Se­nate Re­sumes Amid Sup­pressed An­i­mos­ity, Un­der­ground Schem­ing

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - POLITICS - From Niyi Bello, Abuja Bu­reau Chief

LESS than 72 hours to last Tues­day’s re­sump­tion of the Na­tional As­sem­bly af­ter a twom­onth re­cess, the na­tion was once again put on no­tice of the im­pend­ing clash of in­ter­ests among the law­mak­ers, a cul­mi­na­tion of the pol­i­tics of di­vi­sive­ness that pitched mem­bers of the rul­ing All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) and the op­po­si­tion Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) against each other.

Se­nate Leader, Ahmed Lawan gave no­tice of the plot to re­visit the face off with the Se­nate Pres­i­dent Bukola Saraki and his group at the Spe­cial Con­ven­tion of the APC to af­firm Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari as can­di­date of the party in next year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

As the con­ven­tion dragged into the early hours of Sun­day Oc­to­ber 7, Lawan, the most se­nior mem­ber of APC in the Se­nate af­ter the de­fec­tion of Saraki, was asked to speak on be­half of party mem­bers in the up­per leg­isla­tive cham­ber.

Re­flect­ing the com­bat­ive mood set by ear­lier speak­ers, in­clud­ing the na­tional Chair­man, Adams Osh­iom­hole, Lawan told the gath­er­ing, that the APC was poised to take back the lead­er­ship of the Na­tional As­sem­bly that it lost through Saraki’s de­fec­tion.

Lawan who was al­ready pen­ciled by the party lead­er­ship for the Se­nate top seat be­fore the “Saraki coup” that was ex­e­cuted with the con­nivance of op­po­si­tion mem­bers as the 8th As­sem­bly was be­ing in­au­gu­rated, spoke with the pas­sion of per­sonal and col­lec­tive griev­ance.

Speak­ing with the force of a threat meant for Saraki, who was at that very mo­ment in Port Har­court try­ing to se­cure the pres­i­den­tial ticket of the PDP, Lawan said: “As we re­con­vene next Tues­day, I want to as­sure all of us that we are tak­ing the Se­nate back.

“I want to also add that the num­ber of APC Sen­a­tors re­mains the largest and I want to call the at­ten­tion of ev­ery­one here to the fact that democ­racy, as de­fined by peo­ple, re­mains gov­ern­ment of the ma­jor­ity, where mi­nor­ity will al­ways have their say.

“Those who can­not re­mem­ber that there was a time in this coun­try when nine was greater than 16, I want to re­mind them that we have come to that point again. Now, we have our cham­ber dom­i­nated and oc­cu­pied by mi­nor­ity lead­ers. They re­main mi­nor­ity lead­ers oc­cu­py­ing our po­si­tions. Those who refuse to fol­low the part of hon­our and in­tegrity by ex­it­ing; we will send them out with ig­nominy.”

Lawan’s mid­night out­burst was in per­fect har­mony with the in­ten­tion of the lead­er­ship of the APC and the ex­pec­ta­tions of the mem- bers who re­acted with wild ap­plause that cut through the sleepy si­lence of the na­tion’s cap­i­tal.

In fact, there had been sev­eral con­spir­acy the­o­ries about how the APC lead­er­ship, es­pe­cially since the in­cep­tion of Osh­iom­hole as Chair­man, planned to change the Prin­ci­pal Of­fi­cers of the Na­tional As­sem­bly even be­fore Saraki crossed the car­pet to the PDP side of the aisle.

Saraki, a con­sum­mate politi­cian who had the grip of the in­sider mech­a­nism of the cham­ber, which got him sev­eral loy­al­ists across par­ties, lit­er­ally took on the at­tributes of a cat with nine lives when sev­eral at­tempts to have him re­moved failed.

In one at­tempt dur­ing which the co­er­cive forces of the ex­ec­u­tive were de­ployed in a con­spir­acy with the rul­ing party, the Po­lice in­vited Saraki to an­swer ques­tions about the Offa Bank rob­bery, while the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC) in­vited his Deputy, Ike Ek­w­ere­madu over some graft pe­ti­tions. Un­known to Nige­ri­ans, loyal APC Sen­a­tors had gath­ered to carry out some voodoo im­peach­ment.

But in a rare dis­play of deft­ness that re­minded Nige­ri­ans of how he emerged as the Se­nate Pres­i­dent, Saraki, whose of­fi­cial res­i­dence had been sur­rounded by armed po­lice­men in a dawn op­er­a­tion, stealth­ily ap­peared at his seat to the sur­prise of the APC law­mak­ers, who had wanted to ex­e­cute their plan in his ab­sence.

And in what many saw as ac­tion that is not con­sid­er­ate of na­tional in­ter­ests, the Se­nate and the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, where the same at­tempts were be­ing made on Speaker Yakubu Dog­ara, were put un­der lock by a long re­cess that put sev­eral im­por­tant de­ci­sions on hold.

How­ever, since it is dif­fi­cult get­ting the con­sti­tu­tion­ally re­quired two-third of mem­bers to re­move Saraki, the APC lead­er­ship, con­ve­niently for­get­ting that the party ben­e­fit­ted from a sim­i­lar sce­nario in 2014 when for­mer Speaker Aminu Tam­buwal de­fected to the plat­form and still re­tained his po­si­tion, is threat­en­ing to re­move the Se­nate Pres­i­dent “by all means,” and deep­en­ing ten­sion over the ex­ec­u­tive/leg­isla­tive face-off. Lawan’s and other threats at the con­ven­tion fur­ther ex­ac­er­bated the ten­sion.

As ex­pected, there were im­me­di­ate re­ac­tions from PDP Sen­a­tors that fur­ther in­creased the ten­sion that the Se­nate would be en­gulfed in a cri­sis of lead­er­ship ca­pa­ble of deny­ing the leg­is­la­ture of op­por­tu­nity of re­solv­ing some very im­por­tant is­sues, es­pe­cially the ap­proval of fund­ing for next year’s gen­eral elec­tions.

In their re­ac­tion laced with warn­ings, PDP Sen­a­tors speak­ing through the new Mi­nor­ity Leader, Abio­dun Olu­jimi said, “Se­na­tor Lawan should not cause ten­sion and prob­lem in the Se­nate. He should not prom­ise the APC what they can­not de­liver and Nige­ri­ans should hold him re­spon­si­ble if the Se­nate is un­able to sit be­cause the lead­er­ship of the Se­nate is not by party af­fil­i­a­tion, it is through an elec­tion by all the Sen­a­tors.

“Lawan should be re­minded that the elec­tion of the present Pre­sid­ing Of­fi­cers of the Se­nate was done even when he was not present. He should be re­minded that re­spon­si­ble Sen­a­tors who at­tended the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the Se­nate as an­nounced by Pres­i­dent Buhari elected the Pre­sid­ing Of­fi­cers and that he, as the Se­nate Leader should be con­ver­sant with the pro­ce­dure for their re­moval. And for the avoid­ance of doubt, the Se­nate is solidly be­hind the lead­er­ship and we will re­sist any at­tempt that will off­set the calm sit­u­a­tion in the Se­nate.”

The Mi­nor­ity Leader told Lawan to note that: “We are re­turn­ing to han­dle all out­stand­ing is­sues and he should be held re­spon­si­ble if we are not able to ac­com­plish them. We ask him as one of the Prin­ci­pal Of­fi­cers of the Se­nate to re­frame from beat­ing drums of war that will do no one any good.

“We have re­solved as Sen­a­tors of the Fed­eral Repub­lic to face our du­ties squarely and pray that no one dis­tracts us. The unity of the Se­nate is more im­por­tant than any­body’s in­or­di­nate am­bi­tion.”

True to her words about the res­o­lu­tion of the Sen­a­tors to in­su­late the cham­ber from ex­ter­nal in­flu­ences and the sup­pres­sion of per­sonal am­bi­tions for the gen­eral good, the law­mak­ers re­sumed last Tues­day with­out any in­ci­dent of force­ful takeover of lead­er­ship by the APC.

In fact, re­porters cov­er­ing the two cham­bers who had pre­pared the minds of their ed­i­tors about high ex­pec­ta­tions of big sto­ries com­ing out of the an­tic­i­pated clash, were sur­prised to see the law­mak­ers greet one an­other and ex­change ban­ters in an at­mos­phere of com­plete ca­ma­raderie.

Af­ter a seam­less sit­ting dur­ing which let­ters from the Pres­i­dency re­quest­ing ad­di­tional off­shore fi­nan­cial sup­ports were read and, some Sen­a­tors con­firmed that the law­mak­ers had in­deed turned a new leaf and would no longer be part of any bick­er­ing of their po­lit­i­cal plat­forms.

One of them told The Guardian, that dur­ing the sit­ting, “all mem­bers had frank dis­cus­sions about the fu­ture of the Eighth

Se­nate as it goes into its last stage. We agreed to give peace a chance and avoid al­low­ing the Red Cham­ber of the Fed­eral Leg­is­la­ture to de­gen­er­ate into an arena of con­flict over par­ti­san and per­sonal is­sues.”

The APC cau­cus was also said to have got the as­sur­ance of the Se­nate Pres­i­dent that he would hence­forth de­part from play­ing pol­i­tics and face is­sues that will pro­mote gov­ern­ment and gov­er­nance while some Sen­a­tors who have been pub­licly crit­i­cal of Saraki have agreed to sheath their swords.

But de­spite the peace­ful devel­op­ment that had elicited com­men­da­tions from many Nige­ri­ans who are be­gin­ning to see a change in the leg­is­la­ture’s com­mit­ment to the coun­try’s devel­op­ment in­stead of per­sonal in­ter­ests, there are in­di­ca­tions that the Tues­day sit­ting was part of a game plan by the anti-saraki forces to catch him un­awares.

Sources within the APC dis­closed that since the party and its gov­ern­ment had tried un­suc­cess­fully to have him re­moved, the plan this time is to cre­ate an at­mos­phere of peace so that he would let off his guard for a co­or­di­nated at­tack that would cost him the seat within a short pe­riod.

Ac­cord­ing to a source, “The APC can­not af­ford to have a Saraki as the Se­nate Pres­i­dent at this time when an all-im­por­tant elec­tion is ap­proach­ing. It is like sleep­ing in a house with the roof on fire. Noth­ing will be spared to have him re­moved. Many of the Sen­a­tors who got au­to­matic tick­ets in the pri­mary elec­tions of the party have been told that the only thing the party re­quires of them is Saraki’s re­moval.”

A mem­ber of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives who claimed to be privy to the plan dis­closed that Saraki’s loy­al­ists among the APC have been iden­ti­fied and that they are not be­ing car­ried along in the planned on­slaught that could be launched in the next few days.

It was also gath­ered that those whose com­mit­ment could not be guar­an­teed and who have not agreed to the new plan, are find­ing it dif­fi­cult get­ting the ticket of the party for the com­ing elec­tion no mat­ter how pop­u­lar they are in their con­stituen­cies.

Ex­am­ples were given of two Sen­a­tors from the South­west who re­ceived cold treat­ments from the party on ac­count of their com­mit­ment to the anti-saraki plan. While one of them is get­ting the sup­port of the party lead­er­ship to re­tain his seat de­spite op­po­si­tion from his gov­er­nor, the other has been dropped be­cause he was al­leged to be close to the

Se­nate Pres­i­dent.

Al­though the counter-plan from the Saraki camp is not known, given the an­tecedents of the Kwara politi­cian, it is not un­likely that he is aware of the silent scheme and is al­ready plan­ning to shield the seat from be­ing taken over. But while the cat and mouse game con­tin­ues in the cham­bers, Nige­ri­ans can at least en­joy the cur­rent peace.




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