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APC, General Buhari and Change: Senator Saraki as test case

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” . . . I do not want to use 100 days to assess a sitting president. But so far, so good! What is going for Buhari is the perception of Nigerians that he is an incorruptible leader.

“The integrity and what he came with to government is what is helping him. If you go to the North and you mention Buhari’s name, ‘’Sai Buhari’’, they come like bees. Some of them do not even know who he is. You can spend money and Buhari will not spend and people will trek 15 kilometers to support him. That is the mystery he has built for himself over the years because people see him as incorruptible and straightforward. With this change mantra that they floated and anti-corruption as the vessel, people seem to believe what he is doing”.  – DSP Alamiesiegha, ex-Bayelsa Governor (Vanguard newspaper interview, September 19, 2015)

The merger that led to formation of All Progressives Congress (APC) and ultimately earlier this year swept away the anything goes Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that had held Nigeria and its treasury hostage for 16 years was a baby of Change. It was given birth by the desperate desire of a majority of Nigerians to see a new way of doing things in Government at all levels that is determined in the top down Nigerian polity by the disposition of the central government.

APC’s Change victory at the elections was primarily determined by three things. The unprecedented popularity of General Muhammadu Buhari among the voting public; the smart proactive adoption of the General by the most effective of the Yoruba elite led by Jagaban Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; the revolutionary introduction of the permanent voters card and card reader technology by Professor Muhammad Attahiru Jega led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). At the core of all this it bears repeating is the desperate desire for Change, change from a totally bastardized and corrupt polity that has allowed unfettered access to Government for murderers, kidnappers, terrorists and all manner of crooks. 

The Change Desire is to have a government that will not allow such brazen and untrammeled corruption that no matter your crimes all you need to do to escape the law is to join the government party and lo and behold, like the NICON Insurance advert of old says: “you are covered!”

Of the three primary reasons why we witnessed the Change we have been fighting for since General Buhari joined us in APP even before the party morphed into ANPP 13 years ago, the final tally of the votes at the last presidential elections confirms Buhari is the most important and valuable of them all. The facts are his votes were upped from about 13 million in the 2011 elections to 15 million. Every 4 year election cycle since 2003 when he first made the attempt to become president in ANPP the General had always got an added 2 million votes. As the candidate of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2011, a party that did not have any LG Ward Councillor, LG chairman, State, National Assembly member or Governor he was able to garner almost 13 million votes. The fixation of the Nigerian masses on Buhari presidency has had to do with their expectation that he will not run an “anything goes” government of the type PDP afflicted us with.

It is the integrity that even enemies of Change agree General Buhari brings to the table that is the key to the tsunami that swept PDP away in March. It is General’s unassailable integrity that did them in.

That is why Nigerians at the lowest levels of the strata are pleased with the General thus far. For those who don’t live with the people, like I do, they won’t understand the extent of satisfaction we feel whenever we look around and see us in a new Nigeria. A Buhari type Nigeria where all who matter should be men and women of integrity. That is what I am talking about. 

Where I live at Gwangwazo right inside the old walled city of Kano with the year round pestilence of Mosquitos and our open drainages and the squalor of the inner city, where we live with the “Almajirai” that Dame Patience Jonathan said she had no business with we are ok with the General. We and our Almajiris, who troop out in our thousands whenever the General passes through Kano, are eminently satisfied. One hundred days of the General are much more peaceful and comforting for us than all the 16 years of Jonathan and his PDP ‘parents’, Yaradua and Obasanjo and their local lackeys. We now pray in our open court mosques with no fear of gun toting or bomb blasting murderers who blend with us and wreak mayhem without any hope of succor from the government that seemed to enjoy our suffering and even claim with utter mischief that the murderers are after all our own people! 

Since the return of the General we can now peaceably stay up late not just because of the blazing Streetlights we have all over Kano these past few years, courtesy of Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (RMK), the rebel PDP Kano Governor who joined us in our quest to form a party for the General, even if he did try to do us in by his burning ambition when he schemed for the presidency himself in ill-advised direct contest with the General. Of course he got his fingers well and truly burnt at the Lagos APC national convention. 

Because of the enhanced security, we are out on the streets and lazing in front of our homes even at night. In addition we now so enjoy the blissful revived NEPA plus the use of our fans and fridges in the heat of the day on account of a new way of doing things across the spectrum of Nigerian officialdom with Buhari, our General in charge. 

The masses are quite happy with Buhari as are most of our rational elite, minus the negligible fraction that suckled on our misfortunes in the past 16 years, or if you extend it, 30 years since Buhari’s last headship of Nigeria. 

Added to this, his first vow of tackling insecurity that he has been doing with efficient commitment, his second vow to stop corruption dead lest it kills us all is well on course. The third of his only three pledges is to do all he can to get our youth gainfully employed. His deputy Osinbajo, the no doubt upright Christian man of God, told the world recently in Kano that the General’s APC Government is working out a formula to place as many as 25 million vulnerables on an allowance of N5,000 per month. The General’s target of jobs for those who need them is sure to be actualised in view of the first two already well on course in under 100 days. And all the while without ministers, using the Jonathan PDP infrastructure, the same bureaucracy, the same security and anti-graft agencies and their chiefs, minus one or two here and there, as it were.

Now with the full blast media-celebrated pursuit of an untouchable, Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki, by both the Code of Conduct Tribunal and the EFCC that dragged in his wife it is obvious the chattering classes will argue the chase is political. That it is a witch hunt. It may well be if it were under another type of President. But certainly not Buhari. A man who won’t even tolerate breaking of his own set rules with his family as severally reported by the media. Not many would situate this issue appropriately as part of the Buhari and APC Change package they sold that we, the people, bought.

Therefore what we all need to look at here is: are the issues in this case seen as “The Saraki and APC Change” test case factual? 

Do the processes involved conform to the rules of the game or the rules of the law? 

Is the Senate President exempt from, or above the law? 

At a time, as Governor, he was deemed exempt because of the immunity clause in our constitution. 

After leaving the immunity zone he was smart enough to keep the long arms of the law off of him using the many loopholes in our iniquitous legal system. Ours after all is a system that doesn’t bat an eyelid on jailing a poor villager for stealing his neighbor’s cat, fowl or goat while giving blanket immunity to Governors and the like. Such a villager may with luck only get a one in a hundred chance of a pardon by a bigger and more public thief covered by immunity during Independence or New Year media events to show the cynically merciful side of an elite that can always steal you blind and use the Law to hide forever. 

We all hear of the two term PDP Rivers state Governor, Peter Odili, and how he got a perpetual injunction from a court not to be asked any questions about his Father Christmas “dash-dash” of his state’s resources. 

And this Odillian type of dalliance was clearly on display by our forum shopping Senate President these past week or two. And this of a distinguished Senator whose party, APC came in to rescue Nigeria from brigands sloganeering that it was the party of Change.

He would as his mates who were from the PDP and those used to the PDP way of doing things argue he shouldn’t be asked any questions on this “small” code of conduct issue where he is alleged to have undeclared foreign bank accounts and some 12 other claims of not-dones. 

He would say as was the way of the elite in years past that the Attorney General’s office should keep quite or “be made” to keep quite as well as the Code of Code Tribunal and the EFCC. After all, he was instrumental to the party of Change’s victory. Yes, he was. But he would need to read the earlier parts of this epistle to realise the error of his ways if he is this complacent. I did draw attention to the three main issues that determined enthronement of the Buhari APC Change Government. Yes. Without Saraki and his stout support for Buhari even from within the APC it may have been a lot more difficult to get the party ticket. 

But then who would Saraki and anybody else who had burnt his bridges from the PDP or any other party and angling for a national presence have supported? No one, but Buhari, if they wanted to return to power. Believe me.

Would they have supported Atiku Abubakar, a perennial losing candidate for the Presidency who has yet to connect with the masses even in his home state of Adamawa? His chosen candidate for Governor was defeated despite his huge war chest. Senator Bindow Jibrilla, the current Governor and one time Atiku Boy flattened his campaign machine in his presence at the state APC selection process. 

 

Who else, our Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (RMK), who despite doing so well as Governor of Kano is still seen as politically “belonging” solely to Obasanjo? And anyway in 2011 he only defeated the dummy presented for Governor by Shekarau with less than 60,000 votes to become Kano governor with tacit strategic support of some Buharians in Kano after been out in the wilderness for eight years since he was chased out of Government House by Buhari who had presented Shekarau to the Kano voters in the first SAK political tsunami in 2003.

No serious politician needing to win will refuse a General Buhari. None will dare the General’s ballooning votes that keep growing by a regular as clockwork 2 million. 

None will dare drop Buhari’s 13 million for any of the nonstarters who can’t deliver their home states with any degree of certainty. 

And if they did dare by now they would have been long locked up by the merciless PDP they bucked and broke. Because any but the General won’t have had the mass support the North gave which was the decider at the 2015 polls. And PDP and Jonathan would still have been around with Dame Patience doing their thing, and Sambisa still a no-Ho forest.

Any but General won’t have elicited the universal confidence of being a well-known clean candidate that all Change advocates can relate to nationally and internationally. 

I am not saying what you don’t know, any candidate but the General won’t have gotten the confidence of the Yoruba political machine that had tried all types over the years and not gotten access to Aso Villa. At a time they every lost many of their states to the treachery of Obasanjo’s wicked PDP.

So, in essence those who want to argue that Saraki or any other person with serious public cases to answer should be exempted now because they had helped the General would have missed the object of the Change the APC and the General promised Nigeria and Nigerians.

The mass of Nigerians are clear in their minds what contract they entered into with Buhari. They want a cleaning of the Augean stables. 

They want to see such stomps by the anti-graft agencies reach their logical conclusion. They would not take kindly to any attempt at halting the trundling train of change that is gathering momentum. That is why they, we went for Buhari. 

If they wanted an all comer’s mess they would have stuck to the PDP that has failed to provide us our most basic need of security. This due to the extreme corruption that was the system in its days as confirmed by the Jonathanian defence chiefs who told the world as they were leaving no new stuff had been bought to fight the terror we faced since the days of Yaradua in 2006. Yet over one third of the national budget in trillions of Naira was spent on security. Unbelievable!

The only thing that may be acceptable in the Saraki saga or any of the type would be a normal state pardon by the president as a sign of magnanimity for those who helped his cause in the build up to the 2015 elections. But that will be only after the due process of the law has been allowed and any pilfered monies returned. 

Doing the right thing is why the delegates at the APC national convention and later the Nigerian voters listened to General.

We still recall his sincere assertion at the Lagos convention saying, “I don’t have dollars or Naira to give you, even if I did, I won’t.” 

This still rings in the ears of Nigerians. It reverberated the more when he declared his assets posting what many Local Government Chairmen in the past 16 years of mass plunder of our resources will consider as being far below their acquisitive dignity to declare. So why should he change a winning formula. 

It did reverberate again when he named his service chiefs, and his SGF known to be a fellow traveller of the General’s in terms of his scrupulous principles and ascetic lifestyle. So too do we expect it will yet again reverberate to the high heavens when this morning of Tuesday 29th September or tomorrow Wednesday 30th, the last day of September as the General sends in his list of Ministers to the National Assembly for screening and adoption.

I should be surprised if he sends in a list of persons who have any significant “rattling skeletons” in their cupboards that can be used to stump his “Ministerial Cabinet of the Righteous” (no mischief meant). 

As such there is really no need to bother and expect him to interfere with the rules of the game and to return us to the PDP way of doing business.  He shouldn’t even need to lobby the NASS for his appointees. We are going into a new Nigeria, where quality and merit speak for you.

That is our covenant with Buhari. If Saraki is able to convince the Tribunal and other processes of the Law he has issues with and they declare him clean, I would be the happiest of persons. 

Especially as I still recall his stout support for the General prior to the national convention. It doesn’t matter even if as suggested it may have to do with enlightened self-interest. 

If he fails to get juridical clearance at Tribunal then after all the due process I should expect the General to grant him amnesty. May be at the next independence or New Year day celebration. That will have fully paid off the General’s and our debt to a son of the PDP; even if some would say he was merely an opportunistic Change agent.

Come to think of it: though it would be best for Saraki to simply resign the Senate Presidency as is done in other civilized climes when one has such a burden to contend with to more squarely face his challenges. I sincerely hope he sees things this way and acts accordingly. This will allow the NASS and democracy to grow in this season of change. And he may even get to ultimately keep his Senate seat even if he is found to have stepped out of turn by the Tribunal.

– Kabiru Muhammad Gwangwazo a politician and journalist write from Gwangwazo, Kano city

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