By Peter Ashimole
These are not the best of times for Bukola Saraki, President of the Nigerian Senate who is fighting the greatest political battles of his life yet. For him, every weapon is fair in this political war of attrition that has the potential to either propel him to the highest political peak or bring him down to the valley of political infamy.
Saraki’s plan to take advantage of a memo to the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, on the Offa bank robbery case appeared to have backfired, and the Senate President must now face the backlash.
The memo, which emanated from the Director of Public Prosecution at the Ministry of Justice in July had advised the police to do a more diligent investigation of the connection of Saraki to the robbery. It said the evidence provided in its report to the ministry was not strong enough to establish a link between Saraki and the robbery in which over 30 persons, including nine policemen were killed.
The memo was leaked to the media and it was celebrated by Saraki as a clearance from the Attorney-General’s office and a vindication of his position that it was all a plot to victimize him for political reasons. Although the police had put the record straight at the time, stressing that the memo did not clear Saraki from the crime but only asked the police to do more investigation, Saraki and his supporters continued to insist he had been cleared of any connection to the Offa Bank robbery.
A fundamental rights enforcement suit was recently filed by some 10 individuals, who claimed to be acting for the Senate President, seeking to quash any further investigation of Saraki on the robbery case. They claimed in their suit that the decision by the police to question Saraki in relation to the robbery was instigated by his political enemies, intended to blackmail him and dent the Senate president’s reputation.
But in separate counter-affidavit filed by the AGF and the IGP, they both claimed that the Saraki, had not been cleared over his alleged role in the robbery incident in Offa, Kwara State. According to reports in The Nation newspaper, the AGF and the IGP stated this position in affidavits filed before the court.
They said there was nowhere Saraki was cleared in the opinion of the Director of Public Prosecution.
They stated that instead, the DPP, having analyzed the interim report of investigation by the police, suggested areas of further investigation as regard claims by some of those being held over the crime, particularly as it relates to the source of the weapons used and where the operation was plotted.
The AGF, the IGP and the NPF noted that pursuant to the advice by the DPP, further investigation has been conducted, following which a more detailed investigation report has since been submitted to the DPP for his further opinion.
They said it was premature for anyone to claim that Saraki had been exonerated as “investigation is still ongoing on the case”.
They denied the claim that the decision to question Saraki over the case was political and intended to blackmail him and dent his reputation.
They said the information linking Saraki to the case was provided by some individuals arrested in relation to the case, who claim to be political thugs to the Senate President.
The suit is pending before Justice M. A. Nasir of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Jabi, Abuja.
It is a suit that may turn the tables against Saraki if the police claim is to believed. The Force is claiming that following the DPP’s advice, it had found fresh evidence to nail the Kwara strongman in court. The alleged evidence had been forwarded again to the AGF’s office for advice.
It is still uncertain what the evidence is, and what advice the AGF is likely to give with regard to the prosecution of Saraki in the robbery case. But what is certain is that Malami would give a legally considered advice that will be in the interest of justice to all.
It must have become obvious to all now that Malami is a minister of justice noy swayed by sentiments and political consideration. If he were, the tone and wording of his memo to the police interim report on the Offa robbery would certainly have been different. It would have been more politically worded to reflect the “enemy” status with which Saraki is viewed by those in the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The memo would have been deliberately ambiguous and suggestive of a Saraki culpability in the dastardly robbery to fit the political narrative. But the AGF chose fidelity to the law above politics, and pursuit of justice above narrow partisan considerations. That is why Saraki’s narrative of persecution and political witch-hunt is befuddling and smacks of self-serving propaganda.
Neither Buhari nor Malami seems to me persons on who such tags of victimization could be pinned. If Buhari was desperate to get rid of Saraki as Senate President, anyone who had occupied or walked the corridor of his office knows it could have long being a fait accompli. If Buhari was minded to use the weight of his office Saraki, the Kwara politician would have left the president’s seat since 2015. Saraki. More than anyone else, also knows this. His continued stay in office as senate president, I dare say, is because Buhari is not an Olusegun Obasanjo who will always want to have his way.
And if there is anyone in his cabinet that can be said to be very close to him, it must be Malami. Buhari had long before becoming President relied on Malami’s integrity and mastery of the law. Any other AGF in his position could have used that to instigate a presidency revolt against Saraki whose leadership of the senate continues to frustrate the realization of some of the Buhari administration’s loftiest policies.
Ashimole wrote in from Ilorin