IS THE LOOMING CLASH BETWEEN THE EXECUTIVE & THE LEGISLATURE UNAVOIDABLE ?
I have done my best to refrain from commenting on Senator Olusola Saraki's travails since he became the Senate President. In the first place I support every genuine effort to bring our political leaders to account and to fight the endemic corruption that has held Nigeria down in its 56 years of independence from Great Britain( Great?). Secondly,though I believe that the current anti-corruption campaign by the government has been one-sided , I have resolved this by saying that only the guilty will go to jail or be so declared. Those who have been wrongly accused or embarrassed by the accusations could always approach the Court to seek compensation. Thirdly, I have been angry with politicians who jump from one party to the other. My position has always been that Politicians elected on one political platform can not change their party without returning to their constituents to seek re-election on their new platform. Seeing Saraki being harassed and charged to court by his new found party looked like nemesis.
But when last week he was charged to the high Court in Abuja along with Senator Ike Ekweremadu on a criminal charge of forging the Senate rules, I could no longer hold myself back. Something in me revolted. How come the Senate President, the leader of one arm of our government- the legislature is being harangued as a common criminal ? Is this still about fighting corruption or is he fighting for his political life. Many people believe that his case at the Code of Conduct Tribunal was politically motivated because he refused to allow the anointed party candidate to emerge as senate President. He was accused of going into alliance with the PDP to win the senate presidency. He committed Harakiri by conniving With the PDP to allow Senator Ekweremadu to emerge as the Deputy senate President. These are charges said to be prevailed against him by his new Party APC which he helped to fund and supported in several ways to win the 2015 Presidential elections. So far none of the other turncoat PDP members who joined the APC alliance has been given this treatment.
To be fair, his party has a right to be angry that their preferred candidate was not elected as senate President on the 9th of June 2015 according to the doctrine of party supremacy. But should the Party not manage and minimize its anger especially considering what I regard the intervention of fate that fateful morning. Rather than be at the Senate Floor for the inauguration,most of the APC senators were sold a dummy by their own leaders to be at another meeting that kept them away from the senate when the election of principal officers was taking place. That was not the fault of Senator Saraki or was it? Had they all been present, may be the result could have been different. As some commentators had pointed out, if PDP wanted the position of the Senate President, they probably would have gotten it that morning!
Since that morning, APC and it leadership had done everything to dis grace Saraki and get him out of office. Luckily his colleagues in the Senate who put him in office have resisted all the attempts. To his credit, Senator Saraki seems to have discharged his office well, despite the long battle and certain distraction. Now he has been charged to another court for another offence. Hitherto, as Saraki was being pummeled at the code of conduct tribunal, a concurrent effort was being made to nail Deputy President Ike Ekweremadu on a charge of criminal forgery of the Senate rules. At some point, it looked like the matter had been rested. Only to be resurrected last week by the office of the AGF who has now escalated the matter by charging both Ekweremadu and Saraki.
This new onslaught has miffed the Senate and indeed the entire National Assembly and last week, the legislative chambers were charged. First, Both chambers issued statements decrying this apparent determination of the executive to disgrace and remove the top senate leadership and summoned the AGF. Then the PDP caucus in the Senate announced that they were withdrawing their cooperation with the APC government. Over the weekend, there were reports that the Senate was strategizing to begin impeachment proceedings on President Muhammadu Buhari.
To be true this development has disturbed me . Destabilizing the legislature will have negative consequences on the stability of the polity. Creating a divided Senate may hinder the quick passage of critical bills and approval of Executive requests. We all know of the paralysis in the American Congress and its inability to pass bills or agree on anything because of the deep division between the Republican and Democratic senators. Now with the economic distress still biting hard, despite recent economic policy rethink, the increasing security challenge all over Nigeria, to add a clash between the Legislature and the executive and the distraction of an impeachment move, may just be too much for us. We can not successfully fight too many battles at the same time without causing too much collateral damage.
I therefore wish to advice that the Executive arm of government must stop any action that seems to suggest it is determined to undermine or subjugate the legislature. It must accept to allow the Legislature choose its leadership and handle its affairs. This term will soon run out before we know it. The current determination to get Saraki and Ekweremadu out of office willy nilly may backfire and cause more damage to good governance and National security. A lot of wisdom and tact is required to avoid this looming clash which may hurt this economy further and cause unacceptable set-back at this critical moment.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR