Saraki: Is APC becoming vulnerable?

When the All Progressives Congress (APC) was formed in 2013, the primary aim of the party was to wrest power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), after 16 years in the saddle. A year after coming on board as a political party, the dream of APC came to fruition as it unseated the PDP at the federal level through an overwhelming support from Nigerians.

The pack of goodwill the party received across the length and breadth of the country before, during and after the March 28 elections was as a result of the acknowledgment by Nigerians that the party will uphold the principles of internal democracy and focus on issues that concern the citizenry. All seem to be going ‘rosy’ in the party until different vested interests started angling to take charge of the leadership of the legislative arm of government.

The intrigues turned the once knitted fold into a den of mutual suspicion. With the outcome of the Senate leadership election going the way of Senator Bukola Saraki, it was only a matter of time before the epic battle within the APC becomes the lead headline.

A slice of the brewing crisis was an extract from an article penned by the Lagos State Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, where he poured venom on the Senate President and his supporters.

Igbokwe said: “Because of the inordinate ambition of one man and lust to be the Senate President by all means, Saraki ignored the President, the Vice-President, APC governors, Senators, House of Representatives members etc. to sacrifice the unity of his party. Senator Saraki compounded the problems of APC, and mounted a major roadblock for its smooth take-off considering that it is just coming to power after 16 years in opposition.

“This man put spanners in the works and initiated a serious internal crisis within the ruling party that nearly made Nigerians who massively voted for APC to begin to lose hope.

Saraki and his gang of 40 thieves devastated the master plan of our great party to choose the right people to serve as the Principal Officers in the National Assembly.”

Igbokwe’s statement which came at a time Saraki is being tried at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, was seen in some quarters as an instigated position, thereby creating suspicions that the whole drama of trial is sheer power game or fight against graft. For some analysts, the choice of Saraki as the sacrificial lamb of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-graft crusade appears curious, owing to the inconsistency with the modus operandi of the trial.

For those in this school of thought, the trial of Saraki is more political than a genuine resolve to unravel any wrongdoing and establish justice. Apart from the obvious political underhand, a number of procedural flaws have been identified in the trial, these flaws to analysts call for concern about the future of a government that is fully yet to take-off, over 100 days after assuming office.

For example, some analysts identified Section 24 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act that contends that any charge to be preferred against any person under the Act can only be handled by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) or whoever he (the AGF) has authorised to do so.

They averred that this provision is completely non-existence in the Saraki prosecution. They posit that at the time of starting the trial, President Buhari is yet to have his own Attorney General and the government is unable to wait to get an AGF in place before proceeding with Saraki’s trial simply because to appoint one, he has to appear before the same Saraki and others for confirmation.
Thus, the political meditation that the plan is to get rid of Saraki before appointing an Attorney General and others sounds plausible.

Another hitch identified in the probe is the flagrant nature that the CCB ignored its own procedure because Section 3 (d) of the Act requires it to offer the accused public officer the opportunity to either deny or admit to the noncompliance or breach and that it is only in the event of a denial that the matter can be forwarded to the Tribunal.

Section 3(d) of the CCB Act states that: “The functions of the Bureau shall be ….to receive complaints about non-compliance with or breach of this Act and where the Bureau considers it necessary to do so, refer such complaints to the Code of Conduct Tribunal established by Section 20 of this Act in accordance with Section 20 to 25 of this Act.

Provided that where the person concerned makes a written admission of such breach or non-compliance, no reference to the Tribunal shall be necessary.”

Interestingly, the provision was sidelined as the Saraki team claimed to have first known about the charges through the regular news medium like every other person. Since the trial started, one question has been constant at many fora and it is the fact that would government had put Saraki on trial if he was not the Senate President? The other leg to the question is: will government continue with this trial if he bows out as Senate President?

For one, Saraki’s sin, as it were, is in two-fold. First, he challenged the authorities and defeated them to become the Senate President. Some analysts noted that the president had committed himself by saying he belongs to nobody but all.

They averred that the president pretended he didn’t mind the emergence of Saraki but also asked at the same time that party supremacy must be upheld. In the alternative, therefore, he wanted Saraki to make use of the list the party gave him for senate leadership positions since a few of the “president’s men” were there.

But Saraki didn’t see the opening as well as the trap and announced that his hands were tied. He went ahead to announce the other list preferred by the senators since it is the prerogative of the senators to choose their leaders. As it is, the whole arrangement is to limit Saraki’s option and choke him out of his current seat that seems to threaten the existence of the president, it is either they watch him go down fighting or bounce off the other option.

The other option to have him resign and elect a new president of the senate seems remote, but whether he goes down fighting or resigns and the situation opens up the door for a new senate president, the more vulnerable APC becomes and the president had better prepare to live with a most likely PDP Senate President.

Presently, there are insinuations that even with the Saraki trial yet to start, the party leadership has begun to subtly look for a replacement from the North- Central, preferably a Muslim. So, what does the equation look like in the zone? If it is not predominantly new intakes, it is populated more by Christians, who are ranking.

The implication of this, therefore, is that the APC may be playing to the hands of the PDP, whose 49 is not only intact, but will bountifully reap from APC’s divided house (like the Tambuwal experience) and most likely elect a David Mark as Senate President.

In sum, some analysts have argued that with the way Saraki is being treated, it is clear that the APC seems handicapped to protect their own and would offer anyone for sacrifice whenever it chooses to if such person is seen as anti-establishment. With the centre not holding for the party, the variegated colours of the change emblem are fast blurring out and it is only left to be seen how the party will tie its shoe lace for the task ahead.
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