© 2018 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
The cold war in Aso Rock and the new heroes in town
By Mayowa Tijani
EARLIER this week, I caught myself sympathising with Abubakar Bukola Saraki over his perceived persecution and trials in the hands of the executive and the Nigerian Police Force. As a matter of principle, I never sympathise with anybody in Nigeria’s top one percent — no matter the situation, and I have no plans to start now. So I snapped out, reminding myself of all the sins of Saraki.
Over the past few weeks or months now, Saraki and his prime senate supporter, Dino Melaye, have been the subject of one investigation or the other. First, Melaye was arrested at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, and was told he was on some no-fly list and was wanted by INTERPOL. He was later arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy and the unlawful possession of arms. The drama that came with that is fresh in our nation’s memory, so I need not go over that. Summary, Melaye is back in the chambers while the cold war continues.
As Melaye danced, Shehu Sani, another vocal critic, was invited by the police in connection with a murder case. With Sani’s dance tunes hitting the crescendo, the big masquerade, Senate President Bukola Saraki, has the music playing for him to dance too. Saraki was accused of having some involvement in the Offa robbery, where 33 people were killed, including pregnant women and 12 police officers. He was invited by the police.
The transcript “released by the police” regarding the investigation of those arrested as the perpetrators of the robbery showed links with Saraki; Abdulfatah Ahmed, governor of Kwara state, and his chief of staff. In one of the statements made, the suspected robbers said they had the audacity to carry out the operation because of the support they had from Saraki.
In a short breath, Bukola Saraki was also invited by the police to explain his role in an N11 billion loan scandal involving the defunct Intercontinental Bank. Somehow, the police are coming at Saraki, by all means, and at the same time. Coincidence right? Perhaps.
So let me tell you what is no coincidence. It is no coincidence that over 400 people have been killed by herdsmen in Benue alone this year. At about the same time, the senate invited the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris to address security issues, and he declined multiple invitations. It is no coincidence that the president had the honesty to say he gave orders to the IGP and the IGP flouted the orders with no consequence. It is no coincidence that while all these were spiralling, the DSS decided to withdraw Saraki’s aides — affecting Speaker of the house Yakubu Dogara in the process.
President Buhari has given Ibrahim Idris so much “power” that taming him may soon be impossible. And if Nigerians have to choose between Idris and Saraki, you know who they are pitching their tents with — Saraki. If the president seeks to fight a proxy war with Saraki and the senate, he should at least run it through a more credible proxy, not IGP Idris. But who says the president is fighting a proxy war? Perhaps he knows nothing about the drama between his senate president and his IGP. Right?
NEW HEROES IN TOWN
What the enemies of Saraki are doing to him is simple: they are buying him extra support and political capital. Some Nigerians are now saying what the government is doing against Saraki is unfair. As Buhari’s men are chronicling Buhari’s achievement, Saraki’s men are reminding the public how much he has done in three years. Somehow, this government is adding to Saraki’s profile, and making him seem like the one fighting for the people’s interest and getting persecuted for it.
Many Nigerians now have sympathy for Saraki and Melaye. Can you even begin to imagine that? President Buhari, his DSS boss Lawan Daura, and IGP Ibrahim Idris, are making these men the new heroes in town. The national assembly is now restating its confidence in Saraki and Dogara.
A joint session of the national assembly is now discussing terms against the President. As the president is using his security powers to get at the senate leadership, the senate is using its legislative powers to get at the president. If you read the 12-point resolution made by the joint session, you may be tempted to believe these men and women are fighting our battle; history teaches otherwise. Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who seems to be the slightly clear-eyed person in this entire political drama, is now having to do a lot of mediation.
Who loses? Nigeria loses! You and I are on the losing side.
HOW NIGERIA LOSES?
It has been 155 days into 2018, the 2018 budget, presented in 2017, is still sitting pretty on the president’s desk. National assembly delayed for months, now president is delaying too, not minding impact on economy. PIGB too is gathering dust. SARS still oppressing Nigerians, unemployment still at all time high, if herdsmen were taking territories, they would have taken more than Boko Haram ever did.
Nigerians are being killed daily in the north-central, but police are pre-occupied with the politics of 2019. Thirty-three people killed in Offa; mothers, wives, friends, sisters. There should be no politics to it. Arrest those involved, charge them, get them convicted and jail their violent souls! If Saraki is convicted by a court of law, play no politics about it, jail him too!
Governance does not have to be on hold!
Fellow Nigerians, I know I am being emotional, but why not? There is a political cold war at the highest levels of governance in our country. It is not time to take sides. This 2018 is not a year to be PDP or APC. Stuart Symington, the US ambassador to Nigeria, met with Saraki yesterday, and history also teaches that this kind of move counts for something. Our political drama is dangerous for us and for the international community. If our government fails us, due to its own selfish interest, it will be tragic if we fail ourselves into deception, or pseudo-believe that all that is happening today is in our own interest. It is not!
Finally, those in power and those desperately seeking more power should remember the words of John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, who aptly said: “Those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside”.
Follow Tijani on Twitter and across major social media platforms @OluwamayowaTJ