- GOVERNANCE, POLITICS, SOCIETY

Can Nigeria Survive The Saraki Safari?

‘’Senate President’’ Bukola Saraki and his company have done something to, ‘lightening never strikes the same place twice’. They have killed that idiom!

On Wednesday, 20th October, 2015, Saraki reported at the Code of Conduct Tribunal Abuja in continuation of his trial for false declaration of assets and corrupt enrichment. He gloated and gloried with 80 Nigerian senators that formed his caravan.

It was the second time the chamber of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would empty into the bowels of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, on the account of Saraki’s appearance.
What’s more, there is now a copper-bottomed guarantee that the loop of ‘’senators’’ abandoning their day job to ‘’escort’’ Saraki will repeat on November 5, 2015 and other subsequent days he will be required to show up at the Tribunal.

Initially, it had seemed that the Senate was going to open shop. On Tuesday 19th October, 2015, it adjourned the session dedicated to confirmation hearing of the ministerial nominees to ‘’the next legislative day’’. The entirety of the proceedings, including the adoption of the motion for adjournment that ended it, was broadcast live on national television.

That set expectation that the deputy presiding officer, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, would fill the void certain to arise from Saraki’s appearance at the Tribunal at the time scheduled for the resumption of the Senate.

But a few hours later, after the Senate has dismissed, the bureaucracy of the Senate declared Wednesday a holiday for the senators and deferred their resumption to Thursday.

On Wednesday, the reason for the afterthought postponement became apparent. The Senate business for the day was canceled because of the private legal matter of one of its members. That member who happens to be the ‘’Senate President’’ had an appointment that ultimately overrode the Senate fixture.

It’s hard to make sense of this extravagant absurdity. The Senate of Nigeria, a country of 175 million people, was shut down because one individual had to attend to an accusation of wrongdoing!
Even if nothing as important as the confirmation of members of the next cabinet of the nation was at stake, even if there were no urgent matters of state to respond to, it would still have been bizarre to sacrifice a day’s worth of national business for one citizen’s vanity.

It is shocking that the page of that day in Senate history will be blank because a certain staff of the National Assembly decided that the doors of the Senate ought to swing open and be slammed close depending on Saraki’s itinerary.

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Your eyes flit from the empty Senate to a full Tribunal, the later packed with the vomit of the former…

The sight is horribly surreal. More than two third majority of the Nigerian Senate membership packed the courtroom. They were dressed in fine plume. They were brimming with excitement –like kids set to watch their favorite cartoon program.

What is most embarrassing about their conduct is that they weren’t embarrassed. They didn’t comport themselves as though they craved anonymity. They jockeyed for space on the front row. They squared their shoulders. They smiled and traded jokes. They were gratified to form a celebrity version of Bukola Babes Supporters’ Club!

When you watch pictures of the busybodies trying to steal the show at another man’s trial, you experience a transfer of embarrassment. You are embarrassed on their behalf. You are mortified that they are inured to the shame they inflict on themselves. You are humiliated by the disgrace they created for themselves.

And you are sooner prompted to ask why they are shameless. Why are they anesthetized so shame? But as you ponder, you come to realize that their disregard for their personal honor is at the same level of their capacity to ridicule themselves.

The show of shame is pathetic, but it deserves accounting. Why did it happen?
One is that the senators reflected, albeit too offensively, a political system that is governed by the busyness of idlers.

The senators are never under pressure to be positively productive. They don’t have to notch any achievement. They get paid for vegetating for four years because they won an election in one day.

This explains why the Nigerian Senate is the favorite retirement home of former governors, fugitive drug barons and virtually anyone who can invest enough in a coherent bid.

That show of shame had to happen. The 80 senators who squandered one day of their existence on Saraki’s Tribunal appearance did not have any other activity that could have filled their time. They played the follow-the-leader game to escape the alternative of boredom.

In addition to the benefit of entertainment, they held that ‘’solidarity rally’’ because it was a zero cost misadventure. They were not going to incur loss of name or blight of relevance. Being the cheerleaders of a man who has a criminal case will not bring them stigma.

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In other climes, the courtroom would have been peopled by Saraki’s family members, the press, some sightseers and the judges. No public official ever dresses up in the morning to show a man in center of a criminal case with open display of affection.

It is true that an accused is presumed innocent until proved otherwise. But a criminal charge or a menu of charges, once proffered, puts the defendant halfway between conviction and innocence.

The number of Saraki’s senator escorts hurts. One senator did not stray from honor. 80 did! And that raises very serious questions.

Are the constituents of the highest law-making body in Nigeria a bunch of people afflicted with herd mentality? Did the senators who joined that spectatorship make the choice out of personal volition?
Were there some persons in the 80 who may have had personal misgivings about partaking in Saraki’s train? Did they enlist in Saraki’s safari out of weakness of heart? Were they blackmailed? Did they jettison their personal scruples because of the weight of the likely consequence of not joining Saraki’s diehard loyalists?

I would wager that some of the senators were reluctant escorts. They didn’t want to be left behind. They didn’t want to be labeled as anti-Saraki in the binary disciple categorization of ‘’those who are not with us are against us’’. They were weaklings who surrendered their sense of honor to cowardice.

I would also bet that Saraki’s safari had at least half a dozen listless reeds. They didn’t have a personal reason for involvement. They just swam with the tide. These are fools who live by other people’s compass.

Then, there are opportunists. Their solidarity is not value-free. It is a pretext for cementing the rationale for negotiating a future reward for ‘’loyalty’’. They are hustling to earn Senate committee chairmanships. These are people who would lease themselves for the price of an imaginary gain.

But there is a class among the 80 that begs for special classification. Their motivation can be pinned on an inclination for notoriety. Dino Melaye is, easily, the poster boy of this category.

Melaye must insert himself into his friend’s scandal. He charges into it as if he must appropriate the lion share of the infamy that accrues to the protagonist. He is angrier than the accused, happy to run ahead as the suicidal armor bearer.

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It’s no surprise that Melaye was at the Tribunal. He was a sure bet. He would, in fact, have been there if no other senator was willing to play Saraki’s escort. Apart from the fact that he heads the senate ad-hoc committee on media by the grace of Saraki, Melaye is too much of himself to have been missing in action.

The other month he led a crop of senators and members of House of Representatives to‘’accompany’’ Toyin to EFCC headquarters in Abuja when she was invited for interrogation in matters relating to fraud and embezzlement of public funds.

Toyin would have gone to the EFCC alone. She was not incapacitated. Melaye did not let her go by herself. He offered her free body guard service. He would not pass up the opportunity to be photographed with the wife of the ‘’Senate President’’, even if he should have a better use of precious time than auditioning as the servant of the wife of his colleague.

But Melaye was full-throated in his defense of his action to the EFCC. He issued a statement about being loyal to his friends, and participating in their travails. He was not a fair-weather ally.
True, Melaye has a record of loyalty. He is an extremist in loyalty. He has the unassailable honor of being stripped naked while defending to a controversial expenditure made by then Speaker Patricia Ette!

These 80 senators, these extra in the Saraki Goes To Court movie, ought to chastise our conscience, though. We made them. We were so fixated on the Presidency that we passed a herd of shameless men to be our ‘’distinguished senators’’.

Luckily, we can rid ourselves of them. But that is if Nigeria survives their present tenure!

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Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu

Blogger at EmmaUgwu
Emmanuel Ugwu loves human beings. He thinks for a hobby. He writes for a better Nigeria.

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