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Senate Presidency: How Saraki, Senators Stopped Mark

F Fact Box: resh facts emerged at the weekend on how People’s Democratic Party (PDP) senators loyal to Senator Bukola Saraki aborted last minute plot to return former senate president, Senator David Mark, to office for the third time. The PDP senators, at a marathon meeting held at the Apo residence of the former senate president, on the night before the inauguration of the 8th senate, settled for a mock election to decide who to support between Mark and Saraki for the number three seat.

Senator Saraki, who had before the mock election sealed a deal with some PDP senators to run with Senator Ike Ekweremadu as deputy, allegedly polled 26 votes to stop Mark who scored 16 votes. The APC preferred candidate, Senator Ahmed Lawan, trailed behind with one vote. Sources at the meeting, disclosed to The UNION, that South South PDP senators, had before the mock election, vowed to work against Senator Lawan for what a lawmaker called “pay back” for his hard line posture on the Petroleum Industry Bill and other related issues that affect the oil rich Niger Delta region.

Result of the said mock election largely informed the decision of the national leadership of the PDP to publicly direct its senators to vote for Saraki-Ekweremadu ticket on June 9 on the floor of the senate. Saraki was returned unopposed while Ekweremadu scored 53 votes to defeat the APC’s Ali Ndume, who polled 20 votes. Though the former senate president was alleged to have shelved his re election bid a few days before the mock election by the PD P senators but source alleged that the soldier turned democrat bowed to a renewed pressure by some of his cronies to return to power. Senators loyal to Mark were alleged to have piled pressure on the former senate president to take advantage of the crack in the rank of APC senators over who should go then for the number three seat.

The calculation then was that Mark may secure the vote of the 49 PDP senators and look for 6 APC senators to get the required one third majorities to clinch the job for the third time. Source alleged that the pro-Mark senators had earlier secured 6 senators but lost out at the meeting of the PDP caucus on 8th June. The former senate president got only 16 votes at the mock election. Source also alleged that the senate president was angry with his former deputy for going ahead with political marriage with Saraki. The UNION was informed that Mark had earlier told his deputy to drop his ambition in the interest of peace.

But Ekweremadu, who was alleged to have gone far with Saraki in the deal, decided to by-pass Mark until the day of the mock election when the party finally asked the former deputy senate president to go ahead. The former senate president, source alleged, was literally forced to support the Saraki- Ekweremadu ticket in line with the party’s decision to support Saraki. Meanwhile, a key player in the PDP caucus, Senator Peter Nwaboshi, has said that the opposition party would have taken the seat of both senate presidency and deputy if the PDP senators had wished.

Senator Nwaoboshi in a chat with journalists said that the PDP only needed 6 more APC   senators to grab the two positions adding that the crisis in the ruling party provided enough opportunity for the opposition party to do so. According to him the “PDP would have produced the senate president and nothing would happen and if we had done that the APC won’t be making the noise they are making now”. He said: “We had 49 senators and the APC had about 20 members on the floor as of the time of proclamation of the 8th Senate. The quorum is one-third, the constitution of Nigeria is very clear on that; there is already a proclamation by the federal government of Nigeria as provided for in the constitution. The proclamation was also categorical by stressing that it must be carried out by 10:00am.

The president did not withdraw the proclamation. Another issue would have been that does he have the power to withdraw after he had proclaimed? There is no provision for that in the constitution. If we, PDP senators, had decided to vote that day, in view of the provision that says, “… shall elect among them”, once the quorum had been formed, the business of the day starts. 49 PDP senators and 20 APC senators were on seat, although about seven or eight of the APC senators later came in.

“The 49 senators would have voted and elected the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President and there is nothing anybody can do about it because you will need twothird to remove them. All we would have done is to sit down among ourselves and share position in that senate among ourselves. We will sit any day and dare the APC senators to come and challenge us.

They cannot do anything. By now, the APC will not be talking. “They will not be making all the noise they are making. I know many of my friends that are saying we would have done that but some of us believe that it is not nice. They are in the majority, so let us allow them. That was why they are still talking that we took the deputy senate president when we would have taken the main one. We had the opportunity but we allow them, instead of them to be thanking us”, he stated.

-There are indications that senator David Mark may have fallen out with Senator Ike Ekweremadu over the election of Bukola Saraki as senate President, writes Emeka Ekpunobi

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