The continued rift between President Muhammadu Buhari and the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has been a major concern to many Nigerians and political watchers.
The genesis of the rift between the two leaders, who are members of the ruling All Progressives Party, APC could be traced to the way Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, had spurned the party’s directive on who to lead the National Assembly and had ridden on the back of an alleged alliance with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP members to clinch the leadership posts in both chambers.
Since the election of the two leaders of the National Assembly, especially that of Saraki, the President has allegedly refused to meet with the Senate President, apart from when they met at the last National Working Council, NWC meeting of APC in Abuja.
Though some party chieftains and close associates of Buhari and Saraki have denied any rift between them, it is a known fact to all Nigerians and the international community as well that all is not well between the numbers one and three citizens.
According to Senator Ali Wakili representing Bauchi South Senatorial District at the upper chamber of the National Assembly, the misunderstanding between Buhari and Saraki, is just a mere rumour.
“I am getting sick and tired of how some people are trying to destabilize this nation through false propaganda by creating bad blood between the National Assembly and the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As a senator of the 8th assembly, as one of those that supported Senator Saraki, I know for sure that neither I nor Saraki nor any supporter of Saraki has on his table the idea of fighting with the presidency.
“The powers of the Presidency, that of the Senate and that of the Judiciary are spelt out in section 4, 5, and 6 of the constitution. They are very explicit if you look at the constitution, the powers of National Assembly in section 5, the powers of executive and Judiciary in section 6 If you go to the Constitution”, Senator Wakili had told newsmen while reacting to the crisis in Bauchi, recently.
He also described as speculative the reports that the president refuse to see Senate President. “That is very speculative, there has never been a situation where Senator Bukola Saraki applied to see the President and he has refused to see him. You all saw them at the International Conference Centre during the last national working committee of the APC. You saw him when he received Mr. President, having banters with PMB and I have confirmed to you that the President has written letters addressed to him as Senate President. If he doesn’t recognize him, will he write letters to him?
But despite the denial of Senator Wakili and others, there are clear indications that the two leaders have not been ‘true friends’ after the election of Saraki against the wishes of the APC which had zoned the post of senate presidency to the North East and anointed Senator Ahmed Lawan as its preferred candidate.
The latest evidence of rift between them was the refusal of the leadership of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Mrs. Anastacia Nwaobia to honour an invitation by the upper chamber. Pro-Saraki senators are accusing the Presidency of instigating the permanent secretary not to honour the invitation.
Nwaobia had communicated to the Senate that she could not honour its invitation without an approval by her supervisors to do so, but the Saraki loyalists said the Senate had the constitutional power to invite Nwaobia and that her refusal constituted an affront to the legitimacy of the Senate President. The Saraki loyalists’ belief apparently rested on the alleged ‘non-acceptance’ of his presidency by the APC and Buhari.
The Senate Ad hoc committee on Finance, in a letter dated June 29, 2015, had reportedly invited Nwaobia and some officials of the finance ministry to appear before the committee on July 8.
But when the permanent secretary did not honour the invitation at 11am on July 8, the Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, wrote another letter to her the same day, restating the invitation.
The permanent secretary was said to have sent a text message to the Senate on July 7, explaining why she could not come.
But the clerk’s letter, a copy of which was sent to the Head of Service of the Federation, read, “I refer to our letter Ref. No. NASS/S//SP/ COS/CORRP/15/1/06 of June 29, 2015 on the above subject matter and your text message of July 7, 2015 to the Chief of Staff to the Senate President, signifying your inability to honour the invitation.
“Your action is a deliberate violation of the provisions of Section 67(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). You are, therefore, requested to appear before the Senate leadership as contained in your aforementioned letter on Wednesday, July 8, 2015 at 2.00pm prompt”, part of the letter reads.
The third letter to the permanent secretary, written by the Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Issa Galaudu, also stressed the importance of the meeting. It reads, “Please note that your text message of yesterday, Tuesday, July 7, 2015, which I received by hours of 20:02 pm, suggesting that you would not make today’s meeting, is unacceptable.
“This is an affront to the President of the Senate and its leadership. The provision of Section 67(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), is very clear and unambiguous in this regard. Hence, you do not need the permission of any official before you attend or appear before the Senate.
“Consequently, I have the instructions of the President of the Senate and leadership that you do appear before them on the date and time earlier communicated to you, Wednesday, July 8, 2015 by 11am prompt. It is my belief that you will comply unconditionally”.
Sunday parliament learnt that as at Thursday before the public holiday declared for Friday and Monday to mark the Eid-el-Fitri celebration by Muslims, the permanent secretary has neither appeared before the Senate leadership nor responded to the letters from the National Assembly management.
However, many Nigerians believe that such action, if allowed to continue would not augur well for the nation’s democracy, a situation where the President will not allow civil servants to do their jobs or respect other arms of government.
Though sources in the Finance Ministry argued that based on civil service procedures, it would be wrong for the permanent secretary to honour the invitation without first getting the approval of the Head of Service of the Federation. The source said since the permanent secretary reports directly to the Head of Service, HoS and not the Senate, it would amount to a breach of protocol for her to appear before the lawmakers without getting the consent of the HoS.
But Lawan’s supporters in the Senate, under the aegis of the Senate Unity Forum, supported Nwaobia’s shunning of the Senate invitation. The group, in a statement by its spokesman, Senator Kabir Marafa, said that since Saraki had allegedly violated some sections of the Constitution to emerge as Senate President, he could not accuse another person of committing the same offence.
“I read with open mouth amazement, the letter written by both the Chief of Staff to the Senate President and that of the Clerk to the National Assembly on the refusal or inability of a government functionary to honour the invitation of the “leadership” of the senate”, Marafa stated.
The last may not have been heard on the rift between Buhari and Saraki as reports have it that the Presidency last week undermined the Senate by turning down another request by Saraki to have a meeting with Buhari before the latter travelled out of the country for lesser Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

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