Saraki’s long, lonely walk … NATION

sarakiSenate President Bukola Saraki is full of guile, courage and ambition, and he has brought all three attributes to his quest for relevance in the polity and dominance in the National Assembly. More accurately, however, he has become a slave to these attributes, deploying one where the other would do, and summoning yet another where, sometimes, just being plain himself would be adequate. Now he can’t think, sleep or move without being guileful, ambitious or embroiled in one stratagem or the other. His life has become one rousing scheme of intrigues and foolhardy confrontation. Yet, what he actually lacks, sadly, is wisdom, without which his attributes, as desirable as they may seem, cannot take wing. The fear among many commentators is that his heart is so full of schemes that there is no room for anything else, let alone that pearly substance, wisdom.

As the 8th Senate was about to settle down for business in June, a defiant Dr Saraki brusquely adopted Machiavellian tactics to seize the Senate throne. Not only did he seize the throne and poke a finger in the eye of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), he also stuck adamantly to his resolve to ignore party leaders’ remonstrances. Worse, when it seemed an olive branch to party leaders would make them sheathe their swords, he preferred to uproot the entire tree and incinerate its branches. Even if the party was reluctantly prepared to concede the throne to him, he was told he couldn’t also determine who would be the party’s principal officers in the Senate. He could, and he would, he growled. And so he did with such infuriating, off-putting panache, leaving his party with the short end of the stick, and lying indecently naked in bed with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Dr Saraki’s continuing defiance notwithstanding, the public and party leaders had probably thought the crisis in the APC could not get any worse, and that sooner or later, the Senate President would finally send the mythical olive branch. Instead, with the aid of an elaborate alibi, including planning foreign trips and deploying his foot-soldiers and men Friday, he has appeared to intensify the war. If the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) could haul his wife, Toyin, in for interrogation on money laundering charges, why, the Senate could also haul in the EFCC boss himself, Ibrahim Lamorde. It is good old balance of terror. It does not matter whether the process of hauling in Mr Lamorde agreed with Senate rules. All that mattered is that the feet of the EFCC boss must be held to the fire, even if it causes or exacerbates divisions in the Senate and aggravates bitterness and divisions among party members and leaders.

Since he enacted that spectacular coup in the Senate in June, Dr Saraki has been given the cold shoulder by the president and party leaders. That isolation is expected to worsen in the coming weeks. Indeed, the isolation will intensify into full-blown animosity if Dr Saraki spurns peace. There are signs of a thaw, however, a thaw that some fear could end in a disgraceful compromise. The Senate President has not denied he is seeking a rapprochement with party leaders, but he seeks peace on his own terms. His opponents, the Senator Ahmed Lawan group, insist Dr Saraki must show remorse and be willing to respect and accommodate party wishes. That suggestion galls the Senate President. However, his emissary, Senator Ali Ndume, has embarked on a shuttle diplomacy to reconcile Dr Saraki and party leaders, including the president. The effort may end futilely.

A wise Senate President Saraki, after securing the top legislative prize through unethical means, would have bent over backwards to accommodate the party and adopt its list of principal officers. He probably however believed that doing so would make him vulnerable. But without accommodating the party on a substantial level, he could become even more vulnerable. In fact, if the war becomes drawn-out, there is a higher probability that Dr Saraki’s position would become more untenable, as the turmoil in the chamber would convince more frustrated members desirous of peace and reluctant to remain at daggers drawn with the presidency to jump ship and abandon him.

Time is on the side of the APC leadership. They should not be desperate to reach accommodation with Dr Saraki. The misunderstanding between the Senate President and his party is not just one of personality or a normal struggle for positions. It is a misunderstanding anchored on the salient principles of party politics, party ideology and party ethos. The APC will be in greater danger if, as seems obvious, they are unable to influence President Muhammadu Buhari into more open, expansive and broadminded leadership, nor tragically even compel obedience and respect from Dr Saraki and other iconoclastic legislative leaders.

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