Francis Moses examines how the post-election leadership tussle in the NASS has continued to polarize the APC.
When will this battle end, where is it going, what are the effects? These are the questions begging for answers since the feuding Senators under the aegis of the Like Minds and their main opponents in the Unity Forum, all of the All Progressives Congress, APC and their supporters in the party have been threatening fire and brimstone over the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as the 8th Senate president and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremmadu of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Just when things appeared to be looking up, at least in public estimation, National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie Oyegun declares that the “civil war in the party has ended”, but the party would be happy if Ekweremadu resigns, fuelling, what pundits called an invitation to intra- party bickering. Oyegun, during an appearance on Channels television ‘Roadmap 2015′ , called on Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu to resign and make the party happy. He said ‘’If he wants to resign, we would be very glad, but for now, as at today, our mission is to get the senate settled to get them at work. We are in charge; we are in control. There’s no question about that.
The aspect of an Ekweremadu may be an aggravation, but we have to continue to work until things resolve themselves and things would resolve themselves’’. ‘’We want to do it in such a way that at the end of four years, most Nigerians would say thank God we voted APC , thank God we voted Buhari. The civil war in the party has ended”. Though the PDP has vowed that it would ensure Ekweremadu served out his term and challenged the APC to face reality and get on with the business of governance rather than crying over spilt milk, there was no sign to confirm Oyegun’s view that the civil war in his party had ceased. In fact he has fueled it by his declaration.
At the weekend, Senators Ahmed Sani-Yerima and Danjuma Goje, who spoke with journalists in Abuja declared that the plans by the leadership of the APC to fill the remaining four principal-officer positions with ranking members of the Senate Unity Forum was totally unacceptable. The Senators Unity Forum consists of loyalists of Lawan, who lost the Senate Presidency bid to Saraki. It was gathered that the APC leadership had allegedly been trying to arrange Lawan as the Senate leader and Senator George Akume as his deputy. The pro-Lawan group, which has the backing of former Gov. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was also said to have picked Professor Olusola Adeyeye (Osun) as the Senate Chief Whip, while Senator Abu Ibrahim from Katsina State would be his deputy.
In reaction, Senator Sani-Yerima, a former Senate Deputy Minority Leader, and Goje, a former governor of Gombe State, insisted that the pro-Saraki like Minds senators would resist imposition of principal officers on the chamber. Sani-Yerima maintained that the election of the four principal officers was the exclusive right of the zonal caucuses in the Senate. He said the move by the APC leadership was illegal, adding that “there can never be imposition of candidates on the chamber by the party leadership” He said, “As far as I’m concerned, the party cannot impose leadership on us. It is unconstitutional and against the rules of the Senate. However spokesperson for the pro-Lawan senators, Kabir Marafa, described the argument of the pro-Saraki senators as incorrect and argued that the choice of other principal officers who are not elected on the floor of the Senate remained the sole business of the party leadership.
He said, “It is not possible for the executive of the party at the zonal levels to determine who will be made the Senate Leader, the Deputy Senate Leader, Chief Whip, and the Deputy Chief Whip. It has never happened and it won’t happen this time around. “The party executive must determine all the occupants of the four principal offices. The party will write the Senate President. That is the tradition. It cannot be done at the zonal level. We must follow due process.” Similarly the visit of the Senate President, Senator Saraki, to former President Olusegun Obasanjo in his Abeokuta residence could be said to be suspicious.
The visit, attended by only members of New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) and some senators loyal to Saraki added credence to the insinuation that the nPDP was plotting big in the even as it consolidates its power in the Senate. However it is against this background that the members of the nPDP led by a former acting National Chairman, of the PDP Kawu Baraje, might soon ditch the APC and rejoins their former party, the PDP. Saraki and his supporters have meanwhile denied the claim. Both Obasanjo and Saraki, while emerging from the meeting, laughed while they whispered to each other. Expectedly, none of the parties (Obasanjo and Saraki) wanted to divulge the details of the meeting, which began at 9:10am immediately after the Senate President, arrived the palatial home of the former President and ended 11:10 am. But, there were some activities that took place prior to the secret meeting.
Meanwhile many things may have sparked off the controversy over the meeting. That Saraki was accompanied by some members of nPDP who defected to APC is believed not to be mere coincidence. Saraki, a former governor of Kwara State and a former member of the PDP, had defected to the APC along with some aggrieved members of the party, including five governors, following irreconcilable differences between them and their former party leaders.
Their defection, political analysts believed, aided the victory of the APC at the general elections. But, after their victory, there seems to be disagreements between the group and the APC on the sharing of some positions. Saraki, who emerged the Senate President under controversial circumstances, was believed to have incurred the wrath of Obasanjo and other leaders of the party. Obasanjo, though claimed he is neither a member of APC and has ceased to be a member of the PDP is however uncertain whether any input would be taken seriously At the beginning of the campaign for the election of the Senate President, Saraki was not the preferred candidate of the party, but he refused to step down for the party’s choice, Ahmed Lawan, and he eventually emerged with 57 votes.
After his victory, he is believed to be mending fence with some party leaders. Part of the moves was his meeting with former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. But his choice to visit Obasanjo and not Tinubu is interpreted as extremely political and strategic. Source sat that the meeting was held to set agenda for the Senate President and to ensure the party embraces him despite his alleged insubordination. According to the source, the meeting also centred on how to handle some sensitive issues at the National Assembly. Obasanjo, according to the source, suggested some way out on the logjam and how to be a successful Senate President. Meanwhile, there was an indication that the leadership of APC might not have forgiven Saraki completely despite its statement of pardon issued recently.
The indication was that no APC leaders in the South-West, including the host state, Ogun, were seen with Saraki. The tradition is that the host governor would either be physically present at the meeting or be represented. On the alternative, the Senate President would also pay him a visit. None of these happened. The governor of the state, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, was said to have travelled out of Abeokuta shortly before the meeting between Saraki and Obasanjo ended to attend a funeral ceremony in Ijebu. This was unlike during the visit of a former Senate Present, Senator David Mark, to Obasanjo when many of the party (PDP) leaders were present. Mark paid a visit to the governor who was not even a member of his party. It was reliably gathered that there was a directive by the APC leadership to stay away from Saraki pending the resolution of some issues. The party, according to the findings, reached out to Amosun and others in the South-West prior to the Saraki meeting with Obasanjo.