Sometimes by losing a battle, you find a new way to win the war ~ Donald J Trump
I am not a fan of the police, few Nigerians are so I can comfortably say I belong to the majority here. I am also not a fan of this particular IGP, not just because he pales out abysmally in comparison with recent predecessors he is also controversially lousy.
Perhaps with the exception of Suleiman Abba who was removed by former President Jonathan for stupidly switching loyalty to then President-Elect Buhari, there is little chance of placing IGP Idris side by side with any other IGP in the past decade. If I am asked to name one Buhari appointee that should be shown the door, it will be a tough decision between him and the beret-wearing Mr. “Spended Money”.
I am also not a fan of our Senators, again, few Nigerians are, neither am I a supporter of the Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki. As a matter of fact, I have previously written to criticise the way he usurped the Senate leadership by sabotaging his party and wrongly predicted his downfall.
However, I must admit that I have come to respect and admire him a lot. He has an uncommon combination of the ruthlessness and elan required to navigate the murky waters of politics more especially our type of politics.
And to those who say he is presiding over a house filled with sleazy brigands, I can only remind them that besides David Mark no other Senate President has lasted longer in that house that has continually recycled similar characters since the Fourth Republic. So love or hate him, one cannot but agree that Bukola has filled his late father’s shoes and will likely surpass Oloye’s achievements.
But Saraki may now be overplaying his card, he cannot afford to lose sight of the big bounty which is the 2019 general elections because a lot is at stake for his political future and specifically the next four years.
Here are some of the reasons why he should tread carefully.
The politics that played out in his emergence as the Senate President left his party which won the presidency and the national assembly in a quandary of which they are yet to recover from. Long after his contemporary in the House of Representatives had settled the divergent political interests within the APC, Saraki was still embroiled in bitter disputes with his party leadership and by extension the executive.
The corollary of this was the protracted false asset declaration by the CCT which not only hampered the primary duty of legislation but pitted the Senate against the Executive in a war of attrition which was always destined to in the usual way, a victory for the piper. That he survived the onslaught was partly due to the non-partisan support from colleagues and a politically brokered deal that left the matter pending at the Supreme Court.
That reprieve is temporary and he knows so.
Unlike in 2015 when his support cut across party lines Oloye Junior now has a swelling list of adversaries within the Red Chambers.
The first is Senator Ali Ndume, former Senate leader and one of Saraki’s fierce loyalists. Till date, I still fail to understand why Saraki didn’t manage the Magu affair better considering that the Presidency wanted the man. I mean there are certain battles you to stoop to conquer.
By suspending Ndume whose travail started when he rightly pressed for the confirmation of Magu his kinsman, Saraki may have sent a clear message that he was in charge but he also created a formidable foe in a veteran lawmaker who has the backing of his state and perhaps the entire North East, a region with an unflinching loyalty to President Buhari.
Today Ndume is not only back, he is almost certain to return in 2019 and Magu remains the Acting Chairman of the EFCC. Having led several investigations into Saraki’s affair in the past it is no secret that Magu has the Senate President’s dossier on his palm and will be more than willing to unleash same whenever required by his bosses.
In a previous piece, I did say that any discerning political observer will expect the battle for political power to get fiercer as we inch towards the 2019 general elections and there will be no better stage than the National Assembly as the pro and anti-Buhari legislators lock horns.
That stage was set when Senator Abdullahi Adamu led a walk out on his colleagues as amendments to the Electoral Act which effected a change in the election schedule were passed. Adamu was subsequently removed as the Chairman of the Northern Senators forum and accused of embezzling 70m. I can imagine the ex-governor whom the Senate President often refers to as an ‘elder statesman’ will be more incensed at the meager and insulting amount than at losing his position. Whatsmore his file is also sitting at Magu’s table and he will be eager to do the EFCC a favour against the Senate President in future.
And finally, the former Kwara state governor appears to have met the toughest challenge to his grip on the Senate in Omo Agege. The Delta Central Senator has been one of the most vocal pro-Buhari Senators since he dumped the Labour Party for APC, and promptly joined the Abdullahi led group of nine to make critical comments on the Senate’s handling of the electoral act amendment.
Saraki reacted swiftly, using his henchman Dino Melaye to accuse Omo-Agege of disparaging the Senate. Not even an open apology by the Omo-Agege could save him from Saraki’s big stick as he was suspended on the recommendation of the ethics committee. But the Ughelli born lawmaker would not go down quietly like Ndume. In a Gestapo style operation, he allegedly led thugs to snatch the mace while Saraki was attending a function in faraway America. And after a brief visit to the police, Omo Agege regained his freedom and denies complicity in the Senate invasion while maintaining that his suspension is illegal.
Today Omo-Agege has won the first legal battle and the Senate has wisely accepted to obey the court ruling pending the determination of its suit seeking a stay of execution.
In all these, the Senate president had smartly used his pawns to come down heavily on dissenting colleagues but his man Friday is now being cut to size. Melaye’s other battle with his state governor has led to serious criminal allegations of gun running. After a series of drama with the police, he finally threw in the towel albeit temporarily and was banished to the gulag for the next one month. He has is likely to be granted bail but I can assure you that his nuisance value has been checked and he will now be more interested in his own political survival going forward.
Although the rumour mill is often dotted with stories about Saraki’s interest in Buhari’s job they are mere fairy tales. Saraki may be ambitious but he is definitely not foolish, he knows that challenging the President now will be political suicide. Even if he decamps to the PDP he will have to contend with heavyweights like Atiku, Baffarawa, Shekarau, Lamido and perhaps Kwankwaso. There is no certainty in that.
Now here are the permutations.
The Executive is firmly under the grip of the CPC faction of the party while Tinubu’s grip on the party will be sealed when Oshiomhole is elected chairman. The only faction that will have the least influence in the coming primaries is the nPDP which by the way is already fragmented as is evident the rejection of the Baraje and Oyinola signed letter by none other than Senator Abdullahi Adamu. A friend rightly suggested that the letter was Saraki’s way of trying to pull the party to the bargaining table before the election but it is a desperate act by the hand behind the cradle and it is now too little too late.
So what will be the wisest choice to make? I believe in ‘first things first’. Bukola Saraki’s needs to return to the National Assembly before he can be re-elected as the Senate President, a tough task I agree but not an impossible one. Despite the factionalisation in Kwara state APC Saraki remains popular in his base, he is an ex-governor, his reach is equally extensive and I have little doubt that he will win Kwara Central again.
He is also popular among his colleagues, he has support from almost every region. So if he is able to reach a deal with the party hierarchy and the executive he still has a chance of retaining the top job at the National Assembly.
However, for you to remain in the league you have to avoid relegation, and tact is often more valuable than grit when fighting such battles. Melaye is already enmeshed in a crisis that will likely cost him a return to the Senate. His traducer will also have to contend with Tinubu and worse still the majority of Kogi people to get re-elected. So why escalate the confrontation with a lousy IGP over pawns that could be sacrificed to win the war?
We are at that stage when push will turn to shove, it is time for the Senate President to choose his battles, and he has to choose wisely in order to survive politically.