Bukola Saraki And Yakubu Dogara Are Set To Take On Leadership Of The All Progressives Congress And Contest Election For Office Of Senate President And Speaker Despite Imposition Of Ahmed Lawan And Femi Gbajabiamila
Teddy Nwanunobi, Dyepkazah Shibayan, Abuja
With less than 24 hours to the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly, Senator Bukola Saraki has dared his All Progressives Congress (APC) by insisting that he would not back out from the race to the Senate Presidency. As he spoke, the Yakubu Dogara campaign team, also vowed not to uphold outcome of the mock election which held last Saturday to pick Femi Gbajabiamila as sole candidate for the speaker of the House of Representatives. It said Dogara would also contest for the office tomorrow on the floor. Saraki’s determination is coming on the heels of the undemocratic manner he was edged out of the race by the Party’s National Working Committee (NWC) late Saturday night.
During the party’s mock election last Saturday, which was summoned to ensure that APC does not go into the election proper on Tuesday with a divided house, the contest for the position of Senate President between Saraki and Senator Ahmad Lawan from Yobe North, took a different dimension. Thirty-three out of 59 APC senators-elect openly gave their support for the candidature of Lawan, leaving Saraki with only 26 APC senators-elect. But Saraki has refused to budge. He instead claimed in a statement that he had the backing of 65 senators across party lines for tomorrow’s contest.
Saraki, who promised to disclose the faces of his supporters before the public at a press briefing today in Abuja, also claimed that 39 of his supporters are senators-elect of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The UNION gathered that depletion of Saraki’s support base among the APC senators-elect from 35 earlier claimed by his group, the ‘Like Minds Senators (LMS)’, to 26 on Saturday night, was as a result of last minute defections made by some of them into the Senate Unity Forum (SUF), of Sen. Ahmed Lawan. Notable senators, who made such defections, as glaringly captured on Saturday night at the International Conference Centre (ICC) Abuja, venue of the APC primary election, where Lawan emerged as the sole candidate, were Comrade Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central), Usman Bayero Nafada (Gombe Central), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West) etc.
But Saraki in his press statement signed by coordinators of the LMS, Dino Melaye (Kogi West) and Rufai Ahmad Sani Yerima (Zamfara West), said the outcome of the APC primary election had no binding effect on his aspiration as he would contest against Lawan on the floor of the Senate tomorrow morning since there are 65 senators across party lines on his side. “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 are in consonance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and 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 inhibit 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 senatorselect 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. Meanwhile, addressing journalists in Abuja, the National Publicity of the Party, Lai Mohammed, said, “The aim of the election is to present sole candidates for the position of Senate President and speaker of the House of Representatives. “The party is trying to avoid a situation in which its lawmakers will be divided next Tuesday when the national assembly election will take place. “The party does not want the law makers to undermine its supremacy.
What we want do is to avoid crisis. We know there will be hiccups, but we will get through them, “he added. However the session held for the House of Representatives which led to the emergence of the Minority Leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila as consensus candidate was not well received by some members. The Yakubu Dogara faction, which staged a walk out before the straw poll for the House was conducted, said they were not informed that an election of any sort would take place. Abdulmumin Jibrin, who was mandated to speak on behalf of the Dogara group said, “We went to the meeting with the expectation that the party wanted to give us last words ahead of Tuesday’s inauguration of the House.
“However, we began to notice some moves in the hall where members supporting Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila started campaigning and soon we saw ballot papers being moved into the hall. “We then told Chief Oyegun that it is either he is disagreeing with the President, undermining his stance, or does not agree that the president is the leader of the party. “Secondly, we informed the party that the remaining two aspirants in the race for the Speaker are of the APC since no PDP member is contesting for the position. We should therefore be allowed to sort it out among ourselves on Tuesday.
“Consequently, we demanded that the process be delayed with at least 24 hours to enable us to prepare and mobilise our members. “Initially, the chairman agreed to halt the process but one hour later the National Vice Chairman North, Senator Lawal Shuaibu came up and said the process must go on whether we like it or not”. The group said that it had no choice but to walk out, adding that the election of the House Speaker is not an exclusivity of the APC but includes all members from all political parties. However, the straw poll for the Senate Presidency which saw the emergence of Lawan as consensus APC candidate was boycotted by the Bukola Saraki’s faction who did not like the mode of voting of the open ballot.
In a statement issued on behalf of the Saraki faction on Saturday, Dino Melaye said, “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”. Lawan had in his acceptance speech said, “I am saddened by the absence of our colleagues at the other camp, this is not a victory for the Unity Forum; we need to bring together, every APC Senators-elect and those in the chamber”.
He said there was also the need to reach out to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators, adding that the goal was to have a senate that is stable, working on consensus building that will bring real change for Nigerians. “We want to see a senate that will always be bipartisan in its approach and the task is ours in APC because this is our government. “I want to assure Nigerians that as Chairman of the National Assembly, if I become the senate president from Tuesday, will be a legislature that is for Nigerians,” he said. Lawan who belongs to the “Unity Forum” camp emerged the senate presidential candidate after polling 32 votes out the 33 votes cast by the Senators present. One vote was declared invalid.
Senator George Akume, on the other hand emerged the Deputy Senate President candidate of the party with 31 votes. Gbajabiamila Election A Fraud -Dogara Faction The 8th Consolidation Group, a formation of members of the House of Representatives supporting the candidature of Yakubu Dogara for the Speakership position yesterday stated that the exercise which led to the emergence of the House Minority leader, Femi Gbajabiamila as the consensus speaker is a fraud. Addressing journalists in Abuja, the spokesman of the group, Jibrin Abdulmumin said, “The APC leadership keeps telling the public that an election was conducted and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila got 154 votes while Hon. Yakubu Dogara got 3 votes. “It is a blatant lie, fraud and shameful for the APC leaders to descend so low”.
According to him, the mock election showed that APC has made a mockery of itself because they walked out of the venue even before they perpetrated the illegality. “Hon. Dogara was not in the hall as at the time they said he was nominated but the APC leaders planted someone who impersonated one of us and another person was also planted and he accepted the nomination. This is fraudulent, shameful, and dishonest. “It was all arranged and done by APC leaders,” the Kano lawmaker said.