*Only internal strife will make our state free
Eighteen count charges, no case submission! Eighteen count charges the verdict is, no evidence!! And eighteen count charge and there is no prima facie case against the accused – Bukola Saraki! In our criminal legal system that is accusatorial, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. This means that to secure conviction those that charge or accuse must proof the ingredients of the crime committed.
And in a no case submission, those that accuse or charge must have sufficient evidentiary basis on which the case against the accused must proceed to full trial after the presentation of the case of his accuser, which in this Saraki’s case is the Federal Government of Nigeria. Danladi Yakubu Umar and Williams Atedze Agwadza both judges of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, said that having listened to the evidence of the prosecution witnesses on anticipatory declaration of assets, non-declaration of assets, money laundering, receiving Money as Governor after leaving office and sundry allegations on corruption there was no need to call on Dr Bukola Saraki to defend himself as all the witnesses only went into the witness box to exonerate the accused! To the two judges after hearing the evidence of the four prosecution witnesses, the evidence against the accused is not enough to proceed with the continuation of the trial. The Accused was therefore discharged and ACQUITTED!!!
Conspiracy! I have always been of a very firm belief that governance in a corrupt Nigeria is the conspiracy of the elites against the weak. The rulers of Nigeria have no law except their interests. After the discharge and acquittal on a case that did not go through a full trial, several questions have been begging for answers. Could this outcome be a form settlement within the ruling party? Could it be that the Senate must be placated so that governance in whatever form can go on? Could it be conceding to the request of the Senate when the leadership once visited the National Secretariat of APC and made withdrawal of this case from CCT a pre-condition for peace with the Executive arm of Government? Could this verdict signify the unity of the corrupts in Nigeria whether in the executive, legislature, judiciary or even in the private sector of our economy? Could it be??? Where are the answers?
But there is a big gap between this outcome; whether you call it ruling or judgement and the confidence of the people in our judiciary. It had done serious collateral damage to an institution that is regarded as the last hope of common man. Saraki won the hearts of Nigerians with conscience bleed. The soul of Nigeria is in captivity of wealthy but morally underdeveloped Nigerians. And therefore the people of Nigeria kicked. Well informed legal luminaries saw in the ruling manipulations and miscarriage of justice. Opinion articles in the media derided the conclusions of the two gentlemen that sat on judgement in this matter. Ordinary Nigerians lost hope in project Nigeria.
Social media is still awash with very many uncomplimentary comments. Even people call it ‘’jankara’’ ruling in the line of the mid-night black market injunction granted by late Justice Linda Ekpeazu that attempted to stop the holding of the watershed 1993 June 12 election. Even in the month of Ramadan people cursed the justices that delivered a ruling that is contrary to the mood of the environment. The only evidence of joy was among the birds of the same feathers in the Senate of the Federal Republic and the usual slaves of the Senate President in Kwara State. Even if people were not expecting a conviction, they were not expecting a no- case submission. The ruling was an anti-climax in the war against corruption in Nigeria.
And so if Buhari is not ready to go the whole hog why did he start the prosecution of Dr Bukola Saraki? If there are holes in the evidence of the prosecution witnesses on which no reasonable tribunal will base a conviction, it could be that there were no thorough investigations by the Executive arm of Government. If prosecution witnesses started to give contradictory evidence in court could it also mean that they have been compromised? Perhaps there is the need for well-trained investigators that will exhibit finesse, competence and professionalism rather than those that play to the gallery of media trial while handling high profile cases. Or was the judgement procured at a cost.
A person that is often accused of sleaze or fraud can purchase anything. Political survival can be purchased at any price. In any case a person that initially did not want to face his trial by courts shopping could place a price on anything.
And if it was the judiciary that caved in for whatever reason it is still an anti-climax on this war on corruption in Nigeria. Those that voted President Jonathan and the PDP out of power in Nigeria wanted not only an incorruptible leader but one with the liver to kill the monster called corruption. It is not enough for a leader to claim that he is clean; he must also clean his environment too. The whole country, the whole world that had rated this country as one of the most corrupt in the world were not waiting for recovery of looted funds alone; they were also waiting for a Leader that can bark and bite, a leader that can punish offenders through meticulous judicial process.
For when you recover the looted funds and the looters go unpunished, you have merely beaten the criminals with kids gloves, the crime and the criminals are still essentially left to dance hilariously in the market square. If APC cannot kill both the crime and the criminals of corruption, it ought not to come to governance at this time at all.
The day of that judgement was a dark day in Nigeria but more particularly in Kwara State whose money was allegedly stolen in the eighteen counts charge. Some mindless clowns who are the cronies of the leader were jubilating round the streets of Ilorin metropolis that their man and their benefactor had been set free. The money in the eighteen counts charge sheet is into billions of Kwara money. The court may have pronounced him not guilty but we are yet to see our stolen money. From 2003 till date Bukola Saraki has been in undisputed leadership of Kwara State.
During that time over six hundred billion (more than half a trillion) naira in form of statutory allocations, VAT, Loans, grants and internally generated funds had accrued to the treasury of Kwara State. Where are the corresponding developments on the ground? Water is not working anywhere in Kwara, roads are not fixed, agriculture, the main occupation of the people of Kwara is neglected, no new secondary schools constructed and less than 10% of the existing dilapidated ones rehabilitated, if you see any new buildings in our tertiary institutions, 95% of those buildings are constructed with Tetfund fund, no single industry small, medium or large have been attracted to Kwara State, salaries of workers and pensioners remain unpaid for months etc.
What the regime of continuity had given us since 2003 without accountability are projects of misplaced priority that we really do not need. The values of such projects are highly questionable. And yet they took this man to court and he is let off the hook on no case submission. And so where is our money?
If we are happy in Kwara State with the judgement of the CCT, why was it only the APC that jubilated at the acquittal of the Senate President? If Bukola is not held guilty in the minds of the people of Kwara, I think Trade Union, Artisans, Community Development Associations, Students, Market women of Kwara would have celebrated the freed accused. The popularity of Bukola Saraki in Kwara State is a fluke. As they manipulate in the National level now, they are adept at political manipulation and deception in Kwara State. The often successful manipulation of process in the State creates a deceitful belief nationwide that the whole of the State is in the pocket of one family. Now that the game in Kwara State is now raised more or less to the highest level in Nigeria, perhaps the whole of the country is in the pocket of one man.
I have a lot of pity for Kwarans that put high hopes on the outcome of the case before the CCT. Some relied on initial court room theatres to reach an early conclusion that the end had eventually come for the troubler of Kwara. I was more confident and happier in the charge than the outcome of court proceedings and decisions. I know that the charge was revealing and am still more interested that it has been revealed to the whole world that our money had been stolen through this eighteen counts charge. If the judiciary cannot see any evidence of corruption, we that feel its pang and pains can see it.
I once wrote as if denouncing the yet to be declared judgement that let the court do its own, that I prefer to run away with the then thirteen counts charge which I said nobody can take from me. Nobody can still take from me the eighteen counts charge that President Muhammadu Buhari had given to me and the whole world. I see it as a working document on how Kwara State had been looted of developmental funds.
To this end we should be grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari who for once helped us to dock the seemingly invincible Bukola Saraki. After all, President Obasanjo knew about the monumental fraud in SGBN, he played politics with it. President Yar’Adua created a room and office for him in Aso Rock Villa during his presidency. President Jonathan looked away. President Buhari docked and I think he fights on.
But the greatest lesson for the people of Kwara on the court judgement is that we should take our destiny in our hands. Reliance on external forces to help us fight the monstrous situation in Kwara State that is now cancerous nation-wide without our major resistance will not work. Any rift between Bukola Saraki, politicians and businessmen outside Kwara can easily be settled in board rooms, hotel chalets or a restaurants both within and outside the country; using Kwara as a bargain. Unless external politicians can see fire and commitments in alternative power blocks in Kwara State, they will never think they can do political business with any other person or groups except that of the Saraki clan. Omo Kwara e ronu (Kwarans be thoughtful).
Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo is the PDP Chairman in Kwara State. He wrote this piece from Ilorin.