Asks Ibidapo Balogun
Since he defied the arrangement of his governing All Progressives Congress (APC) to emerge Senate President on June 9, President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to grant audience to Senator Bukola Saraki.
Even after his election, which rankled the presidency and the leadership of his party, the Senate president had gone further to fill the remaining principal positions in the Senate with his loyalists, as opposed to following the list presented to him by APC leadership, which, if followed, according to analysts, would have helped thaw his bad relationship with Buhari and APC, as it did for equally recalcitrant House Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
Hard as the Senate President tried since then, Buhari’s doors had remained shut in his face. During the last Eid-el-Fitri (End of Ramadan Fast) prayers, for instance, President Buhari and Senate President Saraki offered the two-rakat prayers together at the praying ground in Abuja. But they hardly exchanged greetings, with the president hardly turning in Saraki’s direction.
Later, some 13-point allegation of false declaration of assets was slammed against the Senate president by the Code of Conduct Bureau and his trial is at present ongoing at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. The tribunal has adjourned proceedings till October 21st, 22nd and 23rd.
And all entreaties to President Buhari allegedly by Northern Emirs and other political leaders in the country to intervene in the matter and get the CCB to drop the charges have not been heeded.
But at Nigeria’s 55th Independence Day Celebration on Thursday in Abuja attended by the president and Senate president among others, Buhari and Saraki appeared cozy with each other. They engaged in tete a tete, grinning from ear to ear, laughing heartily and exchanging banters.
Most national newspapers in the country interpreted that to mean that the duo have rediscovered their new-found relationship, which had seen Saraki deploying his time, energy and resources to support Buhari to emerge as APC presidential candidate and later as president even when the elections were postponed by six weeks and APC and its leaders were running out of funds.
The highly influential THISDAY Newspaper christened it thus: “Buhari, Saraki Break Ice in Low Key Anniversary Celebration”. The newspaper said the icy relationship between the two appeared to be thawing as both leaders engaged in a tete a tete and laughed heartily at the event.
Some other newspapers said “Buhari, Saraki Unite at Independence Day Anniversary”. Some had stated that some form of political solution to the problem between the two leaders would now follow.
But are the two national leaders back as friends? As pointed out earlier, Saraki’s trial at the CCT is still ongoing with the tribunal only adjourning proceedings till later this month. Meanwhile, Justice Ahmed Muhammed of a Federal High Court in Abuja has withdrawn from the case filed by Saraki against the CCB and CCT, alleging that a report in an online newspaper that he ordered that the trial be stopped, when he had not done so, had compromised him. This means the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, will have to reassign the case.
But speaking on the sideline of the recent United Nation’s General Assembly in New York, Buhari had stated that he could be impeached if he interfered with the trial.
He told Sahara TV in an interview: “What has the President got to do with it as a person. The case is in court. Do Nigerians expect me to tell the Chief Justice of Nigeria to tell whichever court that they should n’t try the Senate President?.
“Do Nigerians know the constitution of their country; that the Legislature, Judiciary and Executive have got their roles within the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Then how do they expect me to interfere? I can be successfully impeached if I do it”.
And asked if he would pass any vote of confidence in the Senate President, in the light of the backing of Saraki by 83 Senators on Tuesday, Buhari said: “That would depend on the outcome of the trial.”
Responding to a question about his current relationship with the Senate President, Buhari said he had been communicating with Saraki through letters.
So what has changed? Has the tete a tete between the two leaders at the Independence anniversary celebration an indication that all is well between the two? Are the charges against the Senate President at the CCT going to be dropped now and his trial discontinued? We wait and see!