Senators loyal to Senate President Bukola Saraki are using the 2016 Budget row to negotiate a soft-landing for the former Kwara State Governor, who is facing trial for false declarations of assets at the Code for Conduct Tribunal (CCB).
Investigations by Ripples revealed that his loyalists under the aegis of Like Mind Senators met last night at his official residence to take serious positions on the controversy.
President Muhammadu Buhari had refused assent to the Budget after Ministers identified the document had been returned “highly mutilated”.
The President, who is on a week-long trip to China, it was learnt, was told by the Economic Team headed by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo not to sign the Budget presented by the National Assembly last Thursday.
The Senators had removed the Lagos-Calabar rail project and tampered with major infrastructural thrusts of the administration.
Sources at the meeting last night informed that the Senators reasoned Saraki must be stopped from facing trial using the instrumentality of the Budget impasses.
“Truth is they realised the Senate President will surely be prosecuted and jailed. His legal team has run short of any more tricks to play.
“So, they have told him that only a political solution will be the way out. While the legal battles will continue, Saraki has been reliably informed he must resort to political weapons to stave off prosecution,”a source at the meeting confided.
Saraki, it was gathered, has identified the Budget impasse as his last chance to negotiate a soft landing, a position many of his loyalists share.
This is why, sources informed, the Senators have resorted to dragging the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, into the row to whip up sentiments and win support.
“You know Amaechi has many natural enemies. His kinsmen are angry he facilitated the victory of Buhari at the expense of Jonathan.
“The Pro-Saraki elements are using this sentiment to the maximum to ensure that it is seen as another ploy by Amaechi to play dirty politics,” the source added.
The meeting convened by Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West) resolved that the row must be a total stand-off until the Executive is pushed to the wall.
Once the patience of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) is exhausted, Saraki supporters have been primed to step in and convince them the impasse will only be resolved if he is not disgraced.
“It is a very strategic ploy. You know for the first time many Nigerians are desperate for the Budget to be passed. Everything is at a standstill economically.
“The longer this (row) takes, the more Buhari will lose face and goodwill. It will keep setting Nigerians against him. This is something he has always feared.
“We are very aware and ready to latch in on this. Saraki must not be prosecuted. He is a victim of political manipulations. This government cannot disgrace him because he is the face of the National Assembly,” one of his loyalists confirmed to Ripples.
He added: “All we want is an assurance the SP will be saved. The President has to guarantee this. Until then, the Budget can as well wait because we will not allow political detractors to have a field day.”
This subtle blackmail is expected to give Buhari a run for his money, a development many strategists in Saraki’s camp are confident will work to full effect.
As the Senators stepped out of Saraki’s official residence last night, they beamed with smiles fully convinced they have plotted a major onslaught against the Presidency.
Should Buhari remain stubborn, the row will remain a long-drawn one with many subjected to many more weeks of desperate waiting.