“Serves Buhari right” one may be tempted to say and many are saying it loudly too, albeit for different reasons. One of such reasons appealed to me to a limited extent and it reflects the inherent culture of contradictions in ordinary Nigerians. In a brief trip through memory lane, I recall the verbal missiles of hate that flew the ways of former President Olusegun Obasanjo during the second half of his presidency. I recall how much of an object of hate he was in a very large section of the intellectual community, with some persisting till the very moment.
Now, the case of Bukola Saraki seems to have forced a sense of softening relativism, even on the hardest of erstwhile enemies of the former President. Many seem to converge in the thought these days, that Bukola Saraki should consider himself very lucky that Olusegun Obasanjo is not the current occupant of the presidential throne in Aso villa, when it comes to resolving his issue in a quick-fix mode. The moment this badly hated Olusegun Obasanjo or his political approach suddenly becomes the central element that a section of Nigerians has started missing with respect to returning the country to calmer waters, then there is a natural tendency to expect a return to the drawing board and quickly too. After all, everything was expected of President Muhammadu Buhari. Not weakness!
Starting from his inaugural speech when people expected a radical re-assurance and a fire-brand reading of the riot act to deviants and enemies of progress down to his lukewarm reaction to the pedestrian madness of Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, President Buhari set out very early in the day, to disappoint some crucial expectations. The message of belonging to everyone and then to no one at all, did not resonate with me any bit, because I reckon it was NOT the most inspiring reassurance the battered psyche of a traumatized people needed. In my view, it was another characteristic failure of speech-writing and Public Relations management in the Nigerian tradition. But this is a subject for another day.
It did not come as a surprise, therefore, when the new President failed several expectations of wielding the big stick on Bukola Saraki, when the latter set out – also very early – to define the nature of politics that he would wish to see prevail in the new dispensation. Saraki sought to create a political climate of personal indispensability. He wanted a political carrousel that would revolve around him as an ancillary if not, central person of importance with the President probably playing a statist role if Saraki had his way. To achieve this goal, Bukola Saraki was prepared to sell his grandmother. After all, the deal to grab the senate presidency, no matter what party leaders say or do, was not hatched overnight. It was a deal planned long before inauguration in complex underhand dealings, unknown to Muhammadu Buhari.
It will be difficult, however, to fault the actions of the ruling party all through the saga, in deciding who should be the Senate President soon after the inauguration of the President. The party conducted an internal democratic mock election to decide who takes the slot. Therein lies Saraki’s ambitious and anachronistic miscalculation. He seems never to have expected such an active move by his party and thus failed to prepare the groundwork accordingly. Inexperience, however, seems to have led him to lose sight of the fact that his subsequent defiant move would definitely reap consequences that would be difficult for him to contain. He was probably sure that he could weather the storm once he occupied the exalted seat. He underrated the indifference and wild determination of a lion that is once wounded.
But unaware of the Judas-type scheming behind his back and believing all had been properly taken care of, Muhammadu Buhari summoned a meeting with senators. Saraki’s refusal to attend this meeting alone was not only exceedingly spiteful on the President, he proceeded to have himself elected President of the Senate with the help of his former party friends exploiting the absence of a substantial number of his present party allies. The battle line was thus drawn too boldly in frontal confrontation.
Now, what reaction did Nigerians expect from the President? Former President Olusegun Obasanjo would probably have picked the gauntlet in a frontal counter-attack as well. He would either have persuaded enough Senators (most likely with the instrument of the EFCC) to arrange a quick impeachment and an acceptable replacement (never mind if a quorum is formed in a hotel lobby) or effected an immediate arrest of Bukola Saraki once the Code of Conduct Tribunal had found credible and authentic reasons to file charges against him. The eventual fait áccompli would have been foisted on the polity with the power of law enforcement. President Buhari did none of this. His immediate reaction was to grudgingly avoid any personal contact with the desperate bad boy of the hallowed chamber like the prima Donna and the spited Majesty.
Saraki even went further to seal the fate of his party leaders by picking Principal Officers again, in defiance of party overtures. That was when he finally let out all the horses from the inner stables without a care what consequences may befall him.
The criticism that Muhammadu Buhari should have adopted the Obasanjo option in resolving the Saraki issue from the very beginning appealed to me only to a limited extent for one, simply because the chapter would have long been closed by now and the present distractions avoided. Yet, Buhari’s approach even though unscripted, clearly portends a lasting column to sustain the democratic edifice if it finally plays out in his favor. If it fails, however, the President will regret the day that he chose to soft-pedal on Bukola Saraki.
Outwardly ignoring and avoiding Saraki but quietly permitting the filing of authentic and provable charges against the Senate President, he confined the politically spoilt child to a long-drawn battle of defensive scheming in a mercilessly tantalizing ploy. In the past one year, Bukola Saraki will surely be able to count the number of nights he enjoyed a proper political sleep at his fingertips. He has been running from pillar to post begging and bribing for a soft landing, while the Lord of the Manor gleefully pulls the strings of the puppets from behind the scene in the delight of having the last laugh. A torturous ploy indeed! Within this long-haul cage though, avowed loyalists are now coming to the understanding that they need to tread more cautiously and not stick their necks too far out for a battle that is not theirs. Controlled desertion is now beginning to take hold.
Another major and lasting, albeit unplanned benefit of Buhari’s approach is one that has automatically aroused the people without the President asking for it since Buhari will be the last person in Nigeria to pay for professional protesters. With the extremely desperate move to amend laws in a fast-tracked process to rescue their drowning boss, Nigerian Senators ended up striking a raw nerve in public sensitivity, paving the way for a new spontaneous #OccupyNASS protest. How better could Saraki have played into Buhari’s hands? How best could one have mutated into an example of how not to play the politics of desperation and short-term gains only?
That is, of course, just one side of the coin. The other side of the coin that plays very well into Buhari’s calculation as well is the symbolic representation of a big fish in the sea of corruption. For all intent and purpose, observers may often lose track of the fact that Saraki is not by any means, facing trumped-up charges. To borrow the logic of my good friend, Radio Talk Show-host Jimi Disu, the fact that many others or even all other politicians are as corrupt and guilty as Bukola Saraki, does not render Bukola Saraki innocent.
William Shakespeare philosophized on people, who are born great, people, who achieve greatness and people, who have greatness thrust upon them. That Bukola Saraki belongs to one of these three categories is unquestionable. I leave the choice to my readers to decide the category to which Saraki belongs. One fact is certain, though. Bukola Saraki is such a politically spoilt child and a celebrated scoundrel that he doesn’t seem to feel comfortable hanging out in the back seat to wait for irreversible and incontrovertible opportunities. His haste to prepare grounds for his presidential ambitions without a Plan B now seems to be marring and undoing his dreams forever and ever.
While it is true that many, if not all other politicians are as corrupt as Bukola Saraki in the deliberately wrong and anticipatory declaration of assets, the sudden emergence of the Panama Papers simply reminds Nigerians (of George Orwell’s “some are more equal” treatise) that even though everyone is guilty, some are even more guilty.
Today, we know that Bukola Saraki owns plenty money largely drawn from illegal sources. From shady bank management as widely reported in the Nigerian media, through the obtainment of loans never-to-be-seen-again down to the illegal enjoyment of double remuneration as Governor and Senator, we now know that Bukola Saraki has money. Plenty of it too!
His life desires have long been taken care of. Several generations will know no suffering as long as they are born into the Saraki dynasty. That much money he already has. What more did he want? Why did his ambitious shot at the presidency become so urgent and such a do-or-die affair? Today, his war chest is robust and it does not hurt him, who he recruits to fight his dirty war for him.
Who then does it surprise that all the Belgores and retired senior judges of this world, who should be cooling off at the corridors of academia enriching the knowledge of younger generations in jurisprudence, choose the petty path of being noticed in the Nigerian political scene with obscene and obnoxious postulations? Who does it surprise that a seasoned doyen of the noble pen profession – namely Dele Momodu – whom many of us have erroneously held in high esteem, now takes pleasure in intellectual somersaults and logical acrobatics twisting and turning facts to celebrate half-truths? Who does it surprise?
Those scheming and plotting of political banditry, assassinations and tactical decapitations that may have worked perfectly well for local champions at the state level, now seems to be a different ball game altogether at national level.
If Nigerians have long suspected low human and educational quality in politicians manning our legislative chambers, Buhari’s reaction to Saraki’s rascality has more than served to confirm this reality beyond reasonable doubt. From the abandonment of duty posts to accompany the renegade Senate President to his trial, through the cross-party acceptance of SUV bribes at inflated price down to the bandwagon enthusiasm to amend valid laws for unintelligible reasons, our legislators have more than exemplified how democracy should not be practiced. More than anything else, Buhari’s approach in crying out to the Public on the lawmakers’ manipulation of the annual budget has put the final nail on the legislative credibility button.
No matter what Saraki does, his political fate is sealed. At least for now! Like it or not, he will have to kiss the Senate Presidency goodbye either by resignation or by ejection. The day of reckoning comes for everyone sooner or later and Saraki’s days are now.
One more point:
Has anyone noticed that former President Jonathan’s media adviser Reuben Abati has now suddenly rediscovered the concept of neutrality and objectivity in political analysis? A man who wrote “Gbolekaja Presidency” in a series of six articles and did nothing but dish out scorn, jeers, denigration and disparaging comments on his subject now knows how to approach the Saraki’s issue with neutrality and objectivity? Wonders! Where was this sense of fairness and professionality when he wrote about Obasanjo? Should we forget the unprofessional approach to his disastrous work for his paymaster as media adviser that finally contributed to his paymaster’s demise? Reuben Abati ought to apologize to Nigerians for his crimes against the noble profession of journalism if he seeks to be taken seriously anytime in the future.