The heightening political heat in the land
The polity in the land is being heated up anew. It is important we must dampen the rising heat before it sets off some kind of untoward rowdiness that seems headed calamitously to engulf the nation. The whole atmosphere is suffocated by insecurity and the air of foreboding that heightens and drives cold shivers down our spines. The latest is the police invitation to the Senate President Bukola Saraki after the gang said to have mounted the Offa bloody raids on banks claimed that they work for him and the Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed. As the news of the invitation spread, it was received with shock and disbelief. The news strikes alarm everywhere and there has been this feeling of disgust which is unmistakable. It is like Ha, Saraki, Senate and the Police again?
Under normal circumstances, comments on matters under investigation are unusual so as not to prejudice the police inquiry and jeopardize its integrity. But these are not normal times. The personalities involved are in public consciousness every day, if not every hour. One is the President of the Senate which is the second arm of the government, and as the head, the Number 3 citizen. The other is governor, a visible, active and confident helmsman at that. Their being connected has serious implications for the polity and national security which is already stretched close to the limit. It is so well known that the relationship between the National Assembly and the police has not been the best. There is no collaborative working. The conflict came to a head after the Inspector General could not honour the invitation by the Senate over national security concerns on three occasions. There is the Dino Melaye saga and Sanni Shehu affair in which he was asked to report in Kaduna to answer to charges not unconnected with the crisis in his state. The Senate also found the statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood against Benue Governor Sam Ortom unacceptable and asked that he be relieved of his post. When all these are put together, the National Assembly can be said to be seeing a pattern. They are seeing intimidation. Saraki sees the police invitation on the Offa robbery as a calculated attempt to implicate him and damage his reputation.
I am unable to reconcile myself with the thought that Dr. Bukola Saraki could be involved in an armed robbery plot or sponsor one. Why would he be involved in a robbery? What is he looking for? Why does he need to engage in armed robbery to meet his needs or go to the moon and come back? Here was a man born with silver spoon in his mouth. He went to the best schools at home here in Nigeria and overseas, in the United Kingdom. He attended King’s College at the time getting into the college was highly competitive and the school was a model in terms of academic performance and the elite game of cricket. He was there between 1973 and 1978. He proceeded from there to Cheltenham College, Cheltenham, London, for his ‘A’ Levels called Higher School Certificate, after which he studied medicine at London Hospital Medical College of the University of London from 1982 to 1987 when he obtained his M.B. BS. (London). He worked as a medical officer at Rush Green Hospital, England, for two years before returning home. Back home he went into Societe Generale Bank founded by his father, Dr. Olusola Saraki, himself a former Senate Leader and the strongman of Kwara politics.
Any wonder that an online publication on 11 May, 2016, reported him as saying at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) that he had no reason to steal or embezzle public funds because he was already richer than Kwara State before he became governor in 2003. The report went on: “He put his net worth as at September 2003 at over N4 billion, $22 million, 12 million pounds sterling; and 2.6 Euros in cash and land assets.” Premium Times of 20 October, 2015, said Saraki was worth N10 billion (by the exchange rate of that time 2015) when he assumed office as governor of Kwara State in 2003. While his entire assets, including cash, landed properties and shares in Nigeria and abroad stood at about N8billion, those of his wife totaled N1.8 billion and his four children N202 million. Vanguard Newspaper dated 11 May, 2016 reported a witness as telling the CCT in Abuja that Saraki owned 14 exotic cars worth N263.4 million before becoming governor in 2003. All these are different from the extended family vast material endowments. His in-laws in Lagos are in money. Much as Premium Times and Sahara Reporters have been on his neck to reveal the sources of his wealth, it was never suggested that this almost inexhaustible vault of riches are proceeds of armed robbery. In an interview with Daily Trust in November 2016 Saraki himself was asked: How did you amass all this wealth? His answer was: “I come from a blessed family. I come from a family where my parents were opportune and after that I worked hard in the private sector before this (politics). I think I worked for everything that I‘ve got. And when I look at my assets, I know I got 95 per cent of that before I joined government.”
Of course, if there is any mention of anybody’s name in connection with crime, a heinous bloody one as the Offa robbery for that matter, the police have a duty to interrogate whoever may have been mentioned. That is in the line of their business. Was there an armed robbery? Were names dropped in connection with it? Justice and fairness demand that all who were mentioned are quizzed. The rule of law means governance by law not might. It is when everyone is under the law that we can have a sane society. It will be wrong to allow the conflict between the police and the Senate on the one hand and between some of its prominent members and the police on the other to colour this intriguing subject. It is, indeed, in Bukola Saraki’s interest that the police are digging into the claims of the armed robbers. If the linkage of his name with the gang had leaked as it was bound to, sooner or later, in insinuations and whispers and he was not interrogated, in an attempt to sweep the affair under the carpet, it would have done greater damage to his name and the hard-earned reputation of his illustrious family than the interrogation would do. It would have been seen as an attempt to sweep the matter under the carpet.
The consequent smear would have been with him forever. It would also have been irresponsible of the police not to have sought to speak with him for him to clear the air after claims by the gang leader that they worked for him and the governor as political supporters who also double as thugs who are on government payroll. The threads woven by the gang leader to form a nexus with the Chief of Staff to the Governor would necessarily get investigated by the police anywhere there is rule of law to determine its veracity. It is routine. That cannot amount to intimidation or blackmail.
However, interrogation is one thing; the approach to it is another. In some civilized climes, the police demonstrate such friendliness and courtesy that they ask their catch if he cares for a cup of tea. Our police high command erred in the manner they proceeded to handle the interrogation of Saraki and the governor. This predictably lent credence to the undercurrent of charges of lack of courtesy and criminalization, especially against the background of unresolved issues between them and the Senate. The police were not discrete enough in a matter that involves such high-profile functionaries of state at Federal and State levels. The police high command rushed to announce with almost glee that Dr. Saraki and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed had been indicted when investigation had not been concluded. That was clearly loaded and sensational, and indeed, damaging to their standing. They cannot be treated like common criminals. That cannot be acceptable. It has implications, including demarketing the country before the international community. The ring leader of the robbers, a man with a B.Ed degree in Guidance and Counseling, did state emphatically that Saraki and the Governor did not send them on the bank robbery nor were they privy to it. The question was asked: “Back to this question again; was the state governor or Bukola Saraki aware of the robbery before you went for it, did they send you? Answer: “They did not send us…” Nor was the Chief of Staff to the governor aware of the robbery.
Officers of the rank of the Deputy Inspector-General of Police should have been directed to seek appointment to meet both the Senate President and the governor quietly and at the venue of their own choosing. That would have accorded them respect demanded of their high office. This is what the later approach of asking the Senate President to answer questions in writing without appearing at any police station literally amounts to. The leader of the robbers said he and his gang worked for Saraki and the governor as political supporters, doubling as thugs and agents provocateurs. Thuggery is a worrisome disease of the Nigerian political system. Mike Ejiofor, former director of State Security Services, said on Sunrise Daily, a Channels Television programme there is no politician that does not have thugs. How far thugs bearing arms can go and what they can do beyond their brief after the election season is over can only be conjectural. They cannot be predicted. And their principals may not know what they do behind them and sometimes in their names. At the risk of my being found guilty of naivety, I believe it is most unlikely that at the end of the day, anyone would find an Ejigbadero in Bukola Saraki. It is too farfetched. Any way, we wait and see.
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