- The Senate President is currently under pressure to resign following his ongoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT as powerful forces in the APC want him out by all means. In this piece, Dozie Emmanuel looks at the various arguments being adduced for his resignation.
All attempts by the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki to stop his trial by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT suffered yet another setback as a Federal High Court in Abuja last Friday dismissed the suit to stop his trial on charges of false asset declaration before the CCT in Abuja. Saraki had approach the court seeking to quash the charges and nullify the proceedings before the CCT on the grounds that they were initiated in violation of his rights to fair hearing.
But in his judgement, Justice Abdukadir Abdu-Kafarati held that the suit, filed under the fundamental human rights enforcement rules, lacked jurisdiction to entertain it and that it constituted an abuse of court process.
On February 5, 2016, the Supreme Court also dismissed the appeal of the Senate President seeking to stop his trial at the CCT. In the lead judgment taken by Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen, the court held that the CCT was properly constituted to exercise jurisdiction over Saraki’s trial.
It also resolved the issue of whether the tribunal had jurisdiction to try criminal matters and issue bench warrants against Saraki.
“I find no merit in the appeal, it is hereby dismissed,” the court ruled.
Following this development, many have come to the conclusion that Saraki is now between the devil and the deep blue sea. They affirmed that
ahead of the expected judgment of the tribunal, the Senate President may throw in the towel by resigning from his position just to save himself from the humiliation and the institution he represents.
Already, some senators, including those who had vowed to remain with him to the end of his trial at the anti-graft court, have asked him to consider the resignation option so as to save the Senate as an institution. Those in the know said the option was thrown to him at a special meeting held by a group of some loyal senators, who followed him to his Maitama residence recently.
One of the PDP senators, who spoke confidentially on the matter, said Saraki was given the option of resigning basically to save the institution of the legislature.
‘”I can confirm to you that at a special meeting held recently, we asked the Senate President to consider the option of resignation.We believe that doing so would preserve the institution of the Senate,” he said.
But the question remains: Will Saraki resign bearing in mind that he still has majority of the PDP senators strongly backing him? How long can he withstand the pressure from his party and fellow APC senators? Again, can the APC senators oppose to Saraki muster the required two-third majority (about 73 senators) to impeach the Senate President? Is it morally right for Saraki to step aside as Senate President and return if vindicated? Should he vacate his seat even when it is obvious that his trial is political in nature? Is it in our culture for one to resign even before he is pronounced guilty?
As expected, members of the APC in the Senate are sharply divided over the call for the resignation of the Senate President based on his ongoing trial at the tribunal. It was gathered that while a section of the senators who attended a meeting held at the Asokoro residence of Senator Magartarkada Wammako were insisting that a resolution for Saraki’s resignation be passed across to him, others said to be his loyalists opposed the action.
A member of the Senate Unity Forum, SUF who pleaded anonymity, said that they were of the view that Saraki should save the image of the Senate by resigning, based on the embarrassing revelations from the CCT.
He said, “The image of the Senate is definitely being dragged in the mud as its presiding officer is put in the dock while revelations of how he allegedly mismanaged the funds of his state were being exposed in public glare.
“That is why we asked him to step aside so that he would be able to face his trial and if he is vindicated, he could return to his seat. We believe that it is better, compared to a situation where he would be sitting in the dock as the Senate President.”
Conversely, his loyalists have declared that they would protect the seat of the Senate President, currently occupied by Saraki, with the last blood in their veins.They maintained that they would continue to stand firmly behind him and ensure that his seat is protected.
The senator representing Kwara South senatorial district, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, hinted recently that the senators have continued to reiterate their earlier stance that Saraki’s trial was a “mere persecution” and an attempt to tarnish his image.
Ibrahim said, “We have since discovered that the trial of the Senate President is a mere attempt to blackmail him and make him look bad in the court of public opinion. No more, no less.
“A dispassionate analysis of the proceeding of the CCT has pointed to the fact that the APC-led executive is still embittered against Saraki over the manner of his election as the Senate President.
“This is why we are standing for the Senate President and we will so do till the very end. We are doing this not for him, but for the institution of the Senate that he eminently represents. We will never allow any arm of the government to rubbish the cherished autonomy of the Senate.
”The calls in some quarters that the Senate President should resign from his position are borne out of ignorance and pure hatred. We describe the call as ‘wicked and unfounded.
But those calling for him to resign may have been disappointed as the Senate President has vowed not to succumb to calls for his resignation by Nigerians amid his corruption trial at the tribunal.
According to him, “There is a case in the tribunal and a resultant appeal at the Court of Appeal.The underlining philosophy of our legal system is that an accused person is presumed innocent until found guilty. Those who are contemplating calls for resignation want to circumvent the judicial system. They are obviously being sponsored by some politicians. I am not contemplating any resignation. I will surely have my day in court.
Since Saraki emerged as Senate President as against the wish of the party, he has been having a running battle with his party; leaders of the APC have sworn to remove him by all means. Of course, people like Bola Tinubu and Bisi Akande were not happy with the development because it was seen by many as a slap on the face of the party. The party are now using senators known as the ‘Senate Unity Forum’ to mounted serious pressure on Saraki to respect the wish of the party and step aside.
The party has been desperate to remove Saraki as the Senate President and one way they think they could achieve this is through the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT. O
Now, the fight for the Senate seat has boiled down between the Likes Minds and the Senate Unity Forum, SUF. While the Likes Minds are pro-Saraki, the SUF senators are oppose to him remaining as the Senate President. Both sides have engaged themselves in a battle of wit within and outside the floor of the Senate.
A member of the Likes Minds, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, (PDP, Delta North) has sponsored a bill to amend the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB and Tribunal Act on the floor of the upper chamber. The bill has passed for second reading. The Red chamber has also set Tuesday to begin deliberation on another bill meant to amend the Administration of Criminal Justice Act that will remove the powers of the CCT to try criminal cases.
Both bills were presented on the floor of the upper chamber and read for the first time.
The move by the Senate has not gone down well with some eminent Nigerians, who describe the move as a deliberate ploy to whittle down the powers CCB and CCT in view of the ongoing trial of Saraki.
The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay has condemned the move by the Senate to amend the law setting up the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Code of Conduct Tribunal, with a view to whittling down the agencies’ powers. He said the commencement of the amendment of the Act, establishing the CCB and CCT by the Senate, had exposed the intention of the country’s legislators to encourage corrupt practices and shield corrupt leaders from prosecution.
Sagay stated, “It is a surprise to me, because I really don’t know that our mentality has degenerated to such a level of self-service that the people, who were sent to the National Assembly to make laws for the benefit of all Nigerians, have started a process that will allow a complete crisis; an Act that corruption cannot be prosecuted.
Similarly, a human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana described the proposed amendment of the CCB/T Act and the ACJ Act as an ill wind that would blow no good to those behind it. Falana said the proposed amendment amounted to a conflict of interest because it was being proposed because of one man.
“To me, this is the highest level of shameless misconduct by the generality of the members of the Red chamber. Obviously, there is no limit to the level of disgusting things they can do,” Falana stated.
Of course, Nigerians are much aware that Saraki’s trial is not only politically motivated, but also aimed at removing him in office disgracefully. In view of this, it is not surprising that none of the top party leaders has come out to speak on the issue because of the vested interest attached to his case.
Over the years, the Kwara born politician has demonstrated that he is indeed a cat with nine lives. Following his antecedent in politics, he is a man that does not easily give up; he fights to the finish.
It has even been argued that the victory of the APC during the last general elections would not have been possible without courageous strategist like Saraki who lent his political weight in favour of the APC at the risk
of his own lives and personal survival. For instance, in the 7th Senate, Saraki led many senators to defect to the APC after he had played a major role for five PDP governors to cross to APC – a development many analyst said successfully turned the political tide against the PDP and eventually tipped the electoral scale against them in the 2015 general elections.
Many analysts have argued that instead of the Senate President to resign, he will go the whole hub (legally and otherwise) to secure his seat, even if it means returning to his former party – the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
So will Saraki resign in the coming days and weeks? Nigerians are waiting with bated breath.