Opinion: This 8th Senate and the rest of us. By Is'haq Modibbo Kawu

Date: 2016-04-21

This 8th Senate and the rest of us

THERE does not seem to be infamy that the Senate of the 8th National Assembly just won't attempt. When one assumes that there would be lines of decency that cannot be crossed, these Senators launch newer levels of outrage, betraying how little they care for the good order of Nigeria. Bukola Saraki's trial at the CCT re-commenced this week, with Justice Danladi Umar ruling that it would conduct a day-to-day hearing on the 13-count criminal charge against the Senate President.

The court premised its decision on the fact that it was Bukola Saraki that is on trial, not the Senate. Before the close of day, reports filtered out, that the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions had summoned the trial judge over a petition of allegations of corruption against him. They invited Justice Umar, premised upon anger that the CCT decided to hold day-to-day hearing, which the senators saw as a ploy to deny Bukola Saraki the opportunity to preside at plenary throughout his trial.

Consequently, they chose to launch a counter-attack against the CCT chairman by revisiting the petition against the judge. Bukola Saraki's controversial leadership that is still dogged by a court case for forgery of Senate rules has made a habit of fighting back every time it has been called to answer for criminal infractions in the past.

Rapid fire amendment

The step to open up hearing in the petition against the CCT Chairman follows the rapid-fire amendment being undertaken on the law setting up the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). This is a step being taken because Bukola Saraki is facing a criminal trial at the CCT.

Toyin Saraki summoned

Last year, the EFCC summoned Toyin, Bukola Saraki's wife on the strength of a petition and pronto, the EFCC Chairman was summoned to face Senate. The same man is not only facing the CCT trial where startling revelations are emerging, the leaked Panama Papers have also shown that Bukola Saraki breached the law by allegedly keeping foreign accounts in offshore tax haven and in recent days, they have taken possession of and distributed 36 jeeps, which Daily Trust on Sunday this week said were bought at twice the official price!

For the first time in Nigeria's recent history we are facing the affront of how an individual has chosen to use a state institution, the Senate, as a redoubt to fight his personal battles, and has successfully suborned a Senate that is filled with politically exposed individuals, to desperately preserve a political career that seems headed for the rocks.

These individuals shamelessly follow Bukola Saraki to court, close down the Senate and yet get paid for the irresponsible action of solidarity that ridicules them, because the grounds upon which Bukola Saraki has been indicted are criminal. This week a coalition of 28 Civil Society Organisations issued a press conference describing the action of Senate to hastily amend the CCB and CCT laws as a "betrayal of public trust, total disregard for administration of justice and utmost conflict of interest of the 8th Senate".

The Nigeria Labour Congress has also issued a condemnation of the purchase of vehicles, which it urged the Senate to return as well as demanding that it stops the hasty emendation of the CCB/CCT laws. But these Senators obviously believe that Bukola Sarakiís personal survival is far more important than the legal and democratic order of our country.

In truth, what is playing out in political society and the Senate, are the antics an individual who has a long tradition of impunity and a bizarre sense of entitlement that has marked his years in the Nigerian public space. Nigerians have a decision to make. We can remain spectators and thus allow the Senate to become completely suborned to fighting a personal battle; and consequently see the scuttling of the tremendous political capital and the national consensus invested in the Buhari Administrationís anti-corruption drive.

On the other hand, become proactive and insisting that no national institution must degenerate to the level that the Senate has been taken and the speed at which it is hurtling towards the most absurd slopes of infamy, just because it has become an instrument of personal survival. Nigeria's democracy cannot be held hostage to a Senate that has increasingly become an institution for the desperate need for political survival of its president.

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