The year 2018 could be described as one drama-filled one in the Nigerian Senate under the leadership of Senate President Bukola Saraki.
In as much as he at times tried to evade controversies in 2018, the official fought major battles that tested his political strength.
Several controversies trailed the lawmaker ranging from his in-and-out of court battles with the Code of Conduct Bureau, to disagreements with President Muhammadu Buhari and some appointees, to faceoff with colleagues and also a heated exchange with the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
Below are some major battles that Mr Saraki fought in 2018 in no particular order.
1. Saraki Vs IGP
The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, had in the past one year, been a thorn in Mr Saraki’s flesh.
Besides snubbing the Senate’s invitation three times – which Mr Saraki described as a gross disrespect, the security chief had several times given orders ostensibly to ‘attack’ the Senate.
The IGP had invited Mr Saraki for questioning in early June after some Offa robbery suspects allegedly confessed to being sponsored by him.
But this approach was later abandoned by the police who asked him to send a written response to the allegations instead. The Senate president subsequently sent a written response to the allegations.
Mr Saraki denied all allegations of involvement in the planning or execution of the Offa robbery in April which caused the death of many.
The Senate president was summoned again to appear before the police on the day that 14 senators defected. A siege was laid at his residence and that of his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu. The lawmaker, however, managed to ‘escape’ and later presided over plenary.
The police later frowned at Mr Saraki’s failure to appear as directed and threatened to make him face the consequences. Mr Saraki asked the IGP to send his personnel to question him.
Recently, the lawmaker lashed out at the IGP over an attempt to arrest a senator, Dino Melaye, who has also had conflicts with Mr Idris. Mr Saraki described the police chief as Nigeria’s most partisan police IG.
Mr Idris last week retired from the police and has been replaced as inspector-general.
2. Saraki Vs Oshiomhole
It was all quiet until Mr Saraki dumped the APC and joined the PDP; it became a game of accusations and counter accusations characterised most times by name calling.
Perhaps pricked by his defection – and obviously other lawmakers who followed suit, Mr Oshiomhole, began to verbally attack the Senate president, who did not hesitate to respond.
Shortly after Mr Saraki’s defection, Mr Oshiomhole asked the lawmaker to resign or be removed from office.
In a swift response, Mr Saraki told the APC chairman that all efforts to remove him from office will fail.
He also accused Mr Oshiomhole of behaving like a “rain-beaten chicken” as though he (Mr Saraki) was haunting his life.
The brawl did not end there.
Upon Mr Saraki’s declaration to run for presidency, as expected, Mr Oshiomhole said his decision had “vindicated him”.
He also charged APC members in Kwara State to jettison their personal ambitions and work towards ending the reign of Mr Saraki in Kwara politics.
After the Senate president lost in the primary election, the publicity secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena, said Mr Saraki’s loss shows PDP delegates “were fed up with his political style”.
Mr Saraki replied describing the comment as irresponsible.
The war of words between the two dominated part of Nigerian politics between August and November and there seems to be no end in sight yet.
3. Saraki Vs Omo-Agege
The disagreement between the Delta State senator and Mr Saraki can be traced back to when he was suspended for 90 days for accusing his colleagues of working against President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election plans in 2019.
This he said was done by adopting the amendment to section 25 of the electoral act outlining a change in the sequence of elections.
One week later, following his suspension, the lawmaker stormed the the chamber during plenary followed by some hoodlums who are believed to have been led by him and carted away the mace.
He was, however, quick to deny any wrondoing.
The federal high court in Abuja nullified his suspension even though the Senate tried to appeal.
Mr Omo-Agege did not relent in his verbal attacks which were directed at his colleagues and especially, Mr Saraki.
4. Saraki Vs Ali Ndume
After his suspension in 2017, Ali Ndume began to verbally attack the Senate president and express disappointment at his leadership.
He had said Mr Saraki betrayed him and other senators who supported him (Mr Saraki) and that he regrets supporting him.
In May, he tackled Mr Saraki and accused him of dictatorship.
In September, Mr Ndume criticised the Senate President’s presidential ambition as he said Mr Saraki can only win election in Kwara State.
Mr Saraki has made efforts not to respond to Mr Ndume’s comments but a few times has ‘ignored’ him on the floor of the Senate.
5. Saraki Vs Abdullahi Adamu
Former governor of Nasarawa State has never failed to hide his undying love and support for the president.
He was always willing to tackle anyone whose words or actions are against Mr Buhari in 2018. Although he tackled other colleagues in 2018, his major target was Mr Saraki.
The conflict started when the Senate adopted a report by the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committee on the Amendment to the Electoral Act.
Mr Adamu and nine other senators accused the Senate president of not allowing them to add their voices to the debate.
They eventually left the chamber to address the press while the plenary was still on, insisting that the sequence change was targeted at Mr President.
Mr Adamu, who was later removed as chairman Northern Senators’ Forum in February, began to attack Mr Saraki. Mr Adamu called on the Senate President to resign or face the consequences.
He also accused Mr Saraki of using his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, to do his dirty work.
6. Saraki Vs Tinubu
At the time when the Senate President was battling Mr Oshiomhole, another cold war erupted between him and the APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu.
Mr Tinibu, who claimed to know why people like Mr Saraki and Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal left the party, said in a statement, that they left because the APC could not give them what they wanted – which was automatic tickets and ”sharing of the national wealth which the governing APC could not guarantee”.
According to him, the defectors “left the party to return to a motley agglomeration that would promise them what true democracy could not: automatic tickets, sharing of the national wealth and other offices and privileges”.
And as expected, Mr Saraki, in a swift response, said the reasons advanced by Mr Tinubu were false and mischievous.
He listed the ‘many sins’ of the President Buhari’s administration and the leadership of APC which he said culminated in his defection.
On another occasion, the lawmaker in a leaked audio clip, vowed that Kwara State will never take instructions from any political leader in Lagos State, in veiled reference to Mr Tinubu.
7. Saraki Vs Lai Mohammed
Since Mr Saraki’s exit from the ruling party, it has been a battle for supremacy between him and the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, who is also from Kwara State.
The duo struggled to see their anointed candidates win the Kwara State by-election for Irepodun/Isin/Oke-Ero federal constituency – which was conducted to replace a late princess, Funke Adedoyin.
The APC candidate, Tunji Olawuyi polled 21,236 to emerge winner, while his closest rival, Saheed Alatise of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), scored 18,095.
Mr Saraki and other members of the PDP alleged that the process was skewed against their party.
In a recent attack, Mr Mohammed accused the Senate President of “dancing on the graves of the innocent souls who died in the April 5, 2018 armed robbery attack in Offa”.
He said his comment came after Mr Saraki reportedly said in a radio interview that he donated N10 million when he visited Offa to commiserate with the people in the aftermath of the robbery, ”even when the amount that was stolen from the robbed banks’ vaults was N7 million”.
Mr Mohammed said Mr Saraki did not pay a dime to the robbery victims.
Mr Saraki has dismissed the minister’s comments as falsehood.
8. Saraki’s Failed Presidential Ambition
Mr Saraki’s presidential ambition can also be considered as a major battle he fought in 2018.
He was verbally attacked from the day he made the declaration until the day of the primary election.
He officially announced his decision to run at a public dialogue organised by the #NotTooYoungToRun Movement, a youth pressure group. The group later dissociated itself from Mr Saraki’s ambition.
Mr Saraki lost the battle when a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar defeated him and other aspirants to emerge presidential candidate of the PDP.
Mr Saraki promptly vowed to support Mr Abubakar win the 2019 presidential election. He is currently a prominent member of Mr Abubakar’s campaign team.