The recent announcement by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), that it had opened another round of investigations into the financial activities of the outgoing Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, is the latest episode in the long drawn out battle between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)- led federal government and the number three citizen.
The EFCC also disclosed that it had reopened investigations into Saraki’s assets; his tenure as Senate President and his earnings during his two terms as governor of Kwara State.
Attempting to downplay any suggestions of a witch hunt, the anti-graft agency said it was only doing its job and that the senate president had nothing to fear as long as he did not have “any skeletons in his cupboard.”
Already, the EFCC has marked some of Saraki’s properties in Ikoyi, Lagos as being “under EFCC investigation”.
Expectedly, Saraki’s handlers have reacted angrily, condemning the move and insisting it was aimed at settling scores.
But Saraki’s travails didn’t begin today. Ostensibly, the ball was set rolling in 2015 at the inception of the Buhari regime when Saraki, who had been recruited by the APC along with key allies in the then ruling People’s Democratic Party to help the APC secure its landmark victory, defied party leaders, went for the Senate presidency and secured the seat by forming an alliance with his erstwhile co-travellers in the PDP.
He also ruffled more feathers by the Senate’s refusal to confirm Ibrahim Magu as EFCC Chairman, relying on a report by the Department of State Security. But President Muhammadu Buhari showed his displeasure by keeping Magu in acting position till present.
A few months down the line, Saraki found himself facing charges of false declaration of assets before the Code of Conduct Tribunal with a potential outcome being loss of his exhalted office. But the charges were thrown out by the Supreme Court eventually.
However, the sour relationship festered with the APC bigwigs and with Aso Rock itself and Saraki was blamed for the “uncooperative” stance of the national Assembly, especially in budgetary matters.
Saraki insisted that the legislature would not be a rubber stamp of the executive and would conduct its oversight functions to the letter and also reinforce the independence of that arm of government.
Expectedly, the APC government didn’t take this lying low and mounted repeated attacks on Saraki, accusing him of literally being the major stumbling block in the implementation of its policies by derailing appropriation plans, with legislators introducing their own projects. But Saraki stood his ground with certain consequences.
So when the 2019 elections season came calling, Saraki, isolated by the APC leadership but still with considerable clout on his own account and across party lines, returned to the PDP.
He upped the ante by contesting for the party’s presidential ticket and eventually became the lead campaigner for Atiku Abubakar, the eventual PDP presidential flag bearer.
He had earlier rebuffed demands by the APC, asking him to vacate his seat on account of his defection along with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and scores of APC legislators and some governors, notably Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State.
Indeed, the APC leaders ramped up attacks on Saraki after the elections and with key legislative positions due to be vacant amid fears that Saraki’s influence could come into play, given his pedigree, they pulled no stops in undermining his position, which was apparently weakened by the loss of his home state, Kwara to the APC in the presidential and governorship elections.
But Saraki appeared to have no regrets over his stewardship at the Senate, insisting that “without a strong parliament and principle of separation of powers among the three arms of government, Nigeria cannot move forward.”
At a recent meeting with a group of journalists, Saraki said, “As long as our parliament is strong, Nigeria will be stronger. I think it is important that we lay a solid foundation to strengthen our democracy.”
As the new government is due to be inaugurated in couple of days, there are alleged fears of an anticipated clampdown on the opposition, of which Saraki is one of the leading figures.
Former Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose, who made it his duty to attack the APC at every turn during his second tenure is facing money laundering charges related to the 2015 polls, while Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, a supposed accomplice, who defected from the PDP back to the APC has had his sins forgiven and has been testifying as a witness against Fayose
Incidentally, the Nigerian Army has blamed the spate of banditry, robberies and kidnapping on politicians who lost in the recent elections.
The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, was even more ominous in his most recent pronouncements, warning that the government had evidence that opposition elements were working to overheat the polity and make the nation ungovernable.
We submit that as the federal government begins new tenure in couple of days, time will tell on how it will handle the opposition and voice of dissent in the country.