When Kwara Rallied Support for Saraki

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Senate President Bukola Saraki recently received a moral boost in his trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, when groups and leaders of thoughts from his home state openly identified with him. Hammed Shittu reports

For the embattled godfather of Kwara State politics, Senate President Bukola Saraki, these are not the best of times. The current political temperature in Kwara is evidently cloudy even as his teeming supporters are under heavy tension as a result of the current political upheavals being experienced by the political tiger.

Saraki is believed to being persecuted following his emergence as the number three man in the current political dispensation. He is currently facing charges of false assets declaration at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) sitting in Abuja. But despite his predicament, the people of the state, irrespective of their political affiliations have continued to throw their weight behind their leader, a move that has considerably reduced tension amongst his people in the state.

Groups and individuals that have expressed support and solidarity with Saraki include Concerned Citizens on CCT, the Nigeria Need Positive Change Group (NNPCG), the Congress of Nigeria’s Political Parties (CNPP), Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), the state’s chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its Kwara central zone, leaders of thoughts in the North Central and the state Secretary of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Rex Olawoye.

In the build-up to the commencement of Saraki’s trial at the CCT, hundreds of youths and women in Ilorin, the state capital took to the streets and showed solidarity with the Senate President.
The state chairman of the APC, Alhaji Ishola Balogun-Fulani, while addressing the protesters, lamented that from what has transpired so far at the tribunal, there was no need guessing that Saraki’s trial is a political set-up.

Some of the inscriptions on the placards carried by the protesters read, “Saraki’s case is political”; “CCT has two laws, one for Tinubu and one for other Nigerians” and “Sahara Reporters based in United States is an agent of evil.”

Leader of the protesters, Mr. Yinka Dalas asked the APC leaders to pass the message of the youths and women to the party’s hierarchy in Abuja, expressing disgust that Saraki was being persecuted after he had worked to help the party, adding: “We as youths and women are concerned and that is why we have come here today. Senate President Bukola Saraki’s ongoing trial at the CCT is politically-motivated.

“This is a man that single-handedly exposed the fuel subsidy scam. We are protesting in his support today and we want APC leadership in the state to take our case to the appropriate quarters. They claimed he mismanaged our money when he was the governor of Kwara State, but every discerning mind knows that it was this same man that opened up Kwara to the whole world. His achievements in office are there for all who care to see.”

The Nigeria Needs Positive Change Group (NNPCG) in a statement by its Secretary, Mr Jide Jokotade re-echoed‎ its stand that the CCT should re-arraign Chief Bola Tinubu to answer charges preferred against him “because it is the same tribunal and the same Judge that has delivered different rulings in similar matters.”
Also, the state’s chapter of APC alleged the hijack ‎of CCT by those it described as desperate politicians. The party warned that the judiciary may throw the country into needless chaos and pandemonium.

APC made the allegation in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Sulyman Buhari.
It said President Muhammadu Buhari “should not be seen to be watching helplessly when politicians hijack a crucial arm of the government to carry out political vendetta against perceived political adversaries. Like the Counsel to the Senate President rightly noted, we are convinced that the right thing has not been done as far as the charges are concerned. It is now clear and glaring that due process has not been followed and the CCB has broken its own laws.

“Given identical cases, Nigerians should note that the CCT under Justice Umar Danladi discharged and acquitted a leader of the APC in 2011 based on Section 3(d) of the CCB/CCT Act. Why is the Senate President’s motion on the same Section 3 (d) of the CCB/CCT Act being denied by the same tribunal under the same Judge?
“Also, we are concerned about the continued intimidation of Judges by media blackmailers reportedly sponsored by agencies of government and politicians. Not once, not twice, Judges have been intimidated to either abscond with judgment or to withdraw from the cases involving the Senate President. This is sheer injustice. If the Chairman of the National Assembly can be treated in such way in this country, what is the fate of the masses?
“The CCT has been hijacked by politicians and we are concerned that the judiciary is about to ‎throw our beloved country into avoidable chaos and pandemonium.”

The Congress of Nigeria’s Political Parties (CNPP) and Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) also lent their voices to the calls for the quashing of the trial of the Senate President at the CCT. The two groups made their positions known in a separate statement issued in Ilorin.
The groups held that the trial of Saraki before the CCT was borne out of political vendetta and therefore not a fight against corruption as the initiators of the trial wanted the public to believe. IPAC’s statement was signed by Alhaji Adebayo Lawal (Chairman) and Hon Dave Ifabiyi (Secretary) while that of CNPP was signed by its Secretary, Olufemi Adeleke.

IPAC in its statement noted that “What is happening in the political arena as far as the senate presidency is concerned is nothing short of tyrannical rule of one strong pillar of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), who only wants his men in all strategic positions of government and party.

“Any democratic dispensation that practices such is nothing short of dictatorship and nepotism. This is definitely an action that any Nigerian, who values the norms of democracy would not adopt while some people are running the nation’s affairs like their domestic affairs. We should not allow the “man” to die in us while someone takes the pride in riding us rough-shod away from the kind of political ideology we cast our votes for.

“In all advanced democracies of the world, where the bi-camera legislature is practised, the members of the hallowed chambers reserve the right to elect whoever they like to lead them, hence the unwholesome dictation from the party godfathers should not override the interest of members of the legislators.

“The senate president should no longer be compelled to appear before the CCT since he has his team of erudite lawyers representing him. The charges should be reviewed to eliminate all areas of witch-hunting, vilification and persecution in view of the fact that the said declaration had been legally logged over 10 years ago,” it submitted.

The CNPP in its own statement stated that “We in the CNPP are of the valid opinion that the same treatment given to Asiwaju Tinubu then has become a veritable “reference point” that has become entrenched as a valid precedent for similar cases that emerge thereafter.

“We, therefore, categorically say no to the continued castigation and victimisation of the person of the senate president on those trumped up allegations if all Nigerians would not continue to view it as a ploy hatched by some political heavy-weights in the APC to taint the dazzling image of Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki (CON) and thus take away his legitimate claim to the highly coveted seat of the number three citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

The Publicity Secretary of the PDP in the state, Chief Olawoye said his support for the Senate President against his continued trial at the CCT should be viewed as a political gain for the people of the state. Olawoye, who said he remained an active member of the PDP, opined that politics should be seen as a beneficial game “when the benefits are overtly seen” as an ideology when there is a need “to be rigid”. He therefore declared his support for Saraki against his trial by the CCT, citing the alleged stance of the PDP on the issue at the national level.

According to Olawoye, “At the beginning of this episode on Saraki, he got the full supports of all the PDP senators at the Red Chambers and by an extension, the supports of the party at the National level, that was what produced for us the post of the Deputy President of the Senate.

“Besides, whatever anyone would say, the state is at the driving seat today at the National Assembly and I see all these as derivable benefits from the occupation of the post of the office of the Senate President.”

Olawoye reminisced on how he had worked with Saraki’s father (late Olusola Saraki) and how he was allegedly influential to the emergence of Saraki as the Governor of Kwara some 13 years ago, adding that “Even though our political views no longer tally today, I remember how I risked my life for him, when the going was rough against the then incumbent Governor (late Mohammed Lawal). I will therefore not want the house we jointly build to collapse.”

Leaders of Thoughts in the North Central also at a press conference in Ilorin called for the immediate dismissal of the ongoing trial of Saraki at the CCT. Spokesman of the group, Senator Ahmed Mohammed on behalf of the people of the zone called on President Buhari not to be indifferent to the injustice and abuse of legal system in the country as being witnessed in Saraki’s trial.

He said the recent pronouncement by eminent Jurists on the illegality of the CCT and the fact that it lacks the power to prosecute Saraki was enough to prompt a presidential action on the “impunity” of Justice Danladi. He added that “On our part, we make bold to say that we would reject whatever is the outcome of this illegal and Kangaroo trial.

“Therefore, we call for the immediate dismissal of the ongoing trial at CCT but should this injustice and political persecution continue then Chief Ahmed Bola Tinubu must be re -arraigned immediately.

Justifying their call for presidential intervention, Mohammed noted that Saraki did not only deliver Kwara State 100 per cent to APC in the last general election, he was a pillar in the North Central, saying, “If fair is fair, Dr. Saraki deserves to be the most commended politician in APC.”

According to him, “In the six geo-political zones of Nigeria, APC used to have only one Governor in Nasarawa before Kwara joined. Today, APC rules in all the states of North Central for the party, courtesy of the outstanding role he played with others. There is no other zone that came from one out of six governors to six over six today. APC also has the most number in National Assembly, state ‎Assemblies and local councils.

“Unfortunately, at this moment he is being condemned, persecuted and vilified by the party he helped to build and win. If we review his leadership at the Senate and chairmanship of the National Assembly in the last nine months, is there anyone, who has not seen the high capacity demonstrated by Dr Bukola Saraki in the conduct of business at the upper house of the National Assembly?” he asked.

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This is a man that single-handedly exposed the fuel subsidy scam. We are protesting in his support today and we want APC leadership in the state to take our case to the appropriate quarters. They claimed he mismanaged our money when he was the governor of Kwara State, but every discerning mind knows that it was this same man that opened up Kwara to the whole world. His achievements in office are there for all who care to see