- Foils plot to remove Ekweremadu
- Governors run to President, caution Saraki
Senate President, Bukola Saraki yesterday snubbed the All Progressives Congress, APC, over its directive that he recognised Senators Ahmed Lawan, George Akume and others as its authentic nominees for the vacant principal offices of the Upper Chamber.
APC National Chairman, Chief Odigie-Oyegun, had written a letter to Saraki, asking him to accept the party’s nominees for the affected offices.
At yesterday’s plenary, the concerned APC Senators had expected Saraki to read the letter to pave the way for their inauguration.
After waiting endlessly for Saraki to read the letter, which he declined, Senator Gbenga Ashafa from Lagos State, summoned the courage and urged the Senate President to read the letter. His action was promptly countered by a pro-Saraki Senator, Bala Na’Allah.
Saraki promptly ruled out Senator Ashafa and the letter was not read on the floor of the Red Chamber.
Prior to this development, Ashafa had told Saraki that: ‘’A letter written by the national chairman of our great party, the largest party in Africa, the APC, was sent here and by the special grace of God, we expected that that letter, which has been received by your office, with due respect, would be read in order to see to the resolution of the party’s leadership tussle.
“Let me go to Order 28 (1), I read with your permission: Majority Leader of the Senate: There shall be Majority Leader of the Senate nominated by the party with the highest number of seats in the Senate.
“Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate: There shall be a Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate. A Deputy Majority Leader shall be a Senator nominated from the party, again, with the highest number of seats in the Senate.
“There shall be a Chief Whip in the Senate. The Chief Whip shall be a Senator nominated from the party with the highest number of seats in the Senate.
“Again, 31(4): There shall be a Deputy Majority Whip of the Senate. He shall be a Senator nominated from the party with the highest number of seats in the Senate.
“Mr. President, by virtue of the privilege of being one of the Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and coming from our party, I believe that that letter should have been read to the hearing of all Senators here present. Perhaps, that will be the solution to the leadership tussle in the Senate.”
As soon as he was done, Senator Na’Allah countered him, saying that, “I am proceeding on the same Order 28 just to offer explanation. By the popular rules of interpretation of documents that has been agreed by parties, the ordinary letters and words used must be given their effective meaning.
“With your permission, I am going to read sir: “There shall be a Majority Leader of the Senate. The Majority Leader shall be a Senator ‘nominated from not by.’ What this seems to do is to debar the internally displaced side from nominating the majority leader and to confer it on the All Progressives Congress which incidentally happens to have the highest number in the 8th Senate. So with due respect, the point of order raised by my bosom friend and brother, Ashafa, even goes further to explain the raison d’être, as to why the Senate President shall not proceed to read that letter allegedly sent to this chamber by the All Progressives Congress. And therefore, we should go ahead with the functions and exercise of this Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria based on what we have accepted as majority party: that change is the platform that we will ride to move this country forward. So, I urge that this matter cannot stand.”
Saraki quickly ruled: “I have listened to Senator Gbenga Ashafa and Senator Na’Alla and in going by our rules and in going by what I said earlier, I would just note what Senator Ashafa has said. I think we will leave the matter. In that case, I will rule that point out of order.”
And the move was killed.
When the APC Senators failed in their bid to have the letter read, they turned the heat on the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who they insisted must step down from his office for an APC lawmaker to take over.
Again, Saraki rose to the challenge as the plot was aborted.
Ekweremadu, who is of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, emerged Deputy Senate President in the APC-dominated Senate on June 9, 2015 when some of the ruling party’s Senators went to the International Conference Centre for a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at a time the National Assembly was being proclaimed.
The plot to unseat Ekweremadu was spearheaded by Senator Kabiru Marafa who raised a point of order that the election of Ekweremadu was in breach of the Senate’s Standing Rules.
He said the rules that the Senate was using were initiated in 2011, which provide that an election into any of the presiding offices in the Red Chamber shall be via division and not secret ballot where two contestants are vying for any of the positions.
He observed that Ekweremadu’s election was done through secret ballot where he defeated Senator Ali Ndume of the APC. He wondered when the rules were amended and requested for an explanation from Saraki.
But, Saraki ruled him out of order, citing the Senate rules which provide that if a matter on presiding officer’s election has been taken care of, such cannot be revisited.
The leadership of APC had heaved a sigh of relief on Monday after a series of meetings meant to broker peace between feuding members of the Senate Unity Forum and Senators of Like Mind ended with an agreement on the zoning of leadership positions.
At the meeting of the party with APC senators on Monday night, the Chief Whip’s office was zoned to the South-West, with Senator Olusola Adeyeye (Osun Central) as the candidate.
Also, the Deputy Senate Leader’s office was zoned to the North-Central and Senator George Akume (Benue North-West) was tipped for the office, while Senator Abu Ibrahim (Katsina South, North-West) got the office of Deputy Chief Whip.
But, trouble started when at a closed-door session held by the APC Caucus, Saraki told the senators that each zonal caucus should meet and present their choices for the offices.
In a reaction, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi (Kaduna North), a member of the Senate Unity Forum, rejected the suggestion by Saraki, saying it was the exclusive preserve of the party to do so.
He insisted that the party would bring the names of the officers.
At this point, Senator Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo Central), the only South-West senator who belongs to the Saraki’s camp, shouted Hunkuyi down, saying, “No, the party will not decide for us.” He queried the rationale for the choice of Adeyeye by the party for the post of Chief Whip, remarking that Senator Ajayi Borrofice (Ondo North) would have been a better choice.
This submission infuriated Marafa (Zamfara Central) who accosted Alasoadura and pushed him violently, prompting other senators to rush to his rescue.
Obviously angered by the incident, Hunkuyi rushed to the door, opened it and invited the press to cover the melee.
The Saraki’s group had chosen Senator Francis Alimikhena, the only senator from the South-South on the platform of the APC for the office of Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Adeyeye as Chief Whip, and Senator Na’Alla from the North-West as Deputy Chief Whip.
But the APC rejected Alimikhena for Akume who, like Saraki, hails from the North-Central.
Shocked by the incident, the Progressive Governors’ Forum, which comprises APC governors on Tuesday night ran to President Buhari, seeking his intervention in the National Assembly crisis.
The governors also called on the leadership of the National Assembly and all APC lawmakers to abide by the position of the party on who occupies the remaining leadership positions in both the Red and Green Chambers.
The lawmakers supporting Saraki and Dogara, have however rejected the list.
Rising from a nocturnal meeting with President Buhari on Tuesday, the governors frowned at the situation where some lawmakers are trying to see the issue from the winner-takes-all point of view, saying the supremacy of the party should be the watchword of all office holders, whether in the Executive or Legislature.
Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, who is the chairman of the forum, made the position of the governors known, when he spoke with State House correspondents after the meeting.
“We are the APC governors; we met with Mr. President because we are worried by what is happening at the National Assembly.
“We felt we should rub minds with Mr. President and also commend him on the steps he has taken so far to address the issue of the economy of the nation which is literally in shambles,” he said.
Okorocha noted that the meeting they had with Buhari was reassuring, adding that it was an indication that there would be light at the dark end of the tunnel.
“But with all these achievements we are making, we are worried by the pockets of disagreement going on at the National Assembly and we have resolved that we came from a party and our party’s views should be respected.
“So, we feel that there is room for us to invite our senators and look more into the matter and see how we can all make peace.
“We believe that our party, which we all came from should be respected and for that reason, we have decided that we are going to invite our senators and rub minds with them.
“We are saying that there should not be a winner takes it all situation, that we should carry everybody along, accommodate others as suggested by the party,” Okorocha said.
Speaking in the same vein, Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, told journalists that “basically what we are saying is that the senators should adopt the position of the party.
“We were all elected on the platform of the party; we are not just a collection of individuals. We are a political party and when the party has spoken we must listen otherwise if it was a game of individuals like golf, then individuals can go their way.
“I think it is very clear at this point that the party has the responsibility to keep the system going. So we as progressive governors have listened to the president and we have discussed extensively and we are clear that the party’s position should be supported by the senators; this is the way it should be and we should start on a note of walking closely.”
He added that the governors listen to the party, and as such, it is expected that APC senators should also do the same.
“We are going to call them and tell them this is it and explain our reasons, we can’t continue to allow individuals to have their way; it is about party supremacy,” the governor stressed.
The meeting, which started around 11pm, was held at the State House New Banquet Hall with 16 APC governors in attendance.