These are trying times for embattled senate president, Abubakar Bukola Saraki. But, rather than address the corruption case filed against him, Bukola only sees witches at the mercy of hunters!
The other day, the man wondered how it took people after his blood thirteen years to slap thirteen corruption charges against him. So far, pleading his case in the court of public opinion has been undignified.
Even in the courtroom, Senator Saraki’s defence team is not helping matters. At the head of the defence is Joseph Daudu, former president of the Nigerian Bar Association and a man who, in all sincerity, should be visiting the gym more regularly than the courtroom! At the first hearing of the Saraki case at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Dauda waddled into the courtroom and, to the embarrassment of all, attributed his late arrival to what he said was his belief that the Tribunal was not going to sit!
Daudu was not joking because, at the resumed hearing seventy two hours later, he failed to produce the accused person as he earlier undertook. This he justified, again to the embarrassment of all, by saying he considered the Tribunal’s order to produce Senator Saraki as a nullity! Pleading Bukola Saraki’s case from weak platforms such as the absence of a substantive federal attorney general to issue of quorum for Tribunal members to sit is one indication that the Saraki defence team does not have much to show!
It may not be too late for the senate president to re-shuffle his team. A little over a decade ago, the sheer vast size of counsels, such as that of the late Frederick Rotimi Williams aka Timi the Law, was enough to intimidate judges! Today, it amounts to living in the past to assume, as some people still do, that judges feel intimidated by the imposing figure of counsels or plays a role in the kind of judgment counsels get! At least, this point has been proved by the judges at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Talking about living in the past! May be, Senator Saraki subscribes to the execrable idea that accused persons with dubious means of income have higher chances of escaping conviction! May be, that is why he listened to injunction-seeking lawyers and rushed to a federal high court when, all he needed to do anyway, was to appear at the first sitting of the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Friday, September 19, 2015 to enter a not-guilty plea!
Tinubu, Saraki and Buhari
Had Senator Saraki elected to live in the present, he probably should know that a crime committed a hundred years ago remains a crime. It is never overtaken by age and anytime there are enough facts to secure a conviction, nothing stops the accused being called forward to account. If the senate president considers his corruption case as a witch-hunt simply because he feels he is being singled out, he should hold his breath and see how the anti-corruption war pans out.
Now, there is nothing dignifying in people vaguely blaming their travails on opponents or by claiming they are victims of a witch-hunt. By resorting to this time-worn practice, Senator Saraki is simply appealing to Nigerians’ legendary short memory of hate. Unfortunately, it has been this spirit of quickly forgiving their leaders even when they have been convicted of looting the treasury that has been largely responsibly of the mess Nigerians find themselves today. But, it appears changing times are here!
An indication of the changing times is that, right now, there is near-absence of rented placard-carrying protesters appropriately mobilised to make the usual noise in support of the senate president. If this is an indication that they no longer wish to live in the past, Nigerians will do well to resist the urge to be swayed by people who, in the desperation to get off the hook, simply resort to cheap blackmail by whipping up sentiments.
Senator Bukola Saraki should resist pointing to the past as the right place Nigerians should be. And, one way to do this is to refute or confirm the charges against him. Did he falsely declare his assets? Did he fill his asset declaration form in 2003 in anticipation of property worth millions of Naira he acquired three years later? Did he operate foreign bank accounts at a time he should not have done so? Did he under-declare his assets? How come he had property far in excess of his earnings?
These are some of the issues in need of the attention of the senate president. These are crimes allegedly committed when Senator Saraki served as governor of Kwara state and not linked to Societe Generale Bank in anyway! It is not asking for much to demand an explanation if, as alleged, money meant for the development of Kwara state was cornered.
Ordinarily, Senator Dino Melaye should have been helpful in pleading the case of the senate president. But, what good counsel comes from a former anti-corruption crusader who has diminished himself by virtually abandoning his legislative duties to assume the ignoble role of bouncer and bodyguard for the third family?
Aren’t things changing?
Abdulrazaq Magaji <email@example.com> lives in Abuja