By Ifeanyi Ottah
Following the crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the new leadership of the National Assembly led by Senator Bukola Saraki, the analysts are of the view that the real impact of horse trading that produced an APC Senate president in the person of Saraki representing Kwara central and a PDP Deputy Senate President in the person of Senator Ike Ekweremadu, representing Enugu West would perhaps be a sign of what to expect in the race for presidency in 2019.
Even as the new political arrangement were slightly different in the House of Representatives, with the APC producing both the speaker Honourable Yakubu Dogara, of Bogoro/Dassy/Tafawa Balewa Federal Constituency of Bauchi State and the Deputy Speaker, Honourable Sulaiman Lasun Yusuf, representing Irepodun/Osogbo federal constituency of Osun State, it was still the show of the new opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which teamed up with the ruling party faction of the ruling party to snatch the speakership position from the APC’s anointed candidate, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, representing Surulere Federal Constituency.
In what could be described as the “Tambuwal syndrome”, the defunct Action congress of Nigeria (ACN) led by now the national leader of APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, from the outside and incidentally again Gbajabiamila from within the House of Representatives, collaborated with PDP rebels to enthrone the now Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal as speaker, against the then PDP’s choices Honourable Mulikat Adeola-Akande.
However, what exactly played out penultimate Tuesday was a repeat of 2011 precedent except that fact that while PDP supplanted both chambers with the emergence of Ekweremadu as deputy to Saraki, while ACN/APC then supplanted PDP only in the lower chamber.
Interestingly, PDP now has effective power in the two chambers of the National Assemby, while the rejection or plans to punish both Saraki and Dogara as well as their APC supporters by the ruling party leadership could only pull them into the comforting embrace of the PDP, whose all their party leaders including governors broke out in jubilation, celebrating what pundits described as a resurgence of the defeated party.
APC has threatened to follow due process and punish Saraki and Dogara for acting against the directive of the party not to contest for the offices they now occupy.
Addressing newsmen on Thursday, after a meeting between the pro-Lawan Senators and the leadership of the party in Abuja, APC National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, insisted that Saraki and Dogara will be sanctioned, but assured that due process would be observed.
On the specific reason for the Senators’ visit to the party’s secretariat, Mohammed said the lawmakers came to confer with the leadership on the crisis in the National Assembly.
He said, “That’s all I’m allowed to say. They are our Senators that will like to confer with the party’s leadership, they came to confer on the crisis in the National Assembly.”
Asked about the sanctions the APC promised to extend to the erring lawmakers, the party’s spokesman said: “The party has not changed its position on the matter. The sanctions must follow due process.”
On the party’s reaction to the decision of Lawan’s group to go to court, he said, “I think the party made its expression clear on the matter, that it is unhappy with the out come of the election and I think we won’t say anything beyond that. What the senators will do is within the capability and rights of the senators. I’m not aware they have gone to court.”
However, Saraki and Dogara in any case are not strangers to their new found friends. They are former associates in PDP before crisis drove them out with five governors under the leadership of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, and they joined APC.
The new romance no doubt seems more like a home coming for them and in that regard they are immune from impeachment because APC Senators (those loyal to the party leadership) who are opposed to their emergence may not muster the two thirds majority to impeach either of them.
AMEN Super News gathered that in the build up to the Tuesday’s political earthquake, both the Saraki and Senator Ahmed Lawan’s camps had been making wide consultations considering the fact that none would win without the PDP Senators-elect. Lawan’s camp was said to have calculated that PDP as a party, would not do business with Saraki, having been one of those who weakened it by pulling out and contributing majorly to its defeat on the March 28 Presidential and National Assembly elections.
But with PDP governors reportedly led by Ekiti state governor, Ayodele Fayose, spearheading the negotiation in collaboration with senator David mark, the Saraki offer was said to have been more exciting with better prospects.
Saraki’s deal reportedly provided Dogara with an opening with PDP, as the two decided to team up for survival. PDP also reportedly settled for Dogara for ethnic ad religious balancing, having been a Christian minority from Bauchi State.
Dogara’s candidature reportedly was appealing to the PDP in the South-East and South-South. It was also said that with the president being a Muslim, the vice president a Christian and the senate president a Muslim, it was just fair to elect another minority who is a Christian as the speaker, considering that Gbajiamila is a muslim.
PDP’s involvement in the National Assembly deals sprang surprise as it helped the ruling party to achieve the ethnic balancing many in its fold had been clamouring for, with appointment spread that now covers all the goe-political zones except the south-south.
Saraki, however, had denied quitting APC, but such political talks are hardly believable
Observers posited that while Dogara poses minimal headache to the bruised ego in APC, Saraki has a political history that would strengthen him for a bigger challenge for those kicking against his political promotion, even if he truly has no presidential agenda in 2019, which is said to be main plank of the opposition to his occupation of the number three position.
Last week’s political earthquake no doubt has widened the gulf between the two central tendencies in the APC.
Despite Buhari being the official national leader of the party by virtue of being the president, he was not at the for-front of installing the principal officers of the National Assembly and had used several fora to express his neutrality and non-alignment in the process of selecting party’s candidates for the top-most legislative positions and his readiness to work with those that would eventually emerge.
AMEN Super News learnt that in spite of Buhari’s confessed neutrality, in the whole game, a governor in the North-central was said to be the arrow-head of the President’s associates, strongly backing Saraki project, while a former, governor, now a ranking senator, reportedly coordinated the Abuja meeting for Saraki for Buhari’s camp.
An impeccable source also revealed that Buhari’s associates, especially those from the Northern APC, were becoming more embittered by the day, following the perceived way Buhari is being disrespected while Tinubu was being seen by many as the ultimate godfather of the party, despite the president being the national leader.
A ranking Senator from the North was quoted as saying in a caucus meeting that “is Tinubu not just an ordinary former governor like us? Why should everybody now worship him?
“We will prove to him that we play better politics.”
However, many have wondered that the APC, which criticized everything that the PDP did while in control of the Federal Government, is now guilty of the same sins.
Where is then the change that APC promised Nigeria? They asked. If the party would impose candidates for senate president and speaker and as well ordered both Senators and House of Representatives to support the party’s choice against their will, then it shows that APC has nothing better to offer than what PDP offered Nigeria for the past sixteen years.
Reading Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s press statement, expressing what pundits described as the APC frustration about Saraki’s victory at the National Assembly makes one to wonder if the party actually thinks that democracy is dictatorship.
The Party said: “The All Progressives Congress (APC) has described as totally unacceptable and the highest level of indiscipline and treachery the conduct of Tuesday’s inauguration of the National Assembly that led to the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon Yakubu Dogara, as Senate President and speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively.
“Senator Bukola and Hon Dogara are not the candidates of the APC and a majority of its National Assembly members-elect for the positions of Senate President and House Speaker. The Party duly met and conducted a straw poll and clear candidates emerged for the posts of Senate President, Deputy Senate President ad Speaker of the House of Representatives, supported by a majority of all Senator-elect and member-elect of the House of Representatives.
All National Assembly members-elect who emerged on the platform of the party are bound by that decision.
“The party is superior to that of its individual members. Consequently, the APC leadership is meeting in a bid to re-establish discipline in the party and to mate out the necessary sanctions to all those involved in what is nothing but a monumental act of indiscipline and betrayal to subject the party to ridicule and create obstacles for the new administration.
“APC described a situation in which some people, bear on nothing but inordinate ambition and lack of discipline and loyalty, will enter into an unholy alliance with a very same people whom the party and indeed, the entire country worked hard to replace and sell out the hard won victory of the party.
“There can be no higher level of treachery, disloyalty and insincerity within any party. The party vowed to resolve the matter using all constitutional and legal means available to it.”
How PDP Outwitted APC
The meeting of the PDP took place at the residence of the former Senate President, David Mark, at the Apo legislators quarters, and had in attendance 47 Senators-elect, with Mark and Ike Ekweremadu presiding.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Working Committee (NWC) members led by the acting National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, and other NWC, members were also in attendance.
The Party members had three options to weigh, and they are either to adopt Senator Bukola Saraki, present and support a neutral candidate as the senate president, or to support Senator Ahmed Lawan.
However, the option of adopting Lawan was immediately dismissed, just as the second option of supporting a neutral candidate was also rejected. Then came the first option of adopting Saraki as the PDP candidate.
But after due deliberation, the matter was put to vote. After the vote, 28 PDP Senators wanted to adopt a neutral candidate.
While the voting was on AMEN Super News gathered that Senators Mark and Ekweremadu abstained from voting while one vote was voided. Finally the party agreed to support Saraki who polled 28 votes among the 49 PDP Senators present at the meeting.
Having taken the decision the former Governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, got up and spoke on behalf of those in support of the PDP Senators who were favour of sponsoring a neutral candidate for the senate presidency.
According to him, since democracy was all about abiding by the decision of the majority, he and his colleagues had decided to support the majority decision.
While this was on the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, walked into the meeting and was briefed on what had transpired at the meeting.
The meeting then ushered in Saraki to inform him of the decision taken by the party to adopt him and vote for him during the election. The meeting came to an end at about 1:10am Tuesday morning. To reaffirm the decision of the PDP Senators, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Olisa Metuh, sent out a statement which read: “The PDP has adopted Senator Bukola Saraki for the position of Senator President.
In the same vein, the PDP adopted Hon. Yakubu Dogara for the position of the speaker of the House of Representatives.
The party therefore urged its senators and members-elect in the National Assembly to act accordingly.”
When the news of Saraki’s adoption by the PDP filtered out in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the National Publicity Secretary of All Progressives Congress (APC) Lai Mohammed sent out a message that President Muhammadu Buhari would be meeting the APC National Assembly members at the International Conference at 9:00am.
This message came despite the fact that there was a subsisting letter from letter Buhari that the National Assembly would be inaugurated at 10am.
By 8:30am, the APC lawmakers had arrived the International Conference Centre for their meeting with Buhari, and by 9a.m. many of them were seated.
But as they waited in vain for Buhari’s arrival, at 10:15a.m, news filtered in that the Senate was being inaugurated and election of the Senate President about to take place.
On reception of the news, the APC lawmakers left the meeting and rushed to the National Assembly. Their movement was hindered by the heavy traffic within the central Business Area of Abuja. It took that APC lawmakers almost an hour to get to the National Assembly complex.
By the time they arrived in the Senate chamber, they were indeed late and there could not vote.
Meanwhile some supporters of Lawan who were present, did not vote as they could not understand what was happening, especially when the clerk of the National Assembly, Abubakar Salisu Maikasuwa, called for nominations after Saraki had been nominated.
WHY NORTHERN APC SENATORS VOTED SARAKI
AMEN Super learnt from a ranking senator that prior to the Tuesday political earthquake senators-elect in APC from the North backed out of the Ahamed Lawan for- senate President Project when they learnt that the intention was to cage President Buhari as plotted by some Action congress of Nigeria (ACN) elements in APC, who nominated the vice President.
The senator, who doesn’t want his name in print, said the elements who wanted senator Lawan to emerge as senate Presi8dent, essentially from the CAN bloc of the APC did everything possible to ensure they arm-twisted the senator’s sympathetic to Saraki.
He said: “Sometime last week it got so bad that their men stormed the transcorp Hilton, Abuja, where most of us stayed and had our meeting to attack members. The attack came as the last effort after we resisted their inducement.
“Yes, we were al approached to vote the people they wanted in the two chambers of the national Assembly, but we said no. we resisted them because we were on a mission to salvage our party, and we were bent on voting the person that would serve our interest. Now PDP is in the opposition and we have to teach APC a lesson in position opposition.”
The senator revealed that if the PDP National Assembly plot had been carried through to conclusion, there are indications that the APC would also have suffered another bad outing in the House of Representatives.
According to him, there were plans already kept ready for the House of Representatives to also elect PDP members as the deputy speaker from the south-south.
It was also revealed that the PDP caucus had got into a pact with the Yakubu Dogara camp for Hon. Leo Ogor,a PDP member from Delta State, to be the deputy speaker. But shortly after the election that returned Hon. Dogara as speaker, the defeated contestant, Hon Gbajabiamila, acted fast and approached the new speaker and pleaded with him that the south-West, with much membership of the House on the APC platform should not be left empty-handed. This point sounded valid to Dogara who immediately approached Ogor for his understanding, and the latter was said to have conceded, stating that if dropping his interest would foster smooth working in the House he would not mind.
The senator also stated that after they defined several efforts to woo them over, “the same people that had been persuading us resorted to force and had to get security agents to intimidate us and make us yield. It was at that point that we all vacated our suites in Hilton and relocated to the Sandtalia hotel in Abuja to conclude our plan and held to the decision we had taken.”
He said although they had facts of the plot as coming from the ACN arm of the APC, “It was the mild drama where some senators walked out of the chamber while in session on Wednesday, a day after the inauguration, that we got the massage very clear. As those senators filed out of the chambers, we all noticed that the Northern APC members who were among them, from the beginning, remained in chambers, all those that walked out were south-west APC senators”.
It was also revealed that one major fact that turned the table in favour of Saraki was the nation that the plot to ensure that Lawan emerged Senate President was for the CAN bloc to cage Buhari.
“There is this feeling that CAN bloc led by Tinubu had already taken the vice President’s slot, and allowing them determined who manages the National Assembly was like simply taking too much and making the sure they manipulate the President with their men around the number one man. That is not politically so und and when the northern Senators of the APC were aware of that plot, they had to beat a retreat and align with Saraki.” Also people who are close to the President must have revealed to him why the agitation over the National Assembly leadership as targeting him, reason he changed his mind about attending the party’s casus meeting in the morning, prior to the election of the National Assembly leaders,” he explained However, owing to this disclosure there are indication that APC which was formed by strange bed follows, would split along the parties from which the party was formed following to this early crack.
However, the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyeggun, on Friday said the party had accepted Saraki as the President of the Senate.
He said the reality was that Saraki’s collogues had dully elected him and the party was ready to live with the reality.
Saraki and speaker of the House of Representatives, Honorable Yakubu Dogara both of the APC emerged as leaders of the National Assembled penultimate Tuesday against the directives of the party, which had earlier asked it members to vote for senator AHMED Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.
Since their emergences, the APC had insisted that Saraki, Dogara and their supporters would be sanctioned.
When asked specifically whether the party would accept Saraki as the President of the senate, Odigie-Oyegun said, “of course! He has been dully elected by his collogues. We have a reality and we must live with it.”
On Saraki’s aborted visit to the APC secretarial on Thursday, the party chairman said there were a lot of consultations going on at that time and he could not have been in two places at the same time.
We said, “Nothing went wrong (on Saraki’s aborted visit) there were a lot of consultations and you can’t be in two places at the same time.
“So, it was not comfortable for us, but we have been talking. We don’t want to make a song and dance of it; everything is being put in proper perspective.”
On the crises that erupted in the party after the elections in the National Assembly, Odigie-Oyegun said the APC had faced greater challenges before and the latest one too would pass away.
“It is not the first or second time we have passed through this kind of scenario and we came out strong. This may not even be the last time, we come out every time stronger and more determined.” He said.