The docking of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, last week at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, Abuja over alleged falsification of assets declaration in 2003 while he was Kwara Sate governor was an avoidable and unnecessary national embarrassment.
More still, the spectacle of a sitting President of the Nigerian Senate inside a wooden cage labelled “accused box” in front of the world’s media, facing cross-examination like a petty criminal was cheap publicity informed by motives that are anything but justifiable. Indeed, it was a needless show of shame. Alongside all the accompanying theatrics, the spectacle presented the picture of some kangaroo process.
With all our pretences to being a democratic nation and people, we read a well-thought-out plot in the entire drama that fateful Tuesday. The embarrassing photos of the Senate President in the dock that went viral almost even before the CCT session was over further underscored the plot. We join the progressive world to condemn that national embarrassment via the debasing treatment given the Senate President by the CCT under a democracy.
We agree that Saraki’s appearance at the tribunal came after he failed to get the courts to stop his prosecution by the CCT, which had issued a warrant for his arrest. Aside the fact that the Code of Conduct Bureau; CCB which brought the charges failed to follow due process before the matter was taken to the CCT, this blight on Nigeria’s democracy is indeed lamentable, signposting as it does; the institutionalisation of the abusive use of state power for political score-settling. This is not what Nigerians voted for. And clearly, this is not their expectation.
Justice Danladi Yakubu Umar adjourned the case till October 21, but announced that the tribunal will hear all the motions filed by Saraki challenging the tribunal’s jurisdiction before going into the main issue. “It is in the interest of justice that we will hear all the motions in one way or the other before going into the main case,” Justice Umar said. The question then becomes: was it really necessary to subject the Senate President; and by extrapolation, the Legislative arm of government to such humiliation? It certainly is incongruous and unacceptable for Saraki to be put in the dock, only for Justice Umar in unapologetic, somewhat languid statements of regret and self-vindication to grant the same relief Saraki had sought in motions that were rejected by the courts.
Without availing itself of due process, the effrontery and brazen rancor with which the CCT publicly humiliated Saraki, is all the more sickening because it was nothing other than a remotely controlled vendetta against Saraki for defying his party to contest and win election as Senate President. The fact that 15 other Senators led by Saraki’s Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, were at the tribunal in solidarity with Saraki, showed that this is just the beginning of a protracted legal fracas. The headache that this issue has unleashed on the relationship between the executive and the legislative arms of government is indeed lamentable. The lamentation of an expectant public is understandably loud and deafening.
That there is now a groundswell of calls for the constitutionally-provided immunity that covers the President and his deputy to be extended to the Senate President and Deputy President as well as the Chief Justice of the Federation is a natural fallout from the Saraki saga.
Question is: can this country go through the gruelling amendment of its Constitution that could possibly be thrown up from the foregoing? Can Nigeria’s democracy afford the distraction that the CCT-Saraki tango portends? We call for commonsense and greater national interest in matters as sensitive as this.