Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki

With his recent acquittal from allegations of false asset declaration by the Supreme Court, Senate President Bukola Saraki has proven his better understanding of the nation’s politics than his political foes. IYOBOSA UWUGIARENwrites

What if Dr. Bukola Saraki had resigned as President of the Senate, as canvassed by many of his critics/political enemies, over allegations of false asset declaration, draped around his neck for 1018 days?

Those familiar with the political hugger-mugger, allegedly scripted by the agents of the presidency, said that was the goal of the criminal charges against Saraki: to prosecute him and convict him in the court of public opinion, and force him to step down from his plum seat.

Since 1999, that has been the narrative anytime the power-that-be wants to nail the leadership of the apex legislative arm of government.

National Assembly monitors likened the story to a vulture, a patient bird that usually feeds on the hard work of others or at most allows the predators to implement the most problematic part of the task and even placate themselves on the booty; and assured of the listlessness of the carcass, the vulture then slopes on it to finish the job. Indeed, many said that was the lot of succeeding senate presidents, since the return to civilian rule in 1999.

The stubborn survivors, who proved by hook or by crook impossible to be devoured by the ever-willing political vultures among fellow senators and others who were hovering around the presidency, are Anyim Pius Anyim and Ken Nnamani. Others — former Senate presidents: Evans Enwerem, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo and Adolphus Wabara – were put out of action by fellow senators to make the presidency’s plot for impeachment a sheer primness.

Described by many of his political associates and followers as an ‘’astute politician’’, Saraki has now joined the league of the ‘’Big Boys’’, until recently only made up of Anyim and Nnamani, who refused to be consumed by the ever willing political vultures among fellow senators and the presidency.

That may be why Saraki’s recent victory at the apex court gladdens the hearts of many respected people, including one of the alleged conspirators against him, President Muhammadu Buhari, whom some suspected plotted to nail him, politically.

Reacting to the recent acquittal of the Senate President from allegations of false asset declaration by the Supreme Court, Buhari said that Saraki persevered, went through tortuous judicial process and was vindicated in the end.

By this development, the president also observed that the country’s judicial system was working despite the many challenges it faces, warning that no one should be allowed to undermine or break it.

Buhari, in a statement by one of his spokesmen, Malam Garba Shehu, said he had witnessed situations, where people attempted to destroy the judiciary in their desperate bid to escape justice.

He added that Saraki’s pursuit of his case from the lowest to the apex court should be a precedent for others to emulate, even as he recalled how he went through the same judicial process three times after he lost presidential elections.

“I have seen many instances, where individuals and groups seek the destruction of the judicial institution in the foolish thinking of saving their skin, instead of going through the painstaking process of establishing their innocence’’ he stated.

“In the case of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, I have seen him take the tortuous path of using the judicial process. He persevered, and in the end, the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court, says he is not guilty as charged.

“This is what I have done in the three elections in which I was cheated out, before God made it possible for me to come here the fourth time I ran for the office.”

The president however added that the Senate President’s journey from the lowest to the highest court of the land should serve as an important example for other Nigerians to emulate.

Saraki was dragged before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on September 18, 2015, few months after he emerged Senate President, against the permutation and expectation of the president’s agents and few leaders of APC.

With the trial going through the CCT, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, the apex court recently discharged and acquitted him of the alleged charges.

The apex court in a judgment delivered by Justice Centus Chima Nweze, had set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal and affirmed the decision of CCT, which had earlier upheld the ‘’no case submission’’ of Saraki’s counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN).

Hailing the Supreme Court judgment, he expressed confidence in the judicial process and the ability of the Judiciary to do justice to all manners of men and in all circumstances.

“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’’, he emotionally stated.

‘’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.

“This outcome has gladdened my heart and further strengthened my belief in this country and as well as my faith in the Almighty Allah, who is the righter of all wrongs. God has vindicated me today before the judgement of man, and I am most thankful and humbled at His grace and infinite mercies.’’

Saraki said he had always believed in the infallibility of the nation’s Judiciary, secure in the knowledge that the courts – the last refuge of the oppressed would never condemn the innocent, adding that the outcome was also a vindication of his belief in the rule of law.

He further stated, “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.”

Apparently referring to the power-that-be at presidency, the Senate President wondered why instead of working together in the interest of the nation and seeking to do better for the people, 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’’, he stated

“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, Saraki stated that it was plain to see with vindictiveness, to target perceived political opponents, adding that he believes in the need to fight corruption, but he will never be party to the selective application of the law or the rhetoric of an insincere anti-corruption fight.

On his deputy, Dr. Ike Ekweremadu said that the Supreme Court judgment that discharged and acquitted Saraki of all false assets declaration charges as a victory for the legislature and democracy.

Also, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara said that the judgment of the Supreme Court in favour of Saraki “has once again reinforced our confidence and belief in the nation’s judiciary as the last hope of the common man.”

“As democrats, this has again reaffirmed the independence of the judiciary as protected by our constitution under the doctrine of separation of powers and principles of checks and balances’’, he added.

‘’No doubt, the Supreme Court’s judgment will help in no small way in strengthening the independence of the legislature as the first organ of government under our constitutional democracy and presidential system of government.”

Saraki’s home state was not left out in celebration, as residents, who marched through various routes in Ilorin, dancing and singing, saluted the Supreme Court ruling.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar hailed Saraki’s victory, saying “the position of the judiciary further affirms the fact that indeed, the judiciary is the last hope not only for the common man, but for all men, and the real bastion of equity and good governance in any society”.

While the sad narrative of using state agents and institutions by the executive arm of government continues to dominate political discourse, Saraki has just proven his better understanding of the nation’s politics than his political foes