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OPINION: Bukola Saraki is unfit to Occupy any Office

By Babs Ajayi

BALTIMORE, MD (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – It is often very necessary to say things as they are without putting it under the tongue to convey: Bukola Saraki is unfit to occupy any office. The truth is that he is trying everything possible to avoid his trial for false asset declaration; he is seeking soft landing – reaching out to every supposed power broker, highly influential individuals and people who might know Muhammadu Buhari to help prevail on Buhari to order the discontinuation of his trial. Every step he has taken point directly to the truth: guilty. He is guilty and he knows it, and only the termination of the trial at the stage can save him, but he does not deserve to be saved, rather he should face trial and be made to face the full weight of the law. Saraki is not above the law and nobody in Nigeria is above the law – otherwise we should bid goodbye to democracy. The facts made available by the prosecutor clearly substantiate the charges of false asset declaration. Saraki is cornered and he has nowhere to hide. He is now like the rain-soaked egungun who ordinarily must not be touched by water or will be forced into extinction. He has murdered sleep and peace of mind has deserted him. Saraki’s lawyer, a SAN and former justice minister, did not serve the prosecutor the new motion that stopped the commencement of trial. Mr Kanu Agabi apologized for erroneously serving the motion on the Federal Ministry of Justice! Clearly that is a dubious oversight; another SAN making mockery of the law and playing his part in the rape of justice and abuse of due process.

It was so easy and cheap to come up with an apology while still thwarting the legal process and undermining the rule of law merely to postpone the evil day. A legal bill will land on the desk of the accused for a job well done and service well provided by Mr. Agabi and the other 50 lawyers Saraki had retained to defend him. Fifty plus lawyers is an indication that Saraki appreciates the magnitude of the case and the problem he faces. Who cares about a good name in Nigeria anymore? To hell with a good name when you can load your bank account and build more mansions out of which you need just one room to rest your head each night – and that is if sleep attends to you. The dumbness of the whole enterprise!

The noise that the prosecution of Saraki was politically motivated hold no water; the truth of the matter is that he has a case to answer and the charges against him are very serious, and he should face up to the charges and defend himself rather than trying to prevent prosecution. He took the matter to the Supreme Court and lost, but he is still trying to avoid standing trial because he knows he will go down and be consigned to the footnotes of history and ignominy. The truth is that his asset declarations have clearly exposed him while his quest for more political office such as moving from governorship position to the Senate further helped to force his hand and provide more evidence of his dishonesty, greed, and a lack of integrity.

The other day Saraki received a letter from former President Obasanjo on the need for the National Assembly (NA) to be prudent and avoid needless, wasteful use of dwindling state funds. He finally responded to the letter, but within days more exotic cars were procured by the NA. Abusing other people’s funds is something that Saraki does not lose sleep over and that is why it is not shocking that he approved and supported the collection of exotic cars and SUVs by the NA. The CCB’s allegation against Saraki states that he “corruptly acquired many properties while in office as the governor of Kwara State but failed to declare some of them in the said forms earlier filled and submitted.” You will wonder as a hard working Nigerian what job and work Mr. Saraki did that his asset is in excess of N10 billion. For a man whose career spanned about ten years at Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria (SGBN), about 2 years as Special Assistant on Budget under President Obasanjo, and then two terms as governor of Kwara State from 2003 to 2011, every sensible human being will be shocked to hear that he owned the following around 2003 when he became governor:

Declared Asset (Cash) Amount

Cash at hand N2, 500,000

Societe General Bank, Martins Street, Lagos N11, 050,000

Ecobank Broad, Street, Lagos N350, 000

Citizens Bank, Broad Street, Lagos N390, 000

Citizens Bank (in the name of Better Foods Ltd) N600, 000

Ecobank Broad Street (in the name of Carlisle Properties) N10,250,000

GTB (in the name of BAS Trading & Manufacturing) N2, 900,000

Societe Bank Broad Street (in the name of Better Foods) N23, 000,000

GTB N3, 000,000

TOTAL (Cash) N51, 540,000

By 2003, young Bukola Saraki then about 40 years old, and who has worked for less than fifteen years already has more than N50 million in various bank accounts and properties in Lagos and Abuja valued at N2.3 billion beside funds held overseas, shares and interests in businesses at home and abroad. More billions of naira in cash and properties will follow during his 8 years as governor of Kwara State. I know many are shocked that Mr. Saraki was so hard working – far more hard working than his contemporaries that his wealth just kept multiplying even as the fortune of Societe Generale Bank where he worked for about ten years plummeted rapidly. Also to suffer a huge hit in its decline of fortune was the state of Kwara because by the time the now holier-than-thou Saraki left the state his wealth had seen some of the strangest climb in history. You will wonder if he spent those eight years in Ilorin working for the state or working for himself. That he has the audacity to talk about integrity and morals continue to shock many people, particularly those who knew him at SGBN and in Ilorin, Kwara State. The people do not need him and he should not and never be allowed to occupy any position anywhere. What value did he add to SGBN in ten years? He left the bank in a coma while he waited to pounce on Kwara State.

SGBN eventually went down, heavily battered and brutalized, killed by the supposed owners, its shareholders duped and defrauded by some callous and mindless operators who prefer to refer to themselves as directors and owners. How can anyone claim to own a bank when his investment is less than one percent of depositors’ funds? The so-called bank owners in the 1980s and 1990s were empowered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to defraud depositors and to steal from Nigerians. The demise of SGBN cost a 65-year old man his life. The man had deposited an N8 million cheque from his sales into his account at the bank without knowing that the bank was already dead and waiting to be buried. How much of his own personal money did Bukola Saraki lose when SGBN eventually collapse?

But then these are the assets he was open and bold enough to declare. What about the assets he did not declare? Some of us have always insisted that the asset declaration documents of public servants and office holders should always be made public and easily accessible for every Nigerian to see. If a man/woman wishes to hold public office, he/she should be ready for close scrutiny; for the electorate to know what he/she own when he/she assumes office and when he/she exit office. Is there a unit that verify the asset declared by the bunch of predominantly criminal Nigerian political class? I very much doubt that, and wonder why no effort is put into verifying declared asset. Pre-emptive looting is real in Nigeria – a situation where an office holder declares ahead of time what he plan to steal. A few APC governors were accused of pre-emptive looting in their asset declaration forms about four years ago. Nigerians reserve the right to see their exit asset declaration forms because the people have the right to see what was declared at the assumption of office and what the office holder is now worth at the end of his/her term.

Bukola Saraki’s grouse with social media and online blogs has been because they revealed his asset declaration documents to the world. He wants to muzzle them and probably enact a law that will send them to jail for speaking the truth. Nigerians deserve to see the asset declaration form of Bukola Saraki when he left Kwara State and moved to the Senate. If Mr. Saraki truly believes in transparency as he has mouthed a few times, then he should release his asset declaration forms when he left office as governor of Kwara State and when he assumed office as a senator and as Senate President. Nigerians are tired of his lies, grand deception and attempts to evade prosecution. He has been finally cornered and now he has nowhere to hide. Not even a legion of lawyers and SANs will reverse his fortune right now. The whole world is watching and not even President Buhari can help him anymore. The die is cast, the lawyers are hawks who are in it for what they can grab and the only person facing certain disrepute and likely imprisonment is Busola Saraki. He may not know it but anti-corruption groups around the world are closely monitoring the proceedings in Abuja. Global Witness is clearly observing what is going on in Abuja and the trial of Bukola Saraki is one they will continue to follow to the very end. On his website, Saraki’s by line was “Towards Open and Transparent Government.” Transparency and openness are now all we ask of Bukola Saraki and he should not fail us. The days of long nights, restlessness, perhaps regrets – that is if he is honest to himself – are here for Saraki and it is better for him to stop his shenanigans and face up to his trial.

Babs Ajayi





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