By Jide Ajani
From Friday evening, up till the early hours of yesterday, politicians in some parts of the country, particularly the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, launched into a series of meetings in the wake of the Supreme Court judgment clearing Senate President Bukola Abubakar Saraki of charges bordering on assets declaration. Whereas information made available to Sunday Vanguard confirmed that Saraki has not decided on what his next political move would be, there were a few uneducated – though desirable – suggestions from some quarters that he should rush into the presidential contest.
Indeed, having endured and persevered three years of hedgy-baddgy legal tug, while simultaneously serving as Senate President, Saraki’s clean bill of health, in a manner of speaking, is set to ignite fresh permutations and counter permutations in the political sphere. This report will show the correlation between the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, and Saraki’s travails, as well as how the clearance of the former paved the way for the renewed collaboration that brought the Goodluck Jonathan administration down. And although there is a world of difference between the augmented dismal positioning of the Jonathan administration and the Muhammadu Buhari regime, there is genuine reason the ruling party should put its house in order, especially in the face of the growing angst in the land, occasioned by insecurity. The coming days are expected to be interesting ahead of the 2019 general elections.
TINUBU: FLASH BACK TO NOVEMBER 30, 2011
After the ‘NOT GUILTY’ verdict of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, on Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in 2011, Sunday Vanguard published a tie-back (a summary of earlier published works) which this paper had done, explaining to the discerning Nigerian public that the trial was nothing more than a fool’s errand, a wasted effort, meant to embarrass the former governor of Lagos State. In fact, the precursor to the trial was the fear at the seat of power – then – that Tinubu’s incremental political stature was going to be a challenge to the Goodluck Jonathan presidency and, therefore, he needed to be cut to size. Unfortunately, however, the rush to get him convicted, at all costs, led to some fundamental errors of procedure, which, ultimately, created a leeway for his clearance. Sunday Vanguard pointed out all these and, when the CCT’s Danladi Umar pronounced Tinubu ’NOT GUILTY’, it was a testament to the underground reporting that this paper had done.
Tinubu had, on November 30, 2011 after his acquittal on the three-count charge that was egregiously slammed on him, regarding allegations of improper assets’ declaration filings, particularly on issues of operating foreign accounts, against the laws of the land, said: “Where and when are the transactions in these accounts operated? What are the balances in each of these accounts? What is the ageing analysis of those balances and their sources if any? The government prosecutors and some of their political leaders in their media campaign listed these accounts and made spurious allegations making it seem as if I looted public funds and stashed it away in these accounts. Yet they have failed to provide evidence to prove these weighty, yet unfounded allegations, which shows clearly at the tribunal that this was a political persecution from the very beginning.
“The government and its lawyers in their handling of this case have revealed a crass lack of knowledge of financial rules at home and abroad thus, embarrassing me as a citizen, their own government and the country”.
The former governor of Lagos State further stated that wasting millions of public funds to prosecute a political vendetta is unjustifiable in a country like ours and failing to apply both the principle and doctrine of materiality; cost and benefit analysis in their so-called investigation and prosecution of this case is questionable.
“I feel ashamed that the government is using a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and a costly team of attorneys to prosecute this case, thereby demonstrating lack of policy direction to develop and train hundreds of lawyers in the Ministry of justice and office of the public prosecutor. I dare ask what is the aim of outsourcing a case like this to outside lawyers with huge professional bills,”he said?
“The government equally failed to employ the FOI to disclose to Nigerians how much are in these accounts and how much the government was expending to prosecute.
“I am still in consultation with my attorneys on the next plan of action. The longtime of media trial and political persecution have had toll on my businesses, my political reputation and constituted an infringement of my rights and that of my family as Nigerian citizens. It is only a wicked system that will list minors and portray them as looters for having in their accounts amounts in the hundreds meant for their upkeep and school runs.”
All these happened in 2011.
SARAKI: PRESENT DAY (JULY 6, 2018)
Once Saraki became Senate President by eyeballing his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and going ahead to defy same when filling leadership positions in the Senate, even a fool would have known that there would be a fight-back. But no one expected the fight-back to come in the form a dirty legal fight.
The legally laid down procedure for conducting an investigation in the event of any allegation of a breach of its Act by public officers covered by the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act provides thus:
(1)Any complaint that a public officer has committed a breach of or has not complied with the provisions of this Act shall be made to the Bureau. (2) Upon the receipt of any complaint, the Bureau shall cause a notice to be served on the public officer concerned to appear before it within a period of fourteen days from the service of the said notice. (3) The Bureau shall upon the commencement of investigation serve a notice debarring the public officer concerned from disposing of or otherwise dealing with any property which is the subject of investigation.
By virtue of the above Section, the Code of Conduct Bureau is required and mandated by law to serve notice on any public officer against whom a complaint has been made. But that did not happen. So, after the Supreme Court pronounced Saraki not guilty, the Senate President had this to say: “At the end of a tortuous journey of 1018 days, counting from September 22, 2015, when the case began at the Tribunal, I am happy that I have been vindicated. The Supreme Court has affirmed that there is no evidence of false declaration of assets. The court also observed that certain agents took over the responsibility of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) in this trial, and one can infer that this was done towards a pre-determined end.
“I have always believed in the infallibility of our Judiciary, secure in the knowledge that our courts – the last refuge of the oppressed – would never condemn the innocent. This outcome is also a vindication of my belief in the rule of law.
“As I said in my first appearance at the CCT, this is a politically motivated case. The case was trumped-up in the first instance because of my emergence as the President of the Senate, against the wishes of certain forces. Ordinarily, I doubt anyone would be interested in the asset declaration form I filled over 15 years ago.
“What we have seen is the opposite. Instead of working together in the interest of the nation and to seek to do better for our people, we are fighting one another and using legal instruments to mount baseless accusations against one another. Instead of exhibiting the need for unity and working day and night for that purpose, we are stoking the fire of division and rancour. I maintain that, above all else, my CCT trial has been a flagrant vilification of my person, and shows that some people are after their personal interests rather than the national interest.
“As a result of the war of attrition, various arms of government have wasted resources needlessly. It has been three wasted years across board in this country. Three years that would have been devoted to tackling issues affecting Nigerians, including economic recovery, insecurity, youth unemployment and strengthening national institutions, were wasted on malicious prosecution. People were ready to trade-off three years that would have been devoted to fostering cooperation, unity and economic progress for their selfish ends. It is my hope that those who are behind my persecution will see the handwriting on the wall and leave me to do the work for which I was elected, so I can continue to give my all to this great country of ours.
“As many have rightly observed, it is plain to see that the anti-corruption fight is being prosecuted with vindictiveness, to target perceived political opponents. I believe in the need to fight corruption, but I will never be party to the selective application of the law or the rhetoric of an insincere anti-corruption fight”.
BETWEEN TINUBU AND SARAKI
To demonstrate why Nigeria has remained an undeveloped nation, the running of government and processes of governance have been structured in such a way as to infuse incompetence, stupidity, crass malevolence as well as lack of a clear understanding of why nations fail, into the day to day activities of government.
Take, for instance, the case of fighting corruption.
In 2006, a report was submitted to President Olusegun Obasanjo. Parts of the report are quoted below:
“The President and Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – Chief OlusegunObasanjo, in June 2006 set up a Joint Task Force on fighting corruption comprising the following organizations namely; the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), The Department of State Services (DSS), and the Nigerian Police.
“On the whole each of the Establishments named above contributed five members of staff on the team. The activities of this Joint Task Force came under the control and supervision of the EFCC hence its Chairman – Mr.NuhuRibadu is the Head of the Task Force.
“The Task Force commenced its activities in a temporary office located at Asokoro. During its inaugural meeting, the team noted that its main functions were to complement the activities of their primary establishments.
“ASSETS VERIFICATION EXERCISE
“The team commenced its activities by embarking on the verification of Assets of Public Officers. This is to give it background knowledge to identify corrupt public officers for further investigation.
“In doing this, the team decided to collate copies of the Assets Declaration of all State Governors as a starting point. The forms were scrutinized and the verification exercise commenced.
“So far thirty-two State Governors have had their Assets verified. The remaining State Governors have been asked to schedule appropriate dates that they would make themselves available for the exercise. The Task Force has also notified the Deputy Governors, Speakers of State Assemblies and Secretaries, to the various State Governments to prepare for the verification exercise.
“Arising from this exercise, three issues have been identified.
“(i) Some public officers had declared Assets far above what they owned as their declaration could not be substantiated. A case of anticipatory declaration.
“(ii) Some public officers did not declare some of the properties they acquired while in office.
“(Hi) The issue of ownership of foreign account and late declaration was treated with levity.
“The consequences of the above is that so far 15 State Governors have been found to have individually contravened some of the Provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Part I to the 5th Schedule, especially on the issue of false declaration of Assets and or acquisition of properties outside legitimate means.”
Interestingly, Tinubu’s name was not on the list of persons submitted as having run foul of the law.
Yet, for political reasons, the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCB, acting just to please the government of the day, went ahead to institute a case against the former governor of Lagos State.
Interestingly, the Chairman of CCB, Sam Saba, held a press conference where he excused the non-prosecution of the 15 indicted state governors in the report on the grounds that they owned up to the offences.
Funny enough, Tinubu, whose name was not on the list, was the one singled out for trial. The trial failed on technical grounds. However, based on the same technicalities, the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, Danladi Umar, jettisoned his own precedence initially, but went ahead to free Saraki, before the Federal Government went on appeal, whereupon a judgment caused the case to be brought back to the CCT.
Now, the Supreme Court has spoken.
In the face of contemporary realities in the APC today, especially the sudden announcement of a Reformed-APC by Buba Galadinma, a known associate of President Muhammadu Buhari, there are many who are questioning the propriety or otherwise of such a move and such a movement at a time when the Adams Oshiomhole leadership is just settling down.
However, that does not, in any way, vitiate the realities of a desirable engagement in the quest for power and control in the political sphere.
As it happened just after the acquittal of Tinubu in 2011, the storm against the Jonathan Presidency began to gather steam after the fact of the acquittal – the same cannot be too distant now considering developments in the APC.
Just after Tinubu’s acquittal, the need for the opposition elements to coalesce began to attract some traction. At that time, this was due to the seeming inability of Jonathan to stick to some agreed terms before the 2011 general elections, chiefly, the need to restructure. Jonathan reneged.
Today, the coalition that produced the APC has suffered a plethora of pummel ling, such that certain individuals who played key roles in the formation of the party feel disenchanted and disillusioned about the direction of the affairs of the party, to the extent that they are willing to go public and cause an unnecessary discombobulation of the ruling entity, even in the face of no alternative. It is that bad. Some may not have agreed with the modus of the R-APC, yet, they are as uncomfortable as those who have dared to go the way of the R-APC.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that in most parts of the capital city of Abuja late Friday into the early hours of Saturday, series of meetings were held by some politicians on the potential for a seeming disequilibrium that the Supreme Court judgment on Saraki can wrought.
Yet, whereas it would be totally premature for any pursuit of a presidential ambition on the part of Saraki at this time, there are serious issues of dominance being interrogated in the political sphere within the context of the deliverables that the APC promised on the one hand, and the shambolic realities of today that the party cannot be excused from on the other.
A few leaders of the APC, starting with its National Chairman, recognise the shambles on ground and, therefore, plans are afoot to tackle them and set them aright. Meanwhile, there is a more compelling necessity to ensure that the grievances of a section of the critical stakeholders within the party are set straight to avoid the type of fate that befell the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in its moments of arrogance that nothing untoward was capable of derailing the party.
As of today, President Buhari remains the major-domo in the APC. However, it became too late for Jonathan to discover that his dominance of the PDP had disappeared. His first major problem was his inability to realise that the state governors and their greed, insensitivity and total disregard for party rules and regulations constituted a clear and present danger to the sustenance of the party. Buhari has, today, surrendered the APC to the whims and caprices of state governors of the party to the extent that some of the governors have stood President Buhari’s integrity on its head with their total disdain for sanity.
Therefore, the clearance of Saraki, who, from what the naked eyes can see, is in charge of the Senate, just as Speaker Yakubu Dogara is in alliance with aggrieved members of the House of Representatives who are also of the APC, constitute a reasonable source of interrogation of the compactness or otherwise of the ruling party.
In a Senate of 109 members and a House of 360, with both men enjoying the confidence of more than half of each chamber, such a control cannot be said to be inconsequential.
Whereas President Buhari is famously said to have (and indeed he did) defeated Jonathan with about two million votes, it would be in the political interest of the incumbent to have a more than passing interest in negotiations with aggrieved members. Pointers to this can be located in the quality and calibre of those in talks with Vice President Osinbajo just weeks before the APC convention.
For instance, 10 states were represented at the meeting. The states are Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara and Sokoto.
From those states, some of the leaders at the talks were Murtala Nayako and Senator Nyako; Speaker Dogara and a sizeable number of members of the House of Representatives; Barnabas Gemade, a former National Chairman and former Minister of Housing; Senator Danjuma Goje, a former Gombe State governor; Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi; Senator Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso, who is also a two-time governor of Kano State; a former Kebbi State governor, Adamu Aliero; Senator Dino Melaye; Saraki, who had also served as governor of Kwara State, along with the incumbent, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, as well as legislators from the state; and Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and some political leaders from the state.
In fact, the political leaders had made it known to Osinbajo that many more political leaders would have attended the talks but opted not to show their faces because of the fear of intimidation for which the administration was already known. One of the leaders said “many leaders would have been here but they are afraid that sudden arrest could be their portion”.
Those raising concerns now see in these individuals the potential of mobilising more than the two million-vote deficit. The individuals leading the teams from each of the states can, with the plethora of sub-leaders, mobilise more than 200,000, without prejudice to those who would be joining the voting eligibility net on account of age and collection of PVC.
Worse still , their agitation for more inclusiveness in the scheme of things is coming at a time of manifest, clear and present hardship in the land, a situation which, in the view of some, has blighted the popularity of President Buhari.