If there ever was one corruption trial that was supposed to symbolise Mr. President’s skill and ruthlessness in fighting corruption, it was the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) case against the Senate President Bukola Saraki.
Being a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), it was supposed to put to rest the idea that Buhari was only fighting the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with corruption trials but not his own party. But many also knew otherwise – that Buhari was never pleased with the emergence of Saraki as Senate President and those closest to him felt that Saraki’s Senate Presidency was a continued ridicule of Buhari’s political stature within the APC and in the polity at large.
In life as in politics though, the trials and travails that a person goes through sometimes determines how skilful they become later in life – look at the tin-god Bola Tinubu for instance: much of his clout and ruggedness were developed in the days of his battle with late Chief Gani Fawehinmi over his fake University of Chicago certificate that was a matter of controversy between 2000 and until Gani died. Gani sued him to court and Tinubu had to run everywhere in order to survive. Trust Gani – he went on TV almost every other day to tell the entire world that a Governor in Nigeria, of Lagos State no less – was in office with fake certificates. So Tinubu had to develop allies everywhere – from the media which began to ignore Gani, to lawyers who tried to muddle things up, to thugs who stoned Gani in court, to opinion writers who tried to explain it all away. And those contacts became crucial to making Tinubu the man whom he is today in the perception of many.
So it has been also with Saraki – battling for his name and political career, Saraki tried valiantly to impress Nigerians with his performance in the Senate – to at least show that his being Senate President is a good thing – and gosh, we’re impressed. Personally, I am. And from observations on Twitter, many Nigerians too are impressed. Saraki’s legislative achievements have brought him to a point where no one argues whenever anyone asserts that this Senate is the most performing since 1999 – and as a PDP member, I don’t find such comments flattering but res ipsa loquitur – and my party will have to outdo Saraki’s Senate when it returns to power, hopefully with a Saraki onboard.
But it is the area of empathy and emotional intelligence that Saraki has impressed me and some others the most. At a time when the Presidency stands aloof and far removed from the travails of Nigerians, Saraki has been an oasis in the dry desert. The quickness to respond to trending issues on Twitter such as the #EndSARS campaign and the phone call placed to the family of Linda Angela Igwetu, who was shot by the police, the visit to the Super Eagles while on an official trip to Russia (which was followed by our only victory at the World Cup), the IDP camp visits and so much else in the recent past are endearing.
It has now come to a point where many are looking up to Saraki as President and others are calling on him to run for President. For me, the only achievements the APC can substantially point to are from the Senate and the House of Representatives.
And this brings me to the second part of this piece: is Buhari really fighting corruption and is he
capable of fighting corruption?
That he is only fighting political opponents is proven with the reality of Babachir Lawal still calling shots in APC in Adamawa, with the fact that Abdulrahman Maina snuck back into public service as an international corruption fugitive and was paid emolument and promoted. All these going on while known opponents of the executive arm of Government are hounded before courts – where even judges found their homes invaded in the middle of the night by the DSS to arrest them for corruption.
Important to note that with Babachir Lawal, the Senate was the first to indict him as far back as September 2017 over the embezzlement of IDP funds. Buhari’s response then was a swift cover-up – that his office had investigated the matter and found the man innocent. It then took several months before Babachir was suspended from office and an investigation into his matter was launched. More months have gone on since then and the report of the investigation is still not made public, neither is Babachir Lawal currently standing trial before any court, although he has been removed from office. Which then prompts the question: if the evidence was strong enough to remove the Secretary to the Government of the Federation from office, why isn’t it strong enough to put him in jail or in front of a judge at least?
Buhari isn’t fighting corruption but that isn’t even the worst part in all this. The worst fact is that Buhari’s administration is incapable of fighting corruption – it lacks the mental rigour and discipline to fight it. It lacks the mental ability to build up a case thoroughly and by lawyerly skill, win the case in court. Its only aim is to embarrass those whom it sees as opponents, the entire fight is high on speculation, propaganda and media trials. High on brawn but low on brain – a fiasco, as the Saraki case has proven. If you had followed that case ab initio, you would have thought Saraki was a goner. But the Supreme Court finally acquitted him of all charges as the Appeal Court had done a few months back.
So why is Buhari wasting money and needlessly getting Nigerians worked up over cases that it has no evidence to prove? The manhours wasted on bringing Saraki down, the needless overheating of the polity, the money spent, the collaboration opportunities missed and so much more – all down at the expense of nation-building. If perhaps the executive had a better relationship with the legislature, maybe Nigeria wouldn’t be here.
And that is the real tragedy to us as a nation; that Buhari’s ersatz fight against corruption is costing Nigeria too much and yielding no visible results.
Demola Olarewaju writes from Lagos and is a Political Strategist.