The controversies surrounding the screening of the ministerial nominees might have come and gone; but it opened another vista in the fight of Senator Saraki to retain his plum job as the Senate President. While he saw the screening exercise as an opportunity to mend fences with the hierarchy of his party who are not pleased with his emergence as the Senate President, he might have succeeded in estranging his huge support base, the opposition PDP. EMMA ALOZIE looks at how this may affect Saraki’s fight to retain his job. Senator Bukola Saraki has barely enjoyed an hour of respite since he became the Senate President against the wishes of his party; the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Even that one hour respite was because he enjoyed the undivided loyalty of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
To underscore the seriousness of those who want him humiliated is the recent outbursts of Bola Tinubu, a chieftain of the party, who called the Senate President many unimaginable names.
Reacting to a media report alleging that Tinubu and Saraki wanted to sabotage President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, the former Lagos governor descended so hard on the senate president.
“The idea of an alleged conspiracy between Tinubu and Saraki against the President is a lie. Tinubu is committed to the APC vision and the Nigeria Project. The way Senator Saraki captured his current seat travestied party discipline.
“It was a crass act of disloyalty showing that Saraki may have joined the APC on paper but has remained true to the malpractices and wrong aims of the reactionary PDP in his soul.
“If this nation is to have more than a fleeting chance of escaping the quagmire into which years of PDP misrule have taken us, we cannot allow these regressive elements to deploy their cunning tricks to divide and pit progressives against progressives.
“In our journey to national betterment, plans and policies will be made, then amended. Mistakes will occur and then be corrected. Achievements will be had and replicated. Through it all, Asiwaju will remain true to the progressive ideals that fuelled the creation of the APC. He has devoted his political life to achieve what has been achieved. His heart is too much of the people and his mind too fixed on establishing a positive historic legacy to suffer such a cynical policy or engage in the destructive pettiness of which he is accused.
“The alleged conspiracy is a figment. It takes at least two people to make a conspiracy. There has been no substantive communication between Asiwaju and Saraki since the latter decided to foul the integrity of the Senate and the party. To be truthful, I don’t think Saraki would care to hear what Asiwaju would have to say to him. He would admonish the Senator to treat the nomination process with dispatch, justice, fairness, transparency, and most of all with the greatest patriotism.
“He would counsel Saraki to shelve his personal situation for the moment to concentrate on the people’s business. It would be a grave mistake and abuse of office for Saraki to directly or indirectly inject his personal matter into the approval process. Saraki should not link the approval of a single minister to his desire for extra-judicial treatment of his issues,” Saraki’s media aide wrote.
The just concluded ministerial screening apparently left the Senate President in a political quandary. He hoped to use the opportunity to mend fences with aggrieved members of his party without losing his core support base: the PDP.
However, it seems that Senator Saraki never achieved that with the controversial screening of former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi. The PDP had been vehemently opposed to the screening and subsequent clearance of Amaechi based on several petitions and the white paper of the Judicial Panel of Enquiry indicting him during his eight years as governor of Rivers state.
The Senate referred the petitions to its ethics and privileges Committee headed by Senator Sam Anyanwu. After much deliberations, the Committee came up with its report, which principally said that the confirmation of Amaechi as a minister be suspended pending the determination of the court processes initiated by Amaechi.
Part of the Senate’s ethics committee report reads, “Since the ministerial nominee (Amaechi) had gone to the Court of Appeal to challenge the content of the petition and the White Paper of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, the Senate is unable to recommend consideration of his confirmation.
That the Senate do consider and adopt the recommendation as proposed by the committee.”
Curiously, the Saraki led Senate pandered to the dictates of the majority APC members and trashed the ethics committees report without even considering it on the floor of the Senate. This brazen and flagrant disregard to its rules irked members of the opposition PDP, who staged a walk out leaving only APC members to carry out the confirmation exercise.
Before, staging the walk out, some PDP members had argued strongly on the need to give President Buhari’s anti-corruption fight a fillip. Senator George Sekibo (Rivers East) was quoted as saying, “I have a reason to speak on this matter. As a member of Rivers State caucus, we represent our people. And Nigerian people are in the majority and not APC. The majority of the Nigerian people are the true judges. Those that will evaluate us are Nigerian people.
“The report contains weighty allegations of corruption: a series of asset mismanagement and fraud. The matter was referred to the ethics committee. The committee did its work and submitted the report.
“There is no way anyone can amend the report. There is no way it can be converted to a motion. With due respect to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, the report says since the nominee has gone to court, the Senate is unable to recommend his confirmation.
“There is a moral burden on all of us here. Whatever we do today will be recounted in future. We are encouraging corruption when Mr. President said he is fighting corruption. The majority may have their way but we will have our say,” he submitted.
Also, Senator Abiodun Olujinmi (PDP, Ekiti South) further argued that with the move to confirm Amaechi, there was a moral burden on both the Senate as well as the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, which she reminded her colleagues was riding on the crest of its anti-corruption mantra. She said the right thing was to allow the court to absolve Amaechi of the allegations of corruption, adding that it was clear to all Nigerians that Buhari’s government was not prepared to fight corruption as it had claimed.
“From all indications, we are being shut out. There’s a moral burden not only on us but also on this government that is riding on the crest of anti-corruption. There is a moral burden on anyone that is riding on the crest of anticorruption. We need to ensure that the court absolves him before we can confirm him in this Senate.
I’m insisting, Mr. President, that the majority will have their way but Nigerians know that this government is not ready to fight corruption,” Olujinmi said.
Prior to that rowdy session of the Senate, some PDP members in the senate vowed to withdraw their support for the beleaguered Senate President should he defy their protests and confirm Amaechi as minister.
With the fast unfurling of events, the question is will the PDP senators make good their threat of abandoning the Senate President to the baying fangs of some APC chieftains who want him humiliated out by all means and at all costs?
Despite APC’s play to the gallery by issuing a statement that with the successful screening and confirmation of Amaechi despite the spirited opposition from the PDP, the party had closed ranks, one thing is certain; a National Assembly leadership without Saraki is still the overwhelming preference of the powers that be in APC.
The party through its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed had commended its members in the National Assembly for what it described as the party’s cohesion as against the public perception of rancour amongst the ranks of the party.
‘’The cohesion and unity exhibited by the APC Senators on Thursday have shown that our legislators are ready to work with the executive and the party to ensure that the agenda of the party is
implemented for the benefit of all Nigerians. We commend all our members and leaders in the Senate and indeed the leadership of the APC for this show of unity,’’ it said.
However, despite this, analysts say that this tongue in cheek statement by the APC maybe a decoy to break the support of the PDP to the Senate President and lull him to political sleep in order to strike one more blow that is aimed at snuffing the political life off Saraki.
And curiously to this school of thought, barely 24 hours after Saraki did the bidding of his party, the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja gave the all clear to the Code of Conduct Tribunal to resume its trial of Saraki for alleged false assets declaration.
This is an indication that respite is still very far from the embattled Senate President as CCT trial signifies that truce is yet to be reached with the APC hierarchy despite the yeoman’s role Saraki played in making the senate screening, clearance and confirmation smooth.
If some under-the-table compromises are not reached, if the PDP enters into another alliance with enemies of Saraki, if the PDP decides to sacrifice Ike Ekweremadu as the Deputy Senate President, then what it means is that Saraki has been left at the mercy of those who want him out. If his political traducers succeed in hounding him out because of the refusal of the PDP to continue to rally round him, then it would be said that he has been the victim of the Amaechi politics.
For Saraki, despite the seeming mending of fences occasioned by the successful screening of APC’s ministerial nominees, the jury is still out there and it is still a night of long knives.

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