By ABBA MAHMOOD –
On Tuesday, July 4, 2017, Bukola Saraki’s Senate declared war on the Presidency over the retention of Mr Ibrahim Magu as acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after the earlier rejection of his nomination by the legislature. What triggered the Senate’s protest was a letter from Acting President Yemi Osinbajo asking the Senate to confirm Mr Lanre Gbajabiamila as the director-general of the National Lottery Commission. The Senate’s suspension of the consideration and confirmation of appointments submitted by the executive was based on a comment credited to Acting President Osinbajo that the president was empowered to make some appointments without seeking legislative approval as provided in Section 171 of the constitution.
It is in the public domain that the Senate had twice rejected the nomination of Mr Magu as EFCC chairman. It is also true that Obasanjo, when he was president, had submitted the name of Prof. Borishade more than five times to the Senate to be confirmed and appointed minister until he was finally confirmed and appointed minister. Thus, there is no legal limits as to how many times a name can be re-submitted for confirmation even for ministers that were expressly specified by the constitution. It is also common knowledge that at least 21 senators including Saraki have pending cases of corruption at the EFCC. It is therefore not surprising that the members of the Senate did not want to confirm Magu. And so it happened that, on that July 4, Saraki’s Senate passed four resolutions in quick succession which they expected the acting president to act upon. In the words of Saraki: “These resolutions of the Senate must be acted upon by the acting president; otherwise we will take appropriate action.” One of the resolutions gave an ultimatum to Acting President Osinbajo to “withdraw without further delay” the statement credited to him that the Senate did not have the power to confirm certain executive appointments! What an affront! Osinbajo is not only the acting president but a professor of law and a bona fide citizen of Nigeria who has the freedom of speech, for goodness’ sake!
But the cat has already been let out of the bag. The report that the real reason Saraki is after the acting president is the fact that the federal government has appealed the “arrangee” judgment passed by the Code of Conduct Tribunal on June 14 in which Saraki was cleared of all the overwhelming charges of corruption against him. With bank tellers, transfer of funds to buy properties and the acceptance of salaries from both the Kwara State and federal governments simultaneously, it was very obvious that Justice Umar was just being funny about that judgment. Of course we know that every day is for the thief but one day is for the owner. And the victory of good over evil is always a matter of time.
Hajiya Aisha Umar Yusuf in her usually incisive column last Saturday reminded us of the fraudulent manner in which the present Senate leadership came into being, when it “executed a civilian coup to get there”. “Needless to say, two years after, Saraki is not only sitting pretty as Nigeria’s third citizen, he also sees himself as powerful enough to issue threats to the executive in order to ensure he has his way in matters of national interest… For now (Buhari) must take responsibility for the menace the Senate has become to his administration,” she concluded.
Wole Olaoye also wrote this week in his very educating column: “The strategy of those who have a case or several to answer is to capitalize on the absence of the president to reclaim lost grounds. First they want to distract the acting president through a series of irritations. Second, they want EFCC chief Ibrahim Magu fired. Third, they want a quick release of money for constituency projects so that they can start stockpiling cash for the 2019 elections.”
But the crude and blind ambition of Bukola Saraki to become the president is not waiting for any 2019 elections. One Senator Abaribe from Abia had moved a motion to declare Bukola Saraki as acting president since the substantive president, Muhammadu Buhari, was away on medical vacation and Acting President Osinbajo was attending the 29th Ordinary Session of the African Union in Ethiopia. It was a badly written script — in fact an attempted legislative coup. But this is not the end of this matter and it isn’t a joke either. It was really foolish and there is nothing more dangerous that a fool with a cause because he does not care about the consequences of his actions.
The ultimatum given to Acting President Osinbajo and the threat by Saraki’s Senate to “take appropriate action” was the hardly concealed scheme to initiate an impeachment process against Osinbajo. With Buhari absent, in the calculation of Saraki, once Osinbajo is impeached Saraki would step in as acting president. He, as a doctor who has never practised the medical profession, would then initiate the process of declaring Buhari “medically unfit” which would pave the way for a presidential election in 90 days, and Saraki would be an obvious candidate, an incumbent one for that matter! This is the ultimate game plan and the danger ahead.
Like the French King Louis XIV who once said “L’etat c’est moi” (I am the state) the Senate is Saraki and Saraki is the Senate. When his wife was invited by the EFCC, he summoned the EFCC chairman. When CCT was trying him he tried to arrange a change of its laws until he found a way with its cheap chairman. When Dino Melaye’s constituents initiated the process of recalling him for embarrassing them by his clownish attitude in the Senate and INEC which is constitutionally tasked is overseeing the process, Saraki’s Senate said Melaye’s fate was in the hands of the Senate! The federal government appealed the CCT judgment that freed him; he is now going straight for the number one, a script straight from the play book of one corrupt former vice president who also likes to accumulate money to get power to acquire more money. Such is the character of one who is not only a rat but a bat.
Now we know who truly desperately wants the anti-corruption war crippled, like Aisha wrote. We had hope in the lower chamber but, with Saraki as head of the legislature, even that one has joined the queue by proposing a bill that will grant full amnesty to looters of public funds.
Look at how the National Assembly butchered the 2017 budget. According to Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim in his very articulate article last week, “the National Assembly had inserted 1,170 new projects in the 2017 budget of the Ministry of Power, Works, and Housing…. In massacring the budget of the ministry, they simply removed monies allocated to key national projects such as Abuja-Lokoja dual carriageway, the second Niger Bridge, the Mambilla and Zungeru hydropower projects and the Katsina Wind Farm Energy Project. They then replaced these key national projects with thousands of petty projects, mainly in their constituencies…. Essentially, they have turned the budget into a completely incoherent set of monetary allocations designed to boost the egos of legislators”. This is what governance has turned to because of the personal interest of one man who has been getting his way so far.
History is on the side of the oppressed.