Embattled Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has for the first time, opened up a can of worms on the origin of his perceived persecution in the hands of the All Progressives Congress-led federal government, which he said he “contributed so much” to build.
The Senate president, the third in hierarchy of the country’s leadership, is currently fighting the political battle of his life at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, which is trying him for alleged false and anticipatory declaration of assets.
In an open letter he wrote as a reply to an earlier article published last Saturday by Ovation Publisher, Dele Momodu, in his Pendulum column on ThisDay, Saraki said that his “original sin” was his refusal to support a Muslim/Muslim ticket for the APC in the 2015 presidential election.
According to him, those whose ambition were truncated by his opposition to an all-Muslim presidential ticket, had been doing everything possible to frustrate him.
It would be recalled that in the build-up to the last general election, rumors were rife that the APC, which at the time was battling to stave off an “Islamic party” toga, was contemplating fielding then General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as its presidential and vice presidential candidates, respectively.
This much was attested to by Mr. Tinubu in a widely publicized statement explaining why he turned down Buhari’s offer to be his running mate.
The speculation in some quarters is that Tinubu, who wields such enormous influence in the present dispensation, though in unofficial capacity, is using state apparatus to harass Mr. Saraki, a two-term former Governor of Kwara State, for going against the APC’s wish to contest and emerge as Senate president.
But Saraki denies this speculation, explaining that the source of his present political travails predate the June 9 election of presiding officers for the National Assembly, with the contest for the Senate Presidency seat providing the opportunity for those still aggrieved by his opposition to their ambitions, to launch a counter-attack.
He said: “I have also been accused of helping to frustrate some people’s opportunity to emerge as President Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate. But I have no problem with anybody. My concern was that it would not be politically smart of us to run with a Muslim-Muslim ticket. I doubt if we would have won the election if we had done this, especially after the PDP had successfully framed us a Muslim party. I felt we were no longer in 1993. Perhaps, more than ever before, Nigerians are more sensitive to issues of religious balancing. This was my original sin.
“What they say to themselves, among other things, was that ‘if he could conspire against our ambition, then he must not realise his own ambition as well.’ For me however, I have no regrets about this. I only stood for what I believed was in the best interest of the party and in the best interest of Nigeria. We have got to that point in our country when we no longer believe that anyone could stand for anything based on principles and convictions alone. Moreover, in the growing culture of media crucifixion and presumed guilt; it is rare to find a voice like yours that calls for fairness and justice”.
Saraki did not spare the APC for its indifference to his trial.
He said: “Let me make this point clearly. I do not expect to be shielded from prosecution because of my contribution to APC, if there was genuine basis for such action to be taken against me. But I have every reason to expect not to be persecuted by the party that I contributed so much to build. The New PDP may not have given APC victory in 2015, but it was an important factor in the dynamics that produced that victory.
“And with all sense of modesty, I was an important factor in the formation of New PDP; in leading that group to the APC; in ensuring our group’s support for the candidate during the primaries and in mobilising substantial resources for the election. For these, I have not expected any special compensation. Rather, I only expect to be treated like every loyal party member and accorded the right to freely aspire”.
On allegations that in seeking to be Senate president, he struck a deal with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and made it possible for one of them – Ike Ekweremadu – to be the Deputy Senate President, Saraki said he knew it was the dominant narrative across the nation, but it was far from the truth.
He continued: “I did not do any deal with the PDP. I did not have to because even before the PDP Senators as a group took the decision to support my candidature on the eve of the inauguration of the 8th Senate, 22 PDP Senators had already written a letter supporting me. What I did not envisage was a situation where some members of my party would not be in the chambers that day, especially when the clerk had already received a proclamation from the President authorising the inauguration of the Senate.
“Pray, if a team refused to turn up for a scheduled match and was consequently walked over, would it be fair to blame the team that turned up and claimed victory? I believe those that made it possible for PDP to claim the Deputy Senate President position were those who decided to hold a meeting with APC senators elsewhere at the time they ought to be in the chambers. What the PDP Senators did was to take advantage of their numerical strength at the material time. They simply lined up behind Senator Ike Ikweremadu while those of us from APC voted for Senator Ali Ndume. It was a game of numbers, and we were hopelessly outnumbered. If the PDP had nominated their own candidate for the Senate Presidency position that day, they would have won. It was as simple as that”.
He said further that his ongoing trial was not about corruption: “I am happy that since my trial started, people who have followed the proceedings have now understood better what the whole thing is about. I have had opportunity to declare my assets four times since 2003. Over those years, the Code of Conduct Bureau had examined my claims. There was no time that they raised any issues with me on any item contained in my declarations over those twelve years. This is why you should be surprised that while I am being tried by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the witness and the evidence supplied against me were all from the EFCC.
“Like you, I have an abiding faith in the judiciary. May God forbid the day that we would give up on our judicial system. However, the onus is not on me to prove that I have confidence in the judiciary; the burden is on my prosecutors to prove to the world that justice is done in my case. If the process of fighting corruption is itself corrupt, then whatever victory is recorded would remain tainted and puerile.
“Let me end by observing that I am not alone in this trial. On trial with me in this process is the entire judicial system. On trial with me is our entire anti-corruption institutions and our avowed commitment to honestly fight corruption. On trial with me is our party’s promise to depart from the ways of the past, a promise that Nigerians voted for. And I dare say, on trial with me is our media and their ethical commitment to report fairly and objectively. In the end, it is my earnest hope that whatever we do will ultimately ennoble our country”.
Read Saraki’s full letter here