In the event, Mr. Saraki, a wily political operator deftly manoeuvred his way to the exalted Office of Senate President. Since then, all have not been well with him and his party on the one hand and President of the Federal Republic, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, on the other hand. Some leading members of the APC have publicly declared that they would not recognise Mr. Saraki as President of the Senate.
This newspaper has learnt authoritatively that even the President of the Federal Republic himself has also refrained from extending personal recognition to Mr. Saraki. Our information is that the two have not had any official meeting. The story making the rounds in Abuja is that President Buhari is keeping Mr. Saraki at arm’s length.
The president’s disfavour is that apart from the manner in which Saraki was elected Senate President, he also went into a deal with the ‘devil’, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and got a PDP senator, Ike Ekweremandu, to occupy the post of Deputy Senate President.
Hallmark has learnt that the president is particularly irked by that development. Since that event, Mr. Saraki has been subjected to a series of attacks. In the first instance, his wife was invited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on sundry charges of money laundering while her husband was in office as governor of Kwara State, where she functioned as First Lady. As if that was not enough, last week, Mr. Saraki himself was arraigned by the Code of Conduct Bureau for a crime he allegedly committed 12 years ago in his declaration of assets.
We are puzzled by all these developments. We are even more puzzled by the attitude of the media, civil society and public commentators. A tendency among this group of informed citizens has been to castigate Saraki, and they have allowed themselves to be carried away by partisan consideration and that is a pity.
The issues are clear. One, Mr. Saraki as senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has a right as any other senator to aspire to the Office of the Senate President of the Federal Republic.
There is nothing either in the constitution of the country or the rules of the Senate and even in the constitution of APC that stops Mr. Saraki from exercising such right. That he did so against the interest of his party does not tantamount to a crime.
We do not even believe that it tantamount to an anti-party activity.
Politics has been described severally as enlightened self-interest and Mr. Saraki is a politician.
This newspaper insists that it is within his right as it is within the right of any other senator to aspire to any office in the Senate if such a senator is deemed fit and proper by his colleagues to be elected to such an office. That election is, by virtue of his colleagues’ support, legal and lawful. Mr. Saraki by the weight of evidence before this newspaper was duly elected by the majority of senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. To that extent, he is the de facto President of the Senate. He is, therefore, entitled to all the rights and privileges of that office, which he has been exercising.
The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, is no doubt a very powerful man. The Office of the President makes him so. But we have not seen anything in the constitution that empowers the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to extend or withhold recognition to any duly elected officers of the National Assembly. For the president to act wittingly or unwittingly in a manner that suggests that he is dictating who should be the occupier of the position of the Senate President is wrong, it is also illegal and unacceptable.
Two, why is it that it was only now that the Code of Conduct Bureau has finally found it expedient to prosecute him for a crime he allegedly committed 12 years ago? Whereas none of this, on the face of it, can substantiate a claim of bias but when put together, a reasonable conclusion any unbiased observer will make is that there appears to be an officially sanctioned campaign to bring down Saraki. We are even more baffled and embarrassed that this shenanigan can be taking place under a regime that came to power on the promise of change. Mr. Buhari earned the support and indeed the admiration of many Nigerians because of the perception that he is a man of honour and integrity.
The path of honour and integrity is like Caesar’s wife, to be above suspicion at all times.
We do not believe it is honourable for officialdom to engage in underhand tactics in order to destroy their enemies or those perceived to be out of tune with their interest. We think that the campaign of calumny against Mr. Saraki is undeserving, and that those who come to equity must come with clean hands. Those who are pushing agenda for change should at least wash their hands clean of dirt.