• Balarabe Musa, Tanko Yakassai, Shehu Sani, others react
By DOMINIC UZU, Kaduna and TOM GARBA, Yola
AS the nation waits with bated breath the outcome of the muscle flexing between the federal government and President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, on controversies trailing the latter’s declaration of assets, some political big-wig and other critical stakeholders from the north have pilloried the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) administration for embarking on what they branded as a clear political witch-hunt.
Some of those who spoke to National Daily specifically condemned the current trial of Dr Saraki by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) and wondered why the federal government considered it auspicious at this moment to fix out Saraki for trial out of a deluge of several declarations submitted to the CCB by public office holders across all strata of the nation.
This is even as others believed that the President of the Senate must come out and clear himself of the charges that have been preferred against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), and if found guilty he should resign.
The respondent include elder stateman and second republic governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, fiery political gladiator from the north, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, a renowned rights activist and social crusader, Senator Shehu Sani and Halilu Hamma, a leading politician from Adamawa State among others.
Balarabe Musa, at the weekend told National Daily that the move of the present administration to drag the Senate President before the CCT under the guise of fighting corruption was political, arguing that the offence was not a fresh one.
“To dig up an offence purportedly committed more than 12 years ago amounted to a witch-hunt as several thousands of political office holders over the years are not being prosecuted along with him,” he told the National Daily on Saturday.
According to him, it is purely a political power struggle towards 2019 general elections and this is just the beginning.“We will see more of this as the struggle continues.”
Wondering why the Code of Conduct Bureau waited this long to drag Saraki before the CCT, the former state chief executive added: “Don’t forget that we are talking about allegations on false declaration of assets that happened 12 years ago.
While agreeing with him, another northern political pundit, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai pointed out that for the Ministry of Justice to have singled out an individual among several thousands of political office holders from 2007 to date leaves much to be desired.
In his view, it looks selective given the background of the APC leaders angered by Saraki’s emergence as Senate President; that has given enough justification to raise suspicion in any unbiased mind that it is political.
“If it turns out to be true that due process has not been followed, as alleged by Saraki, then it is a selective prosecution and it is political,” Yakassai noted.
Senator Shehu Sani, in his own reaction, accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of being one sided in its anticorruption crusade, saying the war can only succeed if it is all inclusive.
According to him, it is not possible to pick one person from the numerous public office holders since 1999 and arraign him before the CCT and you tell Nigerians that you are fighting corruption.
Wondering what happens to the other governors and public office holders since then, the politician advised that it has become necessary for the CCB to make public the declaration of both former and serving public office holders, and prosecute those in the same shoes as Saraki. Otherwise, he said, his case will be considered by all right-thinking persons as a witch-hunt and a political vendetta.
Barrister Mohammed Soba, representing Soba Federal Constituency in Kaduna in the House of Representatives, differed with Balarabe and Yakassai, arguing that it was up to Senator Saraki to exonerate himself from the allegations leveled against him.
According to him, there is nothing political in the Senate president’s case, after all the CCT is not created as a mere jamboree.”It is meant for such cases when Nigerians contravene the law,” he said.
In the same vein, politicians in Adamawa, who spoke on the current travails of the Senate president, hold divergent opinions. While some see it as a fight geared towards destroying his good intentions of changing the stagnating nature of the country’s economy, others say if he is eventually found guilty he should step down.
Halilu Hamma, a former gubernatorial and senatorial aspirant who held many political offices in Adamawa state during the tenure of Gov. Murtala Nyako on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), also felt differently.
“If you want to lead in any public office you must be above board in every respect and you must abide by the rule of law; assets declaration is a constitutional matter and that must be done at the beginning and the ending of any public officer’s tenure,” he said.
According to him, any public servant that fails to give or gives a false declaration should be subjected to the conventional laws that govern the country.
“The issue of Saraki at the CCT is strictly a constitutional matter and the law should decide his fate,” he added.
” Saraki has to honourably resign if he is found guilty at the end of the day; there is a moral value biding on him to clear himself of all the allegations levelled against him.”
Another APC stalwart and a public commentator Mr. P. P. Elisha described the assets declaration scandal against the Senate president as a sort of drama.
According to Elisha, the allegations were dug out after many years to use it against him to settle certain political scores; the present administration should adopt a holistic way of fighting corruption if it is to succeed.
“I hope it is the constitution of this country that is indicting him and not his political enemies. I can’t advise or call for his resignation now because he stands to defend himself at the court of law and only the court will declare him guilty or not guilty,” he said.
A member representing Michika and Madagali federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon.Adamu Kamale, is a staunch member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He sees Saraki as an innocent politician who is suffering from the wicked hands of his enemies and dealing with him this way to settle their scores.
According to him, fighting corruption is a welcomed idea in this country but the situation around the Senate president, to me, is not the best way of fighting corruption, you don’t publicise the fight or restrict it only to certain individuals.
“As far as the law of this land is concerned, Saraki remains very innocent until a court of competent jurisdiction pronounces him guilty. We want the approach of Mr. President in the war against corruption to be very decisive, focused and all round, without sparing anyone no matter his social or economic status and at what level the offence is committed,” he stated.
He, however, regretted that what seems to obtain now is that Mr. President is fighting corruption to the deterrent of some innocent Nigerians, especially as the security and the tribunal handling the case are questionable in their approach.
” If truly he (President Buhari) is fighting corruption he should fight it without fear or favour, and be free from all forms of vindictiveness; it is only then we can truly say we are fighting corruption,” the legislator added.
Hon Kamale observed that in the attempt to fight corruption, Mr President has made some contradictory statements.
Kamale also accused Buhari of double standard, recalling that the president got into power, Buhari claimed he belonged to every Nigerian and he equally does not belong to any one.“But you see in fighting corruption he seems to belong to only some people. If this is the case he cannot lead Nigeria this way and cannot fight corruption this way,” he said.