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 2 dozen senators from the APC.
As simpletons 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 SARS Abuja office by 8am the following day. 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 the dark Tuesday, a detachment of the DSS 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, riddled with contradictions, was written and signed for Deputy Senate President the same 24th morning, to report to the ECC office in Wuse II in a matter of an hour or two.
Meanwhile, the street leading into the Deputy Senate President’s residence was cordoned off end to end by about 200 security operatives and himself prevented from leaving the house. How then was he to honour the invitation assuming that was the actual intention? The illogicality is as perplexing as it was nauseating…government by brigandage you dare say!
Senator Bukola Saraki managed to reach the National Assembly on foot and presided over the Senate plenary. Ekweremadu could not.
The 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 civilized conducts are being reversed by government actions and inactions, and 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, to entertain some diseased fancied of some Party chieftains and some desperadoes in Government. A drowning man may catch at anything; that is why they are revisiting of the Offa bank robbery against Saraki, after the Supreme Court of Nigeria (May God bless and keep the elder statesmen and eminent jurists for demonstrating courage as well) had ruled 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 trial was politically motivated and never meant to serve any justice. The prosecutors knew this, and still vigorously pursued the case despite not having justice as goal.
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 thrown out by the Supreme Court. But not without embarrassing and humiliating the presiding officers of the Senate and the Legislature.
While both innocent men who head of the legislative arm of government were forced to sit in the duck 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 civilized countries.
The claim of the Presidency that it is a good omen for every citizen to go through the rigors of trial and establishment of innocence is dishonest since the charges were never meant to be and 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 as “no 3” and “no5” citizens and face their trial at the tribunal and Federal High court, 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 Senator Saraki’s 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 many gullible Nigerians.
But 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 law courts had proved them innocent? The presumption of an accused innocence until guilt is duly proved in our jurisdiction is just apt.
Yet, in today’s APC’s Nigeria, efforts are being exerted to presume the accused guilty until his or her innocence is proved. 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. Chapter 5 of the 1999 (as amended), states in section 50 (1): “There shall be: (a) a President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves”, exactly what the Senators across party lines did.
Despite their humiliations and travails, as statesmen and patriots, Senator Bukola Saraki and Senator Ike Ekweremadu 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 and defenders of democracy through the thick and thin, and stood for legislative independence.
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:[email protected]