It is no longer news that Bukola Saraki emerged as Senate President under very controversial circumstances. The eerie calm that pervades the membership of the All Progressives Congress- a party that has been in existence for less than two years, unlike the Peoples Democratic Party that has been in government and in power for 16 unbroken years – as they struggle to come to terms with Saraki’s abracadabra, can best be described as the peace of the graveyard.
Those who hold the APC leadership solely responsible for the crisis rocking the party to its foundations since the June 9 National Assembly leadership elections may be justified for saying so. It is now crystal clear that the party leadership took their eyes off the ball. In their state of euphoria after achieving an unprecedented electoral victory, the leadership failed to appreciate that managing success is even more taxing than winning an election. They vacillated when they ought to have acted with promptness.
But to be fair, it wasn’t for want of trying that the leadership of the APC failed to resolve the problem while it was still manageable. The leaders were hamstrung by President Muhammadu Buhari’s earlier pronouncement that he wasn’t interested in who got what in the National Assembly. Given the President’s stance, the APC tip-toed around the issue to prevent being seen to be foisting unpopular choices on their members in the National Assembly.
Their only recourse was moral suasion. And when they ill-advisedly conducted mock elections, Saraki, Yakubu Dogara and their supporters staged a walkout. But the Ahmed Lawan group insisted on going ahead. No one can, therefore, fault Saraki for refusing to accompany his colleagues to honour President Buhari’s contentious “special invitation” and staying behind to play “Who is in the garden?” in an Upper Chamber dominated by his supposed political opponents!
It is important to note that while Dogara also thumbed his nose at the party leadership with his insistence on contesting against the party’s choice, nobody is seriously complaining because he won fair and square and not by snookering his party colleagues. He even offered the deputy speaker post to his opponent as a peace offering, and when it was turned down, his group sought out another candidate from the party rather than elect one from the PDP fold.
That Saraki has since penned a curtsey roster that includes the names of visited eminent Nigerians like former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, a former military head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar, and a former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, shows that his coup d’état has put him under enormous strain and pressure. The people of the Niger Delta have an adage that describes the kind of situation Saraki now finds himself. They aver that “pikin wey say him mama no go sleep, himsef no go sleep.” He has murdered sleep and he can sleep no more.
And while Saraki sings a tune similar to that of the APC bigwigs that the crisis sparked by his emergence as the Senate president would soon be amicably resolved, his actions and body language paradoxically emit a different signal. Saraki’s troupe is dominated by the PDP senators. So, whenever he speaks of an amicable resolution, in the company of his PDP henchmen, is he implying that the PDP senators have been co-opted into the APC? Is it truly in the PDP’s interest for the leadership saga to be speedily and amicably resolved in favour of the APC?
Is it okay for the PDP leadership to direct their members to vote en masse for identified candidates but wrong for the APC to instruct its members to support party choices? Does the former amount to promoting “legislative independence” while the latter amounts to “pocketing” the National Assembly? Even in the United States – the widely acclaimed bastion of democracy – the fact that the Democratic Party once had a razor-edged majority of one senator did not goad the Republicans into gunning for the posts exclusively reserved for the majority party under the guise of hocus-pocus bipartisanship.
Would our homegrown version perform the trick considering that a child with two heads is a monster? At the risk of sounding pedantic, let say once again declare that all those lauding the more-you-look-the-less-you-see development are anti-Buharists and hate-mongers of Bola Tinubu, and that Saraki is a hostage to the paranoia and tunnel vision of his 2019 ambition. Nobody, except Saraki and the conniving PDP officials, can say exactly what kind of agreement he entered into with the PDP beyond allowing Ike Ekweremadu to remain as deputy Senate president.
The APC can choose to sweep Saraki’s tactless breach of trust under the carpet at its peril. Doing so is bound to encourage powerful elements within the party to defy and countermand party decisions down the road when unity of purpose and teamwork are of utmost importance. Saraki is a connoisseur of power politics and he more than anyone else ought to realise that there are some people you deceive or outmanoeuvre who will spend the rest of their lives and every kobo they own seeking revenge.
The only real option left to the APC leadership is to read the riot act to Saraki and his supporters. He can keep his post but only on one condition. Like the mythical hero, Odysseus, in Homer’s epic tale of the same title, Saraki must decide which of the metaphorical twin demons of Scylla and Charybdis he must squarely confront to minimise collateral damage, as he steers the party’s ship through the stormy strait represented by the Senate presidency rumpus. Failure to comply with the party’s revised zoning formula should attract an immediate expulsion of Saraki and his supporters within and without the Senate.
A final word for Buhari: Your last administration ended on a tragic note when your erstwhile military colleagues decided to upstage you. Politicians are a more dangerous genre. If you must have a fighting chance of seeing your lofty programmes through, then you must up your subtlety – congenial yet markedly cunning, democratic yet tellingly devious!
Okoye, a financial management consultant, wrote in from Lagos via firstname.lastname@example.org. 08054103468