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NASS Crisis: Ekweremadu As Booby Trap

Emeka Ekpunobi in Abuja X-rays the power play in the Senate between Senators of the APC and their PDP counterparts with Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu as the booby trap

For some leaders of All Progressive Congress (APC) the emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu as the Deputy senate president in June 9 was “another joke taken too far’. And for many of them it was rather unacceptable for opposition PDP to produce a deputy senate president in an APC control National Assembly Interestingly , the President Mohammadu Buhari also share in this wide spread sentiments , the soldier turned civilian president told a forum in Abuja that the election of senator Ekweremadu as the Deputy senate president in June 9 was never contemplated by the ruling APC.

Ironically the same president who insisted that Ekweremadu election cannot stand still tell every ears that cares to listen that he would never interfere in the affairs of the National Assembly Though the president has said he was   ready to work with the present National Assembly but this does not on its own suggest Uhuru for Ekweremadu Sadly other party leaders who hitherto did not see eye to eye with the Senate President Dr Bukola Saraki now drum support for the former Kwara state governor. Some of them now shift their anger to the Deputy Senate President as if he returned himself to power in June 9 at ‘gun point” Ekweremadu polled 54 votes to defeat senator Ali Ndume who scored 20 votes in a keenly contested election on the floor of the senate, interestingly some APC senators including the defeated Ali Ndume present during the inauguration were the first group of lawmakers to congratulate Ekweremadu.

But since the election of Ekweremadu and indeed others rebellious APC senators, the senate has never been the same. While the APC senators loyal to the Senator Ahmed Lawan assiduously working to unseat Ekweremadu , the PDP senators are not in any way sleeping. The PDP are said to have assembled enough political arsenals ready to defend Ekweremadu in the event the APC senators strike. The PDP lawmakers are waiting for the APC to take the war to their doorpost. The big question now who fires the first missile? Unfortunately, what engages the mind of these political jobbers and their paymaster today is how to impeach the three times deputy senate president.

The APC leaders and other preachers of party supremacy have not also removed their eyes from the election of the senate majority leader and others principal officers of the senate Senators loyal to senator Ahmed Lawan have refused to accept Senator Ali Ndume as the majority leader. And for them it must be Senator Lawan or no body else. Nonetheless, Senator Marafa is the only senator from the said camp who still talks tough. Others may have joined the Saraki loyalists in the lobby for committee chairmanship position in the senate ahead of resumption in the next two weeks. Though it may be too early to predict how far the anti- Ekweremadu group would go in their renewed offensive, analysts however insist that it would be difficult for them to succeed going by the composition of the present senate. The APC has 59 senators, 10 senators higher than PDP, which has 49 senators.

The senators by their rules would require about 74 senators( two third majority of the 109senators) to unseat either the senate president or his Deputy. It means that the APC would need the support of the PDP senators to send Ekweremadu parking or even approve any request from the president. Such support may not come too quick at least going by the mood of the PDP senators. And for the opposition, senator Saraki would go down if the ruling party do not want to respect the wish of over 54 senators that voted for Ekweremadu on June 9.

Analysts see Ekweremadu as booby trap for the APC. Others see him and what he stands for also a land mine and indeed highly inflammable political gunpowder. Saraki and his men know all these and would not want to push too far in the game. According to him, the emergence of Ekweremadu as deputy senate president did not just happen. A lot of water with difference colours passed under the bridge “ and it would therefore be naive for the fast depleting warring groups in the senate to think that the idea came from the blues.

The deal was entered into between Saraki and the PDP arrowhead in the senate before the inauguration. But those privy to the plot decided in their wisdom to play it down and indeed use it as the last joker. While senator Ahmed Lawan and his men were busy counting on the support of the party leadership to grab power, the Saraki group who some of them see as a ‘rebel ‘ decided to make up within PDP allies and like the proverbial prodigal, the PDP accepted him back. There is no sign that Saraki is having issues with Ekweremadu or even the PDP senators. But the plot to unseat Ekweremadu however took a dangerous dimension on Monday when the Enugu state born Deputy senate president alleged threat to his life by those he called desperate politicians. He alleged that some of them are deep in the plot to sack him.

Ekweremadu however, declared that such intimidation and threat would never force him to abandon his constitutional duties. It was a day that the media was also awash with alleged attempt by the police to arrest the deputy senate president over alleged tinkering of the senate standing rules.

The police had since denied the purported arrest of the deputy senate president. But just as the police was busy debunking the planned arrest, a team of senior police officers stormed the National Assembly. Source alleged that the police team was at the National Assembly to formally summon the Clerk of the National Assembly Salisu Maikasuwa for questioning. The team was alleged to have also visited the office of the deputy senate president. Though the police had denied the report, but source alleged that the anti -Ekweremadu group is the one pushing for the investigation into the alleged forgery. But Ekweremadu dismissed the whole drama as another distraction.

Source alleged that Ekweremadu has no hand in the purported   amendment to the standing rule. It was not yet clear which section of the rule was amended and who was expected to benefit from such amendment. Senator Marafa who first raised the issue on the floor of the senate was not able to point, which section was altered with and who did it. Senator Sulaman from Kaduna who was alleged to have petitioned the police on the alleged amendment was not also specific on who played what role. The big question again why would any body single out Ekweremadu in the alleged crime? Source alleged that Ekweremadu cannot alone amend the standing rule of the senate without recourse to the senate president and the senate committee on business and rules. The alleged amended rule book cannot but be seen even on request by the relevant committee officials. Another question that would be begging for answer is why would any body single out Ekweremadu for attack on such issue?

The deputy senate president in a statement at the weekend declared that he would rather focus on his constitutional responsibilities as a lawmaker, describing the allegation as a distraction by desperate politicians. The alarm by the deputy senate has continued to generate tension in the land . The OhanEze Ndigbo, the apex socio cultural body of the Igbo has also expressed concern over the alleged threat on one their own.

A member of the southeast caucus in the senate, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, urged the police to be cautious in the handling of the alleged forgery of senate rules leveled against the deputy senate president. He said that such allegation should not also be politicized, adding that it would dangerous for the police to rush into internal matters of the senate, But Ekweremadu in a reaction at the weekend said he has received numerous calls and messages from well meaning Nigerians, elder statesmen, governors, distinguished Senators and honourable Members of the House of Representatives across party lines, concerned members of the international community, youth and women organisations, royal fathers, and Civil Society Organisatons, among others, who have continued to express utter dismay and concern over the unfolding drama in which his life and liberty are being threatened by desperate politicians.

Senator Ekweremadu then expressed wishes to assure all Nigerians and concerned members of the international community that everything is under control and that all democratic steps are being taken to preserve the nation’s democracy and protect the independence of the legislature. The Deputy President of the Senate further wishes to assure Nigerians that necessary steps are being taken by the security agencies to beef up security around him. He expressed appreciation for the nation’s security agencies for their professional handling of the situation so far and acknowledges with a deep sense of gratitude the numerous youths across the country who have volunteered to provide additional security around him.

In all these, however, let it be known that no amount of intimidation or harassment will deter Senator Ekweremadu from carrying out the constitutionally prescribed duties, which on June 9, 2015, PDP and APC Senators willingly elected him in the full glare of the world Briefing journalists Monday in Abuja, Ohuabunwa also urged the Police to exercise restraints in the manner it wades into matters concerning the internal workings of the Senate.

Ohuabunwa, who was a former House of Representatives’ Deputy Majority Leader, described as unfortunate the invitation extended to Ekweremadu. He said: “I think the Police should be careful in handling this matter because I know that the law is clear that for all activities that take place at the National Assembly or on the floor of the Senate or in the chamber cannot be used as evidence against any Senator. This is why when you speak, when you see people fight on the floor the police is not involved because it is a place emotion will play a role.

If any thing happened, the police have a division at the National Assembly, there is the bureaucracy, the National Assembly management headed by the Clerk to the National Assembly.” He explained that since the 2015 rule was handed over to Senators during the inauguration of Senate, it was wrong to accuse any Senator of having played a role in producing that Rule book.” According to Ohuabunwa, “The whole issue is unfortunate. Some of us do not really understand what is happening. But some of these things might be politics.

Don’t also forget that since the emergence of the Deputy Senate President, the ruling party has been very uncomfortable. It is quite unfortunate because there is nothing untoward in the eyes of those behind the petition that the Senate and Senators cannot resolve. If you are talking of the rule, it is the rule of the Senate as at today because we have been inaugurated. So if there are amendments, you raise the amendment on the floor and it will be debated. There is nothing sacrosanct that says that 2011 rule must be used for 2015.” He added.

The lawmaker explained that immediately after the 7th Senate was dissolved, it was only the National Assembly bureaucracy that was in charge since no Senator elect had been sworn in. “It should also be noted that at the end of the 7th National Assembly, the bureaucracy takes over. It is the bureaucracy that swears in the presiding officers. Until you are sworn in you have no powers. Whatever that may have happened should be a responsibility of the bureaucracy. Ekweremadu should be able to answer questions on what happens after his inauguration, he should not answer question on issues that took place when he was not even a senator at the expiration of the 7th Assembly.” Ohuabunwa said.

“All I’m saying is that if there are issues, the Senators should resolve it. I also know that the rule after the bureaucracy has handed over to us becomes our document and we now have power to amend it if need be and where necessary. Before then, the rule is like a document of the bureaucracy. When you are sworn in and you look at the rulebook if there are areas you disagree with it is within your power to call for amendment. Somebody is faulting the emergence of Ekweremadu based on the rulebook, it means that every other Senator that was inaugurated using the same rule should be involved.

If you are faulting the rule, it was based on the same rule that all of us were inaugurated. It was the same rule that brought in the Senate President. So if you are faulting it, it means that all of us have not even been inaugurated. And if you have not been inaugurated, you are not even supposed to speak as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.’’ The events in the following weeks will bear or forbear this legal view.

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