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This is NOT the time to impeach Senate President Bukola Saraki

sarakiIn a widely circulated Press Release of September 23, and published in

Greater Awgu Leadership Forum, Mr. SKC Ogbonnia, a fervent President Muhammadu Buhari Supporter, exclaimed “It fails in logic because it calls for immediate impeachment of the president of the senate and in doing so he cited examples of times and circumstances where senators and house members RESIGNED from offices based on serious accusations. 

The copious examples cover over half a century of Nigerian and American legislative period. But none of the examples dealt with impeachment. They were ALL CASES WHERE THE ACCUSED LEGISLATOR RESIGNED. Tom Delay, Okadigbo, Gingrich, et al merely resigned. If Mr. Ogbonnia had called on Saraki to resign, it would have made logical sense. 

The release was aware of this but it said it was useless making such a call which would have led him to look for and cite cases where impeachment was used.

2. The release cited maneuvers used by Mr. Saraki to delay prosecution but failed to show a single case where an ILLEGAL MANEUVER took place. The release called for the legislature to impeach Mr. Saraki now. In law there is something called double jeopardy.

A second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal or conviction or multiple punishments for same offense. The evil sought to be avoided by prohibiting double jeopardy is double trial and double conviction, not necessarily double punishment. [http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/double+jeopardy]

The legal dictionary quoted above says that double jeopardy would be avoided by prohibiting double trial, yet this is what the press release is asking for. Impeachment is the presentation of formal charges against a public official by the lower house, trial to be before the upper house. So in this case the Courts will try Mr. Saraki and the legislature would duplicate the same. This press release fails the law test.

3. The press release alleges that Mr. Saraki is the reason for which corruption probes are not moving as PMB planned. Nothing is further from the truth. PMB is responsible for his failures. To start clearing or probing corruption PMB needs to do at least two things. He needs to send legislations to the congress; and he needs to have a minister of justice to implement the plans and execute legislations. PMB has not done any of these basic tasks. Saraki has nothing to do with this slow start of PMB. The release also cites Mrs. Saraki’s travails. 

Well Mrs. Saraki is not Mr. Saraki. Why bring her case up on this matter. They have not been jointly charged or accused. Is this a case of smearing the Saraki’s? The use of character witnesses is sometimes allowed in courts of law under some circumstances. If 50 senators accompanied Mr. Saraki to court why is it condemned by the release and is it necessary to assert “most of who are equally guilty of all sorts of corrupt practices,” where is the evidence and when was the guilty verdict obtained. As my friend writes common sense is making way for nonsense. This release fails the common sense test.

As I have written in the past, PMB needs to worry about his friends more than he has to worry about his enemies. Mr. Ogbonnia is providing PMB excuses for his slow start and his failures. A good friend and supporter has the duty to advise properly. I am for probing all assumed corrupt officers but in doing so we must make sure that we do not trade one evil for a greater evil. 

Authoritarianism is as much evil as other corruptions and when we elected a president and expected that he would rule according to the prescriptions of our constitution of 1999 as amended and we find that we have merely appointed a sole administrator; or the president of Northern Nigeria, or that Federal Ministers are to be replaced by State Governors as we see happening; or that permanent secretaries now function as ministers as was the case during military administrations: then we are facing a massive corruption and rape of our constitution.

We don’t know if Mr. Saraki is corrupt or not, but that is what his trial would reveal in due course. When that happens he would be able to hang on to his office or lose it after a fair trial. It will be good if he takes a leave of absence to clear his name, but impeachment is the wrong way to go. 

If he takes the leave of absence his deputy would act on his absence and relinquish the authority when he is back. We must bear in mind that the senate elects its leadership, not the party, not the president but the elected senators and the House members.

This is NOT the time to talk about impeachment of Saraki.

Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba, Boston, Massachusetts

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