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Saraki’s CCT acquittal: Matters arising By Bolanle Bolawole

Senate President, Bukola Saraki

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As would be expected, the discharge and acquittal of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, has generated and will continue to generate discussion and controversy. Some are for the CCT decision while many others are against. The Presidency -which of the Presidencies or Presidents? – is said to be miffed at the acquittal but the supporters of Saraki are grinning from ear to ear. A day after the CCT verdict, governor of Saraki’s home state of Kwara placed fawning congratulatory adverts in newspapers. One-man Opposition squad, Ekiti state’s Gov. Peter Ayodele Fayose, has again reminded us of his predictions long before now that Saraki would win at the CCT. Truth be told, there are many predictions that this governor, who prides himself as ‘Peter, the Rock’, has made that have all come true, chief of which is the one concerning the health of Mr. President. Lately, Fayose has become an Olabayo who makes predictions on sundry issues, from the economy to security matters, and he has been fairly successful, prompting many to ask, as was of biblical King Saul, whether Fayose also has joined the ranks of the prophets! Has he become the Nostradamus of our time! That, however, is a matter for another day.

Those who see Saraki’s acquittal as a serious setback for the so-called anti-corruption war are right. In fact, it is the final nail in the coffin of the dubious and sagging anti-graft war in many respects. One: Too much publicity had been given to the trial; therefore, its failure cannot but give the government so much bad publicity. Two: The trial attracted so much bad blood between Saraki and the Presidency; it became virtually a personality tussle between Saraki and President Muhammadu Buhari. So, the loss/victory can be seen as personal. Three: Saraki is Number Three in the hierarchy and, therefore, the biggest fish to be caught in the anti-corruption dragnet. His conviction would have given fillip and verve to the anti-graft war while his victory cannot but demoralise supporters of the war. Four: So many damning revelations were made at the CCT that it will be difficult to make Nigerians see why conviction could not be got against Saraki. Before the average Nigerian, Saraki was guilty as charged based on the evidence they saw unveiled at the trial. So, to them, it must be that this verdict was patently a miscarriage of justice; ‘arrangee judgment’; ‘Oluwole’, ‘Jankara’, and ‘Ghana-must-go’; which, too often, we are familiar with in this country.

The Presidency is not the only loser, though; interestingly, the Judiciary also is. Many Nigerians will be disappointed in the judiciary for this verdict. Not minding that the CCT is quasi-judicial, to the ordinary Nigerian, judiciary is judiciary, quasi or no quasi, and a judge is a judge. The fine details of why and how the CCT differs from the ordinary court can, at best, be sheer sophistry. The Judiciary before this time did not sit pretty with Nigerians. Its image has received a lot of bashing, no thanks to this administration and the DSS. Judges are generally seen these days as corrupt and unlikely to dispense justice without fear or favour. Of course, Nigerians knew from time that there were bad eggs on the Bench but since the coming of this administration, the baby has been thrown away with the bath water, as it were. The whole institution of the Judiciary has been portrayed as worthless by the Buhari administration.  Most Nigerians now believe that the Judiciary is head to toe corrupt. The Saraki case will further reinforce that view. Lawyers themselves, particularly the SANs, are not going to escape unscathed. The picture of them which this administration has portrayed and which case after case has confirmed, is that they are unconscionable aiders and abetters of corruption. They are eager to defend the corrupt. They are adept at poking holes in prosecution cases and getting the thieves off the hook on technicalities, which happened again in the Saraki case.  The legal system as a whole also suffers. The opinion of the generality of our people is that the law is an ass which only the rich and powerfully-connected can ride while the same ass tramples the common man, not minding whether or not he has a good case. Those who steal billions and trillions escape with their loot while the poor who steal chicken or “Chinko” phones are sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.  Our justice system, without doubt, is unjust. Justice is seldom dispensed here. If ever the poor get justice, it is not intended; it is the exception rather than the rule. That, again, we have seen in the Saraki case. Saraki, a man of immense means and power, harassed and intimidated the CCT judges with a barrage of SANs spinning legal rigmaroles. The whole institution of the National Assembly massed behind Saraki to fight the Presidency to a standstill. A lacklustre, leaderless, rudderless, directionless, myopic, bigoted, divided, and dishevelled Presidency had no choice than succumb and bow to Saraki’s superior fire-power.

Some have said Presidency cabals were at work here and that Saraki eventually aligned himself with the presidency cabal in ascendancy at this point in time. Like his lawyers did to the prosecution at the CCT, Saraki deftly and adroitly exploited the cleavages in the Presidency to make new friends while taking his foes on the counter. Nigerians watch Premier and other foreign leagues, so they know what counter-attack means. A good Bench (meaning the coaching crew) wins the match most of the time; just like a bad Bench, like Nigeria’s against South Africa’s Bafana Bafana, loses it. Winning tactics include swift counter attack; waiting for the opponent to lose concentration; capitalising on their mistakes; and, in the extreme of cases, compromising the opponent by bribing their player(s) to throw the match or bribing the match officials. Apply these tactics to the Saraki CCT case and you have a clearer picture of why what should have been a straightforward march of Saraki to Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison turned into ashes in the Presidency’s mouth. While we saw the avalanche of damning evidence against Saraki, we also witnessed, with mouth agape, the monumental faux pas of prosecution witnesses so amateurish that you would not blink twice before concluding they were compromised to throw the case. The competence of the anti-graft agencies/offices prosecuting the anti-graft cases is seriously in doubt. The sour fruits of the tribalism, sectionalism, cronyism, and provincialism of the Buhari administration are what we have reaped here. It is said that to paper over these cracks, they enlisted the services of private prosecutors. But a private prosecutor, like a coach, coaches his team, teaches them strategy but cannot enter the field of play. He roams the touchline screaming instructions as his team fumbles, is overpowered by superior forces or deliberately throws the match for sundry reasons. What will a private prosecutor do to irredeemably incompetent/compromised prosecution witnesses and staff? The Achilles’ heel of the anti-graft war is, ironically, the Presidency’s insincerity, double standards, incompetence, and cluelessness.

Those boiling over the outcome of the Saraki/CCT trial must address themselves to the real issues. The attention of a k-legged man carrying a bag on his head was drawn to the fact that the load on his head was not sitting pretty. He said ‘yes, but you neglect the fact that the problem is foundational, i.e. my k-leg”. We have said it before and it bears repeating here again that the problems being suffered by the Buhari anti-corruption war is foundational. Buhari’s 2015 presidential campaign was funded by corrupt persons and, therefore, the administration cannot holistically fight corruption, much as it would have loved to. According to international sources, the 2015 presidential election gulped about N1.2 trillion (from PDP/Goodluck Jonathan) and N800 billion (from APC/Muhammadu Buhari). We know, through some of the sordid revelations of the recent past, where the PDP/Jonathan finances came from but where did the APC/Buhari funds come from? Those who raised the money know. Those in the vantage position to know; know! Now, when you go about pretending to be a saint and behaving like angels, they will not only laugh you to scorn but also fight you with all the weapons at their disposal should you touch them with your soiled and dirty hands. This government is corrupt and should stop pretending to be fighting corruption. The masses may be deceived but those in the corridors of power who have facts and figures are not. Since 2015, corruption has not abated but has thrived under the APC/Buhari administration. As much as they have tried to cover up, instances that cannot be controverted have escaped into the public domain. As we speak, the Secretary to the Federal Government and the DG of the National Intelligence Agency are on suspension over corruption allegations. We also have had corruption allegations against the Army Chief of Staff Buratai, Chief of Staff to the President Kyari, and even the EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu, himself. Last week’s EFCC invasion of the premises of the SUN newspaper has been linked to a story carried by the newspaper concerning property allegedly belonging to Magu’s wife. The DSS twice in its report indicted Magu and the Senate also twice rejected his confirmation; yet, he sits pretty in office.The backbone of this administration is made up of ex-governors and other politicians against whom corruption allegations have been made; yet, they are treated as sacred cows while the EFCC and DSS chase others about in the name of fighting corruption. Once confirmed corrupt persons defect to APC, they are no longer corrupt. Before the recent verdict, corruption allegations against the CCT chairman were swept under the carpet; now that he has ‘defected’, as it were, the files are being dusted up! This is vindictiveness and blackmail. It is in itself the mother of all corruption.

Tell me, is the padding of the 2016 budget allegations made against the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, not more damning and more injurious to Nigeria than the allegations made against Saraki? But Dogara is a free man because he belongs while Saraki was witch-hunted because he dared to disagree. The so-called anti-graft war is selective, discriminatory, and oppressive. It is wielded as a veritable weapon of political vendetta; which is why it is losing support and steam; and which is why it will continue to totter, flounder, and fail.

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