BY CHARLES KUMOLU, Deputy Features Editor
SUNDAY Vanguard had in its December 17, 2017, edition asserted that the decision of the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja to send the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, back to the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, chaired by Danladi Yakubu Umar, had set the stage for another round of high-wire politics in the polity.
That assertion, which was influenced by the knowledge of the narratives and dynamics of the matter, has become prophetic today with the news that both the Prosecution and Defence would be in court on February 6, 2018. The tribunal had earlier discharged Saraki of the entire 18-count charge, but the Court of Appeal reversed the decision and asked him to return to the tribunal to defend himself on three out of the initial 18 counts.
The tribunal had fixed the date based on an application filed by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacob (SAN) seeking for a trial date. As if bent on further rupturing an already messed up wound, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, just on Thursday, filed a two-count charge against the chairman of the tribunal. Interestingly, the question this raises is: How can a tribunal chairman with a two-count charge bothering on bribery be expected to give a fair judgment in a matter involving his accuser? As it was with the case against Bola Tinubu in 2011, there are very strong indications that this litigation too would end up as a fool’s errand. Needless to say that from the emergence of Saraki as Senate President, his travails in the hands of his traducers have known no limits. However, the unproductive nature of the political schemes, particularly its continued overheating of the polity, seems totally lost on the pushers of the agenda.
Pursuance of political power
The reactivation of the matter has further raised the stakes in an issue widely viewed as politically driven. Though some may disagree with that, it is definitely so for two reasons.
First, executive/legislature relationship in this dispensation has been marked by mistrust, despite all attempts at making it look healthy. Thus, the case would, in some ways, bring the old rivalry back to life.
Second, the central character, Saraki, is regarded as one of those, who could make or mar the chances of President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid.
These identified reasons, Sunday Vanguard observed, produced a nexus between an alleged impeachment plot against the Senate leadership and the revival of the case at the CCT.
In stable climes, the aforesaid may not be considered a weighty argument. But this is Nigeria where anything is right in the pursuit of political power in a manner reminiscent of Nicholo Machiveli’s advice on the ruthless use of power to achieve political results.
Ruthless use of power
Without prejudice to any form of merit being ascribed to the case, findings by SundayVanguard revealed that the steam the matter has gathered lately is not unconnected with the strategies employed at suppressing any hindrance to the President’s re-election. In doing so, it was learnt that the geopolitical zones of origin of perceived targets were considered – a situation where the names of Saraki and Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, prominently popped up.
The plot, a source told Sunday Vanguard, is to closely watch and checkmate the duo as soon as possible.
The source said the group had been able to use some northern governors to hold Tambuwal down, adding that the pro-Buhari group sees Saraki as the most difficult opposition it may contend with in the All Progressives Congress, APC.
In the judgment of the group, Saraki’s firm grip of the Senate at a time like this is such that demanded that he is checkmated.
In fact, some recent happenings in the National Assembly, NASS, were gathered to have been unpalatable by pro-Buhari groups.
Prominent among the provocative events was the Senate’s decision to cut short the recess of members of its Committee on Petroleum Downstream to investigate the fuel scarcity that marred the Xmas and New Year periods. Such intervention which is an oversight function was viewed to have portrayed the executive as not being alive to its primary function as enshrined in the 1999 constitution. Also, the lambasting of the executive by senators during its January 17, 2018, plenary over the freighting security situation in the country, was also found to have been taken by the group to be anti-executive.
Apart from the debate, the Sen Ahmed Lawan-led Senate Adhoc Committee had also visited Benue State over the security situation.
Considering that these happened when the executive seemed to be dithering, the interventions projected the legislature as more responsive than the executive arm of government.
Another development was penultimate Tuesday’s amendment of the Electoral Act by the House of Representatives which readjusted the 2019 election timetable in a manner that Presidential election would come last.
It is believed that the Senate would also pass the proposed amendment and that if Saraki and Dogara put their minds to it, they could get their colleagues to override any presidential veto on it.
Override any presidential veto
With the new order of election, the President’s re-election bid could be jeopardy.
Considering that APC’s sweeping victory at the last general election, was further made possible by the bandwagon effect that resulted from Buhari’s victory, the action of the House was simply seen as harmful to the party’s 2019 prospects. Simply put, the position of the House was seen as being capable of undermining the party’s re-election bid. Hence, the notion that the issue has further opened more battlefields for the pro-Buhari group and invariably dragged the Speaker of the House, Mr. Yakubu Dogara into the ranks of perceived antagonists.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that when reference was made to a decision of the Appeal Court on whether the legislature could fix the order of the election. But it was revealed that what the court said the legislature could not do is to fix the date of elections which is an administrative decision of an electoral empire. As for order of elections, the court did not feel the legislature had gone beyond its powers.
It was reliably gathered that the group had since launched a counter attack. The first was the series of meetings convened by the proposed Director-General of Buhari Re-Election Campaign Committee, BRECC, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, with former members of the National Assembly, serving senators and some political leaders on how best to handle perceived hindrances. The meetings whose graphic details were reported to the Saraki team were exposed on the floor of the Senate by Senator Isa Misau from Bauchi State in his contributions to the debate on the Benue Killings. Nonetheless, these counter-moves, SundayVanguard was told were found not to be yielding desired results given what was described as the unpopularity of the minister among senators.
This perceived inefficacy of the strategies, it was learnt, may have informed the announcement by the CCT that following the Court of Appeal decision that it should retry three of the 18-count charge against Saraki, the prosecution and the defence should appear before it.
Since the two parties had actually filed Appeal and cross-appeal at the Supreme Court, the CCT’s decision came worrisome to observers, who argued that when a matter is before the Apex court, all other courts will have no jurisdiction over it.
A swipe at the President
Notwithstanding, it is believed that the tribunal’s announcement amounted to an embarrassment to the Senate President and a reminder that the matter is still alive which could be used to make him back down on his perceived antagonism.
To put an end to what was considered as ridiculing of the executive, Sunday Vanguard learnt that the pro-Buhari group immediately after the Senate plenary on January 17, 2018, invited a few Senators to the Villa. Among those in attendance were Senator Adamu Abdullahi, Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan and Sen Abu Ibrahim. The aim was to determine why the Senate President would allow some Senators to openly berate the President and his administration on the floor of the Senate during a live broadcast.
The group in their submission identified four Senators who they said are the arrow-heads of the anti-Buhari sentiment in the Senate. They are Misau, Dino Melaye, Shehu Sani and Sen. Sabi Abdullahi.