- Baraje warns against blasphemy
Gboyega Akinsanmi in Lagos and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, wednesday said his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for false assets declaration did not come up at the meeting between the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo last Monday.
Sarakiâ€™s assertion was corroborated by the Chairman of nPDP and now a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, who said there was never a time the nPDP bloc requested for the stoppage of the senate presidentâ€™s trial at the CCT during their meeting with Osinbajo.
The senate president in a statement by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, issued yesterday, said he was not interested in any settlement of the case outside the judicial process contrary to a report published by a national daily.
The nPDP leadership had last Monday held a meeting with the vice president in their efforts to address the grievances put forward to the APC national leadership and presidency so as to bring peace and stability to the party.
Consequently, a national daily reported that the issues discussed at the Mondayâ€™s meeting â€œare Sarakiâ€™s trial before the CCT, exclusion of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, in Bauchi and Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso from the APC ward and local government congresses in Kano State.
Other issues discussed at the meeting, according to the report, included alleged persecution of nPDP members by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mr. Ibrahim Idris.
But in a statement yesterday, Saraki claimed that his trial at the CCT never came up at the meeting between nPDP and the vice president contrary to the report, which he said, lacked some level of authenticity.
Currently at the Supreme Court and the CCT, Saraki said his trial â€œis never part of the discussions over the grievances of the nPDP leaders. All those who attended the meeting with the vice president can attest to this.â€
The senate president added that the issues being discussed between the nPDP and the APC leaderships â€œare beyond personal matters.â€
Consequently, Saraki said he would want it known that he â€œis not interested in any settlement of the asset declaration case outside the judicial process.
â€œHe is confident that the court will give him justice and he will be exonerated of all charges as can be seen by the verdicts of the CCT and the Court of Appeal. In fact, he maintains his earlier position that the trial was politically and maliciously motivated.â€
He also expressed concern that all interested parties in the prosecution should allow the judiciary â€œto freely and fairly decide on the issues before it. I believe in the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and ability of the court to adjudicate on all matters.â€
Saraki had claimed that he had consistently exhibited a strong belief that nobody should compromise national interest with personal issues.
According to him, this has guided his actions, conduct and utterances in the performance of his official duties in the last three years, despite the persistent persecution and intimidation directed at him.
He, therefore, urged Nigerians â€œto ignore the speculations contained in the report. There is no reason for him to depart from his avowed principle that the nation is greater than any individual, including himself.â€
The senate president said he would have ignored the report as he had done in the cases of other speculative ones concerning the on-going discussions between the nPDP and the APC published by the national daily.
But Saraki said he had to clarify his position because the report might be perceived â€œto have some level of authenticity since the report mentioned an issue concerning him and the newspaper is associated both in ownership and viewpoint with a section of the APC leadership.â€
Meanwhile, Baraje in a statement issued in Ilorin, Kwara State capital yesterday, and made available to journalists however, described as â€˜blasphemyâ€™ a newspaper and online report that part of the requests of his group was the stoppage of the ongoing trial of Saraki at the CCT.
Describing the reports as a flagrant lie, total blasphemy and far from the truth, the nPDP chieftain disclosed that â€œnothing of that nature was part of the issues raised or discussed at the meeting the group held with the vice president at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.â€
He emphasised that â€œthere was no mention of anybodyâ€™s case talkless of the Senate President, Saraki, at the said meeting.â€
According to him, â€œI want to warn that if this is the way we want to handle the issue by creating bad blood against our group, through the media, it will not augur well for them.â€
He therefore warned that blasphemy and arrant lies cannot resolve the matter at hand.
Baraje added: â€œI want to also disclose that at the last meeting, the vice president requested and appealed to us that we should all keep our mouth shut until we reach the final stuck, thatâ€™s why we are not talking to the press.
â€œIf the newspaper concerned do not stop this blasphemy, this issue will be very difficult to solve and the group or myself as a person is ready to take any news media to court for blasphemy.â€
Baraje also described as untrue an online publication which claimed that he is occupying a juicy position at a parastatal, declaring that he does not occupy any position in any board under the present administration.
He said: â€œI have been existing and living in accordance with my own legal means for the past three years and Iâ€™m not complaining.
â€œThe complaint we are raising is that all the issues we raised when we left PDP are now resurfacing, particularly lack of respect for the rule of law, and that there is total anarchy; that the government does things as it likes against anybody which was happening in PDP when we left.â€
Baraje explained that the group was not fighting for its members or for the selfish interest of some individuals among them but rather for members of the public, warning people against turning their agitation to a personal fight but that of the Nigerian masses.
He stressed: â€œFor the avoidance of doubt, our group is fighting for good governance and we are against anarchy and arrogance. We are also concerned about the poor state of our economy where an average Nigerian is hungry and government seems to be doing nothing and we are also fighting against insecurity where lives and property of Nigerians are in jeopardy.â€
He therefore said: â€œBut if a section of the media is trying to make it (our struggle) personal and want to see it as if we are fighting for our own sake, it will not augur well for the peace of the APC.â€