The legal action on Senate President Bukola Saraki by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) is an ego war between him and a bigwig of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Bola Tinubu, with 2019 election year promising to be the compelling factor.
The trial of Senator Saraki by CCT over alleged false declaration of assets has generated heated debate within the polity as the vendetta has attracted media attention and dominated the political space.
Exceptional columnist of Daily Trust, Abdullateef Aliyu, in this piece titled: ‘Between Saraki, Tinubu: Who laughs last?’ unveils the Fons et origo of the war between Saraki and Tinubu, also the underlining political shenanigans against the Senate President within the APC caucus and the purported clandestine plot by some aggrieved members to oust him.
Here is an excerpt from Daily Trust below:
Since June 9, 2015 when Saraki emerged as the Senate president against the preferred choice of the party, Senator Ahmed Lawan from Yobe State, there has been no love lost between Saraki and the senators who are opposed to his emergence. These are members of the Senate Unity Forum who are backed by the APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu.
It would be recalled that members of the Unity Forum and other APC leaders had gathered at the International Conference Centre (ICC) in Abuja for a meeting to resolve the controversy over the leadership positions in the National Assembly which had caused sharp division among members of the party. While people still gathered at the ICC purportedly awaiting the arrival of President Mohammadu Buhari to mediate on the raging crisis, other senators, mostly of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and few of the APC Senators, acting on Buhari’s letter proclaiming the inauguration of the 8th Assembly, unanimously elected Saraki as the Senate President while Ike Ekweremadu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was elected Deputy Senate President.
This obviously jolted many APC senators and leaders who were gathered at the conference centre to finalize the choice of Lawan who had earlier been chosen in a stroll poll conducted by the party though boycotted by the Saraki group. For Tinubu and others, it was clear that they were beaten to their own game and so they were determined to change the situation no matter what it takes.
The anger of the party was reflected in the several statements issued by the APC spokesman, Lai Mohammad threatening to punish those who defied the directive of the party. While parties in the crisis within the APC family moved to douse tension generated by Saraki’s emergence, the APC national leader did not hide his repudiation of Saraki’s Senate Presidency following his inability to recognize him (Saraki) as the Senate President.
Our correspondent reliably gathered that Tinubu has vowed not to recognize Saraki and has resolved to ensure his ouster from that seat. This has therefore fuelled speculations that Tinubu and other APC leaders opposed to Saraki are behind his ordeal and would stop at nothing other than his removal because Tinubu felt slighted and humiliated that Saraki could emerge as the Senate president despite his opposition.
In any case, the cold war between Tinubu and Saraki is expected with the defection of Saraki and former chieftains of PDP, including five governors to the APC. The Saraki’s case was particularly peculiar given the peculiarity of Kwara politics and the persistent dominance of the Saraki dynasty. Having inherited the dynasty from his father, late Dr.
Olusola Saraki, Bukola has taken over the leadership of the dynasty and has been able to hold the dynasty together against any external onslaught. While Lagos is to Tinubu, Kwara is to Saraki without mincing words. The two, according to observers, exist as the feudal lords of their respective territories independent of each other, working in isolation and asserting each other’s superiority.
In 2011 election under the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Tinubu sponsored Mr. Dele Belgore, the then governorship candidate of the party in Kwara State to defeat the ruling leadership but the party (ACN) failed in its bid to dislodge Saraki despite the massive mobilization and intimidating campaign rallies Tinubu held in the state. By the 2015 election, much water had passed under the bridge and a lot of changes had taken place in the political landscape to effect the much hyped change in the polity; one that would see to the ouster of the PDP government which had held sway for 16 years.
However, one distinct characteristic of the change was the alignment of interests and forces with Saraki and five other governors and chieftains of PDP dumping the party for the coalition APC.
This alignment of forces has therefore engendered the union of politicians believed to have different orientations and understanding of politics. It was a marriage of cats and mice and in the case of Saraki and Tinubu, it was tagged aptly by analysts and pundits as a marriage of inconvenience. But as some observers argued, the quest for the presidency by the coalition APC has necessitated the marriage and it turned out to be a successful but delicate one.
With the elections over, the challenge for the APC was to elect the National Assembly leadership. This became the first test for the APC as the new ruling party. Without a clear-cut power sharing formula, the leadership positions became an all-comers’ affair, open to all those who had eyes on the coveted positions, especially the offices of the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Saraki at the outset did not hide his interest in the Senate Presidency. Tinubu on the other side also did not hide his aversion for Saraki’s ambition, with calculations largely driven by prospects of the 2019 year. The argument within Tinubu’s camp was that Saraki would use the office to water the ground for his presidential ambition in 2019. This therefore fuelled the battle for the National Assembly leadership positions which further heated the polity after the election.
But Saraki forged an alliance with the PDP senators to eventually emerge as the Senate President having realized that the party was averse to his becoming the number three citizen of the country.
Saraki who appeared before the CCT over a 13-count charge of false declaration of assets when he became the governor of Kwara State in 2003, said he is currently facing trial because he is the Senate president even as he declared that he is not guilty of all the charges levelled against him. Tinubu who was also asked to comment on Saraki’s trial during the last Eid-el-Kabir festival was evasive in his response, saying it is part of the nation’s development even as he said he had also been through the same ordeal, referring to his own trial in 2009 by the same CCT. Referring to Saraki’s trial, he said, “We cannot overlook a lot of things and we cannot personalize a lot of things as if it is vendetta. We have to endure and be patient as we look for justice, equity and a balanced society.”
Though the CCT has adjourned Saraki’s trial to October 22 and 23, there were calls over the weekend in some quarters that Saraki should throw in the towel over his on-going trial. This has fuelled tension of an impending stormy session as the Senate was set to reconvene from its long recess. However, the tension was calmed as over 83 Senators passed a vote of confidence on Saraki and other leaders of the National Assembly while other senators belonging to the Senate Unity Forum led by Chief Barnabas Gemade remain defiant.
For Saraki, the latest confidence vote was a great relief; one that has boosted his confidence of enjoying majority support to continue to steer the ship of the upper legislative arm, while for the Tinubu camp, it has reportedly been seen as a setback in its determination to unseat the Senate president.
Our correspondent reports that the ego war between Tinubu and Saraki has been the trending issue across the country. In the commercial city of Lagos where Tinubu is in control, there are discordant tunes by Lagosians. While some back their godfather, Tinubu, others queue behind Saraki and call the bluff of the APC leader. But in the aggregate, those who spoke to our correspondent were of the view that Tinubu has the wherewithal to make things happen in the present dispensation. But can he succeed in removing Saraki?
A strong supporter of Saraki in Ilorin, Alhaji Sulyman Kayode Yusuf insisted that Tinubu and other aggrieved APC leaders cannot remove Saraki since they couldn’t stop his emergence in the first instance. Yusuf who spoke with our correspondent noted that the emergence of Saraki as the Senate president was an act of God and the same Almighty would undo the conspiracy of anyone working to oust him.
As the crisis persists, analysts stress the need for the APC to resolve its internal wrangling and work towards stabilizing the polity because removing Saraki may pave the way for the emergence of a PDP Senate president and make the party a loser in the end.