Since his clearly smart-maverick move earned him the position of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has gone from one trouble to another, making many wonder when and from where his next ordeal will come from.
There is a strongly held view by many Nigerians that the high wire politics that led to Saraki’s emergence as Senate President, and his perceived eye on the presidency has remained his albatross.
Saraki had defied the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) supremacy to become the President of the Senate. That singular move unarguably attracted grudges and the wrath of strong interests within the party against him, and many stakeholders of the party seem not to have forgiven him three years after the political maneuvering.
The APC had settled for Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan (Yobe North), as candidate for Senate president after a mock poll. But while President Muhammadu Buhari and his Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, and other party chieftain were in a meeting at the international Conference centre in Abuja, Saraki and some other APC lawmakers seen as “rebels” were elected as principal officers in the upper chamber.
While Saraki seems to have continued to suffer as a result of that move, the recent robbery scandal apparently looks like the most embarrassing and undignified scandal he may have witnessed since becoming the Senate President.
Saraki and the Offa robbery scandal: “Senate President Bukola Saraki is being invited to report to the Police to answer allegations indicting him from confessions of five gang leaders arrested for active participation in the Offa bank robbery and the killing of 33 innocent persons,” Police spokesman Jimoh Moshood, an assistant commissioner, had said on Sunday June 3, while parading suspects from the Offa robbery in Abuja.
According to the police spokesman, some of the robbery suspects confessed that they were political thugs used by the Senate President and Kwara State governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed.
The allegation against Saraki came on the heels of the running battle between him and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, who had on three occasions refused to honour a Senate summon over the alleged embarrassment of Senator Dino Melaye, and other security issues in the country.
An earlier alarm by the Senate President over the IGP’s alleged plot to frame him with a criminal case was not able to avert his being indicted in the Offa robbery attack, a development that has kept many Nigerians talking.
Some have continued to wonder why the police would choose to publicly accuse the number three citizen of the country of robbery, arguing that there should have been a better way of investigating Saraki without embarrassing him and the country in general before the international community.
For these Nigerians, no other word can explain the development better than the continuation of perceived witch-hunting of Saraki since ‘rebelling’ against his APC to emerge the Senate president.
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But some other Nigerians think differently, they argue that the ongoing robbery investigation, and other alleged corruption ordeals Saraki has continued to go through, even as the number three citizen of the country and a member of the ruling party; is proof that the President Buhari-led Federal Government is not biased in his anti-corruption fight.
Saraki’s list of other troubles include:
Alleged forgery of Senate Standing Rules: Soon after outsmarting his APC party to become the Senate president in an ‘unholy’ alliance with senators from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which saw Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP emerging as deputy Senate president, Saraki saw himself dragged to court over alleged criminal activities by no other than the government in which he is the third top ranking official.
He and Ekweremadu were accused of forging the Senate Standing Rule in connivance with a former clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, and his deputy, Benedict Efeturi.
The matter landed the Senate President and others at the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja, where they were arraigned and granted bail by Justice Haliru Yusuf, who ruled that they should be detained at the Kuje Maximum Prison in Abuja pending when they meet their bail conditions.
While Saraki escaped being thrown into prison by quickly meeting his bail conditions, the case saw the Senate which he presides over in a sharp division, as his own APC members, under the name Senate Unity Forum (SUF), apparently championed the fight to throw Saraki out using the forgery of Senate standing rule allegation.
Though the Federal Government withdrew the forgery charge against Saraki, the Senate president, not willing to continue fighting too many battles on different fronts advantageously, yielded to the demands of his party by reshuffling committees as a way to placate aggrieved SUF senators.
One of the sufferers of that action was Senator Ali Ndume (Borno South), who was removed as Senate Leader and replaced with Senator Ahmad Lawan, the APC candidate for the Senate president before Saraki’s political gimmicks thwarted the plan.
Trial at Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT): An alleged false declaration of assets saw Saraki being dragged to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in 2015, soon after the confused atmosphere in which he became the Senate President. The Kwara State-born politician is still battling to free himself from this web.
Being acquitted of all the 18 count charges levelled against him by the Danladi Umar-led CCT was not enough to free Saraki from this ordeal as the Federal Government refused to let go, dragging the matter to the Appeal Court, and currently at the Supreme Court.
While at the apex court Saraki is praying for the annulment of the ruling of the appellant court which ordered him to return to CCT for continuation of trial in three out of the 18 charges levelled against him, the Federal Government wants the ruling of the Appeal Court dismissed and Saraki asked to return to CCT for all the charges against him.
Alleged N298 SUV Range Rover impounded by Customs: One trouble too many which Saraki has also had to suffer was in March 2017, when the Nigerian Customs Service (NSC) allegedly impounded his SUV Range Rover said to be worth N298 million. He however denied ownership of the vehicle.
Assets in safe havens: It could be recalled that Saraki had also made headlines for the wrong reason in 2016, when the then popular Panama Papers claimed that his wife Toyin, fronted for him in acquiring assets in offshore safe havens.
Documents from the massive Mossack Fonseca database, allegedly revealed that assets in Toyin’s name in tax havens are actually held in trust for her husband. This also was denied by the Senate President and his wife.
Also, in April 2016, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had been thrown into the Saraki debacles mix, as the anti-graft agency accuses Saraki of using Kwara State funds to settle his personal loans. He was equally fingered in the EFCC claim that N3.5 billion Paris club refunds was embezzled.
From all indications, Saraki appears to be chewing a lot, and it remains to see how much he can swallow. For many analysts, the Senate President unending troubles is a result of his perceived strong lust for power.
There are already speculations that Saraki may be gunning for the presidential position, which some have argued is the reason the members of the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) are threatening to pull out of the APC.
Considering all the troubles that have continued to besiege Saraki, his supporters contend that he deserves applause for meandering through the troubled waters, challenging supposed old politicians in the game and still keeping his head above the water.
However, how long the Senate President, will continue to navigate through the troubled waters before him and continue to escape unhurt, especially with the present Offa robbery indictment, remains to be seen in the coming days.
By Ebere Ndukwu …
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