My Candid Letter To The Senate President by Dele Momodu.
Your Excellency, I’m convinced the time has come to write you this letter despite the fact that I have some measure of access to you. I decided to do this in order to tackle the mischief makers who believe I’m your very close friend and as such must be a rabid supporter of yours. I have been accused of all sorts of garbage including being paid heavy sums of money from your bottomless pocket. I’m aware that most of these guys can never believe that anyone could stand up for principle without pecuniary gains. But before I go into the meat of this letter, I need to state my background briefly as I’m sure you don’t even know me well enough to understand and appreciate my socio-political trajectory.
I have read all sorts about you and I and it is necessary sometimes to put the records straight for the sake of doubting Thomases who can never see anything good in others. You were a Governor for eight years and I can’t remember ever meeting you one on one. The only time I believe we exchanged physical pleasantries would have been at the 70thbirthday dinner hosted in honour of your mother-in-law, Erelu Ojuolape Ojora at The Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos some years back. I remember seeing and greeting you and a few of the former and current Governors present including Olusegun Osoba, James Ibori, Babatunde Fashola and others.
I would later see one of the pictures I took at the party and read many years after that I was busy drinking champagne with James Ibori who was being wanted for several cases of corruption and so on. I could not believe my eyes because the picture showed clearly that I was chatting with Chief Olusegun Osoba while Ibori minding his business behind me but someone needed to rubbish me for reasons I could never fathom. Not just that, Ibori was still a Governor and would I run away from a function or refuse to greet people so as not to be accused of hobnobbing with corrupt leaders?
The next time I interfaced with you was after you employed Mr Bamikole Omishore who was my American campaign coordinator in Washington DC, when I joined the Presidential race from 2010-2011. I was happy that you got such a brilliant young man to manage your social media. But you and I got closer for only one reason in the past one year plus because we both campaigned vigorously for Major General Muhammadu Buhari and you and Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi were the best of pals and he has been my friend long before he became Governor of Rivers State. I loved the way you, Amaechi, Kwankwaso, Wamako, Tambuwal, Atiku Abubakar, and others took the bold decision that would change the course of Nigerian history for better or for worse when you abandoned PDP despite threats and harassments. I must have met you about twice in your Lagos home to strategise and was particularly impressed with your ability to rally the likes of Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, Wale Tinubu and others who ordinarily would have felt a need to support the government in power. I was informed you were able to raise some stupendous amount of money during and after the APC primaries. We talked more on phone and you assured me constantly that everything was on course. The rest is history.
However trouble started as soon as victory came. I knew you had only one ambition and that was to become the Senate President. I thought that was a legitimate dream but did not envisage that it would turn out to be your albatross. Politics in Africa, and probably elsewhere, is a deadly game. You’ve fought several battles in your life but I doubt if you ever bargained for this one. It all started like a joke. Your party apparatchik was obviously opposed to your candidacy. You were equally determined to realise your life ambition. One of the rumours then was that you could not be trusted with power and that in the next four years you would have become unstoppable if you decide to go headlong for the Presidency. I’m not a member of your party so I could not understand what the hullabaloo was all about. The manner you emerged caught everyone unawares. The biggest problem was the fact that you sought and got the unequivocal support of members of the PDP in the Senate and even did a deal that made it possible for one of them to become your deputy. That was the hara-kiri you committed and your enemies would never forgive you for that.
One thing led to another, and things fell apart and the centre could no longer hold. You probably underestimated the resolve of your enemies to cut you down to size. The next we saw were allegations of impropriety levelled against you at the Code of Conduct Bureau. You were said to have been dodgy in your assets declaration forms. Anyway, it seemed you had touched the tiger by the tail and it remained to be seen how you would wriggle out of the monumental trouble you had inadvertently courted by your rebelliousness and bellicosity. I was personally irked that we were back to the Nuhu Ribadu days and I voiced my opinion openly. I was not defending you but defending the rights of man. I had thought naively that APC knew what it was getting into with an ill-assorted assemblage of different characters from varied backgrounds. I presumed there was an accord that all sinners became saints once they migrated and amalgamated with APC. The deluge of immigrants from PDP convinced me that President Buhari would have to sanctify the pollutants if any in the new party. Not once did I hear of any objection to the proliferation so I assumed all was well.
I never said you should not be prosecuted but that we should discourage a situation where every successive government uses anti-corruption camouflage to punish its enemies. This position was not meant to protect you but to discourage a perpetuation of such tradition. I wrote copiously against the harassment of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu when he went on similar trial. I had demonstrated publicly against the Yar’Adua cabal when they tried to stop Dr Goodluck Jonathan from assuming power when his boss was terminally ill. I remember also when I wrote an open letter to Mallam Nuhu Ribadu in 2007 and how I was viciously attacked by his supporters. But what happened after? Nuhu himself was forced into exile as a victim of impunity. Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and The Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi, formerly known as Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, became veritable victims of impunity and I was vehemently opposed to their ordeals.
I needed to state this background very well as a way of documenting my modest contribution to the discouragement of impunity as a former victim myself under the military regimes. Now that it seems many Nigerians are comfortable with setting fire to an entire village in order to catch some rats, I will not belabour the issue further. Please, permit me to now address the case at hand. I want you to know that no matter what you do henceforth, the case against you will go on. The earlier you resign yourself to fate the better. You have done all you can to prevent this from happening and the time has come for you to defend yourself as best as you can. I understand the psychological trauma you are under. You are in utter shock that a party you laboured with others to build and nurture has decided to treat you as a pariah. You are stupefied at the sudden turn of events.
But let me advise you, the Judiciary is still the best arbiter and if you’re truly innocent, you will be vindicated but if you are found guilty after exhausting all legal options available in the land you must take a bow and accept the judgment with equanimity. Even if the APC decides to sweep this under the carpet, someone may still bring it up tomorrow. It is in your best interest to face the bullet and hope for a miracle. I’m not one of those who have written off the Nigerian Judiciary. I will also not join those who have already convicted you in the court of public opinion. I’m a Christian and I know none of us can cast the first stone and we should be careful not to gloat over anyone’s misfortune.
Please, note that you must do nothing to pervert the course of justice by enacting hurriedly-packaged laws ostensibly meant to block your trial. It will further diminish you and make your sympathisers recoil in shame. To whom much is given, much is expected. God has been very kind to you and as a Muslim you must submit yourself only to the will of Allah, the only one who can forgive our sins. Who knows what the outcome may be at the end of the day?
I beg you in the name of God to take courage. Stand like a man and carry your heavy cross. (ThisDay)
I have been a marked man since Jonathan’s tenure – Saraki replies Dele Momodu’s candid advice
My dear brother Dele, let me thank you most sincerely for your article last weekend, “My Candid Letter to Saraki.” I take everything you said in that article to heart and I must commend you for your candidness indeed and the sincerity of your intentions.
As you said in your article, you are someone I have known more by reputation than by any personal relationship, until recently when we struck up some personal acquaintance based on our shared political interests, especially during the last presidential election. However, I understand why you had to sound so defensive for knowing me at all and had to publicly map the boundaries of our relationship. We have got to that point in our country when we no longer believe that anyone could stand for anything based on principles and convictions alone. Moreover, in the growing culture of media crucifixion and presumed guilt; it is rare to find a voice like yours that calls for fairness and justice.
I would have simply sent you a text message or call you up for your candid advice to me, which I take seriously. But I feel the need to make some clarifications on some of the issues you raised. One of them was that in seeking to be Senate President, I struck a deal with the PDP and made it possible for one of them to be the Deputy Senate President. I know this is the dominant narrative out there, but it is far from the truth.
I did not do any deal with the PDP. I did not have to because even before the PDP Senators as a group took the decision to support my candidature on the eve of the inauguration of the 8th Senate, 22 PDP Senators had already written a letter supporting me. What I did not envisage was a situation where some members of my party would not be in the chambers that day, especially when the clerk had already received a proclamation from the President authorizing the inauguration of the Senate. Pray, if a team refused to turn up for a scheduled match and was consequently walked over, would it be fair to blame the team that turned up and claimed victory? I believe those that made it possible for PDP to claim the DSP position were those who decided to hold a meeting with APC senators elsewhere at the time they ought to be in the chambers. What the PDP Senators did was to take advantage of their numerical strength at the material time. They simply lined up behind Senator Ike Ikweremadu while those of us from APC voted for Senator Ali Ndume. It was a game of numbers, and we were hopelessly outnumbered. If the PDP had nominated their own candidate for the Senate Presidency position that day, they would have won. It was as simple as that.
Secondly, I don’t know if you were aware that in the build up to Senate inauguration, the National Working Committee of the APC sent two signals. The first signal specified how leadership positions in the National Assembly have been zoned. While we were trying to give effect to this decision, the second signal came, which contained names of people to which these zoned position had been allocated. What was not acknowledged was that the President of the Senate is not an executive president. He is primarily one of 109 senators. Therefore, I cannot decide by myself who gets what in the Senate. Therefore, when they said I defied party directive in the choice of principal officers, they are invariably ascribing to me the power that I did not have.
My dear brother, most people talk about the Senate Presidency position, but this was not my only offence. I have also been accused of helping to frustrate some people’s opportunity to emerge as President Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate. But I have no problem with anybody. My concern was that it would not be politically smart of us to run with a Muslim-Muslim ticket. I doubt if we would have won the election if we had done this, especially after the PDP had successfully framed us a Muslim party. I felt we were no longer in 1993. Perhaps, more than ever before, Nigerians are more sensitive to issues of religious balancing. This, my brother, was my original sin. What they say to themselves, among other things, was that if he could conspire against our ambition, then he must not realize his own ambition as well. For me however, I have no regrets about this. I only stood for what I believed was in the best interest of the party and in the best interest of Nigeria.
Now to the substantive issue of my trial. As you rightly noted, this trial is not about corruption. And I am happy that since my trial started, people who have followed the proceedings have now understood better what the whole thing is about. I have had opportunity to declare my assets four times since 2003. Over those years, the Code of Conduct Bureau had examined my claims. There was no time that they raised any issues with me on any item contained in my declarations over those twelve years. This is why you should be surprised that while I am being tried by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the witness and the evidence supplied against me were all from EFCC.
Like you, I have an abiding faith in the judiciary. May God forbid the day that we would give up on our judicial system. However, the onus is not on me to prove that I have confidence in the judiciary; the burden is on my prosecutors to prove to the world that justice is done in my case. If the process of fighting corruption is itself corrupt, then whatever victory is recorded would remain tainted and puerile!
Some people have wondered, why has Saraki been “jumping” from one court to another instead of facing his trial? To those people, I would say that I have only gone to those courts in search of justice. Strange things have happened, and they are still happening. For example, Section 3(d) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act states that the Bureau shall refer any breach or non-compliance to the Tribunal. However, where the person concerned makes a written admission of the breach, no reference to the Tribunal shall be necessary. It was on this basis that the case against Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was dismissed in 2011, by this same judge in this same Tribunal on the grounds that he was not given an opportunity to deny or admit to any breach before he was brought before the tribunal. This was the ruling that I relied on in making my case. But what did the judge say? That he had judged in error in 2011 and he had since realized his error and departed from it. My question is whether a Tribunal of first instance has the power to reverse itself. I should expect that everyone would be worried if justice is applied differently to different people. However, in spite of my fears, I remain hopeful. Why? Because the judiciary does not end with this Tribunal.
Do you know the genesis of my real problems with President Goodluck Jonathan? I have had a touchy relationship with him, but the turning point was in September 2011 when I moved a motion on the floor of the Senate that exposed the N2.3 trillion fuel subsidy racket. I remain proud that I was the Senator that blew the lid on the most elaborate corruption scheme ever in this country. But after that I became a marked man. My security was withdrawn. I was invited and re-invited by the EFCC and the Special Fraud Unit. I was even declared wanted at a point. I believe I am still one of the most investigated former governors in this country. I have no doubt that if the Jonathan government was able to find anything against me, they would not have allowed me to go unpunished.
Let me make this point clearly. I do not expect to be shielded from prosecution because of my contribution to APC, if there was genuine basis for such action to be taken against me. But I have every reason to expect not to be persecuted by the party that I contributed so much to build. The New PDP may not have given APC victory in 2015, but it was an important factor in the dynamics that produced that victory. And with all sense of modesty, I was an important factor in the formation of New PDP; in leading that group to the APC; in ensuring our group’s support for the candidate during the primaries and in mobilizing substantial resources for the election. For these, I have not expected any special compensation. Rather, I only expect to be treated like every loyal party member and accorded the right to freely aspire!
Some people have complained that I have been taken Senators with me to my trial. But I did not force them to follow me. The Senators have freely accompanied me to the Tribunal not because they are loyal to me as Abubakar Bukola Saraki, but because they are committed to the principle that produced me as the President of the Senate. The same principle that produced Ike Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President and produced Ali Ndume as Majority Leader. They see all of us in the Senate leadership as manifestation of their jealously guarded right to freely choose their own leaders. Because they know they made us their leaders without any external interference; they are confident that they retain the power to remove us whenever they so wish. They also know what this trial is all about. They believe I am being victimized because they have expressed their right to choose their own leadership. This is why I am not in any way perturbed by my absence in the chambers during this trial. Because I was not imposed on the Senate, I feel confident that the Senate will protect its own choice whether I am present or not. It is never about me. It is about the independence of the legislature. It has always been so since 1999. It is so today and it would be so in 2019, it would be so in 2023, and as long as we practice a democracy that operates on the principle of separation of powers.
My dear brother, let me end by observing that I am not alone in this trial. On trial with me in this process is the entire judicial system. On trial with me are our entire anti-corruption institutions and our avowed commitment to honestly fight corruption. On trial with me is our party’s promise to depart from the ways of the past, a promise that Nigerians voted for. And I dare say, on trial with me is our media; and their ethical commitment to report fairly and objectively. In the end, it is my earnest hope that whatever we do will ultimately ennoble our country. (Daily Post)