The recent verdict of the Supreme Court directing the Senate President, Dr Olubukola Saraki, to face trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal has laid to rest the controversy trailing the powers of the tribunal to try him in the prevailing circumstances. The matter is now set for hearing, and like Saraki himself has said, he is ready to face the tribunal and prove his innocence.
No doubt, this is a positive development for our evolving democracy as it would give all parties including observers the opportunity to see justice prevail one way or the other. The eventual outcome of the case, even if it gets to the Supreme Court, will no doubt enrich our democracy and the legal system. It is a case which every Nigerian is interested in, not only because Saraki as Senate President is involved, but also because a lot of Nigerians believe, and rightly so, that the case is politically motivated. Everyone on either side of the political divide is eagerly waiting to see if justice would be served and how it would be served.
Apart from this, the issue has also generated a lot of interest among political actors, watchers and activists, as they wait to see how the matter would shape events at the 8th Senate especially as some Senators already seem to be positioning their camp for Saraki’s seat. This is normal in a setting like Nigeria’s senate except that it is ill-timed and depicts the concerned Senators as over-ambitious. This is not helped by the garrulity of Femi Falana (SAN) who parades himself as a “busy-body” like Governor Fayose recently described him, arrogating to himself the demeaning powers of dishing out wrong advice while struggling to make himself heard at every little opportunity.
In fact, Falana’s usually unsolicited advice seem to betray his desperation to be noticed by the government of the day as working for it so as to be compensated with the office of Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation any time the position becomes available. It was said that the senior lawyer narrowly missed out on the position the last time since rumours were rife that he was initially considered for a ministerial portfolio before the president changed his mind. Of course, no president worth his salt would want such a loquacious fellow in his cabinet. By that president’s action, a message was sent to Falana that one does not get a minister’s job just by being unnecessarily loquacious.
It was Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, who described Falana as an Integrity-Challenged Charlatan (ICC), following Falana’s wild and incredulous accusations against the former minister at the International Criminal Court (ICC). One then is not surprised at all, that typical of a man of that status as described by Okonjo-Iweala, Falana, in his continued bid to gain unnecessary attention, asked Saraki to resign his position as Senate President, while he faces the Code of Conduct Tribunal in order, according to him, to “preserve the integrity of the National Assembly”, a position which is totally strange to our laws.
As a lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), one would have thought that Falana’s position at all times would be to preserve and defend the dictates of our laws no matter whose ox is gored. But pray,
which part of our laws requires a man to resign his position simply because he is facing trial? What about the position of our laws which states that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty? On what point of law is our dear Senior Advocate predicating his advice to Saraki? Is he so much in a hurry to execute the bidding of his masters to the extent that he is ready to run foul of the law? Where is his integrity in all this? Would one not be right to say that Okonjo-Iweala was right after all concerning the label she placed on Falana?
Rather than try to stampede Saraki into doing the wrong thing, the Senate President should rather ignore Falana and carry on the business for which his colleagues at the senate have elected him and expressed confidence. He should not allow himself to be distracted but remain focused. We need our leaders to be steadfast and resilient in these trying times!
If anyone is sure of their opinion that Saraki should resign while he faces the CCT, let them go and get a court judgement in that regard. That is the best way to go about it rather than use their easy access to the media to cause confusion and disaffection where there ought to be none. One would have expected a lawyer and activist of Falana’s status to lead the fight in asking the question, why is Saraki the only person facing the CCT? What about the other hundreds of former governors and other public office holders who either did not declare their assets as required or gave false declarations? People like Falana should be insisting that such other people too should be made to face trial and prove their innocence, and not dissipate energy needlessly on the call for resignation just because one is facing trial. But he would not do it because it would affect his friends and political allies.
Lastly, Femi Falana knows that no one should be denied any right of his, including that of being elected Senate President, once the person has not been found guilty by any court of competence. This political charlatanism in the name of activism has gone too far for too long and has to stop. When those who are supposed to defend the principles guiding our laws are the ones destroying them, then, the nation might continue to remain in both political and legal doldrums for a very long time to come. The earlier such people retrace their steps and become patriotic rather than partisan, the saner the society becomes.
Jude Ndukwe is a political analyst who lives and works in Abuja, Nigeria. He tweets from@stjudendukwe.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.