Buhari, Saraki and politics of guns
While we cannot credit President Muhammadu Buhari with a transformative genius that has redounded to the citizens’ wellbeing, we must not ignore his masterstrokes in self-preservation. What we have been confronted with in the past three years is his craving for self-protection with its trappings of paranoia.
Thus, beyond the need to punish crime no matter the station of life of the allegedly culpable, the alleged linkage of Senate President Bukola Saraki to armed robbers who raided banks and killed over 30 people in Offa, Kwara State seems an extension of the politics of Buhari’s self-survival.
Through his words and actions, Buhari has not concealed his prejudice that it is only from the executive arm of government flows a genuine desire for good governance that would improve the citizens’ lot. Buhari feels trammelled by the legislature and the judiciary. He is riled by the absence of military powers that could enable him to decree life or death in a democratic milieu. This was why he sought emergency powers that the legislature refused to grant him.
Since then, Buhari has been deploying state powers in a bid to whittle down the influence of those who stand in his path to the fulfilment of his notion of development of the country. The first was the judiciary. Buhari is apparently rankled by the suspicion of a collusion between the judiciary and past governments that denied him the opportunity to become president earlier. For him, it is time to remind the judiciary of the injustice meted out to him when he was powerless. He has striven to make the citizens to see the judiciary as an arm of government in which corruption festers. To him, its members, the bench and the bar, are the aiders of the corruption in which the nation’s politicians luxuriate. They must all be defanged and made to realise that they cannot constitute an obstacle to his anti-corruption fight. This was why judges were arrested and prosecuted. Their homes were raided and the proceeds of their corruption in dollar or naira were said to have been found in septic tanks and other unfathomable places. Clearly, while we would not hold the view that the judiciary embodies transparency expressed in creed and deed, our grouse remains that the manner of ferreting out the corruption in this arm of government is questionable.
After the judiciary, Buhari turned his attention to the political class. Its members must also be silenced so that they would not use their stolen money to fight against the anti-corruption campaign. This is why Buhari has descended heavily on them. But those who saw the light early enough quickly defected to Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC). Once there, they are thus seen as not posing any danger to the anti-corruption fight. But those who have refused to defect are subjected to an endless prosecution in courts.
But now that it is the turn of the legislature to be silenced, Buhari is not using a cache of dollars found under the beds of lawmakers to prosecute them. This is despite the lawmakers’ notoriety for earning fabulous salaries and sundry allowances including those for constituency projects and their wardrobes. Buhari’s new-fangled strategy to silence the members of the National Assembly is to use his minions to accuse them of providing hoodlums with guns.
While Dino Melaye is still battling with his charge of arming some thugs in Kogi, his home state, Senate President Bukola Saraki is now faced with the same allegation. While even a single life is important, the number of those who have died due to Fulani herdsmen’s terrorism is higher than that of those felled by the Offa robbers’ bullets. But the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris has failed to demonstrate the same alertness to his responsibilities in respect of reining in these cold-blooded Fulani murderers as he is doing now in Offa. When President Buhari sent him to Benue to restore security he did not bother to obey him. Even when the IGP’s behaviour became a public embarrassment to the president, he did not change his mind and go there. Worse, when the Senate summoned him repeatedly to assure them of the measures he had put in place to stop the killings and restore security; he did not deem it necessary to respond as requested by the lawmakers.
But it is the same police still headed by Idris that have summoned Saraki to appear before them because the suspected Offa armed robbers have accused him of supplying them guns. But Saraki did not resist the summons. He was willing to meet the police until they themselves declared that the Senate president should rather respond in writing.
To be sure, Saraki should be prosecuted if there are established links between him and armed robbers. But what is clear to us is that Buhari has followed a predictable pattern of silencing those he perceives as opposed to him. What is happening is a clear indication of Buhari’s frosty relationship with Saraki and by extension the Senate. And for now, before the police evidence linking the armed robbers to Saraki is considered unimpeachable by a competent law court, we must appreciate the fact that he is on a higher moral ground than Buhari and his proxies, the police.
The Offa robbery suspects allegedly confessed that while they were Saraki’s thugs, he did not send them to rob. If that is the case, when did the fact of politicians having thugs become a criminal offence in our political environment? If Saraki is guilty of having political thugs, which politician is not guilty of the same offence? Is it not thugs other politicians use to intimidate, maim, kidnap and kill their opponents? Have all these other politicians been arrested and prosecuted? Why must it begin with Saraki if not because of his turbulent relationship with Buhari? Even if Buhari denies having thugs, then he needs to explain to us those who attacked Charly Boys and other protesters in Abuja last year because they were calling for the president to return from medical vacation in London or resign. Or are we to accept that these were not thugs simply because Charly Boy and his fellow protesters were not shot dead? Buhari’s search for politicians with thugs is not different from his hunt for campaign funds. The same Buhari who claimed he was so poor he could not pay for his nomination form had enough money for his presidential campaign that involved flying private jets. Where did all this money come from if not part of the sleazy acquisitions of his sponsors?
Buhari is a present danger to the nation’s democracy because if he and his minions could subject the Senate president to this ordeal, then every person who opposes his presidential ambition in the coming days would suffer a grimmer fate. If presidential aspirants are not charged with corruption, they would be prosecuted for the allegations of their either having thugs or providing them with guns. How much threat Buhari’s current impunity poses to democracy and good governance is seen in the fact that the National Assembly is ready to fight back. The lawmakers might reduce their cooperation with the Buhari government thereby making it more difficult to snatch the barest measure of good governance from this floundering administration. But ultimately, it is not Saraki who is the loser. It is Buhari who is portraying himself as an enemy of democracy and blithely prosecuting an agenda that would truncate it. But he must leave democracy to Nigerians who fought for its return and cherish it while ruing his fate because it is too late for him to be shored up as a born-again democrat dressed in suit and not in military uniform.
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