OP-UNEDITED | Saraki: Between Political Diplomacy and Balance of Power – By Ariyo-Dare Atoye
By Ariyo-Dare Atoye
Bukola Saraki has been marked for ‘destruction’ by the ‘Hawks’ in the ruling All Progressives Party (APC). They want him out at any cost. This is the group that Saraki recently described as “government within government.” He is probably restrained in the use of radical words like ‘Cabal,’ ‘Mafia,’ due to the integrity of the office he occupies as the President of the Senate and as a result of his continuous search for political solution. But as we have seen, and regardless of the onslaught and the pains he has suffered, it appears Saraki’s preference for political diplomacy is still preferred by him to the ‘unknown’ cost of confrontation – option B. His latest comment “I remain loyal to the APC,” and the re-allocation of ‘juicy’ committees to Senators opposed to his emergence, could also be interpreted in the political framework of his option A – diplomacy.
The wild and unrestrained impulses with which those involved in this “operation demolish Saraki,” have carried on so far, do not suggest they are likely to adopt political solution or give up on this matter. These Hawks are consumed by the urge to seek political retribution and by extension reduce the burden of challenge for 2019 power struggle – an agitation which started in the APC since April, 2015 before the swearing-in of President Muhammadu Buhari. It is also unlikely that even a signed pact of “I’ll not contest 2019 Presidency,” by Saraki will sway their minds. It is a matter of life and death for them – wickedness taken too far. They had succeeded in massaging the ego of Mr. President that Saraki contested against his will and he must be crushed.
But Saraki after yet another case – a forgery suit instituted by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, against him and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu at an Abuja High Court, might have put aside any further fear. His statement after the second arraignment, sounded more like it to his loyal supporters off and on the social media: “Let it be clear, as a citizen and as a foremost legislator, I will continue to rise above all the persecution and distraction that have been visited on me. In the words of Martin Luther King Junior, `the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at a time of challenge and controversy.” For once, Saraki sounded in a way the radicals amongst his supporters had wanted. He capped it by daring the Hawks: “If yielding (unyielding) to the nefarious agenda of a few individuals who are bent on undermining our democracy and destabilising the Federal Government to satisfy their selfish interests is alternative to losing my personal freedom, let the doors of jails be thrown open. I shall be a happy guest.” His popularity soared afterwards.
The second case instituted by the executive over what is purely an internal affairs of the Senate is a legal affront against the principle of Separation of Power. Especially when there is a pending one on same matter in another court of law. Justice Gabriel Kolawole handling the first case, clearly expressed his misgiving on this: “In all of these facts and issues, having regard to the pendency of this suit in which the defendants have both filed processes, one question that did not cease to resonate in my thoughts is why this “desperate haste” to prefer the criminal indictments in exhibit “B” the investigation of which is at the heart of this suit and of the parallel suit in exhibit “E”, and which indictments, by law are not time barred as the substantive suit before this court, had by consent of both the Plaintiff’s Counsel and the 1st defendant’s Counsel, been scheduled for 6/7/16 for hearing.”
When the principle of separation of power developed by Baron de Montesquieu is violated by one arm or when another organ of government constitutes a threat to the other, it is likely to give rise to an unhealthy political rivalry. This sometimes lead to the quest to balance power by the offended arm in a bid to guide and defend it independence especially if there is the will to do so. The rumours over an attempt to commence an impeachment process against President Muhammadu Buhari which was widely reported by the media is an indication of an emerging group in the Senate that is favourably disposed to negotiating balance of power in an executive-legislature cold war. The constitution confers on the National Assembly the power to remove the President and such instrument is available for political negotiations – it is a common legislative bargaining strength globally. The House of Representatives attempted it during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and it worked.
In international politics, states oftentimes try to ensure their survival and relevance by maintaining or increasing their power in a self-help world. In international relations, balance of power suggests that “national security is enhanced when military capability is distributed so that no one state is strong enough to dominate all others. If one State becomes much stronger than others, the theory predicts that it will take advantage of its strength and attack weaker neighbours, thereby providing an incentive for those threatened to unite in a defensive coalition,” – Wikipedia. This concept (theory) is also silently embedded in the principle of separation of powers as adapted by the constitution of democratic nations. The National Assembly understands this perspective clearly too in preserving it independence, hence the rumours of impeachment.
As a trained medical doctor, Saraki understands the implications of a cancer that is already growing and spreading and the likely treatments. Unfortunately, legislative-executive imbroglio has also degenerated into a political cancer of sort. It is spreading. The recent Dino vs Remi face-off is part of the symptoms. And we are likely to see more in the weeks ahead if caution is not applied. Semblance of this, is a Senator Robert Boroffice who was not in the National Assembly complex during the confrontation, but he took to the media to lampoon Senator Dino Melaye, just in a desperate bid to enlist the support of the husband of Senator Remi Tinubu for APC Governorship ticket in Ondo State. There will be other derived intrusions in the trials of Saraki in the days ahead. Same Boroffice is also amplifying the Abuja court trial.
Borrowing Saraki’s phrase, this “government within government” group has since crossed the red-line, closing their minds to any form of negotiation. Senator Saraki should apprised himself to this singular fact – Hawks are hardliners with extreme positions, they take no prisoners and are perpetually pro-wars. He has options, including fighting back, but he is personally over-conscious of probable executive tyranny and the fear of not receiving enough positive media support. Also, the goodwill of the National Assembly is still considerably low – worry over getting enough public sympathy. But fighting for honour and purpose is the signature of courageous men – history reckon with them. The onus is on Saraki to choose his battle.
There is a latest silent intervention by some past leaders, but yet they are closing in on him with legal distractions. The third leg of his trial is likely in the offing, if and after the Senate confirms Ibrahim Magu as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). He was a Governor and it is on their radar to also may explore that – this is in addition to his trials at the Code of Conduct Tribunal and the Abuja High Court. The plan is to use every means to deprive him of Senate sittings, including his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, joined in the second suit. It is not unlikely that Ekweremadu will be included in the third-leg option albeit separately to double his trial and ensure none of them is able to attend sittings. At least the EFCC has proved time and time again that cases could be manufactured against perceived enemies of government to achieve a mission. The case of fiery human rights lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa who was arrested just to prevent a mass action in Lagos over subsidy removal comes handy.
Sensing that Saraki, aided by one of the best assemblage of lawyers in recent history, had wriggled himself out of a quick plan to get a judgment at the CCT, the Hawks from all indications decided to adopt the ‘distraction approach.’ Probably the lacuna these trials will create, may help the anti-Saraki group to negotiate their replacements by reaching some deals. It is going to be a tall dream. Aside the fact that the Senate is not ready to compromise it independence as epitomised by Saraki/Ekweremadu leadership, they are also ahead in this game with options. A PDP person will take over the Presidency of the red chamber and still secure the seat for Saraki. Mind you, some cases will get to the Supreme Court and none is strong enough to convict Saraki. The Hawks had perfected plans to manipulate court of first instance just to remove Saraki, while appeals would be immaterial. That was why the same CCT that exonerated former Gov. Bola Tinubu reversed himself in a desperate bid to execute these plans.
In a fair sense, embarking on an impeachment process may not be a bad option to balance power. The Hawks are not likely to compromise their stand and since Saraki/Ekweremadu are not ready to relinquish their seats, then they may have to act. Moving against the executive will definitely stoke tension in the land but it will at least give the National Assembly a bargaining power at a time the popularity of the President has dimmed. For instance, the legislature could be blackmailed as working against good governance if it adopts the approach of not treating executive requests or without dispatch, but certainly not an impeachment move. There is no better time for the legislature to save itself from the tyrannical disposition of the executive than now. Time will tell…
Ariyo-Dare Atoye is the Convener, PDP Reform Group. You can reach him via [email protected]
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