Since he emerged Senate Leader on June 9th, the Senate President has been plagued by series of allegations which has left many Nigerians wondering if this is really the quest by President Muhammadu Buhari to fish out corrupt leaders or just a witch hunt against Saraki for emerging as Senate President without his party’s backing. In this article, I will briefly discuss a few times that they have clearly skewed the news not to favour Saraki since he emerged as the Senate President:
1. Assets declaration: Presently, Saraki is being accused of asset declaration fraud and he is currently facing the Code of Conduct Tribunal after the Code of Conduct Bureau accused him of anticipatory declaration of assets and other offences. Even though there are countless of flaws in the case, it has become clear that this is another media barrage to tarnish the Senate President’s image at all costs.
2. Forgery of Senate Standing Orders: Saraki and his Deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu were accused by a group of Senators Abu Ibrahim, Kabir Marafa, Ajayi Boroffice, Olugbenga Ashafaand Suleiman Hunkuni that the Senate Standing Orders which led to their emergence were forged. Later, sensing that their case had no merit, the plaintiffs went ahead to withdraw the same lawsuit.
3. Accused of working with immediate past President, Goodluck Jonathan: An anti Saraki news agency known as Sahara Reporters accused the former Kwara State governor of working with Goodluck Jonathan to reduce the amount unremitted by the Nigeria National Petroleum Cooperation to the federation account. This report was clearly just a ploy to tarnish the image of the Senate President because as a Senator in the 7th National Assembly, the Senate President Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki never signed the report of the Ahmed Makarfi led Finance Committee investigation into the alleged non-Remittance by NNPC of $20 million into the federation account. In fact, it is still on record that Senator Saraki is the only Senator in the committee that refused to sign the report even in the face of severe duress and personal inconvenience.
4. His Nationality: Saraki was also accused by the online platform, Sahara Reporters of lying about his nationality in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) nomination forms with which he contested the National Assembly elections.
5. Disrespect of Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo: AGAIN, the online tabloid; Sahara Reporters, came at Saraki reporting that the Senate President had boycotted a peace meeting called by Osibanjo saying that as a former governor, he couldn’t be seen to answer the summons of a ‘mere commissioner.’ Osibanjo previously served as Commissioner of Justice in Lagos State before becoming VP. At the time of the false report and at the time the media team of the Senate President responded to this allegation, Saraki was yet to receive any formal invitation whatsoever from His Excellency, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo.
It is important to note that in September 2011, when Tinubu was facing trial by Code of Conduct Bureau for operating different foreign accounts in First Heritage Bank in Illinois, Citibank of New York and HSBC in London, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo who is now the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, some other notable Senior Advocates of Nigeria and the entire members of ACN were fully there to morally support the former Governor of Lagos State. In addition, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo was also seeking the same legal remedy Saraki is seeking now for Tinubu.
Furthermore, in October of the same year, the Embattled former Governor of Lagos State and leader of the then Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, declined to either mount the dock or enter his plea to the 3-count criminal charge preferred against him before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, sitting in Abuja. He specifically requested for the trial to be moved to Lagos State.
The ACN as a party also stood solidly behind Tinubu by coming out publicly in a press release signed by the then State Publicity Secretary, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, stating that the action of the security agents were overzealous. With the turn of events, can we also say that the actions of the Code of Conduct Bureau are overzealous?
Is it now clear and safe to say that Senate President Bukola Saraki is not just being witch hunted but has been falsely accused on several occasions? If not, where is the backing of his party? Why is he standing alone? Isn’t the trial basically the same as Tinubu’s 2011 experience, or is Tinubu simply above the law?
Chima Chime writes from Lagos.