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Forums, Caucuses’ Jostling Deepen APC Crisis

Francis Moses examines the deepening crisis of the APC caused by forums and caucuses in the party, particularly at the NASS

Senator Bukola Saraki’s admission in a chat with journalists at the weekend that he outsmarted the opposition to emerge Senate President has sent shivers down the spine of his enemies in the ruling party. The term opposition is currently understood in the unfolding political drama since the elections as the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. While absolving himself and his group from the fiasco that has so far marred legislative business, he insinuated in the weekend interview that he acted smartly without cutting any deal with the PDP as widely believed, to emerge victorious.

Party sources say this is an attempt to paper over the cracks and there is yet to emerge enough assurances to show the Saraki group is remorse since he violated party position on the principal officers. He said: “As early as 4:0am and 5am, I had made contingency plans that I must get into the National Assembly because the plan before was that senators-elect should go to the Transcorp-Hilton Hotel where around 8am and 9am to proceed to the the National Assembly.

But I was advised that it would not be safe for me to do that because some people made sure that if I did not get into the chambers, it would not be possible for me to be nominated, for the nomination to be seconded and for me to accept the nomination.” He went on to say, though the PDP had endorsed him the previous day before the election, he did not formally agree with them on the emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu as his deputy, but rather it was the outcome of the machinations of those who asked APC Senators to meet at the International Conference Center, ICC, that made Ekweremadu’s election possible by the absence of majority of my colleagues.

He said” We never in our imagination though they would not turn up. By the time we got there we were only 24 while the PDP was more than 40. In an election there is no way they would not have defeated us and that was what happened. And now when people say it was a deal, I say that if the Clerk of the National Assembly had started the procedure in the House of Representatives first and moved to the Senate thereafter, today, we, the APC , would have had a deputy Senate President” This disclosure rather than calm frayed nerves is increasing it, The UNION has learnt.

The fact that he admitted that a meeting of Senators the day before, chaired by Senator Goodswill Akpabio of the PDP and Senator Ibrahim Gobir, his supporter, had agreed on his candidacy was revelatory enough, Coupled with this is the early official support the PDP gave his candidacy. This obvious attempt to mend fences with his enemies came on the heels of the widening division within the 59 senators of the All Progressives Congress (APC) especially after a peace meeting called by Senate President Bukola Saraki was marred by exchange of blows.

Based on an announcement by Saraki during plenary, the APC senators had assembled at room 301 of the Senate new wing for a meeting with him. The meeting however ended in a shouting match between the pro and anti Saraki senators when the issue of remaining leadership positions in the senate meant for the party was raised. Meanwhile disagreement between the two camps which led to verbal outbursts and exchange of blows between senators across the divides, began when the senators belonging to the Like Minds and Unity Forum groups failed to reach agreement on the procedure for the emergence of candidates for the various leadership positions.

However while the pro Saraki ‘Like Minds’ Senators insisted that other positions should be zoned among geo-political zones of the country and candidates be produced at the caucus level, the Ahmad Lawan group under the aegis of Unity Forum disagreed. They insisted that all vacant positions be filled by the national leadership of the party. However Like Minds senators, came up with a zoning formula that gave the position of Majority Leader to the North East; Deputy Majority Leader, North West; Chief Whip, South West; and Deputy Whip to South South, respectively.

According to one of the lawmakers who attended the meeting, Suleiman Hunkuyi (APC, Kaduna North), the problem was caused by attempts by the Saraki-led group to impose its candidates on the party. This interview had further confirmed the lawmakers in their belief that the Saraki group is bent on having its way without regard for the interests of others including the party. However, before the meeting went violent, Senator Saraki had pleaded with the APC senators to forget the past by rallying round his leadership of the Senate and by extension the 8th National Assembly.

When Senate President, Saraki defied the party’s position and announc four candidates for the Senate leadership position, namely, Senator Ali Ndume as Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Nalla as Deputy Senate Leader, Sen. Olusola Adeyeye as Chief Whip and Francis Alimakanah as Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Ahmed Lawan, the man preferred by the party for the post of Majority Leader did not take part in the election.

His group, the Unity Forum licked its wounds and has gone to the drawing board to strategize for reopening in a months’ time Similarly after plenary was disrupted at the House of Representatives, also over the nomination of principal officers, all groups and caucuses have gone to their tents to recharge, each holding to their earlier positions and vowing not to go back on it until the Speaker Dogara supporters also move ground.

Though calm was restored with the Speaker admonishing the lawmakers not to start the 8th Assembly on a storming note, as they came to the lower chamber to represent their constituencies, all is not well there. The Speaker, Yakubu Dogara had reconvened plenary and urged members to count themselves lucky to be chosen to represent their constituency. He later adjourned the House till July 21 while pledging that the crisis that rocked the House will be resolved. But chanting of ‘APC, party supremacy’, by pro APC lawmakers and ‘Dogara’, by pro Speaker supporters still echoes in the air..

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