The motive, whatever it is, must not be allowed to affect the outcome. The judgement must be fair to the accused and must be explicit in terms of details, whichever way it goes.
Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki was recently put in the dock at the Code of Conduct Tribunal to the consternation of Nigerians who had the opportunity of watching the live television coverage of his trial. He is facing a 13-count charge bordering on allegations of fraud in the declaration of his assets. It was one of rare occasions that a high ranking official of government, a number three citizen of the country, would be subjected to what many people have described as humiliating.
The entire saga had started with an action filed by the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, accusing Senator Saraki of offences ranging from anticipatory declarations of assets to false declaration of assets in the forms he filed while he was governor of Kwara State. The Bureau also accused him of failing to declare some assets he had acquired while in office, of acquiring assets beyond his legitimate earnings and also of operating foreign accounts while being a public officer. The allegations, according to the suit are a breach of Section 2 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Tribunal Act punishable under the Fifth Schedule of the Nigerian Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The CCB’s action against Saraki was trailed by insinuations that have endured since the beginning of the saga. It is to the effect that the court action is the handiwork of leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, on whose toes Saraki had rudely stepped on his way to the position of Senate President. Saraki who was not the APC’s preferred candidate for that office was elected at the inaugural session of the Senate in June, this year, in which most of the party’s newly elected senators were absent. That development infuriated APC leaders to no end. Their anger was further exacerbated by Saraki’s unrepentant disposition even after his attention had been called to what had been marked down among party leaders as gross act of insubordination.
Leaders of the party including President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu made desperate efforts to dissociate themselves from the Senate’s President’s ordeal but the insinuations that they are the unseen hands behind it have persisted. At the moment, there are speculations that impeachment might be on the cards for Saraki, despite the recent confidence vote passed on him by 83 of the country’s senators. What all these point to is that there is crisis in the nation’s majority political party which is affecting the health of the polity.
The senate is today a house divided against itself. So also is the House of Representatives. The two have been unable to settle down to their legislative duties since their inauguration as a result of this crisis. All of these are a product of the bitterness that arose from the election of principal officers of the two chambers of the National Assembly. The two chambers have had to resort to long adjournment of sessions to avert protest actions from members who are aggrieved over the appointment of principal officers. This translates into huge losses for the country that paid or will be paying their salaries and allowances for this period that they were unable to work.
In respect of the case against Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the issue now is not any longer the motive of the CCB in bringing it up but rather the outcome and its implications for our democracy and the rule of law. The accused must be given the opportunity of fair hearing in accordance with the rule of law. The motive, whatever it is, must not be allowed to affect the outcome. The judgement must be fair to the accused and must be explicit in terms of details, whichever way it goes. That is the only way the Tribunal can convince the public that it did not act the script handed out to it by the APC leaders as has been widely speculated.
Beyond that, it is necessary at this point to draw attention of the APC to the damage its internal crises have done and are still to the polity since the party assumed power in May, this year. Since the controversial election of Saraki, he has not had audience with President Buhari. Party leaders have continued to see him as a plague that must be avoided. And we are talking about the man who is the nation’s number three political figure and who is like that of the steering wheel of the National Assembly – a critical institution in a democracy. This situation must not be allowed to fester much longer.
The UNION is of the opinion that the country has had enough of this political tragicomedy and calls on the leaders of APC to put their house in order soonest. The issues involved are political in nature and political rather than legal remedies would be the more appropriate option in resolving the matter. Party leaders should create a political platform to discuss and resolve the crises. The present situation whereby the two sides are avoiding each other will not augur well for quick and meaningful resolution of the crises. President Buhari and Bola Tinubu should call a meeting of all the critical stakeholders of the party and resolve these problems once and for all so that the nation can move forward.