Bala Dan Abu
This is the first bitter lesson for the All Progressives Congress, APC, in its new capacity as ruling party. The smart guys from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have proved to the APC leaders that there is more to politics than just being a party of the majority. The emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki from the confusion and controversy that trailed yesterday’s inaugural sitting of the 8th Senate as President of the Upper Chambers of the nation’s legislature is prove that the APC has yet a lot of lessons to learn.
The story was that the ‘Coup’ that produced both Saraki and returned Ike Ekweremadu to the position of deputy senate president he had occupied during the sixth and seventh sessions of that body was executed while most senators elect from the APC were waiting at the International Conference Centre for a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders of the APC.
The agenda of the meeting was the resolution of the issues that had arisen from the controversial endorsement a few days earlier of candidates for the leadership positions in both chambers of the National Assembly. Those favoured under that arrangement were Ahmed Lawan and George Akume as senate president and deputy senate president respectively while Femi Gbajabiamila was for the position n of speaker, House of Representatives.
But while those invited to yesterday’s morning were waiting for it to commence at the International Conference Centre, about 75 senators elect, 49 of them PDP members met and unanimously elected Saraki as Senate president. Even the votes that were taken in the case of the deputy Senate President election which Ekweremadu won was a mere formality.
That development, as admitted by Chief Lai Mohammed, APC’s spokesman, shocked the party’s leaders out of their wits. The truth is that the party will have to live with this development for quite some time. I have heard some people say that Saraki would not last in his ‘borrowed’ robes, that APC’s heavy hammer would descend on him sooner than later via impeachment.
The justification for that action is that though he is a member of the party, he was not its official candidate for that position. That may be so but those who think Saraki can easily be pushed out do not seem to reckon with his wealth of experience and smart political disposition. Saraki may not have spent decades in politics but he has learnt the game very fast, first from his late father, Dr Olusola Saraki, who was one of the greatest political strategists this country has ever known. While his father was alive, he held sway in the politics of Kwara State and the control of the state which his son still enjoys today is part of his political legacy.
But the younger Saraki has proved even to be a far smarter politician than his father. He fought and defeated the legion of political opponents of his father’s political dynasty in Kwara to win the governorship of the state twice. Then he brought a candidate that is not a biological member of that dynasty and made him governor. That governor, Andulfattah Ahmed, has just won a second tenure. Apart from his privileged political background, Saraki is a hard fighter.
He has good political vision. His tenure as chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, was the best in terms of guiding public policy at all levels of government and giving the state governors a more influential voice even in the way things are done at the federal level. After his tenure, the body veered away from its vision under the leadership of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, governor of Rivers State and it eventually lost focus.
It later got split into two and has not really regained its place in the politics of the country. In his position as NGF chairman, Saraki built relationships across all political bridges in the country in furtherance of his presidential ambition which he has not dropped. His election to the influential position of the number three political personality in the country will greatly enhance his chances for that position in future. The problem that his ‘coup’ has caused in the APC is deep.
He has ruffled feathers. The party’s leaders are clearly embarrassed but they deserve whatever they have got. They were careless in their handling of the selection process. The scheduling of the meeting held at the International Conference for yesterday morning was a costly mistake by party leaders. It was too close to the sitting of the inaugural meeting of the Senate. The PDP would have held that meeting at mid night and concluded on their options before morning.
The rest would have been e a formality and it would be in accordance with the party’s position. What should the APC leaders do then? Nothing. They should rather rehabilitate their errant member who now occupies the third most influential position in the country.
The alliance he has built with the PDP senators that put him in that position will prove very helpful to the APC in future when the cooperation of the opposition party would be required on critical national issues requiring National Assembly approval and support. He should not be hounded out of the sit. That will be counter-productive.