Precisely on Tuesday, 9th October 2018, the Senate resumed plenary from its annual recess. SOLOMON AYADO, ADEBIYI ADEDAPO write on the botched plot by of the All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers to impeach the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Before the Senate resumed from its recess, nothing apart from moves by the All Progressives Congress (APC) senators to sack the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, was trending. There were plots and counter-plots. A lot of persons initially believed that the lawmakers would resort to physical combat before the matter could be finally resolved. At first, all amicable measures to reach a truce between APC and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers was unrealizable. Intrigues were brought to the fore, just as the political undoings that defered compromise outplayed. Saraki did not want to take the last as he relentlessly deployed all personal and collective efforts to thwart any hatched plan by his percieved opposers. To some extent, it became a matter of APC senators loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari, against loyalists of Saraki, who mostly were PDP lawmakers. Saraki, then had not defected to the opposition PDP. There were unchallenged feelers that the APC, particularly Buhari and National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, were personally peeved with Saraki especially about how he emerged as Senate President. And they were bent on ousting him from the juicy position. Precedingly, a case of falsification of asset declaration was insituted against Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). This, everybody thought would have consumed the former Kwara State governor but surprisingly, he came out victorious as the tribunal, after series of trials, declared him free of wrong doing. Retrospectively, the grand plot to impeach him culminated into the fracas that ensued between the Executive and Legislature. Obviously, there was power play vide stiff resistance from both arms to succumb to the supremacy of the other.
Sadly, national development was truncated as the executive-legislature rift resulted to non-approval of serial requests by President Buhari, by Senate. The bad fate suffered by the delay and or non-passage of the national budgets, non-confirmation of appointments especially that of the Acting chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu and Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali among others. The decline of assent to bills by Buhari, all were also fallouts of the frosty relationship between the lawmakers and Presidency.The rancour did not settle. There were reported cases of alleged physical assault on lawmakers percieved to be Saraki’s supporters, by security operatives believed to be detailed by the Presidency. There were heavy protests by organised demonstrators too.
Furthermore, there was the orchestrated invasion of the National Assembly and snatching of Senate mace by thugs, all profered towards seeing the removal of Saraki.
Admist tension, the National Assembly proceeded on recess and adjourned till September 25th, 2018. Of course, the unexpected happened thereafter. Masked security operatives believed to be men of the Directorate of State Services (DSS) besieged the National Assembly complex and barricaded the main entry gates. That day, senators loyal to Saraki were prevented access into the premises. Pro-Buhari lawmakers were reportedly allowed entry without any harrassment. Reason: It was gathered the APC Senators had planned to reconvene in the chamber for an emergency session to pave the way to impeach Saraki. It was however learned that Saraki and his loyalists acted on tipoff and swiftly thronged the National Assembly, even as they were hindered by security men. Last minute, the plot to sack Saraki was again aborted. Somehow, the schedule of party primaries by INEC was handy and the lawmakers all proceeded to their various constituencies. But still, plans to remove Saraki could not stop boiling in the pipeline. Believing this was the cause, the Senate could not resume at earlier scheduled date of 25th September, but shifted to 9th October. Although the conduct of primaries apeared to have neccessitated the shift in new resumption date, but analysts however perceived the situation was not unconnected to the impeachment saga.
Oshiomole vs Saraki
Whether it is fanning embers of war, National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomole recently organised a press conference in Abuja, and outlined ways the Senate President had allegedly worked with the PDP while in the APC, to hinder the progress of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.
He vowed that Saraki should not only be impeached but also stopped from returning to the Senate in 2019.
But swiftly, Saraki said, through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, that “Oshiomhole was behaving like a rain-beaten chicken.”
“The argument of APC that the Senate President must come from a majority party; that the Senate Presidency is their crown and National Assembly is their palace is only supported by ignorance and dangerous delusion. First, the issue of which party is in the majority will only be resolved when the Senate resumes. Two, Section 50 (1) (a) of the constitution is clear that any Senator can be elected as Senate President,” it said.
With this response, everybody was expectant that when Senate resumed, certainly, if Saraki was not immediately removed, then, another political war could foster.
Surprisingly, precisely on 9th October, the lawmakers resumed and instead, the Senate appeared calmer than before. Senators, from both camps, were seen exchanging pleasantaries in camaraderie.
How APC, PDP Senators Reached Truce Via Secret Session
Politics is dicey and in the game, there is no permanent friend but interests. The sudden realignment of the Senators to even reach a truce took the people unawares. The situation in its entirety was against the expectations of political pundits. During plenary, the senators after observing prayers presided by Saraki, quickly went into a closed door session.
Although it was gathered that a peace deal was struck during the extended holiday in a secret session, that the Senators resolved to preserve the dignity and configuration of its leadership and permanently put an end to the plot to impeach Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
Also, according to reports, during the holiday, APC senators won an agreement from the PDP leadership of the Senate to project national interests above partisan inclinations.
But sources said chief among the advanced reasons to abandon the removal of Saraki was that the Presidency is in dire need of certain approvals from Senate.
To confirm this, on the first day of resumption, the Senate tabled the president’s request to raise an external capital of $2.786 billion and $82.54m to refinance the balance of $500m matured Eurobond in the international capital market. Also, Buhari wants Senate’s approval of an N346.5 billion 2018 statutory budget for the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. The president also requested Senate to confirm appointment of CBN deputy governor and chairperson of AMCON, as well as approve supplementary budget of N242,445,322,600.00 for 2019 general elections.
Senate Rescinds, Approves Buhari’s Requests
There is no way the APC Senators can hide the fact that external forces made them chicken out on the plot to remove Saraki, at least, if temporarily. Equally, the PDP senators and Saraki cannot decieve the onlookers that they were lobbied to have resolved their issues with the opposing camp. Ofcourse, that is politics and no one wishes that the crisis in the Senate should prolong. Initially, Senate was not approving any request from Presidency.
But to confirm that Senate has turned a new leaf and all crisis resolved, it quickly began to issue approvals to all requests by Buhari. For instance, it has approved the sum of N189,207,544,893 for the conduct of the 2019 general elections and also invited security agencies for budget defense which hitherto, was suspended. Also, it considered the issues raised by President Muhammadu Buhari on the Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill that was declined assent, and further constituted a committee to see to the review of all bills rejected by the President.
The Legal Issues
Several APC senators including Abu Ibrahim, Ahmed Lawan, Ali Ndume, Abdullahi Adamu, George Akume, Ovie Omo-Agege, among others, were said to be the arrow heads that angled for the resignation or impeachment of Saraki. But the legality of ousting a Senate President is what has posed imcumberance because it is not necessarily a party matter.
According to Section 50 of the 1999 Constitution, “There shall be: a President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by members of that House from among themselves”.It is implied that a party can only guide and or lobby its members to clinch the position because the lawmakers are at liberty to make any choice.
On removal of Senate President,the constitution further stipulates that only two-thirds of Senate as prescribed by Section 50 (2) can remove any of Senate’s presiding officers. As such, two-thirds of 109 Senators is 73 and there is no way APC can meet the number now, even as it is majority in Senate. Of 109 senators, APC has 56, PDP got 49 and other political parties have 4 senators respectively.
That is why a lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), insisted that only 73 Senators and not 24 can remove the Senate President. He described any attempt to remove Saraki without the constitutionally mandatory 73 members as opprobrium.
Saraki’s Impeachment, To Be Or Not?
The ambience of the sudden cordiality of Senators at the resumption sitting depicted that the impeachment of Saraki can be more of being dead on arrival and may not ressurect anytime soon. But in politics, circumstances can play a vital role and therefore, no one can pre-empt the outcome.
While responding to questions from journalists at the State House, Senate Leader, Lawan, disclosed that the APC senators suspend their threats to impeach Senate President in the overall national interest.
Lawan had at the APC Convention in Eagle Square, a week earlier insisted that APC lawmakers would upon National Assembly resumption on October 9, ensure that it regained its rightful position by ousting Saraki.
The Senate Leader noted that the APC lawmakers shelved their plots against Saraki and embraced the spirit of patriotism over and above partisan politics or personal issues.
The senator who further claimed that they opted to put Nigerian interest first, added that they only had disagreement which he said was normal.
According to him, the main commitment of the National Assembly was to ensure that Nigerians are offered deserved benefits by treating all pending national issues before them.
“I don’t know what informed your view to anticipate crisis but let me tell you that National Assembly will continue to remain focused on national issues.
“We must be patriotic, nationalistic. We must put national interest above individuals, parochial or partisan interest.
“We definitely have to bury our hatchets for us to work for Nigeria and Nigerians; perhaps that might have informed the disappointment of many people that there will be crisis in the National Assembly.
“Let me also say that disagreements are usual. In fact, there are very practical components of any parliament. When you have two to three parties or even within parties, you will have views that may differ.
“It is traditional. It is usual for us to disagree, maybe this disagreements may crop up and some other issues but for now, our focus is on national interest.
“The National Assembly is a Nigerian parliament and therefore the best thing to do is to ensure that Nigerians get a good deal and for now the good deal is for Nigeria to have all those pending requests of Mr. President approved by the National Assembly.
“I think the national interest for now override any other interest,” Lawan stated.
But contrary to claims by the Senate Leader, LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered that plot against the duo of Saraki and Dogara collapsed following the crisis that followed APC primaries nationwide, which did not favour some serving senators and members of the House of Representatives.
Checks by Leadership Sunday revealed that about 15 senators lost their bid to return to the Senate, while almost 70 members of the House also lost return tickets. The affected lawmakers who are aggrieved, according to sources are no longer disposed to the plan against the senate leadership.
This further frustrated the plan by the APC to effect a change of leadership in both Chambers.
In Osun State for instance, the two serving senators on the platform of APC lost their return tickets. The Senate Chief Whip, Prof. Sola Adeyeye, lost the return ticket for Osun Central to Basiru Ajibola, Babajide Omoworare (Osun East) lost to Hon. Ajibola Famurewa. Senator Olugbenga Ashafa lost APC ticket for Lagos East to a member of Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Bayo Osinowo.
The two APC senators from Ogun state, Lanre Tejuoso (Ogun Central) and Gbolahan Dada (Ogun West) have also been replaced at the legislative primary election by their party with Governor Ibikunle Amosun and his Chief of Staff, Chief Tolu Odebiyi respectively.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Rule and Business, Baba Kaka Garbai, lost the Borno Central ticket to Governor Kashim Shettima. The first term senator, who contested for the Borno governorship ticket of APC, was the returning officer for the governor in the senatorial primary. Senator Fatima Rasaki lost the Ekiti Central senatorial district ticket to former member of the House of Representatives, Opeyemi Bamidele.
Other serving senators who lost the APC tickets include; Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger North), David Umoru (APC Niger East), Ahmed Sani Yerima (APC, Zamfara East), Bukkar Abba Ibrahim (APC, Yobe East), Abu Ibrahim (APC, Katsina South) Kabiru Marafa (APC, Zamfara Central), and Sonny Ogborji (APC, Ebonyi South).
The situation is similar in the House of Representatives where about 70 serving members on the platform of the APC lost the party’s primary elections.
The member representing Soba federal constituency in Kaduna state, Musa Soba shortly who spoke on behalf of the aggrieved members shortly after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, said they were summoned by the President to present their complaints arising from the conduct of the APC primaries.
He disclosed that the aggrieved members who were denied the opportunity to re-contest for their seats in 2019 general elections were over 70.
Soba revealed that they appealed to the president to use his good office to intervene in what they described as impunity exhibited by some state governors and APC leadership in the affected states to deny them tickets to contest for the election. He also lamented undue exclusion and lack of transparency in the primaries conducted by the APC, and urged the president to remedy the situation before it was too late.
Although, the APC could not at any time boast of having the number of lawmakers required to effect a change of leadership in the National Assembly, the fall-out of the party’s primaries further polarised its ranks in the parliament which in-turn make impeachment plots against Saraki and Dogara a white elephant project.
Section 50 (C) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides that the President or Deputy President of the Senate, the Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and shall vacate the office “if he is removed from office by a resolution of the Senate or House of Representatives, as the case may be, by the votes of not less two- thirds majority of the members of that House.”
Meanwhile, former Senate minority leader, Godswill Akpabio has advised Saraki to resign honourably just like he (Akpabio) did when he defected from the opposition PDP to the ruling pary.
Akpabio made the call on Wednesday after he had a disagreement with Saraki in the senate chamber over sitting arrangement. “It’s a tradition all over the world that when you defect to another party even as a senate president like Saraki did, to resign from the office of the senate president,” Akpabio said.
According to him, APC is still the majority party and the party needs to form a new leadership, therefore the senate president should honourably resign just like he did.
As it stands, the political intrigues have played out and the impeachment of Saraki appears to have been temporarily halted. But no one is sure whether the whole scenario is merely a political gimmick. Be that as it may, the reality shall soon unravel as events unfold.