The crucifixion of senate president Bukola Saraki

I thought the ancient tradition of nailing people
considered enemies of persons or the State to the cross had long
gone into antiquity and extinction, but I was wrong. The most
famous crucifixion in human history was that of our Lord Jesus
Christ, of course other lesser mortals have been crucified including
the thieves who died on either side of Jesus Christ on the
Appointed Day. I have decided to borrow this imagery and
metaphor to describe what is currently happening to Nigeria’s
Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki (ABS), at the
moment. And it is so tragic. Before I go into the meat of my
epistle, please, permit me to provide some background information
on what I want to call the ABS saga.
My personal admiration for, and relative closeness to, ABS was
largely influenced by two friends of mine. The first was the
Publisher of Thisday newspapers, Nduka Obaigbena, while the
second was the then Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi
Amaechi (CRA). Several times in the years of ABS as Governor of
Kwara State, I had the chance of speaking with ABS on the phone,
because Nduka would always ask me to speak with ABS anytime
they were together. I loved his gentle mien and comportment. We
also met at functions several times and he carried himself with
confidence, grace and poise. He always looked like someone so
meek and mild and could easily be underrated. I actually think that
is his greatest strength and weapon.
ABS was a very powerful and influential Governor. He was self-
assured and assertive. My good friend, Amaechi, or CRA for short,
was very close to him and he actually took over from him as
Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. Their love and synergy
were very infectious. I remember one afternoon I visited CRA at the
Wheatbaker Hotel in Lagos. After our meeting, I asked when he
would be going back to Port Harcourt and CRA told me he would
have to wait for ABS to come first. I was impressed because they
had a relationship that made them look like lovebirds. I also
appreciated how they combined powerfully in support of Major
General Muhammadu Buhari. They gave their lives, energy and
resources to the Buhari cause. Of course, one cannot ignore the
epic support given by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Alhaji Atiku
Abubakar, and some stupendously wealthy businessmen who
donated generously to give Buhari a lifeline at the fourth time of
asking!
I witnessed Saraki’s total commitment to Buhari and the Change
Project on several occasions in his Ikoyi home. He mobilised a lot
of his extensive network, especially in the business world, and they
met as regularly as possible. I saw Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola,
CRA, Wale Tinubu, Muyiwa Bakare, and others brainstorm on not
only supporting Buhari, but also their desire for a prosperous and
safe Nigeria. They all wished and hoped that Buhari would step in
as a father-figure to all and play the Mandela option in Nigeria,
come to heal the wounds, unite Nigeria, provide enabling
environment for business, banish the security problems and grow
the economy. It was expected that the war against corruption
would be fought differently and more professionally with more
action and less noise, by identifying the culprits and going after
their loot wherever they are kept and bring this back into the
coffers of Nigeria. The old system of using the so-called anti-
corruption war to witch-hunt perceived and imaginary enemies of
government was supposed to be a thing of the past.
ABS provided a formidable base for Buhari during the APC
Primaries in Lagos. He galvanised his entire staff of very young
and brilliant guys to work sleeplessly and sort out Buhari’s
logistical needs. I will never forget the dare-devilry of CRA and
ABS. They played their last cards. I was an eye-witness.
After the primaries, CRA as Director General of the Buhari
Presidential Campaign Organisation, and his friend, ABS, worked
as if they were on a suicide mission. Their personal sacrifices
inspired someone like me to give my little support for Buhari. I was
also encouraged by the choice of Professor Yemi Osinbajo as Vice
Presidential candidate, a man I expected to give the intellectual
backing that was lacking in the Presidential candidate. Everything
went well until individual ambitions and rumour-mongering crept
in. People told Amaechi that he was betrayed by his friend Saraki
who, as it went, told Buhari not to pick Amaechi as Vice President
because of his tempestuous character. Unknown to both friends,
some fifth columnists were out to destroy their beautiful tag-team
so as to weaken their influence and indirectly weaken the new
Presidency. There was also the talk that ABS wanted to be the
Senate President desperately. Personally, I didn’t see what was
wrong with anyone pursuing his dreams in life within the ambits of
what is legal. After all, President Buhari himself did this and got
lucky at the fourth attempt.
Let’s fast forward. Buhari won the election and we were all very
elated. The next issue was how to select the principal officers of
the National Assembly. Saraki obviously had eyed the Senate
Presidency even before the elections were concluded. Tinubu’s
camp that already had the Vice Presidency in its kitty but also
wanted the number four slot for Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker,
Federal House of Representatives. Tinubu, it was alleged, similary
wanted the number three spot of Senate President for his
candidate from the North East Region. Members of the New PDP
felt they were being left in the lurch. Interestingly, the President
was playing elder Statesman by holding himself above the fray. He
did not champion anybody from his CPC faction of APC for any of
these Principal Offices. Meanwhile, CRA and ABS were no longer
as chummy as before. Their combination would have been lethal,
but their enemies had succeeded in driving a wedge between them
and this was tearing them apart. It thus became a case of
“everyone for himself and God for us all.”
I was in Abuja the day ABS was elected Senate President. I called
on CRA and asked if he had congratulated his friend ABS, his
answer was negative. We agreed to have breakfast the following
morning at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja. I asked CRA again
about ABS, he said he had called him. I could see the reticence and
reluctance in his attitude. For me, it was okay that he managed to
fulfil all righteousness. I went in to see ABS at home to
congratulate him on his victory. I was not happy that ABS and CRA
were no longer close. This was their biggest undoing. Those who
separated them knew what they were doing; the alliance had to be
weakened, and they both became like orphans. Meanwhile,
Tinubu’s gamble and opening gambit in the new administration
had failed to win his faction of the APC the number three and four
positions. Tinubu was livid and he felt ABS was treacherously
elected and must be punished severely.
Unknown to Tinubu, the cabal didn’t want such avuncular power
for him, that would presumably enable him to control the numbers
two, three and four positions in the new government. As a matter
of fact, the cabal were all out for him. Before one could say Jack
Robinson, they created a gulf between the President and Tinubu.
The interaction between the two kept dwindling. Not content with
that, they also launched a major offensive against the Senate
President at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. The aim was to weaken
the other two strong factions of the APC so the President’s
confederates could hold sway in all the necessary areas of the
executive and the legislature. I wrote copiously and warned about
the demonisation of Saraki. I also granted an interview in the
Vanguard newspaper in which I admonished Tinubu not to join in
the attempt to annihilate Saraki. From available evidence, I knew
the case against Saraki was very weak and not sustainable in the
court of Law. All that would happen would be to send some gullible
people on a wild goose chase by portraying Saraki as the greatest
enemy of Buhari and the nation. The strategy worked wonders,
momentarily. Saraki knew no peace from then. His assailants
wanted him to resign or be removed, by fire, by force. The few of
us that openly declared that his travails were political also came
under savage and rabid attacks from fiendish quarters. For three
years running, Saraki has been on the cross.
He eventually won his case at the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Just
before then, as if suspecting he would win, his enemies had
erected another cross ready for him to bear, when the Nigerian
Police alleged that they had linked him to a most terrible, heinous
and very bloody armed robbery case in Offa, Kwara State. The
Police sounded like he was definitely responsible for the dastardly
operation. The Police are best advised to rise above partisanship
and conduct their investigations in a transparent manner. That has
not been the case so far and the Inspector-General of Police,
Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, should not see this as an opportunity to
exact revenge and pursue a personal vendetta that he believes
may exist between him and the leadership of the Nigerian Senate.
The sad thing in our country is that no one protects your
innocence. You are tried and convicted summarily on the pages of
newspapers, electronic and social media. There are more than
enough people, who are not very busy, ready to carry out their
nefarious attacks on you, whether innocent or not.
Saraki has suffered indeed. I don’t mind if I’m the only one willing
to ask that he be allowed to prove his innocence instead of the
mob attack in the print electronic and social media. What
happened to our Christian and Muslim souls? What about the
entrenched constitutional provision that a man is innocent until
proven guilty. This debilitating bitterness will ultimately cripple
Nigeria, not because Saraki is infallible, but because this kind of
attitude and approach cannot augur well for our nascent
democracy. This kill-and-go method to conflict resolution will hurt
each and everyone of us at different stages. Buhari will leave
power one day, if not next year, may be in 2023, which is just like
the day after tomorrow in the eyes of God. Must we destroy
everyone because of transient power. What shall it profit a man
who wrecks an entire citizenry just to stay in power? Saraki’s
latest headache seems easily traceable to his decision to join the
Presidential race, which is not the birth-right of anybody. Whether
he will actualise this decision by carrying on to the end is
immaterial. The beauty of democracy is in allowing everyone to
have a say and choice. When tomorrow comes, the seed of
bitterness we sow today would be harvested by those close to us.
Before our very eyes, Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo, Shehu
Shagari, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, late Sani
Abacha, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Olusegun Obasanjo (again),
Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and now Buhari (also
again), all ruled or governed. Minus Abacha and Yar’Adua, all
these once powerful men are alive, but see how much almost all of
them, bar Obasanjo, have diminished in status, stature and public
reverence. No matter how long, all leaders, including Saraki, will
leave the stage and end up the same way, unless they follow a
path that will chart an enduring legacy. So why all the gra gra of
gods with feet of clay? If we all remember tomorrow, we’ll pause
for a moment and work on developing our nation instead of
entrenching ourselves in power, as if that is all there is to life.