Senate President, a layman indeed!
But for the label, the ‘accused person’ on the box where Senator Bukola Saraki sat, while appearing before the Code of Conduct Tribunal; an observer would think he was on the soapbox, when he launched his political remarks in court, last Tuesday. His reprehensible conduct was the culmination of the shenanigans he had displayed, all in an effort to frustrate his arraignment before the tribunal for alleged false declaration of asset.
In complete disregard for judicial procedure, Senator Saraki, an accused, took the microphone, and cockily sought to teach the court, the prosecutor, and his defence counsel, the law, even when he accepted that he is a lay- man.
This false wisdom by Senator Saraki was furthered outside the court, when he tried to sell the dummy that he was being persecuted because he is the Senate President. We doubt the authenticity of this claim, considering that the issues before the court were fairly straight- forward, and were alleged criminal infractions which preceded his disputed emergence as Senate President. As fellow laymen, like Senator Saraki, our understanding is that when an accused person is charged before a court or a tribunal, he will respectfully appear before the court, and plead his innocence or guilt, as maybe the case, instead of politicising it.
This should even be more evident, when the accused is an elected lawmaker. So, while Senator Saraki must for now be presumed innocent, and given all the lawful opportunity to defend himself, he should not be allowed to denigrate the judicial process, as part of his defence. We therefore identify with the prosecutor’s argument that what Senator Saraki and his legal team sought to do, by shopping for an interim injunction from other courts, would have ridiculed our country’s judicial process if they had succeeded in securing conflicting orders from different courts.
We hope that what has happened, so far, will be a lesson to other accused persons that the era of dubious injunctions, to frustrate criminal trials, is at its twilight. We therefore commend both the federal high court and the court of appeal, for resisting the temptation to hamstring the lawful duties of a constitutional process. Indeed, we also commend the bold insistence of the tribunal that the law should take its course, despite the unwarranted attempts by the accused person and his rancorous supporters to disrupt the process.
We are particularly appalled that some distinguished senators of the federal republic would lend their influence towards that unfortunate effort to intimidate the court. To the chagrin of many ordinary Nigerians, the accused person and his supporters substantially turned the venue of the tribunal into a political arena, with all manner of persons and groups chanting songs in Saraki’s support. We had thought that such antics are reserved for the guilty who merely use such subterfuge to intimidate a tribunal, scurry cheap popularity, and give a false sense of persecution of the innocent. In our view, the obviously hired hands that were within and outside the tribunal had no business there, and their efforts should be an embarrassment to the accused person.
As Senator Saraki has rightly observed, he is a layman. That perhaps explains his uninformed diatribe, implying that but for his present status as Senate President, the alleged crime of false declaration of assets, when he was governor of Kwara State, and subsequently as a senator, would not have been unearthed many years after. While admitting at the tribunal that there is a change in national orientation, and urging the prosecutor and the tribunal to adhere to that change in his trial, Senator Saraki, uncharacteristically refused to link the resurgence of all national institutions to their constitutional responsibilities, to that commitment to change.
Having had his day in court, despite his efforts to frustrate same, we expect Senator Saraki, whether as Senate President or an ordinarysenator to henceforth dedicate himself to ensuring that all persons, regardless of their stature, are subjected to the rule of law. That is a fundamental requirement of any modern society. Indeed, it is only when all persons are subjected to the rule of law, regardless of temporal privileges, that such a nation can lay claim to be on the threshold of fairness, equity and good conscience. We also hope that the experience of Senator Saraki would be a lesson to others who are under oath to obey the dictates of the constitution. As we have severally warned on this page, those who abuse their powers should know that the day of reckoning will come, someday.