Despite Sunday night’s denials by President Muhammadu Buhari and stalwarts of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that the current travails of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was not a political witch-hunt, the mood in the National Assembly suggests that some powerful forces are hell bent on pulling the rug from under his feet.
Daily Independent can reveal that some party chieftains may have begun subterranean moves to remove Saraki as Senate President and that the plot is thickening by the second.
Investigations further revealed attempts by a coalition of party chieftains to oust the Senate President at all costs, following which a financial war-chest is being deployed for the “Saraki Must Go” project.
A ranking senator, who expressed worries at the desperate moves and counter-moves from the opposing factions in the parliament, said senators were being wooed with as much as $50,000 each to buy into the project.
Senator Saraki has been in the eye of storm since last week when the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) began the process of prosecuting him on various allegations bothering on perjury and false declaration of assets while he was two-term Kwara State governor between 2003 and 2011, when he was elected Senator. His wife, Toyin, has also been under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegations of financial misconduct while she was first lady.
Those who allege a witch-hunt point to the fact that the couple only became prey to the anti-corruption agencies soon after Saraki emerged Senate President against the preference of the APC leadership, which had Ahmed Lawan as anointed candidate.
There has been no love lost between Saraki and the party leadership including the Presidency since then, despite several claims by Buhari’s aides that the president nursed no grudge against Saraki as the Senate President.
Last Thursday, the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) issued a bench warrant against the Senate President for failure to appear before it to answer to charges against him, while a Federal High Court in Abuja had earlier issued a counter order summoning top officials of the CCB, CCT and Federal Ministry of Justice to appear before it on Monday.
The court had demanded for cause why it should not stop the conduct agencies and the justice ministry from proceeding with the trial of the Senate President.
Yesterday, the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja reversed the warrant of arrest order of the CCB in an appeal filed by the counsel to the Senate President seeking an injunction against the CCB.
However, while the legal methodology of getting Saraki “disciplined” are being pursued with all vigour, Daily Independent can authoritatively reveal that his traducers are also employing covert means to bring him down.
A dependable source in the party, close to the National Assembly told this newspaper in confidence Monday, that Senators are now being wooed with cash to buy into the plot to get Senator Saraki removed from office at all cost.
According to the source who wanted his identity protected, some Senators were called to a meeting on Sunday afternoon in the private residence of a top politician in Asokoro, Abuja, where the modus operandi of the project, “Saraki Must Go,” was tabled and agreed upon, offering the financial inducement.
Two Senators, one each from the South West and North Central were appointed as arrowheads, while a senator was picked from each zone to woo more senators into the project to ensure the mandatory two-thirds majority necessary for the impeachment plot when the Senate resumes plenary in October.
It is not yet certain the number of Senators who have signed up for the “Saraki Must Go” project, but another source said about 25 Senators attended the Sunday meeting where the issued was discussed.
Ultimatum To Resign
The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) had last week joined the fray of those asking the Senate President to face prosecution and clear his name.
The Presidency on Sunday denied involvement in the plot to use the court to embarrass the Senate President, while urging him to face trial and clear his name.
However, Timi Frank, Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC on Sunday, described those calling for Saraki’s resignation or removal from office as “ignorant and myopic” and suffering from “acute kwashiorkor in terms of knowledge”
When Daily Independent contacted the Senate President on the underhand plot to sack him at all costs, one of his media aides who spoke under anonymity said his boss was undeterred and would not succumb to cheap blackmail.
According to him, Saraki has nothing to fear or hide as he was innocent of the charge and only being persecuted for his political ideology.
The Senate President, he recalled, has stressed on many occasions his readiness to contribute immensely to the anti-corruption war of the Buhari administration.
“Those who wanted the Senate President out at all costs know why they are gunning for his jugular. They know he’s a pillar of stabilisation in this administration and are only looking for ways of weakening the government.
“If they are now resorting to bribing Senators, which I don’t doubt they will try to, I pity them because the Senate President was not a man imposed on the Red Chamber, but freely chosen by his colleagues who wanted him to lead them.
“Whoever thinks the Senators, especially the ones in the current 8th Senate will sell their conscience for a morsel of bread should continue deceiving himself,” the aide said.
Meanwhile, the CCT, yesterday, restated its warrant of arrest on Saraki and the order that Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, produces him.
But Saraki, in a statement by his media office after the sessions yesterday at both the Appeal Court and the conduct tribunal, urged the tribunal and the IGP not to bother coming as he would personally appear before it today.
The statement recalled: “Saraki, had stated and maintained that he is ready to submit himself to due process of the law on any issue concerning him; he also believes that he has an inalienable right to resort to the same judiciary for protection when he feels his fundamental rights are about to be infringed upon.
“The Senate President is a law abiding citizen and his absence from tribunal was based on legal advice he received from his counsel that it is not necessary for him to appear before the tribunal at this stage since the jurisdiction of the tribunal and the process of initiating the matter are being challenged before the federal High Court Abuja.
“Following the adjournment for the determination of the motion on notice and the substantive suit before the Federal High Court to 30th of September and the appeal pending before the Court of Appeal adjourned to the 29th of September 2015, the Senate President has decided, as a law abiding citizen, to appear before the Tribunal in the interim.
“Dr. Saraki has taken the decision to attend the Tribunal sitting to demonstrate his respect for the rule of law in spite of his personal reservation on the process of his trial and the purpose it may be intended to serve.
“Dr. Saraki wishes to assure Nigerians of his absolute belief in the judicial process and is therefore confident that the course of justice would be served at the end of this matter”.