Without the benefit of the full story, it is extremely easy for those who are not within an arena of dueling political gladiators to place facts before them totally out of context. My efforts to mediate between Senators Ahmad Lawan and Bukola Saraki took place long before the events of June 9, 2015. My response to Femi Orebe was not discussing all that have happened thereafter including the current CCT trial of Saraki. I had stated that I had seen the current senate crisis long before the events of June 9, 2015. But I would be lying to say that I had envisaged a situation where the Presiding Officers of the Senate would emerge outside of the wishes of the All Progressives Congress majority caucus.
Even now, I am not at liberty to write all that I know on the events before, on and after June 9, 2015. Still, I can categorically say that had Bukola Saraki chosen to show up at the International Conference Center for an APC PRIMARY on the morning of June 9, 2015, they would have been been defeated by Ahmad Lawan and his supporters. By that morning, membership of the UNITY FORUM had risen to 35 out of the 60 elected APC senators. However, had the APC primary been held on June 7 or any day earlier, Bukola Saraki would have easily beaten Ahmad Lawan.
Supporters of either men were no fools. Confident of their numerical advantage within the APC caucus, Saraki and his men constantly called for an electoral primary while we in the Lawan Group found one way or the other to delay the holding of primary. While this tussle was going on among APC senators-elect, an equally fierce contest was taking place among the Reps-elect of the APC caucus. The usual Nigerian Factors of rotation, ethnicity, religion and so-called balancing for Federal Character were exerting their own effects as were divisions of APC Dukes and Knights outside of the National Assembly. Certainly, the newly elected Governors were fiercely and uncompromisingly committed either for Saraki or Lawan. Within the senators-elect, the overwhelming majority of so-called Governors Forum, (comprising of senators who had been governors), were behind Saraki. They were numerically overmatched by the so-called Reps Forum (comprising senators who had served in the House of Reps) whose majority initially aligned with Lawan.
During the 7th National Assembly, the relationship between David Mark and Bukola Saraki was less than warm. More frosty than that relationship was that between David Mark and George Akume. Lawan and Akume had evolved a joint ticket that now forced David Mark into the difficult situation of having to either back the Saraki ticket or support a ticket that included his arch Benue rival, Akume!
My understanding is that Mark backed Lawan but there was a new baron in the senate who cared nothing about the self-serving rules of the senate that gave some undue advantages to returning members. His name is Akpabio. I am convinced that without Akpabio, David Mark would have easily lined the majority of the PDP senators behind Lawan. And with the APC caucus split, the PDP senators-elect were beautiful brides that must be courted since Senate Rules enshrined the participation of all senators in the election of the two Presiding Officers.
All these said, the failure of the APC caucus to get its acts together in producing a sole candidate prior to June 9 reflected a dismal failure of the party leadership to have either done so or set guidelines that were clear and unambiguous. Conflicting news were aired about zoning and non-zoning. Likewise, there were conflicting disclosures about the interest or non-interest of the President in who was to emerge as leaders of the National Assembly. My own intervention would have ensured that The Senate Presidency and Deputy Presidency would have remained within the APC. I neither said nor implied that my intervention would have averted the current prosecution of Saraki in the CCT. Regardless of how a Senate President emerges, he or she does not enjoy immunity from being prosecuted for fraud or any other other crime.
Till date, I have deliberately refrained from any public comment on the ongoing CCT trial of Senator Saraki. Rather, I have been pained by the frivolity exhibited by supporters and opponents of Saraki in reducing a grave court matter into a profligate exchange of brickbats on social media and the pages of newspapers. We should all cover our heads in ashes.
But if the truth be told, it is crystal clear that a majority of senators see the CCT trial as political. They know and are familiar with the sordid history of using the EFCC etc to harass political opponents of the government in power. Senators who support Saraki endlessly hammer on this. By contrast, Saraki’s opponents in the senate see an anti-corruption President gallantly crusading against corruption. Because these are a minority, it is a tall order to expect senators to sack Saraki.
We must remember that quite a number of senators have cases pending against them as well. If Saraki can be successfully prosecuted, so can they! So, this is more than just protecting Saraki, it is protecting themselves as well!
My own prayer is that the President will remain steadfast in waging this war against corruption. I do not know another Nigerian who is better qualified to wage it. In advanced democratic settings, waging wars against the mafia sometimes takes years of forensic investigation and a long-drawn court process. Democracy is often not the fastest form of government. And in a democracy, sometimes, a criminal escapes justice when the prosecution fails to prove his guilt! The dictum is that it is better for a guilty man to be found innocent than to find an innocent man guilty! That is why the worst of us must be given all the avenues to defend himself. In the end, where the prosecution is diligent, a high percentage of criminals are convicted by the court process no matter how tortuous.
Some purist pundits out there do not understand the magnitude of what is at stake in the senate. First, the APC majority in the senate is marginal. To make things worse, it is a divided majority. Saraki’s supporters know this. In particular, they know that an ordinary majority does not suffice to remove Saraki because he can only be removed by two-thirds of the senators! As such, with a Nietzschean pre-calculation, many would wait on the fence for as long as the possibility exists for Saraki not to be convicted. Meanwhile, the institution suffers and is demeaned.
Many have wondered why an institution that had quickly sacked its leadership in the past now stands almost impenetrably in support of a leader facing the most grievous charges ever made against a Nigerian Senate President. The answer is simple. Although the removal of Senate Presidents in the past might have had the tele-guiding of the Obasanjo Presidency, it was always for offenses committed while serving as Senate President rather than for offences committed in offices previously held.
For the avoidance of doubts, let me categorically state that I am one hundred percent behind President Buhari in his war against corruption. Corruption will terminate the Nigerian Republic unless the Republic terminates this vicious cankerworm. That said, let me equally affirm that the right of Saraki to defend himself is sacrosanct. May truth and justice prevail in the CCT and every court of Nigeria.
Senator Olusola Adeyeye is the chief Whip of the Senate.