The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, on Tuesday sought the support of his colleagues to stand with him against “some powerful individuals” outside the Senate in order to defend the sanctity and independence of the legislative body.
Mr. Saraki, on whom vote of confidence was passed by 83 Senators at the plenary Tuesday, also got subtle solidarity from the speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, who urged the federal government to ensure that due process was followed in the trial of the senate president.
Mr. Saraki, who strongly believed his trial on a 13-count charge before the Code of Conduct Tribunal was politically motivated, said it was consequent upon his emergence as the senate president “against the wishes of some powerful individuals”.
He reiterated this position in his welcome address, following the Senate’s resumption of plenary after a six-week recess.
“I wish to reiterate my remarks before the tribunal that I have no iota of doubt that I am on trial today because I am the President of the Nigerian Senate against the wishes of some powerful individuals outside this chamber,” Mr. Saraki said.
He continued, “But what is clear to me also is that the laws of Nigeria and the rules of the National Assembly give consideration to the wishes and desires of those of you who are here today, members of the Senate, to elect as you wish, one of your peers as the President of the Senate. This, in your wisdom, is what you have done by electing me to be first among all of you who are my equals.
“The laws of Nigeria do not give any consideration to any other forces outside the Senate in the election of its leaders. And to yield the ground on this note is to be complicit in the subversion of democracy and principles of separation of powers as enshrined in our constitution.
“This is why we must once again commend President Muhammadu Buhari for refusing to interfere in the National Assembly leadership even in the face of enormous pressures on him to do so. He has proved quite concretely that he is indeed a born-again democrat.”
Emphasizing the need to defend Nigeria’s democracy and independence of the legislature, Mr. Saraki expressed his readiness to protect the tenets of democracy and urged his colleagues to stand by him.
He said, “As for me, I am prepared to do my duty in defence of our democracy and in safeguarding the independence of the National Assembly. My duty, as I see it, is to do justice and honour to the memory of those who have paid even higher prices to give us this democracy and this constitution. Primarily as a Senator of the Federal Republic and as Senate President I owe it to this Senate to stand strong in the face of relentless persecution.
“I invite all of you to stand with me to defend this Senate and preserve its sanctity. Ultimately, our legacies would not be defined by how long we stay here and in whatever position; but by what we did with this great opportunity that our people have given us by the grace of Almighty God.”
Messrs. Saraki abnd Dogara emerged leaders of the National Assembly against the wishes of their party, the APC, which supported the duo of Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila for the positions of senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.
Mr. Dogara later reached a compromise with the party in respect of the principal positions of the House of Representatives after a meeting with the president.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that Mr. Saraki made similar overtures to the presidency in order to resolve the crisis amicably, but the president allegedly denied him audience.
Mr. Buhari has not have a private meeting with Mr. Saraki since the latter’s emergence as president of the Senate on June 9.
Against the party’s position, which urged the senate president to fill the principal positions with its nominees, Mr. Saraki insisted on reflecting federal character in the distribution of the principal offices – a move that further made his relationship with the party frosty.
Mr. Saraki’s loyalists later filled the principal positions when the senate zoned the positions and asked the zonal caucuses of the parties to make nominations.
Dogara’s Tacit Support
In his address today, Mr. Dogara urged the Federal Government to ensure the pursuit of “common good” be the focus of Mr. Saraki’s trial.
“[The] barometer of the polity has been on the rise of late because of certain developments concerning the arraignment of the President of the Senate.
“While commending the President of the Senate for submitting himself to the jurisdiction of the Code of Conduct Tribunal in the recognition that no person is above the law, I wish to caution that there is need for great circumspection in times such as this in order to maintain proper focus in pursuit of the common good,” the Speaker said.
He commended his colleagues for “the maturity of avoiding further escalation [of the crisis] through media commentaries.”