Abioye Olarenwaju in Ilorin examines the travails of Senate President Bukola Saraki following his attack at the Ilorin prayer ground at the weekend
These are tough times for Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his APC faction in the Senate. During the Sallah celebration in Ilorin the Kwara State capital, the pre-Sallah prediction that some aggrieved persons, particularly unpaid workers in the state would use the occasion of the muslim festivity to embarrass him and Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed came to pass at the central mosque where he had gone to worship on Thursday.
Hoodlums who disguised as worshippers on Thursday disrupted the Eid-elkabir prayers in Ilorin and threw stones and sachet water and the Senate President, Sen. Bukola Saraki. The situation, The UNION reports threw the Eid praying ground into pandemonium as worshippers ran helter- skelter for safety.
Trouble erupted at the praying ground immediately the Senate President arrived. m The hoodlums’ action was said to have inspired angry worshippers including women and children to abandon the prayer and threw stones and water at Saraki. The presence of security agents in mufti and uniforms in company of the Senate President could not however put the situation under control. The worshippers ignored tear gas and several gunshots into the air throwing the prayer ground into pandemonium as people scampered for safety. Some of the worshippers who spoke to The UNION said they were only able to offer one of the two mandatory prayer rakats.
The situation prevented the Chief Imam from delivering his annual sermon to the worshippers while the Emir also abandoned his Sallah message. It took a combined team of police, army and other security operatives several minutes before the Senate President was driven out of the praying ground. One of Emir’s horsemen was injured in the melee, while several vehicles were damaged.
The Public Relations Officer of the Kwara Police Command, Mr Ajayi Okasanmi who spoke with newsmen immediately after the prayer confirmed the attack on the Senate President at the praying ground.
He said some miscreants who were looking for Sallah gift from the Senate President triggered off the action.
According to him, by Monday, today, those behind the melee would be identified, as he was sure no civil servant was among those arrested in connection with the crisis. Okasanmi said the situation was promptly brought under control and the prayer resumed.
He said that a total of 2, 000 policemen and women had earlier been deployed across the state to keep law and order during the sallah prayers.
The Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor on Media and Communinication, Dr Muideen Akorede said the attack was not targeted at the Senate President and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed.
Akorede who corroborated the PPRO’s view said miscreants who wanted to exhort money from Sen. Saraki carried out the attack.
“Gov Ahmed was not even at the Eid praying ground, he was at his home in Share where he prayed, so the attack could not be targeted at him,” Akorede added. Also, a source closed to the Senate President however said the attack was not targeted at the Sen. Saraki. According to the aide who pleaded anonymity, the worshippers were said to have been angry over unpaid salaries.
But at another occasion yesterday, Gov Ahmed has said that religion must be insulated from being employed as political weapon against opponents.
The governor said this at Oke Ode while speaking during the official opening of the town’s Central Mosque. Dr Ahmed in a release signed by his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Abdulwahab Oba declared that there was the need to insulate religion from being used as political weapon especially with insurgency in the country that has been wrongly attributed to Islam.
He said Muslims and people of goodwill must rally in condemning efforts of some suspected miscreants in defiling the place of worship in Ilorin the state capital.
“While our laws allow peaceful protest, we must, in the interest of sanctity of our faiths, condemn such behaviour to prevent reoccurrence and demonstrate that we do not stand for such conduct”, he added.
In the event, political watchers are interpreting the events as part of coordinated action by the Senate President’s enemies to orchestrate his removal from the exalted seat of the Senate President, following his appearance at the Code of Conduct Tribunal last week to answer a 13 count charge of allegations of false declaration of assets.
Indeed The UNION has learnt that plans are afoot by the APC Senators and party officials who had always been against his emergence, to, according to a source “put the final nail on the coffin” , meaning to remove him.
Meanwhile, there is every possibility that even if his political enemies get at him, they may not hit the target of their desire, which is to have one of their crowned the Senate president. While the APC senators and their party leaders are meeting, those loyal to Saraki and their PDP supporters who decided his victory together with their own as Deputy, Ekweremadu, are getting prepared to “deal with APC and cut them to their haughty size” said a source. That means that should the alliance succeeded in harassing Saraki and force him to resign as the Nigerian Labour Congress at the weekend campaigned. Even though the die seems cast for Saraki, the APC may be unwittingly playing into the hands of the PDP. David Mark look set to come back. A source said, President Buhari may be even more comfortable working with a former military officer like him so as to keep the quarrelling politicians at bay.
Allegations has been rife that the current challenges of the Senate president is been orchestrated by his party to punish him for flouting party decision on the leadership of the National Assembly.
While Speaker Dogara has since settled his troubles with the party Saraki who compounded his woes by refusing to resolve his differences by letting the party have its ways with the sharing of other offices of principal officer is said to be a target by the party desperate tp have its pound of flesh by any means.
In the meantime, he PDP lawmakers are confident that should there be a need for votes to pick a presiding officer, the party’s caucus is in a good stead to determine who presides over the upper chamber.
In the Senate that currently has 108 members until a bye-election conducted to fill the vacancy following the death of a member, APC has 59 senators and and PDP 49. While the APC caucus is divided over the emergence of Saraki as Senate President, the PDP caucus remains intact, and would only need 11 more Senators to fulfil the constitutional stipulation of one third votes to produce the Senate President. Should the APC insist on having its way regardless of the consequences, the scenario awaiting the party is that many APC supporters many from the nPDP and governors afraid that if the CCB succeeds with Saraki, they may be targeted since the probe now goes to 2003 when many of them governed.
With Saraki’s core supporters in APC, many of whom may be targeted by the party for supporting Saraki, the PDP has the number to give Senator David Mark the ticket. Mark and Ekweremadu though from the opposition party may even play into the President’s said position to ameliorate some decision on ehnic balancing that had particularly ruffled feathers in the Southeast. The North central would still be mollified with Mark’s emergence since that had been the traditional zone that the party had wanted to take it with Senator George Akume.
There is no telling the capacity of Saraki to fight back, but the scenario looks to loaded against him as his enemies are deploying every weapon in their arsenal to make him uncomfortable.
Weekend clamour by Labour that he should resign is part of the plot been orchestrated by his enemies to frustrate him out of office. In the weeks ahead other NGOs have been lined up to continue from where Labour stops.
The coming weeks would prove not only testy for Saraki but the Senate where friends and foe alike are uncertain where their fate would swing with the unpredictable pendulum of events.