By Rotimi Fasan
LAST week’s copy of this column that centred on the probability of members of the Reformed All Progressives Congress defecting to the Peoples Democratic Party where most of them had originally defected from to join the APC- that copy was hardly dispatched for publication when the nation was gripped by news of the defection of the law makers who had for a while now been disgruntled with the leadership of their party. They had by Tuesday last week made good their threatened defection as the National Assembly led by leaders of the estranged faction of the APC summarily proceeded on recess. Since then the cat and mouse game between members of the R-APC and the leaders of the APC has escalated.
While Bukola Saraki, the President of the Senate, and Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House of Representatives, are still keeping their next moves close to their chest, while keeping one leg in between the APC door, their followers have since made the PDP their home. The strategic consideration that might have influenced the decision of Saraki and Dogara to stay back in the APC, namely, the need to hold on to their leadership positions at the National Assembly until the coast seems clear for them to move, that consideration is being put to the test by contending members of the APC and the PDP who are trading argument as to the propriety or otherwise of Saraki and Dogara keeping their position in the National Assembly in the event of their defection.
Remnants of APC members in the National Assembly are for obvious reasons saying the embattled duo can only retain their position for as long as they remain in the APC while members of the PDP in the National Assembly also for obvious reasons argue otherwise. But while both groups are at each other’s throats, supporters of the contending groups outside of the National Assembly are not staying mute. Leaders of the APC have been struggling to hold on to their tenuous control of the National Assembly by insisting both Saraki and Dogara remain in the party. But it is doubtful if either of them will buy such proposition.
The defection that occurred at the National Assembly last week could not have happened without the knowledge of these two men. Indeed, the manner in which Saraki was able to show up at the Senate chambers while the police laid siege at his home makes clear he was probably one of the masterminds of the defection. He obviously anticipated the hostile action of the executive and took precaution. There have been speculations as to how he sneaked out of his house into the Senate chambers.
But whatever were the steps he took, what cannot be denied is that Saraki is prepared to take on his adversaries. The stealth that surrounded his entry into the chambers of the Senate where he read out the notes announcing the defection of the R-APC members brings to mind the same tricks he deployed to outsmart the leadership of the APC before taking over control of the Senate in June 2015. That was the first cut that has left the APC leadership bleeding and unforgiving of Saraki and his cohorts ever since.
That he could still pull such moves off against the police that have continued to function as the attack dog of Abuja against opponents of the current administration says something about his skills in the art of skullduggery. Saraki seems an old chip off the block. He has been a good student of his father’s style of politics and appears to be a step always ahead of his adversaries. If Saraki and Dogara are still in the APC, if they are yet to announce their defection, it is not because they are dying for a place in the party. They are rather watching the lay of the land, probably leaving the door open for members of their group to return in the increasingly unlikely event that they (the R-APC leadership) are able to reach a deal with the mainstream elements of the APC.
On the hand, where no deal is reached, they can simply go with the tide of defection and find their place in the PDP. Either way (remain in the APC or leave for the PDP) Saraki and company are the beautiful bride that is either being courted by the PDP or harassed into submission by the APC in cahoots with the executive authorities. Surely the APC is not leaving anything to chance. Which would explain the desperation of the police to link Saraki to the Offa robbery.
Let it be said ahead that, however unlikely it seems, until a proper investigation is conducted nobody can say for sure if the animals that perpetrated the hideous crime in Offa three months ago were on errand for Saraki or not. What has been shown is that some of them were political thugs who were apparently connected to Saraki. But the police from its attitude did not appear keen on pursuing this line of investigation or any at all, until Saraki appeared to be veering toward jeopardizing the chances of President Buhari’s re-election by his anti-executive stance.
The police had been content to hold this robbery case, like it did the one on false declaration of assets which the Supreme Court recently dismissed, as a sword of Damocles over Saraki, to keep it as a bargaining chip to checkmate errant moves by Saraki and his supporters. This much was clear even in the manner the presidency responded to the trial of Saraki before the Code of Conduct Tribunal or allegations of budget inflation leveled against Dogara.
Neither the presidency nor the police appeared keen on these cases for as long as both Saraki and Dogara were in the good books of the president. Nigerians would recall how both Saraki and Dogara were frequent visitors to Aso Villa when relations were good between them. Then the president didn’t see Saraki or Dogara’s insistence on toeing a line different from that of their party leadership as of any issue. It must have appeared to them as a tussle between the Tinubu and Saraki groups.
Not until the spectre of second term appeared and the president realized he would need to be re-elected. This was when he saw the need for his party to present a common front and he started courting Saraki who had been badly bruised by his treatment at the CCT. Even then the presidency would not do anything for him until the Supreme Court declared him a free man and he could not be bothered by presidential support. But the police is now trying desperately to do what Buhari couldn’t do: persuade or force Saraki and the R-APC to remain in the APC.