By Ocehereome Nnanna.
I AM a diehard opponent of bringing past military leaders back to preside over our democratic dispensation. Apart from the fact that they would always bring back the better forgotten memories of the 1966 coups, the Nigerian civil war and their evil aftermaths that leave a bitter taste in my mouth, they are singularly incompetent to correctly and successfully operate our democracy. Saraki When Obasanjo was in power, his eight years were bedevilled by his inability to refrain from meddling in the affairs of the National Assembly, the Judiciary, the various political parties (including his own Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which he finally destroyed and jumped ship after a dramatic but shameless public shredding of his membership card). He could also not let the various state governors be. He plotted the impeachment of many of them and discriminately declared states of emergency to install sole administrators where impeachment failed. Under Obasanjo, some of the worst elections on the continent of Africa took place. After Obasanjo quit the stage, the atmosphere cooled considerably as genuine democrats (the late President Umar Yar’Adua and later on, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan) took over. For eight subsequent years, the National Assembly operated without disturbance. The removal of the first female Speaker of the House of Reps, Hon. Patricia Etteh and her Deputy, owed more to the sentiments over her imposition by former President Obasanjo than Executive meddling. And it was independently initiated and carried out by her colleagues. Under Jonathan, even though Speaker Waziri Tambuwal emerged against the wishes of the then ruling Party and President, he was allowed to carry on with his duties since he enjoyed the tremendous support of his colleagues till November 2014 when he joined the PDP rebels who crossed over to the newly-formed All Progressives Congress,APC. When General Buhari assumed power and his main coalition partner, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, desired to install Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Senator Ahmed Lawan as the President of the Senate, Buhari surprised many, yours sincerely inclusive, when he openly declared that he would not interfere in the process of emergence of the leadership of the National Assembly as he was ready to work with whoever emerged. Unfortunately, Buhari did not keep his word. Tinubu got a dose of his own “Tambuwalisation” medicine when members of the National Assembly installed their independent choices – Dr. Bukola Saraki as the President of the Senate and Hon. Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The South West power broker dragged Buhari into a needless (and so far futile) effort to force the Federal lawmakers (especially the Senate) to remove their elected leaders and install their agents. His anger was that Saraki and Dogara had secured the backing of their PDP colleagues to emerge. In fact, Saraki had traded off the post of Deputy Senate President to the PDP which enabled Senator Ike Ekweremadu to emerge. The trumped up anger and bitterness over the emergence of a PDP leader to share power in an APC Federal Government is behind the current threat by the Executive to destabilise the Federal Legislature by seeking the removal of Saraki by hook or crook. The anti-Saraki alliance inside the APC is not only seeking a strong foothold in the current Buhari regime, many of its elements are eyeing 2019 when some foolishly believe that Buhari would step down after one term. While Tinubu, whose Vice Presidential ambition was opposed by Saraki and Atiku Abubakar wanted to control the National Assembly in addition to having the Vice President, others like Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El Rufai and his Katsina State counterpart, Aminu Masari, are believed to be nursing the ambition of stepping into Buhari’s shoes “when” he gives up the presidential seat in 2019. Rotimi Amaechi, who had inherited the Chairmanship of the Governors Forum from Saraki, is also angry with the Senate President for not supporting his aspiration to emerge as Buhari’s Vice President. All these guys see Saraki’s position as Senate President as a threat to their interests and would fancy his fall from that seat. The strategy they adopted could be termed: “”persecution by prosecution”, or the use of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal to induce not only Saraki’s removal from the Presidency of the Senate but also the total eclipsing of his political career. To get the project on the road, former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde (who, incidentally is now wanted for alleged “relooting” of recovered funds) and the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau, Danladi Umar came in handy. Lamorde exhumed the assets declaration of Bukola Saraki, which he swore to as Governor of Kwara State in 2003. He was accused of false assets declaration and other offences and arraigned before Umar’s CCB. The way they went about the whole business made it obvious that all they wanted was for Saraki to be quickly shipped out even before Buhari released his line-up of ministerial nominees in September, 2015. However, Saraki responded by using his own legal team to delay the process which has remained ongoing till date. I do not see anything wrong in getting any former public officeholder, especially those formerly covered by immunity, to answer to any criminal acts they are alleged to have committed. That the alleged offence took place twelve or thirteen years ago is neither here nor there. In fact, that Saraki is being made a “scape-goat” among the myriad of other equally culpable former governors and officeholders is also non sequitur. Every occupant of public office must be prepared to give an account of his stewardship whenever called upon to do so and if found guilty must pay for it according to the law. Therefore, let the legal process raised against Bukola Saraki proceed and be followed to logical conclusion. But it MUST be done in accordance with the due processes of the law. If Saraki is eventually found guilty he must pay for it. I do not subscribe to the puerile sentiment that the Chief Lawmaker of the nation should not be in the dock. But while he is going through the legal trial, he remains innocent until (and if) proved guilty. Secondly, his continued stay in office as the President of the Senate must remain at the pleasure of those who voted him in – his colleagues. If, at any juncture of his tenure they no longer want him as their leader they should be free to dispense with his services in the same way as they had voluntarily installed him. I am totally against efforts by external forces to employ the dirty tricks perfected by former President Obasanjo to undermine the integrity of any of the other arms of government in our democracy. We opposed it then, and we still oppose it even now. The reason is simple. Our democracy will be much poorer when external forces, such as the Presidency, the ruling political party or powerful elements therein are allowed to destabilise our National Assembly and install their stooges to act as their rubberstamp zombies. That will be a fertile nursery for a civilian dictatorship. The National Assembly must remain independent in accordance to our Constitutional intendments. Only a free and independent National Assembly can effectively act as a check on the Executive, make good laws for country, represent their people well (as opposed to representing party chiefs or turning the Legislature into an extension of the Executive Branch), carry out their oversight functions diligently and help deliver good governance to Nigerians. This is how I want the Saraki matter to be settled.