Nigeria Is Better Off as Senate Battles Presidency


The eventual winner in the war between the Presidency and the Senate will be the average Nigerian – one who has had to sit, over the years, and watch his leaders loot the treasury dry; one who has helplessly watched political yahoo boys sell him a “change” for the worse; and, finally, one who can’t do anything other than watch. Whether by the prosecution of corrupt public officers or the rejection of unqualified candidates by the Senate, Nigeria, quite ironically, seems to be better off with both parties at loggerheads.

Soon after the first shots were fired, the “coup” by Bukola Saraki to become Senate president and his arraignment at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for falsely declaring his assets shortly afterwards, it became obvious that only one side had a strategy: the Saraki side. He alongside his henchmen didn’t waste time in wooing as many senators as possible to his camp by painting the president an aggrieved bully and Saraki, the victim. Their ultimate goal was met in no time as it no longer was Buhari against Saraki; it became Buhari against the Senate.

A lot of political observers back then, including me, advised the president to shed his non-interference stance and proceed to establish a firm grip of the party while also ensuring the emergence of a caucus to check Saraki and his loyalists. The president did neither, and it is proving costly.

The righteous toga is sitting pretty on the Senate at the moment and that is where the interest of the eventual winner (the average Nigerian) lies. The Senate most certainly makes a great watch for him. It is a far cry from the days where the Senate served as a “man Friday” to rubberstamp what is required of it by the executive.

This Senate has placed heavy reliance on a highly indicting DSS report to reject the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as EFCC chairman. The Presidency is still refusing to let go of Magu and is even said to be considering sending his name for a third time, despite revelations that the report sent to it was even more detailed as to Magu’s undesirability. No matter what angle one chooses to view things from, the truth won’t change: the Senate doesn’t want a man lacking integrity to run the EFCC while the Presidency does.

President Buhari, in a letter to the Senate, stated that its call for the sack of the secretary to government of the federation, Babachir Lawal, for fraud in the grass-cutting scandal was unwarranted as he had not been given a chance to defend himself. The SGF acted true to the saying “the guilty are afraid” by opting to go to court to challenge the summons issued by the Senate, instead of going there to clear his name. This was the reason he gave a day before the hearing before doing a 360-degree to say he had a pressing engagement that clashed with the set date, in a letter to the Senate.

When Senator Dino Melaye first alleged the FG had secretly disbursed $4 billion Paris Club funds to state governments back in 2016 and called on the EFCC to monitor how the funds would be utilized, the first reaction of the finance minister was to deny and even go as far as saying there was no such money to be shared. She later retraced her steps.

Now the second tranche of the Paris Club refunds are set to be released and the federal government has remained persistent in turning down requests by Nigerians, civil society and media to give extensive details of the first payments amidst allegations of misuse by the state governments. This has led many to believe that even those at the very top may have dipped hands into the cookie jar.

The Senate may have set out to make life difficult for the president, and though both were always going to war within the confines of morality, the Senate has done so in a more righteous manner. The second shot many expected the Presidency to take against Saraki was another prosecution for the money laundering scandal that rocked the globe popularly referred to as #PanamaPapers. It happened when hypocrisy hadn’t crept into President Buhari’s anti-corruption war and we thought that, if not for anything but the neck of the Senate President, we were going to join the host of countries that were prosecuting its corrupt officials. Perhaps because there were some friends on the list, notably Aliko Dangote and Gen.Theophilus Danjuma, the Presidency swept the matter under the carpet.

There are times when the Senate has overreached itself, like when it demanded that the comptroller-general of customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), appear before it in his uniform, without any legal backing. But there is no denying that Bukola Saraki and his cohorts have so far acted more in the best interests of the nation. That is what matters most to the onlooking Nigerian – the best interests of the nation. He would rather our leaders battle themselves to make this nation a better place than live in peace and watch it wither.

Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano.


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