Details have emerged on why the cabal in the Presidency influenced the discontinuation of the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
Dependable sources in the Presidency, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and some members of the National Assembly confirmed that a trade-off was reached between key actors in the legislature and a cabal in the Presidency.
The CCT recently shocked Nigerians and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) when it discharged and acquitted Saraki of the 18-count charge of false declaration of assets brought against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) in a trial that lasted 22 months.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) compounded the situation when it disowned its lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacob (SAN), who was prosecuting Saraki at the CCT.
The commission claimed that Jacob acted in his individual capacity as a private prosecutor. Faced with the scenario, the CCT Chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar, in the judgement, said that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against Saraki and consequently discharged him.
It was learnt that Saraki’s acquittal by the CCT has more to do with face-saving by the cabal who have “hijacked” the government in the absence of ailing President Muhammadu Buhari.
Saraki’s woes began when he went against APC leaders to emerge the Senate President on June 9, 2015 with support from the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Senators in the Upper Chambers.
The APC had picked Senator Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe) for the office.
Sources told a reporter that the cabal, comprising close friends of the President from the North, aborted the trial of Saraki to avoid the 2010 scenario which led to the Doctrine of Necessity that ushered in then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President in the absence of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who was hospitalised in Jeddah.
The 7th Senate under the leadership of Sen. David Mark, citing Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) on Tuesday, February 9, 2010, passed a resolution making Jonathan the Acting President.
The House of Representatives headed by Hon. Dimeji Bankole followed suit with a similar resolution. Although there are arguments that since Buhari named Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as Acting President, there would be no room for the Senate resorting to that constitutional provision.
It was learnt that the cabal feared that if the trial of Saraki continued, he could do the unexpected if after 90 days President Buhari is unable to return to the country.
It was further gathered that the cabal moved to stop the war of attrition with Saraki to prevent him from ganging up with perceived enemies of the government to dig deep into the controversy surrounding the continued absence of President Buhari.
The sources added that Saraki was let go to stop him from fraternising with the APC National
Leader, Alhaji Bola Tinubu, who has been his foe since the inception of this administration.
Tinubu had accused Saraki of dissuading Buhari from picking him as his running mate during the 2015 presidential election, on the grounds that Nigerians would not accept a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
One of the sources said: “The cabal knows the implications of pushing Saraki into the hands of those who are looking for ways to push Buhari aside due to his sickness. Don’t forget the role played by David Mark in 2010. At this time, the cabal needs an ally, not a foe, to be at the head of the National Assembly. Who knows how far this situation will persist?”
“You know, Saraki and the godfather (Tinubu) of the Acting President are not the best of friends. He is going to be a useful tool in causing problems for the Acting President, now that they are not sure where the Buhari Presidency is heading”.
The cabal’s intervention came at a time the Presidency is engaged in a supremacy battle with the Saraki-led Senate on the powers of the National Assembly to confirm the appointees of the President.”
The refusal of Osinbajo to drop Ibrahim Magu as EFCC chairman as demanded by the Senate has drawn the ire of the lawmakers.
A Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, told the newspaper that the cabal truly exists.
He said: “Clearly, the Senators and Saraki are up for a fight! It is a Yoruba fight. Bukola Saraki believes that Osinbajo and Tinubu are after him, and he wants to pre-empt them by holding onto the government. It is a tribal fight and they should go and sort out their tribal affairs.”
In his reaction, Second Republic Governor of Old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, accused the cabal of taking Nigerians for granted over Buhari’s health.
He said: “They are taking Nigerians for granted. Nigerians have to be taken into consideration because for the Presidency to make such statement shows that the situation is critical. It also means they are taking us for a ride.”
“The Federal Government should ensure that Nigerians know the truth; we cannot continue to be left in the dark. We cannot trust his aides as well. We need the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who claim to have met him, to find out the truth and tell Nigerians the truth.”
Similarly, pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said that “this season of power struggle will paralyse governance.”
On the need for Osinbajo to be firm and wise, Odumakin told the newspaper that, “if the Acting President is a wise man and I know he is wise, he should not play into the hands of Magu. I think he should not sink with Magu.”
Human rights activist, Ogenyi Okpokwu, said: “Those who believe that Saraki was released to work with the cabal or the fact that there was arrangement with the CCT, cannot hold water. The Buhari administration has been able to lay a foundation in fighting corruption. He was discharged based on facts available to the CCT,” he said.
When contacted on the development, Buhari’s spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, referred a reporter to Mr. Laolu Akande, the Acting President’s Media Aide.
As at the time of filing this report, Akande had not responded to a text message and calls to his mobile phone.