Despite A Mock Election Through Which It Attempted To Impose A Leadership On The National Assembly, All Progressives Congress (APC) Suffered A Disgraceful Defeat By Its Rebellious Members Backed By Their PDP Allies
Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday proved again that it is still the masters of the political game in Nigeria when it elected Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki as the Senate President of the 8th National Assembly. This is even as the PDP also produced Senator Ike Ekweremadu as the Deputy Senate President (DSP).
A Kwara Central senator of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Saraki was not the preferred choice of the Party, which opted for Senator Ahmad Lawan from Yobe North. During APC’s mock election for the principal officers of the National Assembly very late last Saturday, 33 out of 59 APC senators-elect openly gave their support for the candidature of Lawan, leaving Saraki with only 26 APC senators-elect.
The mock election was to ensure that the APC does not go into the election proper yesterday (Tuesday) with a divided house. But Saraki not only refused to budge, but instead he claimed in a statement signed by the coordinators of the Like Mind Senators (LMS), Dino Melaye (Kogi West) and Rufai Ahmad Sani Yerima (Zamfara West), that he had the backing of 65 senators across party lines for yesterday’s contest.
In the statement, Saraki said that the outcome of the APC primary election was not binding on his aspiration as he would contest against Lawan on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday morning. “We the senators-elect of Like Minds, on the invitation of our party, attended an interactive meeting with selected five members from each group, the Unity Forum and the Like Minds group.
“Regrettably, the Unity Forum insisted on open ballot voting, which we discovered is different from the electoral process used to conduct the earlier election with the House of Representatives’ members-elect. To us, this open ballot voting is primitive; undemocratic and against universal electoral norms and practice. “In the light of the above, we the Senators-elect of Like Minds hereby insist on our position of Open Secret voting process which we believe is in consonance with the provisions of the electoral act, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the universal electoral values.
“As responsible citizens of Federal Republic of Nigeria, and leaders in our own right, we have resolved and hereby state that we shall not be part of a process that promotes undemocratic electoral process that may resort to rancorous and uncivil situations which inhibits the rights of individuals to vote for the candidate of their choice, as this process will further divide us than unite members of our party.
“In conclusion, we the senators-elect of Like Minds wish to state categorically that we will participate only in the constitutional election scheduled for Tuesday, the 9th of June 2015 in line with the rules of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the statement read in part. Following the outcome of the APC mock election, Ekweremadu arranged a meeting of the PDP senators-elect at former Senate President’s home last Sunday, where the decision to give Saraki a block vote was decided. The UNION also recalls that the agreement of the PDP senators-elect was collaborated by the leadership of the Party.
Very early on Tuesday (yesterday) morning, the Party’s National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, issued a statement, where he urged the PDP senators and members-elect to act accordingly. “The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has adopted Senator Bukola Saraki for the position of Senate President. “In the same vein, the PDP has adopted Hon. Yakubu Dogara for the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“The Party, therefore, urges its senators and members-elect in the National Assembly to act accordingly,” the statement entitled ‘NASS Leadership: PDP Adopts Saraki, Dogara’, read. Meanwhile, a last minute attempt to save the APC the embarrassment of losing firm control of the National Assembly was initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari, who summoned the APC federal lawmakers to an emergency meeting. The UNION reports that the meeting, which was scheduled to hold by 9 a.m. at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja, preceded the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly.
According to a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the Party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, all elected federal legislators “must endeavour to attend this meeting”. It was obviously the last attempt by the leadership of the APC to paper the cracks in the party ahead of the election of principal officers of the Assembly. Buhari, who had been at the G7 Summit in Germany, while the crisis festered, will be making the last minute attempt, after earlier ones failed.
The UNION also reports that the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, was said to have called a similar meeting on Monday, but it was shunned by the aggrieved legislators. While Lawan and his group were absent from the Complex, Saraki, who was determined to go through the election with his group, however, shunned the planned meeting with Buhari.
The event, which began about 9:45a.m., was presided over by Clerk of the National Assembly (CNA), Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, who read Buhari’s proclamation letter for the 8th Assembly. Thereafter, Maikasuwa called upon the Deputy Clerk of the Senate, Adedotun Durojaiye, to read out the roll call of all the senators-elect. At this point, a senator-elect observed that some senators-elect were not present at the Chamber.
Maikasuwa, however, noted the observation, but urged Durojaiye to go ahead with the roll call. By 10:23a.m., Maikasuwa, who announced that 57 senators-elect were present at the Chamber, pointed out that the election would go ahead since the figure was higher than needed to form quorum at the senate. Quorum is formed by 38 senators. The nomination for the post of the Senate President was done by Senator Ahmed Yerima about 10:27am. Yerima’s nomination was seconded by Melaye. By 10:31am, Saraki, who was returned unopposed by Maikasuwa, was, thereafter, sworn-in as the Senate President by 10:36am. The PDP’s coup d’etat was completed with the nomination of Ekweremadu for the position of the Deputy Senate President by Senator George Sekibo and seconded by Senator Olaka Nwogo by 10:39am.
Although Senator Ali Ndume was also nominated for the same position, Ekweremadu saw him off with 54 votes against 20 votes, while one senator abstained. By 11:58am, Ekweremadu was sworn-in by Maikasuwa, who also performed the swearing-in of Saraki by 12:02pm.
Thereafter, Saraki performed his first function by swearing-in the rest of the senators that were present. Before the day’s proceedings, the gates leading to the National Assembly Complex were barricaded by armed-to-the-teeth security personnel, who prevented staff and journalists from entering the Complex. The gates were however, opened to staff and journalists around 9:12am.
The UNION gathered that the heavy security personnel were in anticipation to the coming of Buhari, who did not show up at the National Assembly. Buhari Unfazed, But… Reacting to the development, President Muhammadu Buhari said he would have preferred that the election process as mandated by the APC, was followed. In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the President said however, he was of the view that a constitutional process had occurred.
“President Buhari had said in an earlier statement that he did not have any preferred candidate for the Senate and the House of Representatives, and that he was willing to work with whoever the lawmakers elected,” Adesina said. “That sentiment still stands.
Though he would have preferred the new leaders to have emerged through the process established by the party”, Adesina said in the statement. He also stressed that “the stability of our constitutional order and overall interest of the common man were uppermost on the President’s mind, as far as the National Assembly elections were concerned”. The President also called on all the elected representatives of the people to focus on the enormous task of bringing enduring positive change to the lives of Nigerians.