It’s been five months since the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as the President and Chairman of the National Assembly of the 8th Session, but not without the many twists and drama contrived mostly by elements beyond the frontiers of the Senate. Perhaps the turbulence is poised to calm down following the Supreme Court’s intervention to halt what some legal minds have described as “judicial rascality” exhibited by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). It remains to be seen if the CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar would still wants to proceed with the trial, citing the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 or stay action as directed.
This piece is jointly contributed by two young men with different political leanings, and we would like to say that for the first time since the general elections, we are having a point of convergence on a salient aspect of the Saraki’s case, including his leadership mien, as so far demonstrated in this trying period. We are both Comrades who participated actively in Students’ Unionism at different times in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. We would like to avert the minds of the public to an issue in this case that is likely to preserve or alter an age long convention/practice.
We grew up as young Nigerians like just any other person to understand the importance of odd number in constituting committees. We observed that this a practice that is even common with local associations and groups – an indication that it must have been a product of sound wisdom from time immemorial. This assertion is without prejudice to the universal legal system that allows a single judge to sit in a regular court of first instance in accordance with the law. However, the wisdom in Justice, as espoused by the founding fathers of the judiciary entails subsequently that more than one judge sit in appeals at the appellate courts to ensure that justice is not only done but seen to be done.
One of the objections of Saraki to the CCT was that it was not properly constituted. Although the Court of Appeal’s decision has come on this matter, however, the minority judgment in that case raised our hope that this age long tradition may still be preserved by the Supreme Court. Our interest from a layman point of view in this matter is simple: if even number is sustained as the CCT is presently constituted, what happens if there is a split decision between the two judges sitting on a case? Are they joined together by same mind? More so that a recent revelation shows that a member of the CCT had once written a petition against Justice Umar in the past – this shows they are different persons and could hold different opinions. We however concede to the Supreme Court to guide our history and preserve our democracy.
We also have a point of convergence on the encouraging disposition of the Senate President to his traducers. Leadership is wisdom. He is not interested in a pig fight but to do his job as the chairman of the National Assembly and give the nation a legislative direction. Senator Saraki had pointedly inferred, he was being persecuted on account of his emergence as President of the Senate against the wish of a tiny fraction not well disposed to him and that there was nothing beyond it. That the Senate President will go public with such a claim made many to dispute the notion that he was not really been hunted for political reasons.
Considering that the accusations are weighty and the blackmail tactics obviously naked, many had hoped prayerfully for him to escape such a contrived trial. The temper of the CCT on this matter had suggested more, but since we do not have a concrete fact, it our hope that the justice will be served in the end. Nigerians insist on “virtues”.
Right now, in 2015, we must protect the cornerstone of democracy in Nigeria and our preoccupation should be how to roll back poverty and ensure good governance.
We also dare say that the preposition that the All Progressive Congress, (APC), will birth change has been subject to immense stress, especially in the Senate, testing whether, that claim is mere political gimmick or an enduring virtue which the party is ready to implement in the not too distant future. Although disagreement in the Senate is a necessary ingredient in the strengthening of our democratic experiment and thus far, Saraki with his flair for preserving the independence of the Senate is good omen. Contestation of ideas is a necessary verdant for good governance but which must be devoid of ego contest. Saraki has not only demonstrated his readiness to hit the ground running since his emergence, in spite of needless hiccups and events meant to distract him, he is carrying on with an exceptional leadership quality. In a larger sense, his actions portray him as man at peace with all, irrespective of party affiliation in the senate. It is most likely that needed bi-partisan collaboration which is needed to push through reforms might just be in the offing. However, this is not to say that whenever there is an occurrence to break ranks, the majority would have their way and the minorities their say in the spirit of a robust democracy. This was evidently at play recently during the Ministerial screening and also the amended prayer over 5,000 stipends.
The APC had it way and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) it say.
Save for the distraction occasioned by the CCT trial, Saraki has made his plan for Nigerians known during his inaugural address, to wit: “the change that our people voted for is a change from a life of poverty, misery and hopelessness to a life of prosperity, happiness and confidence in the future, a change from a pervasive culture of fear, to a life of security and comfort, a change from impunity and elite arrogance to a life of accountability and respect for every citizen, regardless of tribe, gender, religion or political persuasion. This is the change that all of us in this national assembly must strive to bring about, if we must justify the privilege of representation conferred on us by our people”.
We agreed with every sense of responsibility that Nigerians are tired, hunger and anxious for good governance and no amount of excuses would make up for a fraction excuse. Saraki, must rally the senate as he has done since June 9th for the task ahead. The ship of our national state is currently in the mist of turbulence and only a visionary and a dedicated political class that can birth an ennobling political order is in order. To be sure, we want an end to Nigeria’s multiple sclerosis. We don’t want continued hardships, power cut, insecurity, lack of water and poor social infrastructure.
Opeyeoluwa and Atoye who contributed to this piece are public commentators based in Abuja