Bare-knuck­led pol­i­tics

Be­fore you milk a cow, tie it up (African proverb)

Daily Trust - - SPORT - Baba-Ahmed

The deep­en­ing and dam­ag­ing ran­cour in­volv­ing the Se­nate on one side and the ex­ec­u­tive arm and pow­er­ful po­lit­i­cal forces on the other rep­re­sents a ma­jor threat to the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship and the demo­cratic process. It is con­ceiv­able that there is a grand ob­jec­tive to be achieved at the end of a fight that seems des­tined to con­tinue to take ca­su­al­ties from all sides, but it is dif­fi­cult for most Nige­ri­ans to see it. The pop­u­lar per­cep­tion is that all sides are in­volved in a se­ries of re­lated con­flicts that no one can win out­rightly, or ever. More wor­ri­some is the con­cern that these un­end­ing fights could cause ir­repara­ble dam­age to the ad­min­is­tra­tion's ca­pac­ity to gov­ern, to the co­he­sive­ness and sur­vival of the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC), and to a na­tion which des­per­ately re­quires fo­cus, dis­ci­pline and con­sen­sus around strate­gies and pri­or­i­ties. The ben­e­fi­cia­ries in this civil war will chalk up another plus in an APC Se­na­tor re­ported as threat­en­ing to beat up another APC Se­na­tor and wife of Asi­waju Tin­ubu, and in mut­tered threats to im­peach Pres­i­dent Buhari if he in­sists on go­ing ahead with pros­e­cut­ing Se­nate lead­er­ship and man­age­ment staff over al­le­ga­tions of forg­ing Se­nate Rules.

It will serve lit­tle pur­pose to chron­i­cle the ma­jor de­vel­op­ments, turns and twists in the crises that have char­ac­ter­ized fed­eral ex­ec­u­tiveleg­isla­tive re­la­tions from the word go. It is, nonethe­less, im­por­tant to state some ob­vi­ous man­i­fes­ta­tions of these crises. The first is that Se­nate Pres­i­dent Bukola Saraki is at the heart of it all. The man­ner of his emer­gence as Se­nate Pres­i­dent ap­pears to have cre­ated in­tense hos­til­ity from very pow­er­ful in­ter­ests in cir­cles around Pres­i­dent Buhari and in the party. Sec­ond, it is now ob­vi­ous that while Saraki can be threat­ened and sub­stan­tially desta­bi­lized by in­ves­ti­ga­tions and tri­als, he has roots that go very deep in the Se­nate, such that his po­lit­i­cal fate and per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence will be im­pos­si­ble to iso­late from the heart of re­la­tions be­tween the two arms of gov­ern­ment. Three, there is an ob­vi­ous weak­ness in po­lit­i­cal me­di­a­tion ca­pac­i­ties at the high­est lev­els of the party and the gov­ern­ment, a weak­ness that is fed upon by po­lit­i­cal op­por­tunism from mul­ti­ple sources. Four, these crises ap­pear set to con­tinue to sap en­ergy, create higher lev­els of dishar­mony and in­crease the leak­ages in an ad­min­is­tra­tion that should face a host of chal­lenges with all its as­sets on one side.

Pres­i­dent Buhari, the party and a num­ber of pow­er­ful per­sons see Saraki's po­si­tion and jour­ney as rep­re­sent­ing con­tempt for all core val­ues in the demo­cratic process and due def­er­ence to dom­i­nant in­ter­ests, which must be re­sisted. To tol­er­ate him is to in­vite fur­ther breaches. Pride comes into it be­cause its per­cep­tion as an au­da­cious ef­fron­tery sug­gests some lim­i­ta­tions in pow­ers of per­sons and in­ter­ests that should not be con­doned. On the other hand, Saraki thinks he won a prize for pos­sess­ing sharper po­lit­i­cal in­stincts, and should not be made to pay a price for the weak­nesses of oth­ers. Pride is cen­tral to his po­si­tion be­cause he feels most of those op­pos­ing him are not his moral su­pe­ri­ors, and would have done the same thing, given the same op­por­tu­ni­ties. He sees him­self lead­ing a pack that looks up to him to pro­tect it from an ex­ec­u­tive arm that wants all scalps. He thinks he is be­ing un­fairly per­se­cuted after pay­ing dues and resti­tu­tion in steer­ing the Se­nate to ac­com­mo­date some lim­i­ta­tions of the ex­ec­u­tive arm.

Fear is also a ma­jor fac­tor. The ex­is­tence of a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the ter­rain out­side the mak­ing and in­flu­ence of the pres­i­dency scares some peo­ple who think its ar­chi­tects possess a ca­pac­ity to ex­pand it even fur­ther be­yond their con­trol. On the other hand, Saraki and his sup­port­ers in the Se­nate see a threat that will mus­cle them be­yond any ma­jor sig­nif­i­cance in the po­lit­i­cal process, and many among them have long lost the lux­ury to sleep over the pos­si­bil­ity that the fight against cor­rup­tion will soon knock on their doors. Those with­out bulging files with EFCC are wor­ried that their elab­o­rate priv­i­leges will be dec­i­mated, and with them, prospects for oil­ing av­enues for re­turn in 2019.

This fight has been al­lowed to drag to a point where vir­tu­ally all par­ties have no more room for ma­neu­vre. Ev­ery­thing is at stake, and it will be all or noth­ing. The rump of the PDP is hold­ing on to Saraki's for­tunes and tra­vails as its weapon and bench­mark for in­flu­enc­ing an APC ad­min­is­tra­tion en­gaged in a civil war. With­out Saraki's lead­er­ship, it will lose a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal cover and source of power and in­flu­ence. With Saraki as leader of the Na­tional Assem­bly, it has a foot in the door, and can work to re­duce the dam­age and im­pact of an APC ad­min­is­tra­tion. APC Sen­a­tors are sub­stan­tially in dis­ar­ray, but most want to see an eas­ing of ex­ec­u­tive pres­sure and acts of hos­til­ity against Saraki. It says a lot about the poor man­age­ment of the anti-Saraki forces that they have failed to pry away most of the fairly neu­tral Sen­a­tors from Saraki.

Saraki him­self has been un­able to en­gi­neer a truce and some respite from the forces ranged against him. A com­bi­na­tion of old and new sins seem to com­bine to create an end­less source of desta­bi­liza­tion against him. His ex­pen­sive army of le­gal ex­perts have not stopped his pros­e­cu­tion be­fore the Court of Con­duct Tri­bunal (CCT). Just when it ap­peared that the CCT trial could be re-en­gi­neered to re­duce stress, the trial over forgery of Se­nate Rules starts, threat­en­ing to deepen the chasm be­tween the ex­ec­u­tive and the Se­nate. The Se­nate it­self ap­pears set to dig deeper and dam­age bound­aries that are vi­tal to man­age­ment of jus­tice sys­tems. The Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, the Jus­tice Min­istry and the en­tire bu­reau­cracy of jus­tice is now in the en­emy list of the Se­nate. If there are par­ties me­di­at­ing this de­te­ri­o­rat­ing con­flict, they do not ap­pear to be mak­ing a dent on it. There are peo­ple who in­sist Saraki must be re­moved from his po­si­tion and sent to prison, and they will not rest un­til this is done. They in­clude sen­a­tors who are vir­tual prox­ies of pow­er­ful in­ter­ests which are them­selves deeply in­ter­ested in the fate of Buhari's pres­i­dency. A man like Saraki whose im­age has em­bod­ied so much odium re­ally has no place at the head of a ma­jor demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tion, but he will hang on be­cause it ap­pears the fight has been re­duced to his per­son, and not to higher val­ues.

At this stage, this fight to fin­ish ap­pears set to reach some poor­ly­de­fined but def­i­nite tragic ends, and voices that should be heard in sup­port of po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tions are in­tim­i­dated into si­lence by the fear of ap­pear­ing ei­ther to sup­port cor­rup­tion and sundry il­le­gal­i­ties, or im­punity and high-hand­ed­ness. Saraki is un­likely to step down, with so much of his po­lit­i­cal and per­sonal life, as well as those of many sen­a­tors rid­ing on his sur­vival as Se­nate Pres­i­dent. Ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties against him will be seen as a ma­jor ca­pit­u­la­tion by the fight against cor­rup­tion and the im­per­a­tives of clip­ping his po­lit­i­cal wings. The ju­di­cial process will be stretched and stressed all the way, and will bear scars of this fight no mat­ter how it is re­solved. Hos­tile re­la­tions be­tween the Se­nate and the ex­ec­u­tive will af­fect crit­i­cal gov­er­nance mat­ters. The APC is find­ing it dif­fi­cult to come to terms with its real char­ac­ter, and does not ap­pear to possess the clout to knock to­gether dis­parate in­ter­ests into a co­he­sive or­ga­ni­za­tion un­der an iden­ti­fi­able po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence. The ca­pac­ity of the APC to con­sol­i­date its grip on the po­lit­i­cal process be­yond 2019 will be threat­ened. Saraki and the forces ranged against him are likely to bring the en­tire house down. Does any­one care?

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