There is nothing that has happened so far at the Tribunal to suggest that its arraignment of Saraki is part of a noble effort to fight the corrupt war in Nigeria
For the sake of democracy and the rule of law in Nigeria, Dr. Bukola Saraki must never heed the morbid calls for his resignation as the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In a similar vein, the 109 Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should not entertain the notion or even contemplate impeaching Saraki as the Senate President for the sake of the independence of the legislature.
Yes, Saraki should not resign or be impeached because the laws of Nigeria as at today still see him as an innocent soul despite his arraignment at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over allegations of false declaration of assets.
This is not the first time the independence of the legislature and the right of legislators to elect their leadership is under attack in Nigeria.
In 2001 when the Presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo unleashed venomous bile against the independence of the Senate, the late Senate President, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, made the mistake of his life by instituting the Kuta Panel which findings were used as pretext to remove him from office, after being goaded to do so by the unthinking media and the public.
It did not matter that the same anticipatory approval for which Okadigbo was impeached had been applied by President Obasanjo in so many projects, and in such humongous degree, including the over-inflated Abuja National Stadium, that, in comparison, Okadigbo’s “manufactured crime” paled into insignificance.
Even before Saraki’s arraignment, commentaries and opinion essays have begun to dominate media spaces calling on him to resign to save the image of the Senate and democracy in Nigeria. All manner of sundry groups are being
mobilized to stage protests calling on Saraki to resign or urging the Senate to impeach him as a means of saving our democracy from disgrace.
However, just as Ghali Umar Na’Abba, as Speaker of the House of Representatives withstood all pressures for him to follow the Okadigbo path and set up a kangaroo panel to remove himself from office, and succeeded, Saraki and the Senate should ignore all the irritating demands that he should resign because all these calls are merely geared towards realizing the interests of the APC leadership that wants Senator Ahmed Lawan as Senate President, and has nothing to do with the consolidation and sustenance of democracy in Nigeria. The truth is that there is no cogent or meaningful reason for anybody to demand Saraki’s resignation as the President of the Senate as at today.
Until the CCT asks Saraki to vacate his seat as a Senator, it would be premature to force him to resign or even impeach him when the law is that an accused is still innocent until pronounced guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. Why the haste to force him out of office when the CCT, after Saraki’s trial, has the power to ask him “to vacate his office”, if found guilty? Well, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, the Spokesperson of the Lagos State chapter of the APC has graciously told the whole world why the CCT perhaps decided to defy a federal high court order to dock Saraki.
According to Igbokwe, “APC does not want Bukola Saraki as the Senate President.. .Sasaki has caused enough implosions within the party… He has slowed down the Party’s machinery from taking off smoothly, and he has portrayed us as a weak party. Now is the time for him to go”. At least, Igbokwe’s outburst confirms Saraki’s remarks in the witness box that his party docked him because he became Senate President against their wish.
Given this revelation, we can now see why Saraki’s trial at the CCT is simply a ruse to get him out of the seat of the Senate President of Nigeria. This also explains why the CCT, in carrying out the onerous task of removing Saraki as the Senate President in the bid to satisfy the interests of the ruling party, the APC, has decided to disobey all known rules and procedures.
For instance, Section 3(d) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act says: “The Bureau shall., .receive complaints about non-compliance with or breach of this Act and where the Bureau considers it necessary to do so, refer such complaints to the Code of Conduct Tribunal established by Section 20 of this Act: provided that where the person concerned makes a written admission of such breach or noncompliance, no references to the Tribunal shall be necessary”.
In other words, a public officer must be given the opportunity to make a written admission of a breach, and where such written admission of breach or non-compliance is made, that ends the matter. Why, in the case of Saraki, was he not given the opportunity to make a written admission of any such breach as demanded by the law before being docked at the CCT? The truth is that employing corrupt
means and by-passing regular procedure and violating the law in order to cage Saraki only exposes the deceit in the so-called anti-corruption campaign of the APC-led Buhari Presidency.
The conduct ofthe Hon. Danladi Umar-led tribunal has only highlighted the fact that it cannot do justice on the Saraki matter before it. It is also clear that the decision of the tribunal to defy a federal high court order in order to dock the President of the Senate is an abuse of the rule of law, which portends danger to our judicial system and democracy. There is nothing that has happened so far at the Tribunal to suggest that its arraignment of Saraki is part of a noble effort to fight the corrupt war in Nigeria.
From every indication, what has happened, and may continue to happen, to Saraki in the days, weeks and even months ahead, is just the use of state institutions by President Buhari’s APC-led Federal Government to fight apolitical opponent in the hope of achieving through the backdoor what the APC leadership and its members have failed to appropriate through the democratic process; that is, enthrone Senator Ahmed Lawan as the President of the 8th Senate, the Red Chamber of the National Assembly.
As one Chibuzor Obiakor wrote in the Letters page of The Nation (Tuesday, September29,2015), “That he (Saraki) was charged with wrongdoing is no big deal. Anybody could be charged for anything – whether true or trumped up. A mischievous prosecutor seeking to settle scores on political or amorous jilts could bring charges on his nemesis. However, given the blind stance of Lady Justice, every charged person is innocent until proven guilty. Senator Saraki may still prove his innocence in this matter. Thus to charge a person is not the end of the world. What really matters is the course of justice in charging a person, and the fidelity of the avenues available to clear the name of any accused person”.
The hope is that the multitude of Saraki-haters and APC apparatchik, together with their fellow camp-travellers in the campaign to remove Saraki as the Senate President would heed the profound sermon of Mr. Obiakor made above and await the outcome of the proceedings at the CCT before embarking on their silly sing-song that Saraki should voluntarily resign or be impeached by his fellow legislators. This is the only way to deepen democracy in Nigeria.
- Fidel Ezenwa wrote in from Kubwa, Abuja. Tel: 07087541480