A pack of Nigerian senators wasting a weekday on escorting ‘’Senate President’’ Bukola Saraki to his corruption trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal Abuja did not make sense at first instance. Multiple reenactments of that oddity have also not made it easy for the mind to process. But a recent leak introduced us to the method of the obscenity.
Sahara Reporters published a copy of an SMS invitation Saraki’s top protocol aide had forwarded to the senators.’’ Goodevenin Distinguishr. Wish to inform dt Buses are available 2moro mrnin to convey Senators wishing to accompany H/E d Senate President. Departure is at 9am frm d house @ 22 Yesderan Str. by IGP’s House Maitama. Regards. –Arthur (dir’ of Prot. S/P). +2348077770119.’’
That’s it. The optics of a solidarity army marching behind Saraki to his Inquisition is choreographed. The senators are cued. They are ordered to show up at the headcount of Saraki’s loyalists.
The seemingly innocuous SMS invitation, when read more discerningly, unravels as a coy diktat. The message purports to celebrate the ‘’wish’’ of the sender to pass the intimation: it also pretends to acknowledge the faculty of ‘’wishing’’ of the receivers. But the aide’s volition did not inspire the notification. Neither did the aide communicate respect for his addressees’ volition.
The SMS did not emanate from the ‘’wish’’ of Saraki’s aide. Arthur didn’t send the text because he had an idea. His modest station does not give him the audacity to presume that he could rally Nigerian senators at will. He, most certainly, had received his principal’s instruction to mobilize the senators for the road-show. Arthur’s principal duty, like that of others designated ‘’protocol’’ assistants to Nigerian politicians, is to arrange logistics for theatrical sycophancy that will buy his boss news mention.
Again, Arthur’s SMS was no salesman’s pitch, at the mercy of the prospect’s veto. Even though the wording of the SMS appeared to invite those ‘’wishing to accompany’’ Saraki to the tribunal, it was a sort of subpoena. The senators were expected to construe and treat the SMS as Saraki’s demand that they join his safari.
The tone of the SMS gives credence to the absence of respect for the receiver’s wish. The text says the wish of the organizer overrides others’ wish. If the senators wish to accompany the Senate President, they may not beat the path to the door of the Tribunal. They must come to another location, at a stipulated time. They may not go in their individual vehicles. They must pack into ‘’buses’’ provided for their conveyance. They must set forth as one intimidating legion.
The purpose of this stage-managed circus is to accrue to Saraki the perception of fortification and formidability. An elaborate train makes him look menacingly invincible in a time of vulnerability. It even suggests a pedestrian interpretation of the drama of his so-called persecution: He waxes stronger as his travails mount.
The contrived festival affords Saraki, the former Kwara governor who is being tried for declaring false assets, to declare the assets of false senators’ loyalty!
The leak of the SMS invitation, however, burst Saraki’s scam. He had always pretended that the closure of the Senate on the day of his scheduled court appearance is a fait accompli forced by the choice of majority of senators. His ‘’distinguished’’ colleagues prefer to be with him in the courtroom rather than be without him in the Senate chambers. They would rather sit mute, with an observer status, in the proceedings of his case, than invest themselves in the drudgery of working the day job they begged Nigerian voters for.
The text opens a window into the mind of a Saraki who is intent on blackmailing his way out of his legal quagmire. By making sure that Nigerians lose Senate business every day he has to attend his trial, he orchestrates an artificial dilemma: Do you want to see my trial run its full course or do you want me to keep imposing legislative starvation on you?
Saraki shuts down the Senate every day he is required to present himself before the court because of narcisstic selfishness. It is important to him that he is captured attending his trial with a sizeable number of his colleagues. The bigger the senatorial turnout he is able to muster, the higher the leverage he can boast.
The Senate, by design, is an institution that should represent the cream of country’s wealth of wisdom and maturity. But Saraki has terribly trivialized that august body and reduced it to a pocket-size bargaining chip. And he continues to warn that if his prosecution is not discontinued, he would keep rubbishing the Senate.
Saraki is an egotist. He imagines that he is the Senate because he is the head of the Senate. He fancies that he embodies the Senate. If he was going to attend a trial, the Senate attends a trial. If he was going to be absent in the Senate, the Senate closes shop for the duration of this absence. The Senate adapts itself to the mode of his pressing agenda. The Senate is all about him!
Saraki’s closure of the Senate, the suspension of the business of the Senate of our republic, because of his individual’s bottom line is odious. It is a spit on the collective face of Nigerian people. It is the cynical ridiculing of all by one. It is a national humiliation, one made least sufferable by the fact that it was inflicted by an ethically-blemished man.
The grave danger in this shutdown, now replayed and rewound, is that, as high frequency tends to graduate the strange into normalness, our sensitivity is blunted. As the regularity of this closure escalates and becomes a running cycle, we will sooner arrive at the point where we embrace the lunacy of an open-and-close, mimosa-leaf Senate.
There is a prostitute in this Saraki affair. The lady ‘opens her legs’ when you pay her price. She ‘closes her legs’ when she wants you to pay for another round!
This insolent shutdown is reviling. There is impunity in its conception. There is impunity in its execution. And there is triumphalism in repeating the absurdity and exulting in the notion that you are entitled to do it.
Even the most deranged market leader would not arbitrarily cancel this many days of public service within a short stint. Yet, this kind of dictatorship that cannot make an incursion into a village market is running wild in Three Arms Zone.
The Senate exits when Saraki wishes. The Senate is suspended when he wishes!
But credit must go to the adults who have so far acquitted themselves as the easiest folks to manipulate and commandeer. Without their manifest readiness to lend themselves to the judicial excursion, without their readiness to provide a community of escorts to Saraki, he would be facing his trouble alone -like other accused persons.
Thanks to their availability, Saraki can always rent them for a spectacle. He can always parade them and bask in their unflinching loyalty to him. He can always show them off, as one with a sweep of hand demonstrates the vastness of his collection of his toys, as the loyalists who will walk with him, to heaven or to hell.
He dilutes the stigma of accusation of wrongdoing in their presence. With the mass of cheerleaders surrounding him, he is not a lonely man battling to clear his name of accusations of fraud. He is not a chastened and embarrassed public steward. He is an unassailable rock-star. He is a celebrity who has humbled himself to grace an ordinary tribunal.
The cheapness of these ‘’distinguished senators’’ is troubling. It takes an SMS to charter them. One SMS hits their phones, and they hurry to report as members of Bukola Babes Supporters Club!
First time Saraki appeared at the CCT on September 22, 2015, 50 of them were in his caravan. The second time he appeared on October 21, 2015, 81 of them were in the herd. And yesterday, November 5, 2015, about 35 of them trailed him.
It’s not a stretch to imagine that, for those given to oversleeping or unpunctuality, personal hygiene routines would have been rushed in a bid to meet departure time. And after the end of the Tribunal show, would they be allowed to go home exhausted and famished? There must be a culinary arrangement to reward them for turning up.
The participants in the ‘solidarity’ carnival are publicly vowing that they would jockey to share prison space with Saraki, if he is convicted and sent to jail!
It’s a good thing we now know that shutting down the Senate is as easy as sending an SMS. Nigeria has fared quite well on the days Saraki shut down the Senate. I imagine it would make sense to abolish the redundant Senate.
In this time when Nigeria can’t pay the salaries of 36 ministers, we need to release the profiteers who answer to the name of Senators into the career of escorting criminal suspects to trial!
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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