SaharaReporters has learned from presidency sources that Senate President Bukola Saraki has formed an alliance with a cabal within the Aso Rock Villa determined on confusion and disorder rather than witness Acting President Yemi Osinbajo assume full presidential powers.
The new balance of forces emerges as the cabal has found it impracticable in the past few weeks to bring back ailing President Muhammadu Buhari to the country.
Buhari's doctors continue to insist he cannot function or run Nigeria in his present state of health, but the cabal, which is using ethnicity and religious sentiments to foment deep-seated animosity against the Acting President, has continued to explore its options.
To that end, it met recently in Saudi Arabia with Mr. Saraki, led by Isa Funtua, a failed businessman who was owner of now bankrupt Bullet Construction Company, while Saraki led some senators. Also in the Senate President’s group were Ahmadu Adamu Mu'azu, a former Bauchi State Governor and ex-chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party chairman who fled Nigerian on exile, as well as Bala Mohammed, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory who is undergoing trial for money laundering.
Our sources say the cabal held several meetings with Saraki’s team, the senators included having been sponsored to the lesser hajj on fat allowances from the coffers of the National Assembly.
At the meeting, the cabal decided on a number of options to force Acting President Osinbajo out of power. The options include bringing Mr. Buhari to Nigeria in whatever condition he might be. That plan was to use the gravely sick president’s presence to implement their agenda by
insisting he is not the first leader to become sick in office, citing those countries whose leaders were sick but remained in office.
That option created difficulties on account of Buhari's precarious condition, including lapses of lucidity. Sometimes, says one of our
sources, the president does not even remember where he is. Besides, Buhari often loses his voice as a side effect of one of the drugs prescribed for him by UK doctors.
A second option considered by the cabal was to force Mr. Osinbajo to accept current Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, as the Vice President. In that event, the cabal would prevail on President Buhari to resign, provided that Mr. Osinbajo agreed to drop all corruption cases against senators and withdraw the Federal Government’s appeal against a verdict of the Code of Conduct Tribunal that cleared Mr. Saraki of charges that he violated asset declaration laws. In addition, Mr. Osinbajo would commit to remove Ibrahim Magu from the chairmanship of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
One source said Mr. Saraki was opposed to the plan as he aspires to become the VP so as to be assured of immunity from prosecution. However,
cabal members favor Mr. Malami because they consider him somebody who comes from the “core north” and would be more acceptable to their base, a profile Saraki does not fit.
The third option weighed by the cabal was to create enough political crisis in the country as to provoke a military takeover of power. However, that option proved problematic when Western diplomats sternly signaled that they would not accept a military coup in Nigeria as such an intervention could lead to Nigeria's break up. Even so, one of our sources said the cabal members had not altogether abandoned that option.
On his return from the hajj, Mr. Saraki held several meetings with senators loyal to him and directed them not to entertain any motion calling for Mr. Buhari's resignation unless his own position as the prospective VP was assured. On his part, Mr. Isa Funtua met with numerous northern politicians, powerful civil servants and military officers and warned that the North could not afford to “lose power” to the Yoruba. He reminded them that, when former President Umaru Yar’Adua died, the North ceded power to Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijaw man they thought would be easy to manipulate. However, within a few months of assuming the presidency, Mr. Jonathan, he claimed, gave all the important appointments “to his people.” He stated that the Yoruba were
way too smart to be left with power for the remainder of Mr. Buhari's term.
It is to be noted that the sudden resurgence on Tuesday of senators’ obsession with removing Mr. Magu was not a coincidence. Some top National Assembly sources revealed that the demand for Magu to be fired was the first salvo in a planned set of orchestrated moves meant to subvert the Nigerian constitution and avert a potential Osinbajo presidency.
Osinbajo's offense, according to the sources, is that he has stood solidly behind the President in the nomination and preference of Mr. Magu as EFCC Chairman.
The situation on Tuesday was so bad that while Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe was moving a motion asking the Senate to declare Saraki “Acting President,” Mr. Osinabjo was already back in Abuja from his trip to the African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
Apparently, Abaribe and Senator Kabir Marafa did not know, and Saraki shut down the motion pretending as though he had no prior knowledge of it. However, several Senate sources told SaharaReporters that Saraki had simply forgotten to inform Abaribe and others involved in the plot that Osinbajo had returned to Abuja overnight.
What Nigerians saw on Tuesday at the Senate was part of the pre-arranged onslaughts against Osinbajo that were decided in Saudi Arabia between representatives of the cabal and the Senate President’s team.
In keeping with the agreements reached at their meetings in Saudi Arabia, Senator Saraki and members of the cabal will in the next few weeks continue to heat up the system and provoke disorder, in the hope of encouraging a military coup.
The two groups’ fourth option is to cause enough problems for Osinbajo that he will quietly resign because the coalition against him believes he is not a politically ambitious person. That silent option is known as the "Shonekan option," referring to how Ernest Shonekan was eased out by General Sani Abacha in 1993 shortly after former President Ibrahim Babangida was forced out by a military cabal in the wake of his annulment of the June 12 elections.
Under any of the options, a source confided that Saraki believes that sooner or later, the presidency will be his to pluck.
One Presidency source asserted that cabal members who will provide logistics for the move against Mr. Osinbajo include the current Director General of the Department of State Services, Lawan Daura, who is said to be fully bothered about his own fate because of tons of insider DSS petitions and queries about him in the past and now. It is believed Saraki has offered him protection and retention in office under the new deal.
Daura is also expected to clamp down on social media and target social media users including SaharaReporters. To achieve this objective, Daura has reportedly sent a whole team of DSS operatives to Russia to figure out how to achieve a social media shutdown.
The Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, who became the cabal's arrowhead, is said to have become somewhat more cautions, even becoming close to Osinbajo, but our sources say this is a strategy to elude scrutiny and suffer less pressure from the media, especially as it has become clear Buhari may not return very soon, or in good health. In the words of an Aso Rock source, "He has become much more circumspect these days."
But the Senate President, according to one principal Senate principal officer, is "now the one calling the shots, calling meetings of service chiefs at his residence to dish out instructions that ought to be coming from the Acting President because some of the representatives of the cabal he met with in Saudi Arabia told him they would prefer him to be the next president."
A senator who pleaded anonymity said the preference for Saraki is simply based on their shared horror of allowing Osinbajo to clinch power with Magu as EFCC chairman. While the members from both sides try to couch the rhetoric in ethnic terms, according to him, "the real driving force behind this new working arrangement is that Saraki will be the first politician to create a thief paradise much like IBB of years past."
Although not trusted by many of the Senate's principal officials, Saraki continues to wield considerable influence because of the amount of resources and money he has made available to the officials, including financial gifts to a number of senators using official and personal means.
Indeed the Senate President, who was heavily implicated in the Panama Papers, is also believed to have stolen at least N3.5 billion from the Paris Club refunds in recent weeks. While two other governors indicted in stealing part of the funds have quickly made refunds after they failed to get the protection they sought from the presidency, Saraki has simply refused to return his own part of the loot. And this partly explains his resolve to fight harder now, an informed source explained.
He asked: "We know Saraki is wily and full of treachery, everyone knows that, but what do you expect some of us to do if he asks for our support? But Nigerians are not fools, the people will sort him out.”
The source went on: "Don't you remember how this man - Saraki - even ruthlessly outwitted his own father and sister? The man is currently not on speaking terms with Gbemisola Saraki and his brother Olaolu. Or even more recently did you not see what he did to Senator Ali Ndume? Ndume is still sitting in one corner sulking today."
That source said, "What the Aso Rock cabal don't know about Saraki is that if he gets what he really wants that is 2019 presidency ticket, he would deal with even the cabal members first, particularly the DG, SSS."
According to that particular Senator, "As we speak, Saraki has the case files against the DG, SSS, including reports of how the Chief of Staff Kyari and Mamman Daura handled some oil deals—especially strategic oil deals involving UAE early in the administrations—without the knowledge of the president. When the president found out through the UAE government, he was alarmed. Saraki has details of all these."
But another source in the Senate concluded as follows: "Why these people are able to run rings and play around the Buhari-Osinbajo presidency is because the president has simply refused to use its huge but informal arsenal to deal with either the Senate President or members of the Aso Rock Cabal."
Already, Nigerians on social media have been very loud in their condemnation of the Senate President, many of them hoping the presidency will act to call a spade a spade and rid the nation of these foxes. Said one: “Somebody has to do it, this nation is bleeding politically, this is needless and a waste of precious time."
To counter social media condemnation and backlash, Saraki has set up a number of trolls operating principally from the APC headquarters in Ilorin and Abuja, and through paid journalists and social media influencers, with the objective of advancing his narrative and halting the assumption to the presidency of a man he once dismissed as a mere "commissioner" when Mr. Osinbajo invited him to a meeting in the early days of the Buhari Presidency.
It is also understood that Saraki and his Senate friends are working assiduously to use oil marketers to create a fuel scarcity that would bring about great hardship and possibly kickstart the disorder he hopes to achieve. Those marketers have been engaging in secret meetings where they insist the federal government must pay them N650 billion in unverified debt. Senator Dino Melaye and one Senator Philip Aduda are helping to set up the fuel sabotage that would lead to the scarcity.