John Ameh and Leke Baiyewu
As the battle for the control of the National Assembly rages between the federal lawmakers of the ruling All Progressives Congress and their Peoples Democratic Party counterparts, officers of the caucuses of the parties have disagreed on the possibility of the removal of the presiding officers of the chambers.
While the APC members contended that they did not require two-thirds majority to remove Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, the elated PDP legislators argued that their APC counterparts would find it difficult to effect a leadership change in the National Assembly if the presiding officers dump APC for the PDP as anticipated.
The Peoples Democratic Party Caucus in the House of Representatives said any attempt by All Progressives Congress members to intimidate or remove the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, will be stoutly resisted.
The PDP members, in separate interviews with SUNDAY PUNCH, said without a comfortable control of the House, the APC would remain powerless, despite having the majority.
The opposition party caucus stated this just as the Deputy Senate President, Mr. Ike Ekweremadu, on Saturday, said more defectors would soon join the PDP.
However, a member of the Parliamentary Support Group, a group of APC senators loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari, Senator Ali Ndume, insisted that Saraki must quit as Senate President should he defect from the APC to the PDP.
The Deputy Minority Whip in the House, Binta Bello, on her part, said there was no basis for anybody outside the speaker’s Tawafa-Balewa/Dass/Bogoro Federal Constituency to ask him to step down.
She also observed that the speaker was a product of all political parties, not only the APC.
“The people of his constituency voted for him. All politics is local. It’s the same people that can ask him to leave not just any member of APC.
“Again, is he just a speaker for the APC? If he has to go, all of us must come together again to say ‘go.’ This is not about APC alone,” she added.
Another senior member from Kogi State, Mr. Sunday Karimi, wondered if the APC had the number to remove Dogara.
Karimi stated, “Do they have the number? To impeach the speaker or shake him in any way, you will need to have two-thirds majority in the House. Do they have it? In ordinary times, to get 240 out 360 is tough, much less in abnormal times like now when everyone’s eyes are wide open.
“They are powerless and wasting their time without two-thirds. In any case, things will fall into their proper places when we resume in September.”
Speaking to one of our correspondents, the Deputy Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, said the majority party would be known when the National Assembly returned from recess.
“When we resume, you can confirm that,” he said when asked the requirement to remove the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Saraki ceases to be Senate President if he defects, Ndume insists
According to Ndume, the two-thirds majority stipulated by the Constitution to remove the President of the Senate or Speaker of the House of Representatives is based on which party the presiding officer belongs to.
Ndume said, “The removal that the Constitution is talking about is in the party. For example, if he is a member of the APC, it will require two-thirds to remove him. But if he is not a member of the APC, he cannot be the Senate President.
“The two-thirds that the Constitution is referring to is that since we have elected him by simple majority as we did, we cannot remove him until we have two-thirds. But if he moves to another party, then he should not be the Senate President at all.”
More defectors coming PDP, says Ekweremadu
Ekweremadu, on Saturday, described the PDP as the biggest and fastest growing political party in Africa.
He said what Nigerians witnessed in the last few days with the defections of scores of National Assembly members and the return of the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, to the PDP was “a tip of the iceberg.”
The lawmaker, according to a statement on Saturday by his Special Adviser on Media, Uche Anichukwu, said this in Awgu, Enugu State, on Saturday during the inauguration of the Agwu Local Government Area chapter of the Gburugburu Movement, which champions the re-election bid of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Ekweremadu said, “We are happy for this. But I have good news for you. Nigerians have only witnessed a tip of the iceberg. More are on their way because it is no longer about anybody’s individual political ambition. It is now a movement to rescue Nigeria.”
Saraki still consulting –Kwara APC spokesman
Meanwhile, the Publicity Secretary of the APC loyal to the Senate President in Kwara State, Alhaji Sulyman Buhari, has said Saraki is still consulting on his next political move.
He stated that the Buhari-led administration and the national leadership of APC were still in talks with Saraki to stop his defection to another party.
In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, on Saturday, Buhari said, “If two senators and all the members of the House of Representatives from Kwara State have defected from the APC to the PDP, remember there are still 24 members of the state House of Assembly and the governor of the state who are still APC members at the moment.
“The Senate President has never declared for any other political party rather than the APC. So, Nigerians should wait for him pending the time he will declare his intention.
“As you can see from what is going on at the national level, politics is all about consultation. You can see, the government in power is trying to talk to him.”
APC members wade intervene in Dogara, Bauchi gov’s rift
Also, in the House of Representatives, it was learnt that the APC members were anxious over a possible exit of Dogara from the party and were pulling every string to stop such move.
It was learnt on Saturday that several members, particularly from the majority North-West, had intervened in the political feud between the Governor of Bauchi State, Mr Mohammed Abubakar, and Dogara.
The speaker is from Bauchi State in the North-East. A power tussle between Dogara and Abubakar has eaten up the better part of the last three years in the state.
The quarrel between two top politicians and the apparent slow pace of the APC at the highest level to resolve it account for why Dogara is not happy with the party.
Recall that Dogara shunned the ward, local government and state congresses of the party. He made a brief appearance at the National Convention in Abuja where his speech dwelt more on the alleged injustice in the party.
With threats of more defections and the likelihood of the APC losing its current slim majority in the House, SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that members were bent on stopping Dogara from leaving.
“We will not support the speaker leaving because it will further affect the fortunes of the party.
“It is our view that the local issues in Bauchi with the governor should be resolved amicably,” one member said.
Findings showed that the peace option was preferred because of the realisation that it might also be impossible to sack the speaker without the right number.
Recall that on Tuesday, 37 members defected from the APC. Thirty-two of them went to the PDP, while four members moved to the African Democratic Congress. One of the members has yet to join a new party.
The defection leaves the APC with 186 members out the total of 360, while the PDP has 162. There are five members in APGA and one in the SDP.
By the requirement of law, the APC needs two-thirds majority (240) to contemplate on removing the speaker.
“As things stand, it is not in the interest of the party to threaten the speaker as we will simply be handing over the seat to the PDP if he decides to defect,” another member told SUNDAY PUNCH.
The Leader of the majority North-West caucus, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, admitted that it would serve the interest of the APC for Dogara to stay.
He spoke more, “I am also authoritatively aware that up till today, Dogara is a faithful member of the APC, and still ready for further negotiations on the perceived bitter relationship with his state governor.
“I, therefore, urge the national leadership of our great party to dispassionately intervene on the speaker’s issue in Bauchi State and bring it to a logical conclusion.
“It is my candid opinion that we cannot afford to miss the Speaker from the APC family.”
Ado-Doguwa disagreed with calls by some party members that Dogara could as well step down.
“But it will be wrong for any one to ask the speaker to step down in the light of the impending political circumstances in the National Assembly.
“Also, once a speaker or his deputy are elected, they can only be removed by two-thirds of all members of the House. It is therefore uncharitable for any one to now call for his removal without any constitutional reason,” he added.
Incidentally, members of the Parliamentary Support Group, made up of largely pro-Buhari APC supporters in the House, said they were at home with Dogara working for the President’s second-term ambition.
The spokesman for the group, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, said, “We are working for Mr President. The speaker and the leadership of the House, they are all with us.
“We have a common goal, which is to see to Buhari’s return in 2019.”
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