Senator Bukola Saraki began by hiding his hands in his voluminous agbada in the fashion of the Village Headmaster virtuoso known as Eleyinmi. Those were his first days as Senate President, and this column chastened him out of that ostentation. He learned and placed his hands where they belonged afterwards – outside.
Now, it is clear he was not only acting, he was hiding something. He had hidden them out of an instinctive impulse for surreptitious dealing. We are witnessing two acts that bear Saraki’s sneaky signature, one in the Senate, and the other offshore.
One came from the #PanamaPapers. He has tried to finagle himself out of the charge of wrongdoing. He has tried to make it a matter of his wife, who is also under the gun. This is the same man whose shave with the Code of Conduct Tribunal has taken a turn for the controversial. It is not about Saraki now. It is about the immensity of the Senate as a sort of priestly chamber of our democracy.
The man who is arguably our number three citizen cannot be seen to be sullied not only by corrupt dealing or the suggestion of it. Especially with the PanamaPapers scandal. If the Panama scandal were scooped in Nigeria, he might have argued that it was all part of a vast conspiracy of detractors. Just as Vladimir Putin has said in a briefing to his fellow citizens. The beefy despot of Russia said it was the United States that was responsible for the leak and it was all apocryphal. He did nothing wrong.
Saraki and his men are doing same in the Code of Conduct matter. They are pointing fingers at a cloud of conspirators. They forget that the best way to clobber his charges is to clear self rather than embark on a judicial rigmarole. He thinks he can con Nigerians to accept his innocence by flooding the courts with his tribe of swooning senators. Reports say the last time he appeared in court, only a handful of senators obeyed their feet to the court. Are they beating a cowardly retreat? Well, other appearances will clarify the matter.
Yet, on the Panama matter, the Icelandic Prime Minister has bowed out of office. Not out of breach of the law but out of honour. Spanish industry minister has also resigned. The idea of offshoring money does not minister grace to the ears. It is a way of doing financial transactions in the dark, away from the prying eyes of the law or society. As Jesus said, men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, tar-brushed as “dodgy Dave,” by an elderly lawmaker, has been under pressure from the parliament and the public to come clean on his account. No one has been clear, including T.Y. Danjuma and David Mark, as to what their fingers were doing with the Panama papers. Only Ibori, now in Jail, can be excused for now. Our nation loves to smell like filth. Somebody said the other day that, in a former generation, the Panama papers would have turned our universities into a cauldron of protests. Our students are now quiescent like a kennel without dogs. For irony though, the generation that erupted against our maggoty governments were in the cradle with Bukola Saraki.
A young professor, Gabriel Zucman, last year published a book, The Hidden Wealth of Nations, in which he estimated that offshoring deprives nations of $7.6 trillion. The 28-year-old professor of the University of Berkeley noted in the book that 10 per cent of the world’s financial wealth breathed quietly in those offshore accounts. The World Bank has noted that offshore accounts engender inequality among nations because about 30 per cent of the clandestine money hails from Africa and Latin America. No wonder economist Thomas Pickety, known for his groundbreaking work, Capital In The Twenty First Century, wrote a foreword to Zucman’s book and described it as “the first serious economic research in this area.”
Saraki was still in the throes of this shadow of iniquity when the Senate initiated another round of folly. This time the Senate is trying to rush through a bill on the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Ordinarily, will it not show how bold our lawmakers are? At the time Saraki is under trial, the lawmakers who marched beside him in solidarity to the court are the same people plotting to change the law to set him free.
They want to take the CCB from under the office of the secretary to the federal government. Reason? They believe they cannot coerce Babachir David Lawal to cower to their machinations. Two, they want to use this change of law as a preface to changing the criminal code act that was a great legacy of the Jonathan era, in spite of its serial bumbling.
They have argued, through a few of their decorated thugs in the Senate, that it was not inspired by their boss. Are they kidding us? Do they take us for fools? Why was Saraki absent at the deliberations? And his poodle and deputy said it was a noble endeavour and the Senate would go along with it.
The act is desperate. They want to find a sort of way out for Saraki. The former Eleyinmi has not spoken, at the time of writing, on the subject. Without a doubt, this is a law to consecrate corruption. It is a law to corrupt the law. It may be the worst wanton act of lawmaking since the third-term bill. Even the third-term bill was an effort at effrontery for a temporary act. This is intending for the long haul. The point is to allow us return to the era of everlasting litigation, whereby a corruption case can remain in court forever through the devious art of adjournment. So, in Saraki’s case, the matter would be in court through not only his tenure as Senate president and a second term in the same position but forever. Their action recalls Mark Twain’s assertion that “No one’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”
The case would go to President Muhammadu Buhari’s desk. He had better not sign but consign it to the dust bin, or else he would have condemned his own anti-corruption war to the garbage bin.
Given this shadow hanging over Saraki, it is only an act of honour for him to step down as Senate president. Trent Lott resigned as U.S. Senate leader when he associated himself with Strom Thurmond, the Dixiecrat and white supremacist. He had grown too small for his office. It was not illegal to remain Senate leader. But he had fouled the sacred air of the office.
The rule of law is nothing without the thumb of honour. The law makes sense if we imbibe it more than recite it. The letter kills. Hence in the Old Testament the law killed 3,000 people. The spirit gives life. Hence also 3,000 people were saved in the Day of Pentecost thousands of years later.
The law was made for us and not the other way round. Hence The Iceland PM resigned. That is why Saraki should follow the Iceland example.