• PDP waiting to takeover senate president
By DICKSON OMONODE
SEN. President Bukola Saraki said he was happy when his trial resumed April 6 thanks to the Supreme Court judgement. But his happy hours appear to have been numbered.
The National Daily learnt the last verdict of the Appeal Court ordering him to go back for his Code of Conduct Tribunal’s 13-count-charge trial has triggered a fresh wave of hostilities that threatens to sweep the No 3 citizen off his loft in the upper chamber this week.
The Thursday judgement had formed the baseline for the 109 senators, including the pro-Saraki ones, whose almost unanimous decision now is to urge the embattled Senate president to toe the path of honour: step down.
Many of them believe the weight of CCB’s evidence against Saraki is not quite easy to brush aside with a display of solidarity and truckloads of lawyers.
Again, the CCT, sources say, is very clear on its mandate: to convict Saraki as instructed by powers from above.
And for that, the tribunal chairman, Justice Danladi Umar, has been getting some kind of backwind from the vice presidency, the National Daily learned.
It’s one of the reasons the Senate president has been screaming his trial is politically motivated.
Even at that, Saraki himself has been pushing things by still hanging in there Senate presidency, analysts say.His kicking and baulking has, however, landed him in the middle of nowhere, many believe.
ALSO SEE: APC bent on removing Saraki
From no fewer than 60 senators bussed into the CCT premises Abuja last September to cheer the Senate president as he entered the dock to plead not guilty, the number of pro-Sarakilawmakers, the Like Mind Senators, has dropped to 12 as at the last count on April 6.
As the number game continues, factions and gang-ups are already engaging in shadow-boxing. The biggest of the anti-Saraki groups is the pro-Ahmed Lawan Senate Unity Forum.
Some of Saraki’s loyalists are said to be have been backing off since the April CCT trial—on their honour, and the dignity of the hallowed chamber.
To make it more painful, amidst the dwindling support for Saraki, Senator Peter Nwoboshi, chairman Senate committee on the Niger Delta, announced recently the PDP is raring to produce Saraki’s successor.
“If, but God forbid, because we don’t see it coming, by chance Saraki is removed, I can tell you that the PDP will produce the next Senate President,” said Nwoboshi.
“We only need three, and we have it. The calculation is very clear for PDP. We know what it will take us.”
Nwoboshi, probably, has seen Saraki get to the end of his tether, and that was just a subtle way of urging the 53-year-old out of office.
The likes of Deputy Sen. President Ike Ekweremadu and Sen. Leader Ali Ndume who seem ready to go the last mile of the way with Saraki might not be doing it for love, after all.
They are also eyeing the gavel.
Ekweremadu looks favoured among those the PDP is said to have pencilled down to snatch the mace from Saraki. Former Sen. President David Mark wouldn’t mind taking over either, especially following his sound victory in the re-run election in Benue.
In the APC, the Senate president wannabes are more, and already falling over themselves to ascend the NASS highest post.
On top of the food chain is Senator Ahmed Lawan, Saraki’s bitterest rival. He was the party’s choice during the Senate leadership election last June before Saraki pulled a fast one on him.
Senator Ali Ndume is said to be lusting after that seat, too. He has been one of the ambitious lawmakers in the NASS. The Borno senator slugged it out with Ekweremadu for the deputy-Senate president slot before he was eventually gifted the Senate leader
There is also Senator Mohammed Shaaba Lafiagi.
Many of the APC and PDP likely contenders have denied being seduced by Saraki’s job, though. Ndume and Ekweremadu believed the trials of the very distinguished Senator Saraki are nothing earth-shatteringnot weighty enough to knock him off the pedestal.
While Saraki’s anxiety hits fever-pitch in the NASS, the civil society circles are giving him more reasons to lose his sleep. Since the Premium Times release the Panama Papers, an ICIJ-coordinated investigation exposing Saraki’s stash in the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens, rights organisation and anti-corruption bodies have been calling for his scalp and others’.
ALSO SEE: APC scribe condemns CCT trial of Saraki
“Those specifically mentioned; Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (Rtd), Dr. Bukola Saraki, Mr. James Ibori, Senator David Mark must be invited by the anti-corruption agencies; interrogated and prosecuted if enough evidence and facts confirm their involvement in the global scam revealed in the Panama Papers,’ said Debo Adeniran, executive director of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders,
No fewer than nine other NGOs, including Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ); Center for Democracy & Development (CDD); Tax Justice and Governance Platform (TJ&GP) , and Social-Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP) have massed together to urge the federal government to look into the corruption allegations pinned on Saraki, and others.
But the Senate president has proved he’s a diehard. He has fought six legal battles since September, and has been defeated all the six times. He, however, will never stay down.
His social media handlers and media team have been in auto-drive for months, churning out tweets, posts, and press releases on how his political enemies are planning rallies and sponsoring protests.
Saraki’s legal team are first choice, too. He just employed a former justice minister, Kanu Agabi, SAN, to head up about 80 lawyers now holding brief for him. He has fought jurisdiction, competence, and violation of his rights from high courts to the Supreme Court.
And while he appears flattened out, Saraki may still spring some surprise, some legal observers believe.
According to them, in case the CCT convicts him in a hurry, the Senate president has the right and resources to appeal. And he will sure do that far and wide.
It is then the technicalities like the CCT-Tinubu precedent he has been trying to use to wiggle out will come handy. And he really can come out clean. After all, justice is blind.