Saraki, Dasuki trials like Clinton hearing By Minabere Ibelema

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Nigerian Senate President Bukola Saraki, former National Security Adviser Sambo Mohammed Dasuki and US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may want to have tea together sometime to share notes. As Saraki and Dasuki face various charges in Nigeria, the former US Secretary of State is facing Congressional hearings in the United States.

The developments may not seem to have much in common, but they do and remarkably so. On the one hand, the issues involved are serious. On the other hand, the trials and hearings reek so badly of politics that it is difficult to see them as markers of principled governance.

Let’s take the Clinton case first. On Sept. 11, 2012 — the year after Muamar Gaddafi, the long-tenured Libran leader was ousted and killed — the U.S. ambassador and three other U.S. personnel were killed at the embassy in Benghazi. Initially, the State Department reported that the attack was by a mob. As it turned out, it was by terrorists, probably al Qaeda.

Republicans have since gone for the jugular, harping on the discrepancy in explanations. The more serious concern they raise is whether the Clinton-led State Department ignored the Benghazi embassy’s security needs. That the attack took place exactly on the 11th anniversary of al Qaeda’s destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York should certainly have been a tip-off.

Clinton have had to answer questions via three extensive bipartisan investigations. Still, the Republicans insist on additional investigations amid presidential primary election campaigns, with Clinton looming as the Republicans’ opponent next year. Just two Wednesdays ago, they held a hearing during which they grilled her for 11 hours.

“Madam Secretary, I understand there are people frankly in both parties who have suggested that this investigation is about you,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, the select committee chairman said to Clinton at the beginning of the hearing. “Let me assure you it is not. And let me assure you why it is not. This investigation is about four people who were killed representing our country on foreign soil.”

The explanation might have had some credence had a Congressional Republican leader not bragged earlier that they succeeded in depressing Clinton’s poll numbers with the investigation. Certainly, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democratic member of the committee, didn’t buy the explanation.

“Clearly, it is possible to conduct a serious, bipartisan investigation,” Cummings said. “What is impossible is for any reasonable person to continue denying that Republicans are squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on this abusive effort to derail Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign.”

Given the trajectory of the investigation, it is probable that the Republicans will issue a damning report on Clinton at the peak of the campaigns next year.

Dasuki and Saraki cases

As President Muhammadu Buhari’s candidacy began to seem increasingly viable, a recurrently expressed misgiving was that he would undertake a vindictive mission if elected president. He addressed that concern in his acceptance speech. “A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office I shall go after them,” he said early in the speech.“These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue.”

Yet just weeks in office, his Department of State Services (DSS) went after Mohammed Sambo Dasuki, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s security adviser and reportedly one of the military officers who arrested Buhari in 1985 to end his 20-month military rule.

Dasuki’s homes in Sokoto and Abuja were raided based on “credible intelligence” linking Dasuki to “acts capable of undermining national security,” according to the DSS. And the raids uncovered arms and money for which Dasuki is now under trial. Dasuki is being charged for unlawful arms possession and money laundering, to the tune of $423,000, according to an Associated Press report.

Then against the wishes of Buhari and the APC leadership, Senator Bukola Saraki was elected Senate president. And almost immediately he came under probe for his asset declaration, which was determined to be inaccurate. And now he too is under trial.

Saraki has had no illusions as to why. “I wish to reiterate my remarks before the tribunal, that I have no iota of doubt that I am on trial today because I am the president of the Nigerian Senate, against the wishes of some powerful individuals outside this chamber,” Saraki told his fellow senators.

Much like the Clinton witch-hunt, Saraki’s assertion has apparently been confirmed. He is reportedly being offered a deal to step down from the Senate leadership position in return for having the charges dropped.

Politics and governance

These probes and trials all have some merit, but those merits pale in relation to the apparent machinations that drive them. In the United States, Clinton may have, indeed, been derelict in her oversight of the Benghazi consulate, but it should have been a settled matter by now. Sustaining the probe for political reasons is cynical and damaging to governance.

The spirit behind it underlies the ideological logjam in Congress that has stalled governance. For years, the logjam was most seriously between Democrats and the Republicans. Now it is fracturing the Republican leadership itself as evident in their struggles to find a Speaker of the House after the incumbent resigned in protest.

In Nigeria, the charges against Dasuki with regard to arms possession definitely seem specious for a person in his position and in a country where governorship candidates import arms to equip private armies. The more serious charges pertain to the money. Had he been nabbed in an investigative sweep, the case against him might be strong. But he was clearly a marked man the moment Buhari won the election, and that is what is disquieting.

That Saraki was similarly targeted for defying Buhari to win the Senate presidency adds to an emerging pattern. His charge of inaccurate asset declaration certainly reeks of petty power play. And it has furthered the delay in the institution of a fully functioning government five months into its tenure.

More than 10 per cent of Buhari’s 48-month tenure has already been used up. And there is no knowing when a full government will be in place. Meanwhile, Nigeria is facing intensifying economic problems.

Nigeria’s governance demands a firm hand but a gracious spirit.

Nugget of wisdom

Amidst Buddhist attacks on their Muslim compatriots, the Burmese opposition leader and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San SuuKyi, was asked what it would take to bring peace to Burma (CBS’s“60 Minutes”) and she responded: “The answer is very simple and very difficult. All we have to do is build up trust.”

PUNCH