Dr Bukola Saraki, long before becoming the Senate President, was undoubtedly one of the most powerful Nigerian leaders. In 1990, with just about one year post NYSC experience, he became a director of ‘Societe Generale’, a bank owned by his father. The billions he allegedly borrowed within the same year without collateral was said to have hastened the collapse of the bank. Following the pressure mounted by Societe Generale Paris, which owned a majority stake in Societe Generale Nigeria on the Inspector General of Police to question Saraki about illegal and “unauthorized withdrawals of money,” he was soon after slammed with felony theft and felony conspiracy charges. (Police file no. AR-1360/X/F/Vol.12 on December 7, 1990, as quoted by Sahara Reporters). But Nothing came out of it despite a 30-count indictment against the Sarakis just as nothing came out of his alleged involvement in the Intercontinental Bank’s debt rip-off and the ‘case of alleged conspiracy, forgery and stealing of the sum of N21 billion belonging to Joy Petroleum’ probably because laws in Nigeria, as some have argued, are made to protect the powerful.
In 2003, Saraki’s father promoted him governor of Kwara, a fiefdom he had impoverished for over 50 years. He was there until 2011 when he moved on to become a senator. When the PDP turned the heat on him for assuming the role of a whistle blower in the fuel subsidy scam by claiming that Joy Petroleum which he allegedly had interest benefitted from the N1.7 trillion fuel subsidy scam, he traded PDP off for APC.
Similarly when APC, his new party in its wisdom believed he did not have the moral strength to drive the change mantra upon which the party defeated a sitting government, Saraki who does not believe there is anything money, influence and ‘politricks’ cannot buy, traded off the victory of his party with the opposition. While his 51 other elected party members were having a meeting at another venue, he, by his own account, hid inside a small car in front of the senate chambers for three hours after which he sneaked in to be adopted Senate President by 48 opposition senators and about eight of his supporters.
When his wife was invited by EFCC following PDP’s (Kwara) petition, over some contracts linked to her while he was the governor, Saraki who has never been associated with failure in his various battles with the judiciary and his different parties, saw only a ‘witch-hunt’.
That was soon followed by his arraignment before the Code of Conduct Tribunal by the office of the Attorney General which slammed him with the following charges: Making anticipatory declaration of House 15A&15B McDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos; Failure to declare property on Plot 2A, Glover road, Ikoyi; Failure to declare property on No 1, Tagus Street, Maitama, Abuja (Plot 2482, Cadastral Zone A06, Abuja; Failure to declare property No. 3 Tagus Street, Maitama, Abuja (plot 2481, Cadastral Properties Limited); Claiming to own property on no 42 Gerald Road, Ikoyi and earning N110,000,000,00) per annum at a time the property was under construction; Failure to declare N375m GTB loan converted to 1.5m pounds sterling and used to purchase property in London; Operating a foreign bank account; Transfer of $3.4m from GTB to foreign bank account during tenure as governor and failure to declare leasehold interest in no 42, Remi Fani-Kayode Street, Ikeja among others.
Saraki ran to a high court in Abuja with all the SANs money could buy in order to stop his appearance before CCT. Leaving nothing to chance, he also approached the Appeal Court. Meanwhile some SANs like Agbakoba who had earlier warned APC against sanctioning Saraki for trading off the victory of his party was on Channels Television. First he said, by virtue of his status as SAN and former President of NBA, he was sure the High Court was superior to the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Then he wanted the CJN to make an urgent public pronouncement to clear the air. If Agbakoba appeared confused, no one was deceived.
Saraki was to tell reporters after his arraignment that ‘most of them (charges) are frivolous, mischievous and not current’ while his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu, issued a statement admitting ‘some of the issues contained in the sheet are subjects of issues earlier decided on or on-going in courts’. Saraki also speaking to his colleagues during plenary says, “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 President of the Nigerian Senate, against the wishes of some powerful individuals outside this chambers.’
Two conclusions can be deduced from the above. First, that some of the allegations against Saraki are true after all. This however has not stopped 83 senators (48 PDP and 35 APC) from passing what Senator Kabir Marafa, the Senate Unity Forum’s spokesman described as ‘worthless self-serving motion brought to abuse the collective sensibilities of Nigerians and supported by some overzealous neophytes that see the Senate President as a Divisional Police Officer and the committees as roadblocks.’ Second, if it takes immoral usurpation of the senate presidency seat for Saraki who has been engulfed in endless judicial battles since 1990 to finally clear his name by establishing ownership and explaining the sources of funding for all the properties his detractors attributed to him, I think it will be victory for him and for Nigeria.
Marafa has given what appears a plausible explanation for the disgraceful role of his 35 APC senators in the senate’s assault on the sensibilities of our people. He says they are probably after juicy committee chairmanships. The role of the 48 PDP senators who have never broken rank however is understandable. They all share a common world-view with their leading light, David Mark, and Ike Ekweremadu, who jointly presided over the 7th Senate, celebrated as the most expensive legislature in the world where members smiled to their banks while PDP wheelers and dealers almost wrecked the nation’s economy through monumental stealing.
There is also a lesson to be drawn from the betrayal of our nation by the 83 senators who chose to bury their heads like ostrich in the sand instead of confronting the issues of morality and ethics before them. Their hypocrisy is in the character of our self-serving political class who after identifying our derailed federal arrangement as the source of corruption, crisis of indigenship, infrastructural decay, collapse of the educational and the health sectors, chose to apply as palliatives what has often been described as ‘social engineering efforts of the military’ viz NYSC, Government colleges, federal universities, quota system of admission into the tertiary institutions and bureaucracy, senseless funding of LGAs by federal government to which they are not accountable.
However, the public is not deceived by self serving vote of confidence on Saraki by powerful senators such as Andy Uba, Buruji Kashamu, Mohammed Goje, Theodore Orji , Joshua Dariye, Jeremiah Useni, Biodun Olujimi, Godswil Akpabio, and Stella Oduah who like him believe the law is only for the protection of the most powerful.