A picture of the president of the Nigerian Senate, Bukola Saraki, has just gone viral and tongues are wagging. And for good cause too! In the picture was a baleful Senate president with a barely-concealed disdainful, some call it scornful, look on his face in the direction of President Muhammadu Buhari. If the president had lifted his head for a second, he could not have missed the disdainfully-conspiratorial look on the nation’s number three citizen.
The scornful look hallmarks the stuff conspirators are made of. Some ingenuous commentators have suggested that Dr. Saraki was probably trying out some newly-acquired potent incantation, the type people say is capable of debilitating an imagined foe into making them do your bidding! May be! After all, commonsense tells us never to underrate people who box themselves into a very tight corner because they are capable of anything! Whether or not the incantation or whatever it is will ever ‘demobilize’ the president is not clear; what is beyond doubt is that the president appeared oblivious of what was going on around him. If , indeed he was, then the president played a fast one by looking the other way while Senator Bukola led the world into his mind of minds.
It may sound repulsive but, truth is, conspiracies are hatched in such unlikely places as mosques. Prominent instances of high-profile murder of worshippers in the course of prayers happened in the early days of Islam when two Caliphs had to be murdered before Hazrat Ali, Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law got installed at the behest of his supporters. Those who conspired and murdered to ensure Ali was installed argued that Hazrat Ali should inherit the throne on the strength of blood ties with the prophet. Interestingly, the Prophet did not place much premium on kinship when, at the time of his indisposition, he chose Hazrat Abubakar to lead Muslims in prayers.
Even today, some fringe Muslims still believe, as it was believed during the lifetime of the Prophet, that Ali, a teenager at the Muhammad received the Call was the intended recipient of the Message. It was for this reason that the conspirators, initially known as ‘Supporters of Ali’ but widely known today as Shi’a (Shiite) gave endless troubles to Hazrat Abubakar, the first Caliph (Khalifa) or successor who escaped several attempts on his life. The two successors of Hazrat Abubakar were not lucky as they had to be murdered to pave the way for Hazrat Ali. The schism within the Muslim community, oftentimes the source of needless bloodletting, could be traced to the early conspiracy of the supporters of Hazrat Ali.
Before we get away from this digression, it is important to remind ourselves that Senator Bukola Saraki may be adept at hatching conspiracies but he is not Shi’a! This tells you that conspiracy is not the exclusive preserve of specific individuals and/or groups! It might be trite but, Nigerians cannot tire from reminding themselves that anyone who, for whatever reasons conspires to disgrace a doting father, as Senator Bukola Saraki did ahead of the 2011 general elections, will gladly sell someone else’s father for a bowl of porridge! If truth be told, the Senate president hatched the worse form of conspiracy (is there ever a good conspiracy!) when he employed (Kwara) state resources to retire his father, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, from politics, a development close Saraki loyalists believe hastened the passage of the Senate leader in the Second Republic.
It was natural for tongues to wag after Senator Saraki’s inexplicable ‘frown’ was caught on camera. But, first we must thank the ingenuous photographer for the award-winning shot that lent some element of credence to a mere speculation. Unknown to him, the photographer might have saved the nation the embarrassment of another high-profile conspiracy. If a similar photograph of General Iliya Danjuma Bisalla was acted upon forty years ago, chances are the bloody military coup that claimed the life of then Head of State, General Murtala Ramat Muhammad would have been squelched.
Days after then Defence minister, General I.D Bisalla was arrested for his involvement in the February 13, 1976 coup, a photograph of his went ‘viral.’ The photograph, taken during a meeting of the ruling Supreme Military Council showed General Bisalla with a give-away mean look directed at the Head of State. But, for okra-mouth coup leader, Colonel Bukar Suka Dimka who mentioned ‘sponsors’ of the botched but bloody coup to include General I.D Bisalla and ousted Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, chances are that the Bisalla give-away photograph would never have been made public. Ironically, General Bisalla was at the head of the Federal Government delegation that escorted General Muhammad’s corpse to Kano and played the vintage pall bearer at the burial.
Dr. Saraki’s barely-concealed mean look reminds Nigerians who were old enough to appreciate the conspiracy tht surrounded the 1976 coup to call for more vigilance. Like I.D Bisalla, the Senate president may claim he has an axe to grind with President Buhari. Of course, Senator Saraki and the ‘Saraki is Always Right’ chorus in the Nigerian Senate believe, curiously, that the National Assembly is independent to the point where members can commit all manner of infractions for which they cannot be investigated, tried and jailed.
Specifically, some of them have argued, and lamely too, that the Commander-in-Chief should call off the EFCC investigation into alleged criminal offences committed by Senator Saraki in deference to his contribution for the victory of the president. The Senate president does not appear to see things that way. In one of his usual recriminations, Senator Saraki claimed that he was not a pauper by the time he became governor of Kwara state and was specific that he simply could not put a figure to his worth! No one disputes this claim which only serves to confirm widely-held suspicion that many things went wrong with finances of Kwara state when Dr. Bukola Saraki served as governor.
It is simply ironic that a man who claimed to have amassed a fortune from selling salt and sugar does not even know his worth and continue to oil a lifestyle that would make Aliko Dangote go green with envy. By his confession, Dr. Saraki has left his successor Abdulfatai Ahmed, at the mercy of a visibly angry citizenry. The sitting governor, for obvious reasons, is single-handedly taking the flak that should be shared with his benefactor. It has been Maigida’s dirty duty, for the past five years, to cover up the senseless pillaging of Kwara state by a reckless government in which he was an active participant. Therein lies the challenge before those who favour setting up of special courts to try corruption cases as the idea will most likely be shot down by former governor(s) who enriched and improved themselves at the expense of their states and later stole themselves into the National Assembly.
Therein also lies Senator Saraki’s self-imposed justification to hate and plot against anyone he suspects to be standing in his way. Of course, anyone in Senator Saraki’s shoes will imagine enemies everywhere and anywhere. As things stand, the man is not even contemplating a shot at the presidency, an overriding factor that pushed him into conspiring to hijack the Senate presidency last year. For now, what is paramount on his mind is for the multi-billion Naira defence team he put together to get him off the hook.
There must be some sense in the saying that the snail, despite its remarkable slowness, is not an animal of prey for the hawk!
Magaji is based in Abuja, Nigeria, and can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>