Emeka Ekpunobi writes on the rumbling in the National Assembly leadership election which Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara won as Senate President and Speaker respectively
Though the battle for the soul of the 8th National Assembly was put to rest yesterday in the two hallowed chambers , but the memories of it would linger for a long time. The election of the presiding officers of the two chambers and its out come may not have only stunned the ruling All Progressive Congress( APC) but may trigger a possible battle of supremacy between the APC and the opposition , Peoples Democratic Party(PDP).
But whichever way one may look at it , the fact remains that the battle for leadership of both chambers have been won and lost. Former governor of Kwara state Senator Bukola Saraki was returned opposed as the president of the senate in election that some people described as another political tsunami in the land. . The political hurricane which was allegedly masterminded by the PDP. lawmakers also returned senator Ike Ekweremadu as the Deputy senate president. The three terms deputy senate president polled a total of 54 votes to stop his ranking colleague from north east senator Ali Ndume who scored 20 votes.
About 75 senators participated in the election which some critics described as parliamentary coup. Senator Ndume had since congratulated Ekweremadu. Saraki;s rivalry senator Ahmed Lawan was not however sighted any where around the National Assembly before and after the election. Source alleged that the Yobe state born politician may contest the out come of the election in court if so permitted by the ruling APC. The. tsunami also pulled the rug off the feet of the APC preferred candidate for the speaker of the lower House Hon, Femi Gbajabimila. Hon. Gbajabimila (Lagos who) was floored by another rebel APC lawmaker Hon. Yakubu Dogara( Bauchi).
Dogara who was earlier rejected by the party hierarchy scored 182 votes to beat the anointed candidate of former lagos state senator Ahmed Tinubu who polled 174 votes. About 358 lawmakers took part in the keenly contested election. This was unlike in the senate where most of the Lawan, loyalists stayed away from the election.
Some lawmakers who described it as a parliamentary coup claimed that it was in bad faith for the Saraki loyalists to have gone ahead with the election when the APC were still in a meeting with the party leadership at the International Conference Centre. Though both the losers and winners in the two chambers are of the APC extraction , there are however fears that the turn of event yesterday in the two chambers suggest more troubles ahead for the ruling APC in the land.It was indeed a failed litmus test for the ruling APC which had earlier warned its lawmakers to queue behind its preferred candidates for the plumb job or face the party trouble.
The APC lawmakers had in a mock election conducted by the party leadership endorsed senator Ahmed Lawan as president of the senate and former governor of Benue state senator George Akume as his deputy, Lagos born lawmaker Gbajabiamila also emerged speaker in the mock election, He polled 54 votes to beat Dogara who scored 3 votes at the primary election in Abuja .Both Saraki and Dogara groups dismissed the election as another charade.
And for them , it would be too early for Lawan and Gbajabiamila group to roll out the drums in celebrations. The warring lawmakers defied every attempt by the party leadership to pacify them. Source alleged that many of them boycotted a meeting by the Vice president Prof. Osinbanji to pacify Saraki and Dogara.
The lawmakers also boycotted similar meeting yesterday which was at the instance of president Buhari. APC Chieftains, the party lawmakers were said to have converged at the ICC for the all important meeting at the early hours of yesterday only to be told that the president was indisposed. The president who was reported to have arrived the country at the wee hours of yesterday from Germany where who attended the G7 meeting could not show up at the meeting . Source alleged that the absence of the president threw the party faithfuls into big confusion.
The said did not however stop the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly Clerk of the National Assembly Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa who stepped into the red chamber at about 9,15 am had told the lawmakers that he had earlier received a communication from president Buhari proclaiming the 8th National Assembly. He told the lawmakers that with over a simple majority of about 34 senators seated he was covered by law to go ahead with the election. About 54 senators were initially seated for the only business of the day.
Maikasuwa quickly invited for nomination for candidates for the office of the senate president and his Deputy. Former governor of Zamfara state Senator Sani Yarima who nominated Senator Bukola Saraki from the north central quickly did this. Senator Dini Melaye APC Kogi seconded the nomination. There was no second nomination for the job even when the Clerk called for more nomination. This paved the way for Saraki to emerged unopposed as the senate president. The first nomination of candidates for the deputy senate president came from senator George Seikibo Rivers PDP who nominated senator Ekweremadu as the deputy senate president.
Senator Ali Ndume was however nominated for the same job . Ekweremadu was returned as the deputy senate president afdter he had polled 54 votes to beat Ndume who scored 20 votes. The historical exercise competently performed by the Clerk ended at about 12 .11 pm yesterday. Some pundits saw the emergence of Saraki in the senate and Dogara in the House as a repeat of the Tambuwal –Ihedioha episode in 2011.
Tambuwal in the celebrated political fire works in 2011 floored the then PDP anointed candidate for the number four job in the land Hon. Muniat Akande. Hon, Akanda who many lawmakers saw then as close political associate of former president Olusegun Obasanjo . The emergence of Tambuwal as speaker did not go down well with the party leaders .
The accounted for the seemingly unhealthy relationship which characterized the 7th House and the PDP. Until Tambuwal defected to APC , The PDP leadership never saw him as one their own to be trusted. And so when he formally crossed over to APC late last year , some dismissed as ,good radiance to bad rubbish; It may be too early to say the Saraki and Dogora may go the way of Tambuwal, but the emergence of Ekweremadu as deputy may neutralize the controlling powers of the APC of the National Assembly.
THE PDP PLOT.
Before the election of the presiding officers of the senate yesterday, some analysts warned that it would be naïve for the APC to dismiss the PDP with 49 senators as absolute minority. The APC has 59 senators. It was also argued that for any candidate to emerge as the senate president , he must get the support of the PDP senators. The PDP Senators were therefore seen as the political bribe and fertile ground for the Lawan and Saraki group.
Though the Saraki –Ekweremadu ticket was first muted by some supporters of the former governor of Kwara state. But the arrangement for some political calculation was played down to divert the attention of the APC leadership . But the said arrangement which was midwived by former senate president senator David Mark was however revisited by late Monday night by the PDP senators who bargaining power. Saraki like the Biblical prodigal son was alleged to have gone to the PDP caucus to beg for forgiveness.
The Monday meeting of the PDP senators at the official resident of Mark offered Saraki a good opportunity to beg for pardon from his former PDP colleagues who quickly welcomed him back as part of the PDP family. Saraki who was not quick to name his deputy , at the said meeting accepted the request of the PDP to take Ekweremadu as his deputy. The Kwara state born politician also made other promises to seal his deal with the PDP caucus. A number of juicy committee chairmanship positions were also offered to the PDP lawmakers. Saraki who was first PDP governor in 2003 spear headed the implosion that rocked PDP last year.
Saraki led other five PDP Governors to APC. Some of the PDP saw the election as a pay back time for Sraki until the intervention Mark and others Monday night. Saraki and Mark are not best of friend before now. Last week Saraki described the 7th senate as a failure. Source said he U-turn on Monday changed the game., The said arrangement did not only receive the blessing of the PDP leadership but was welcomed as a last joker by the Sarakis supporters .
TheNational Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metu in a statement at the wee hours of yesterday 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. “ T h e P a r t y , therefore, urges its s e n a – tors and members- elect in the National Assembly to act accordingly,” the statement entitled ‘NASS Leadership: PDP Adopts Saraki, Dogara’, read.
Majority of the PDP governors were present at the inauguration of the 8th senate yesterday apparently to ensure full implementation of the deal 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 bulge, but instead claimed in a statement signed by the coordinators of the Like Mind Senators (LMS), Dino Melaye (Kogi West) and Rufai Ahmad In the statement, Saraki said that the outcome of the APC primary election had no 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 5 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.