How Saraki Survived Four Years As Senate President Against All Odds – Temidayo Akinsuyi

Saraki is not going to be the first senate president to be impeached and I doubt if he is going to be the last, but definitely he will be impeached according to law and to democratic norms-Adams Oshiomhole, August 2018

When he defied the leadership of his then party, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) by contesting and winning the Senate Presidency position of the 8th National Assembly, many thought Bukola Saraki will not last six months as the number three man in the current administration. But today, against all odds, Saraki will be completing his tenure in June when a new set of leaders will be elected.

While some of the APC senators, including Ahmad Lawan, the APC’s preferred candidate chose to abandoned the inauguration of the National Assembly for a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the International Conference Centre which is several kilometres away from the National Assembly at the time of the sitting, Saraki, with the support of senators elected on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and some of his colleagues in the ruling party joined forces which led to his emergence.

He was nominated by Sani Yarima, former governor of Zamfara state while Dino Melaye, senator representing Kogi West senatorial district , seconded his nomination.

Following his election and Yakubu Dogara as Speaker of the House of Representatives who defeated APC’s preferred candidate, Femi Gbajabiamila, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, then APC national chairman wrote to Saraki and Dogara, stating the party’s position on principal officers for the eighth National Assembly.

The letter to Saraki, reads: “Please find below for your necessary action names of principal officers approved by the party, after excessive consultations for the 8th Senate as follows: Senator Ahmed Lawan (Majority Leader)–North-East; Prof. Sola Adeyeye( Chief Whip)–South-West; Sen. George Akume (Deputy Majority Leader)—North-Central; and Sen. Abu Ibrahim(Deputy Chief Whip)—North-West.

After what appears to be a truce, Saraki yielded to the party and replaced Senator Ali Ndume with Lawan as the majority leader. While the likes of Oyegun were happy with the development, others within the party vow that the only way to achieve peace was for Saraki to vacate his position.

Saraki had hardly settled down to his new role when he was dragged to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT ) by the Federal Government on an 18-count charge bordering on false assets declaration ranging from anticipatory declaration to falsification of assets by the Code of Conduct Bureau, which covers his tenure as Governor of Kwara State. He was also accused by the Justice Danladi Umar-led CCT of operating foreign accounts as a Governor and Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

It was the first time a Senate President will be standing trial on corruption charges, since the inception of the 4th republic of the democratic dispensation in Nigeria and many believed that it was a politically-motivated trial aimed at getting Saraki out for exercising his right to contest for political position in a National Assembly that is constituently believed to be an independent arm of government.

Apparently, the aim of those behind the trial was that while Saraki’s trial was ongoing, the other 108 senators will begin a jostle for his seat and may subsequently impeach him if he fails to resign. However, they were shocked as majority of the senators abandoned their legislative duties and thronged the venue of the tribunal to show solidarity with Saraki. It was also gathered that even APC senators who couldn’t accompany him for fear of being victimised sent him text messages assuring him of success at the end. After almost two years of legal battle, the tribunal in June 2017 discharged and acquitted him of all the charges.

Following the expiration of the tenure of Oyegun, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, former governor of Edo state was appointed as the national chairman of the ruling party and one of his first assignment was to get Saraki out at all cost.

Saraki later defected to his original party, the PDP, a decision which further infuriated Oshiomhole who vowed that having left the party with the majority (APC), Saraki cannot continue as Senate President.

“Once you lose the majority, without further ado, you step down. Let me restate that we cannot be subjected to minority rule in the Nigerian Senate and, therefore, whether it is convenient for Distinguished Senator Saraki or not, the truth is whether by morality or by law or by convention, Senator Saraki can only avoid impeachment by toeing the path of honour, step down so that the APC can take over the leadership of the House.

“I want to repeat, Sen. Saraki as President of the Senate will be lawfully and democratically impeached. It will not be illegally done. It will be done according to law and tradition” Oshiomhole said.

Oshiomhole: Hunter Becomes The Hunted

While Oshiomhole was plotting Saraki’s removal, little did he realise that his actions and inactions, especially on the fall-out of the primaries of the APC will almost cost him his position as the national chairman of APC.

Some key stakeholders in the party had accused him of collecting bribes to favour particular aspirants in the primaries and wrote petitions against him. The petitions, in which Oshiomhole was accused of alleged bribery and manipulation were sent to the DSS, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Presidency.

Oshiomhole was also accused of usurping the functions of the APC National Working Committee (NWC), by relocating from the national headquarters of the party at 40 Blantyre Cres, Wuse 2, Abuja to his personal campaign secretariat at Asokoro, Abuja and delayed the appointment of screening and primary election committees for the states, among others.

The aggrieved stakeholders later invited the Department of State Services (DSS) who grilled Oshiomhole for eight hours and asked him to resign his position. The embattled former Labour leader, however, stood his ground and rebuffed the pressure mounted on him to resign.

Speaking on his ordeal, Oshiomhole who spoke with editors in Lagos said “It was not an arrest or detention. The conversation centered around APC primaries. The question now is whether or not it is the DSS job to interfere in a political party’s issues. And if there’s an allegation of corruption, it is the responsibility of EFCC and ICPC.”

After he was left off the hook, Oshiomhole has never broached the issue of Saraki’s removal again. He however threatened that Saraki will not be returning to the Senate again as he will be defeated in the 2019 general elections.

Speaking on Saraki’s tenure and his defeat in the Kwara senatorial election , Olawale Olaleye, a journalist and public affairs analyst said ”His defeat in Kwara was no doubt orchestrated, and executed from a place higher than those who claimed the victory locally, even when a majority of them can hardly muster their households to the poll. Whilst many of those angling for his exit would pass as mere e-rats, others were elites, who sat in the comfort of their homes in different parts of the world and watched their prayers answered”.

“That he is finishing good, both as a senator and the Senate President with more achievements and walking away with the trophy as the leader of Nigeria’s most productive senate, the invaders can have their days for now, Saraki definitely will bounce back even to the shudder of the hypocrites, who think he is their problem, when indeed, they had always contributed their quota to the collective challenge in Kwara. But for now, it is okay to pay the price of daring to be different”.

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