuja yesterday that senators were heading to Dubai and Saudi Arabia to celebrate Senator Bukola Saraki’s triumph in the courts was being seen as another political arrow aimed at the Senate President.
After surviving what was an apparent political plot to annihilate him, perceived political rivals and foes of the Senate President were said to have quickly rehashed the rumour of a Dubai/Saudi party in an apparent aim at showing him as ostentatious.
Even more it may have been aimed at portraying the Senate President as anti-Islam given that during the month of Ramadan, devout Muslims are expected to deescalate revelry.
“How can he be doing that when he is fasting, and that means you don’t know oga,” a bemused senior aide of the Senate President said yesterday.
Willy-nilly, Senator Saraki’s legal victory on Wednesday at the Code of Conduct Tribunal where he had been under trial for more than a year on the charge of false assets declaration was received with much relief among the associates of the Senate President.
The victory followed a similar victory last October when the presidency withdrew the charge of forgery that was laid against Saraki and the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu. That charge of forgery of the 2015 Standing Order of the Senate like the case of false assets declaration was believably instigated as a way of clipping Senator Saraki’s wings and if not, politically destroying him.
Saraki’s contribution to the victory of the All Progressives Congress, APC in the last general elections were generally acclaimed to be significant. Besides helping to forge the alliance that helped to overthrow the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP’s dominance in the Middle Belt, he was also said to have made financial sacrifices to the APC’s campaign in the Middle Belt.
It is not for nothing that the PDP which before now had held sway in the Middle Belt lost all the states to the APC, a development that inevitably helped to swing victory to the APC.
Besides, Saraki according to sources had also prior to the APC November 2014 presidential primaries tacitly withdrawn from the APC presidential race throwing his support behind Buhari. At that time, he was reported to have claimed that he preferred the office of Senate President.
However, some other persons in the APC felt otherwise even after Saraki’s sacrifice forcing the former two time governor of Kwara State to seek the unusual collaboration of the PDP and hence the emergence of Ekweremadu as his deputy.
That inevitably further provoked animosity that even went to the extent of quizzing his wife by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The import of the trials which Senator Saraki described as persecution according to political pundits was to distract him from his alleged plot to contest the 2019 presidential election.
Remarkably, the plot against Saraki was generally believed to have been instigated from within his own party and from those who benefited from his politics.
Yesterday, as the reality of Saraki’s freedom dawned on his associates many preferred to just as their principal lie low.
However, the import for the 2019 contest was very glaring. Though Saraki has not told anyone of any presidential aspiration, few are ignorant of his capacity especially after his 2010 gambit. Even more, his capacity is reinforced by the fact that he has successfully weaved the support of the Senate in a way only Senator David Mark before him as Senate President has been able to do. Few would forget the ignominious treatment that was given to Senator Ali Ndume, the immediate past Senate Leader when he raised issues about vehicles supposedly purchased by the National Assembly for the Senate President.
The immediate consequence was the prospect of Saraki and his long time political collaborator, Atiku Abubakar clashing over the presidential contest.
Atiku is believed to have supported Saraki’s emergence as Senate President against the desires of many others including Southwest political leaders and the cabal in the presidency. Not surprisingly, Atiku’s associates such as the fiery Timi Frank, the deputy national publicity secretary of the APC were at the forefront in the defence of Saraki during his trials.
Though Saraki has not told anyone of his intentions, it is generally believed that he would throw his hat into the contest in the event President Muhammadu Buhari does not contest for a second term.
The expectation that Saraki would contest for the presidency obviously flows from the political impressions he has made in the polity. Political pundits make inferences to the fact that he survived the heavy guns of the presidency and the party, a development they claim has refined him for whatever battle may come his way.
Heavy guns of the presidency
However, the attitude of Atiku and his associates as the 2019 race heats up would determine what happens to that particular relationship.
Even more, few believe that those who were ranged against Saraki would at this point leave him especially after he had successfully wormed his way into the heart of the president. Before the president departed the country on his latest medical vacation, Saraki was one of the last persons he requested to see and Saraki according to sources was the one who prevailed on the president to also interact with the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, Alhaji Abdulazziz Yari and Speaker Yakubu Dogara as a way of showing the seamless working of the various organs of government.
Undoubtedly, the trial may have humiliated the Senate President, especially the fact that he was taken to the dock, but his upward trajectory is now his own to chart.