By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, our dear beloved country is at some dangerous crossroads again. Those who know how to pray should offer supplications to God urgently because, our stubbornly arrogant, and sometimes impetuous, politicians are about to set Nigeria ablaze, igniting a possible conflagration the type of which we have not seen in a long time. For anyone following my column, I have pleaded endlessly for decorum, tolerance, patience and simple common sense at all levels and tiers of government. Somehow, my strident appeals have largely gone unheeded. It is obvious that some powerful forces are hell-bent on having their way by fire, by force, whether they be right or wrong! It is sad that many of our leaders on both sides of the fence have not learnt any useful lessons from even our contemporary history.
Let me break it down to brass tacks. The current imbroglio is as a result of what started in 2015, when Senator Bukola Saraki seemingly outsmarted members of his party, APC, and combined with members of the opposition party, PDP, to fulfil his burning ambition to become the Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Depending on which side of the political divide you belong, members of APC felt totally cheated and accused Saraki of the worst treachery possible, moreso, when, a member of the opposition, Ike Ekweremadu of PDP, emerged Deputy Senate President. In case you have forgotten how it all happened, please permit me to refresh your memory.
On D-Day, members of APC had gathered somewhere else, the International Conference Centre in Abuja, it was said, to deliberate, and strategise, on candidates to back for various offices of the National Assembly, especially that of the President of the Senate and Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives. Obviously clever about how politics works and the various deals that they had sealed with other members of the respective Houses of the National Assembly, Saraki and Yakubu Dogara did not join their party caucus at the meeting because of the realisation that they were not being considered at all, despite the great work they and others did in support of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired) becoming President. In the end, they both prevailed comfortably in attaining the positions that they sought in the National legislature to the chagrin of their party caucus and party leaders. There is still argument and debate as to the role of different APC party leaders, including the President (who neither said yes nor no explicitly when Saraki mentioned his interest in Senate Presidency to him), in the emergence of the two men as Senate President and Speaker respectively. What is clear is that there was omission and commission, complicity and aloofness, even maybe indifference in some quarters about the Principal officers of the Senate once the Holy Grail of the Presidency had been secured. I will not belabour you with what I saw as an active participant and eye-witness except to say that all parties played for high stakes and in the end some people won and some lost. However, I must re-emphasise what I said, on this page and in a Vanguard interview at the time, that the APC apparatchik should count their losses, move on and allow peace to reign. In a game, only one team can win, fair or foul.
The reluctance, nay, stoic resistance, of APC to let this matter pass, as I recommended, is now likely to be the albatross of the party. If care is not taken, and APC continues to insist, as they are doing, and have done, for over three wasteful years, that they must enforce regime change at the National Assembly, barely months to critical State and national general elections, the party may be heading towards Golgotha or Waterloo. I will like to make this special appeal to my big Brother and former Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, please, stop the grandstanding, embrace peace and the rule of Law and focus on the long game rather than the short play. You cannot achieve your desire by compulsion or coercion in a democratic political terrain. There is always give and take in all situations. The people you are dealing with are not mere school kids while you are the headmaster.
In the case of Saraki, it is obvious that you can only constitutionally remove him very easily if you have 73 Senators on your side. Nothing short of that number will do. Anything else is a pipe-dream and I do not see you a dreamer, let alone an unrepentant fantasist or somnambulist! Indeed, if you can land a big fish like Akpabio into your net, it shouldn’t be too difficult to ensnare more Senators. It is easier to use EFCC than to use DSS or the police. EFCC seemingly remains the only striker in this big league. If that fails, I will recommend a title of a James Hadley Chase novel, ‘The Whiff of Money’. Some millions of crispy million dollars can perform the magic for you and your party. What have we not seen before in Nigeria? However, you should also note that it is impossible, or unlikely, for politicians to visit the washroom and not leave some tell-tale signs behind.
Only pursue this agenda, I have described above, if that is the way you now envision the Nigeria of your dreams. But remember the integrity and incorruptibility of the President and Vice-President, Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo, that you have been selected to sell when you decide your options. I will suggest that to attempt another round of trying to impeach anyone with less than the number of Constitutionally recommended votes is to bring the roof crashing down.
It should be obvious by now that Nigerian Democracy has advanced beyond where it was years ago when Governors could be impeached inside hotel rooms by fewer than the constitutionally required number. Those days are gone and whosoever wants to return us to those inglorious days should have a rethink. We have our noble judiciary to thank for this because they have stood firm and resolute in the face of intimidation, coercion and even blackmail. Our judiciary is the first to recognise that a few bad eggs lurk within their midst, but they have always found ways of purging themselves and forging ahead. Their defense of our national interest, in the light of some of the determined onslaught they face, is to be commended. This is particularly because their hallowed status sometimes makes it impossible for them to embark on their own defence in the same manner as their traducers have sought to cast them with infamy and shame.
I have no doubt that the present members of the National Assembly are unyielding and ready to do whatever it takes to defend themselves against external and internal aggressors. To date there has been a distinct united front presented by the legislators, save for a few errant members who appear to be pursuing selfish or extraneous interests, which is to be applauded.
No one has said that Saraki, who is the prime target of APC, cannot be removed. All that is being said is that it should be done without all this drama and fuss, and it should be done in line with the Constitution. This charade that we are witnessing has ceased to become tedious but is now sorely irritating because there are a lot more fundamental issues to contend with in the polity than the issue of who is Senate President or Speaker or which party they belong. Even Saraki himself has said publicly that he would bow out gracefully the day two-thirds of his colleagues tell him to go home. That should be a sweet challenge and revenge to APC that wields the power of life and death today. As I have pointed out the party can choose the corrupt way, abusing the several executive offices at its command to achieve this end or they may choose the part of honour and try moral suasion and gentle persuasion.
After the disgraceful invasion of the National Assembly by the DSS last Tuesday, I became assured that APC had reached a dead-end and there was no more card to play. The spurious position of government apologists that Saraki had the head of the Department of State Security, Lawal Daura, in his pocket is too strange, beggars belief and is unbelievably difficult to comprehend or accept. In fact, that line of thought stands logic on its head. The contention that only PDP members were present at the National Assembly and that no APC member was around is not exactly correct. At least, I saw one, my dear friend, Hon. Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma, who was booed by those sympathetic to Saraki and Dogara.
The truth is many journalists were already informed the night before that an attempt would be made to impeach some key members of the National Assembly. It was said that APC members would rush in early in the morning and finish the job pronto. But as always, Saraki, the “Illuminati”, as some guy described him on social media, was ahead of the game. He amassed his team-mates ready to resist and repel any such attempt. If journalists were aware, it is only natural that the legislators directly affected would also be aware. There was nothing sinister in their being present in great numbers. Indeed, this is what makes it plain that APC members were also privy to this invasion and that some of their leaders were probably involved in orchestrating it because they would also have heard about it one way or the other. If they thought it was an attempt by some Senators to impeach the President as is being touted or create some drama as others allege, surely they would have turned up to give a lie to all this scheming and prevent it from being a success. As to why APC members were not around, the answer is easy. APC members were meeting at a different location and probably working on getting sufficient numbers to impeach those they wanted to drive out of the National Assembly leadership.
I watched on television as Senator Ben Murray-Bruce was visibly angry that they were not allowed to enter their offices and was rhapsodising and threatening the wrath of international super powers on those anti-democratic forces plotting to endanger democracy in Nigeria. I also watched the suicidal drama of Hon. Boma Goodhead, of the Federal House of Representatives as she barked orders at a fully-hooded, gun-toting secret agent, asking that she be allowed to go to her office or be shot. She is a member of PDP. Why would she take such a kamikaze risk if the security guys were around to facilitate their entry? The DSS scandal backfired big time and even those opposed to Saraki felt scandalised by the development. “Why resort to self-help?” everyone wondered. There is another serious and potentially more damaging angle to the suggestion Saraki pocketed the DSS and arranged for this invidious debacle. How did our intelligence community and security services not cotton onto what was happening, and prevent it, so that the country would not be a laughing-stock? The troop movement which the invasion entailed could well have heralded a coup, where were the rest of our security services? This leaves a lot to ponder upon. One wonders how many were complicit and whether Daura has not simply become the proverbial fall-guy and scapegoat? The Daura that I interacted with at the Institute of Security Studies, Bwalri, Abuja, last year did not look like someone who would sell his supposed godfather, President Buhari, out.
What seems plain to me is that there is a rogue element (call it the cabal, if you wish) within the present government, which does not feel that it is beholden to any constituted authority or that it needs to consult much less seek the approval of Presidency before it embarks on dastardly raids and incursions like this. Having seemingly succeeded with the invasion of Judges homes, this group felt emboldened enough to go as far as openly breaching the National Assembly and everything it stands for in this democratic dispensation.
I don’t think Nigerians would worry about who the National Assembly removes or decides to replace but it must be done according to the rule of Law. If the masses don’t know better, I can understand. However, the insults heaped on Saraki, the number three citizen of Nigeria, yesterday, by the national Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomole, was totally uncalled for and unbecoming. It was too personal and demeaning. It can only harden the Saraki camp to fight all the way. Who knows tomorrow? Power is very transient. All these guys were friends, once upon a time.
This battle is not for the emancipation or betterment of Nigeria or the greater well-being and improvement of Nigerians, but about who controls the biggest wealth of Nigeria, and the re-election of a President they want to use as staircase and stepping stone to fame and fortune. For both parties, it appears that governance is no longer a priority. Everyone is fighting for control of power and resources. It is such a monumental tragedy that we, the general public, seem so helpless about the recklessness of our political leaders. I’m currently reading a book titled WHY NATIONS FAIL, THE ORIGINS OF POWER, PROSPERITY AND POVERTY by Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson and I can see some symptoms afflicting Nigeria very clearly.