The Senate and Saraki’s excess baggage

sarakiHe who fetches ant infested firewood should get ready for a reptilian groove.
Our ancestors coined the above saying to perfection. There is nothing more to add when you fetch ant infested firewood you should get ready for a reptilian groove. When Bukola Saraki and his henchmen sabotaged their party and successfully carried out a ‘coup’ to assume leadership of the Senate by colluding with the opposition PDP, I posited then that winning a battle does not in any way translate to winning the war as it was clear to the discerning that many other battles lay ahead. That it was an action which also resulted in the emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President made it more humiliating for the APC and left the intrigues ahead to one’s imagination.

Credit to him the medical doctor turned politician can rightly be described as well ‘connected’ and somewhat battle tested; his rise in politics started with his appointment as Obasanjo’s aide on budget matters. From there he only looked forward and propitiously combined charisma and diplomacy to rise rapidly. He, however, did not hesitate to display his other side when the need arose; in 2011, he most notably dismantled his father’s political structure in Kwara after initially working with him to dislodge Mohammed Lawal from Kwara state government house in 2003. He had to show the ageing Oloye that he has come of age as the grandmaster had planned to install his sister whereas Bukola has other plans.

However being an ex-governor more of these political battles were fought when he had immunity. He is now the Senate president, a higher position in the larger picture so to say but one without the special privilege of immunity enjoyed by the executive helmsmen. His fate unlike before is barely in his hands, and when my favourite columnist Dele Sobowole of Vanguard newspapers declared that Saraki had provoked the mother of all media wars I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps the clearest indication of the fierce conflict ahead came shortly after he assumed office, Senator Kabiru Marafa, the man at the forefront of the failed campaign to elect Senator Ahmed Lawan as the Senate President stated thus: “The election of a Peoples Democratic Party senator as deputy Senate President is evidently a grand conspiracy to sabotage the Buhari government.” The man had smartly removed the party angle from it and phrased it to be Saraki vs Buhari and by extrapolation Saraki vs The People, now that’s a damn good way to start the battle for both his party and the executive.
Since the 4th Republic, many have come to regard our national assembly as the bulwark of the corrupt. Populated by ex-governors and ministers with questionable records out of which many are still being prosecuted by various security outfits. It is indeed regarded as a bus stop for the next political office or retirement abode for the tired politicians. It is no surprise then that they rarely put the citizenry ahead in most of their considerations. Yet these are supposedly part of the elite few saddled with the responsibility of making laws for the people. It has not always been the same story though for there were times in the past when the national assembly have had the backing of the people in some of its skirmishes with the executive. Pius Anyim, Umar Ghali Na’Abba and Ken Nnamani successfully steered the ship against Obasanjo’s often fractious belligerence. They were able to garner reasonable support from the people because they had not been associated with sleaze as none was an ex-minister or governor. However, their experiences tell the overwhelming trauma executive pressure can bring upon a perceived foe. Patricia Etteh and Wagbara were not that lucky as they were forced to resign by the pressure of public opinion even though they committed no illegality. Politics can indeed be funny.

It has benefitted Saraki so far that he has the support of the majority of his colleagues in the upper chamber; it has been even more helpful that this support cut across party lines as senators from both the APC and PDP have been seen in his solidarity entourage to the CCT sittings. However politics, as we have always known, can be very dynamic, more especially in a nation where political ideology is lacking, events can swing at any moment and the apparent despair in Saraki’s countenance, whenever he is in the dock, reveals that he is very much aware of the worrying times ahead. What should be more disturbing though is that past events seem to have put the upper house on a collision course with the people as declared by Senator Marafa. That is why our Senators should be careful with how far they can stretch the people’s resolve to support this government.

Many are already disenchanted with the upper house given the manner in which they have conducted the business of law making so far. Starting with that very leadership tussle which had one questioning the manner of opposition we will have with Saraki and Ike’s romance. Not long after that it became evident this particular Senate will continue business as usual as the ministerial screening which some of them had boasted will be thorough only saw our dear Senators receiving lectures from Fashola et al. I was particularly piqued that the PDP Senators failed to grill Amaechi but were rather bamboozled by his smooth talk to the extent that many of them were eager to hug him after the normal ritual of “take a bow”. Our expectations fizzled and looking back at the drama one can only conclude that these guys are there for their own selfish gains period!

Forward to April 2016 our beloved Senators announced they will be purchasing SUVs worth N35m, Nigerians were naturally outraged, the NLC threatened to #OccupyNASS but the Senators justified the need for SUVs by saying that ministers and even lawmakers from the lower houses already have jeeps. Hear Senator Gobir: “There is no minister that hasn’t got about three or four cars, One land cruiser, maybe a backup and two Hilux cars. There is no director in the civil service that hasn’t got a car, there is no perm sec that hasn’t got a land cruiser. In fact, every House of Assembly has either a Prado or a Land Cruiser and here is a senator you say he cannot have one Land Cruiser”. Poor masses, once pictures of the NLC President’s luxury jeep floated freely in the online media talk of #OccupyNASS went down south. Even in the midst of allegations that prices were inflated by about 100% they went ahead with the purchase and stories have it there was a scramble on the day keys were distributed.

Now that the budget has been passed, our attention will definitely switch to the executive arm of government for implementation. It has always been the routine and the Senators know this. The takeaway for the masses is that even after the lengthy back and forth there isn’t any sign the usual Ghana Must Go bags exchanged hands, but more significantly Saraki’s trial at the CCT continues. So while the masses may switch focus to the executive his perceived traducers will probably not lose focus in the trial. The pace of events that will likely shape the coming days will leave him with fewer options. I learnt from a reliable source that the case files on the forgery of Senate Standing Orders had been ready long ago pending when the budget will be passed. With the recent order emanating from the AGF’s office that the DPP should prosecute those indicted in two weeks the Saraki’s blood pressure will be anything but normal. Let us remember that even with tough times facing the country President Buhari still enjoys cult followership, more especially in his Northern base, any attempt to fight back will likely be unproductive. The fallback option to PDP offers little hope with stories making the round that former Senate President David Mark dismissed the idea of any unlikely return. PDP in itself is in disarray, as a matter of fact Oloye Jnr. can be considered lucky that Buhari though stubborn, is not disposed to the tactics of fellow jack boot Obasanjo else we would be discussing a new Senate President by now.

They say to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail. Any discerning political observer will have to agree that Saraki was never adequately prepared for this onslaught. He may have made one or two deals with powerful men who have the President’s ears but sometimes other pressure can render such men and even the President helpless to intervene. The biggest burden for Oloye Jnr. is that his aggressors have enormous resources at their disposal; the media will not rest so long as his trial continues. It is just a matter of time before he bows to pressure therefore one would hope that for the Senate it will be time to remove the proverbial monkey’s hand from the soup before it turns into a human hand. The task of restoring confidence in the people and the executive can only start after that. A stitch in time….