By Abdulrazaq Magaji
What do honest, decent and innocent people do when they are tossed before a judge for an offence they never committed? Do they run from pillar to post, accuse witches, waste millions in legal fees or waste millions in seeking intercession of clerics and jujumen? Or, do they try to compromise judges or rent crowds or endure sleepless nights? Or, simply accuse imagined enemies and political opponents?
Tell me! Do honest, decent and innocent people go through all these especially if they are prominent politicians and have the added advantage of being children of prominent politicians? Or, have served as state governors and enjoy the privilege of being sitting legislators? Do honest, decent and innocent people claw at straws in a bid to survive? Does an honest, decent and innocent person do any or all of these?
No, you might say! In the first place, honest, decent and innocent persons rarely get charged for offences they never committed. This is the norm! But, in the unlikely event that an honest, decent and innocent person is charged with an offence they never committed, the reasonable thing to do is to go clear their names before a judge! That, exactly, is what decent and innocent Nigerians expected Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki (Sai Bukky, to his friends and admirers) to do but which, for now, he has flatly refused to do. Isn’t this strange?
Of course, not! The only strange thing in the whole drama is the pain, anguish and disappointment felt by many members of the Saraki political fellowship. As things are, it appears discerning members of the Saraki political fellowship have left the stage for vultures. At the last count, there were nearly half members of the Nigerian Senate, no less than five dozen senior and junior lawyers and a much larger number of peripatetic clerics and traditional drummers within the premises to defend the embattled president of the Senate.
Indeed, these are trying times for Dr. Bukola Saraki. After the Supreme Court told him to go face trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the senate president suddenly realized that the imposing figure of his lead counsel, Joseph Daudu, had become an albatross rather than the symbol of intimidation he was meant to be. So, more lawyers, among them seniors such as Kanu Agabi, a former federal attorney general, were drafted. If he is innocent as he claims, why is Dr. Saraki throwing money away as if it is about to go out of fashion?
By the way, whose money is the senate president spending? At the end of the day, it is unlikely Dr. Saraki himself will know the exact millions, in USD, he ploughed into this case! Is this the mark of an honest, decent and innocent person? It is even more painful that, win or lose, Dr. Bukola Saraki will not carry his cross alone as some poor civil servants somewhere will be made to bear the brunt of his recklessness!
What is the message Dr. Saraki is sending? Even if he legally earned his money selling sugar and rice as he deponed in his asset declaration form, does it make sense to flaunt it the way he is doing even if he thinks money was going out of fashion? Do honest, decent and innocent people waste tons of money simply to establish their innocence? If the idea was to clear his name, does it make sense for Dr. Saraki to run from pillar to post and probably get himself involved in some of those things only dishonest people are capable of doing and, even at that, under the cover of darkness?
But, we need to give Dr. Saraki a breather because there could be people out there who hate his guts and are simply intimidated by his achievements. Maybe the man has never abused public trusts or coveted public funds as Nigerians are made to believe. Maybe the investigators who turned in a damning report after looking at the books of the defunct Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria were the same people that paid those who stoned Dr. Saraki at the Eid praying ground in Ilorin last year. Maybe there are many people out there who just do not like the face of the senate president.
At issue is integrity. And who knows? Maybe the man is right in his desperation to protect his integrity. Maybe Dr. Saraki did not falsely or under declare his assets or ever operated a foreign bank account as alleged. Maybe he diligently executed the office of governor of Kwara state for eight years and never robbed the state blind as alleged. Maybe Dr. Bukola Saraki does not own property in Ikoyi as alleged by investigators but in the backwaters of Ajegunle. So, it’s okay for him to clear his name, right?
Right! Problem is, Dr.Saraki has taken all the wrong steps in pursuit of what should normally be a noble cause. His conduct so far has been less dignifying and suggestive of a man with his back to the wall. By the way, when did people begin to treat their headache by cutting off their heads as Dr. Saraki seems to be suggesting? Already, there are reports of special prayers across Kwara state for a quick resolution of the Saraki corruption case, which many consider a drain on the finances of the state.
The problem started the first day Dr. Saraki was charged to the CCT. But, as a man who believes his deep pocket was all he needed to escape justice, he started listening to injunction-seeking, lucre-loving lawyers and rushed up to the Supreme Court when all he needed to do was to appear at the Code of Conduct Tribunal last September to enter a not-guilty plea. That was the first indication that the senate president was still living in the past.
Now, there is nothing dignifying in Senator Saraki vaguely blaming his travails on opponents when the only person he needs to fear is himself. No. Nobody is after Dr. Saraki’s blood and nobody is witch-hunting him. By resorting to the cheap and time-worn practice of finger-pointing, Dr. Saraki is simply appealing to Nigerians’ legendary short memory of hate that has largely been responsible for the mess Nigerians find themselves today. Are times changing?
An indication of the changing times is that the Dr. Saraki corruption case has not died a natural death as would most likely have been the case in the recent past. 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 their desperation to get off the hook, simply run from pillar to post and appeal to some primordial sentiments as a way of escaping justice.
By the way, why is it such an uphill task for Senator Bukola Saraki to prove that he made his millions from selling rice and sugar and did not hijack the treasury of Kwara state? Can’t he simply refute or confirm charges that he falsely declared his assets or filled his asset declaration form in 2003 in anticipation of property worth millions of Naira he planned to acquire years later? Why is it difficult to prove he did not operate foreign bank accounts at a time he should not have done so? Is it true he under-declared his assets or had property far in excess of his earnings?
The other day, a member of the ruling APC party advised party leaders to rally round Dr. Saraki, maybe to escape justice, because of his contribution to the success of the party. Rather than resorting to blackmail, the right thing to do, if the man feels so concerned, is to seek an appointment with the president with the view to pleading Dr. Saraki’s case.
If people with similar views are listening, they are advised to advise people not to do things today that will haunt them tomorrow. Meaning: the only thing people can and should fear is their past!
Ain’t Nigeria changing?
* Abdulrazaq Magaji (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives in Abuja, Nigeria.
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