By Law Mefor
“It is courage, courage, courage, that raises the blood of life to crimson splendor. Live bravely and present a brave front to adversity.”– Horace
Like Nelson Mandela said out of his own abhorrent persecution, courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. In other words, the brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear by confronting it.
The fascist clampdown on the Senate President and the Deputy, Senators Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu by the APC-led Federal Government just assumed the most absurd dimensions- crude and cruel, and even rascally. This time around, the desperation is to physically remove the irrepressible duo from office, impose their replacements, and forestall the planned defection of about two dozen senators from the APC.
As simpletons that the planners were, rather than strategists, the hurriedly coupled idea hashed out two invitations to the two presiding officers of the Senate. That of Saraki was a reopening of the Offa robbery case, which failed to fly when the Police first tried it.
He was given the invitation by 8 pm on Monday night and asked to report to police in Abuja at 8am the following day (Tuesday, 24th July). Such marching order by the police to the head of an arm of government, who would preside over the senate plenary the same day smacked of everything – insensitivity, contempt, desperation and disdain for the legislature and its leadership.
The invitation to Senator Ike Ekweremadu was even more ridiculous, curious and reckless. Quite early in the morning of the dark Tuesday, a platoon of the Nigeria Police, with a sprinkling of EFCC operatives, besieged his Apo Abuja residence, to block him from leaving and attending to the day’s senate plenary. As an afterthought, an EFCC invitation letter dated 24th July 2018 and riddled with contradictions, was written and signed, demanding the Deputy Senate President to report at the EFCC office in Wuse II, Abuja at 10am of the same 24th July for questioning.
Although the Deputy President of the Senate was willing to honour the invitation even though there was no prior notice, the security men would not lift the siege. The street leading into his residence was cordoned off end-to-end by about 200 security operatives and he was prevented from leaving the house. How then was he to honour the invitation? The illogicality is as perplexing as it was nauseating…government by brigandage you dare say!
Bottom line, Senator Bukola Saraki managed to reach the National Assembly on foot and presided over the Senate plenary. Ekweremadu could not.
This defining moment has brought the two men more into view as faces of Nigerian democracy, as personifications of courage in adversity and men truly adept and sagacious in the Nigerian politics. Their mettle in the face of debilitating danger has become a classic study in political courage at a time when most leaders in their ranks are cowering even from their own shadows.
Democracy and democratic governance in the country have never come under greater existential threats than in these appalling moments, where all democratic gains and even norms of civilised conducts are being reversed by government actions and inactions with unmatched impunity. One would often wonder what would have been the fate of the nation’s democracy and indeed that of the legislature if Senator Saraki and Senator Ekweremadu were less mortals and politically less audacious.
It is about getting at the two leaders of National Assembly at all costs. A drowning man may catch at anything; that is why they are revisiting the Offa bank robbery against Saraki, after the Supreme Court of Nigeria had confirmed that indeed his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal was a travesty of justice. And of course, discerning minds have always known that the political trial was never meant to serve justice.
The second case opened by the Attorney General added the Deputy Senate President, Sen Ike Ekweremadu, over allegation of forgery of senate rules to aide their emergence as presiding officers. The bogey forgery trial was based on a spurious police investigative report in which neither Senator Saraki nor Senator Ekweremadu was mentioned. They were charged nonetheless. Even without a shred of evidence or reasonable conjectures, the same reason the case was eventually withdrawn by the Federal Government. But not without embarrassing themselves in the bid to humiliate the Senate and the Legislature.
While both innocent men were forced into the dock for the trumped up charges, it was actually the nation’s democracy and legislature that was on trial. The promoters were only reminding the world that Nigeria is not yet qualified to practice democracy or to be counted among civilised countries.
The claim by the Presidency that it is a good omen for every citizen to go through the rigours of trial and establishment of innocence is dishonest since the charges were never meant to serve the interest of justice. It was only calculated to damage and condemn them in the court of public opinion and force them to vacate their seats as presiding officers.
This narrative gained much currency as curious strident calls for their resignation rent the air as soon as the orchestrated trials commenced. Those curious calls that rang out for the two to step down and face their trials were well calculated. On the face value, the calls appeared innocuous and even patriotic, and could have been even apropos if their cases were not trumped up as they have turned out.
Those pushing for the resignation of the Senate President particularly tried to justify it by saying that the issue had reached a critical stage where his corruption trial was questioning the Senate’s integrity and harming Nigeria’s pride.
For them, therefore, the Senate under Senator Saraki was fast losing credibility. Like an American investor, Rupert Murdoch, had said, look for three things in a Man: intelligence, energy and integrity, and if you cannot find the third, do not bother looking for the other two. It was an emotional blackmail that quickly caught up with some gullible Nigerians.
But the question is: if Saraki and Ekweremadu had yielded to the malignant calls for resignation on phony charges trumped up just to achieve same, could they have gotten back their positions back after the Federal Government withdrew the trumped up charges of forgery of Senate Standing Rule and the Supreme Court established Saraki’s political persecution over assets declaration? But thank God the two men stood like the rock of Gibraltar.
Our laws deem a man innocent until proven guilty. But, in APC’s Nigeria, efforts are being exerted by blackmail, propaganda and sheer impunity to presume the accused guilty until proven innocent. This explains why the anti-corruption agencies have preferred media trials to proper investigations. For this same reason, too, most high profile trials have woefully failed to end in convictions.
Senator Saraki and Senator Ekweremadu are deliberately made the most distracted and hounded Nigerian senate president and deputy in history, positions they won constitutionally and democratically, having been freely elected by their colleagues in line with Section 50 (1) of the 1999 Constitution. But despite their humiliations and travails, Senator Bukola Saraki and Senator Ike Ekweremadu, as statesmen and patriots, have continued to put the nation first.
Indeed, these checkered moments in our nation evoke Josiah Gilbert Holland’s prayer: “God give us men! A time like this demands strong minds, great hearts, true faith, and ready hands…”
Times like this truly demand for men like Senators Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, and indeed all the federal legislators in both chambers, who have stood with these dogged presiding officers through the thick and thin, in defence of democracy and independence of the legislature. Such principled stance offers hope that the nation’s democracy will neither be truncated nor permanently deformed by the brazen fascism and autocracy visiting it.
- Dr. Law Mefor, a Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist, writes from Abuja. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org