By June 9 this year, it would be three years since Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki mounted the saddle in extraordinary circumstances as the sixth President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Saraki’s emergence defied the calculations of some entrenched political interests in the terribly divided ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
With the benefit of hindsight, it could be safely argued that but for the emergence of Saraki as President of the Senate and Yakubu Dogara, as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the eighth plenary of the National Assembly would have ended up as an appendage of the executive arm.
The history of the election of floor functionaries in the eighth NASS remains a sore chapter in the ascendance of the erstwhile amalgam of opposition political parties to the Presidency. The events of that fateful June 9 are too dramatic to forget.
The Senate President said when he got information that efforts were being made by some political supremacists to determine the leadership of the emergent eighth National Assembly against the wishes of the senators-elect, he drove himself into the complex by 6.00 am, parked in the lot and remained in the car, observing things.
Why did he have to do that? Regardless of the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari had signed the proclamation of the legislature for June 9 by 9.00 am, the prime movers of the merger arrangement that produced the APC gave a counter announcement to the effect that the president wanted to hold a meeting with APC members-elect before their sitting.
Although the presidency had in body language and actions denied it authorized such a meeting before the legislators get down to the business of their own of arm of government, there has not been an official explanation about what really gave rise to that hastily convoked meeting.
But the announcement inviting the APC members-elect to the meeting at International Conference Centre had indicated that during the meeting President Buhari was to exhort the lawmakers on how to go about the selection of their leaders in the interest of the agenda and drive of the party. Simply, the APC leaders were expected to moderate the election of principal officers of the Red and Green Chambers to tally with pre-arranged zoning format.
That was not to be. The entire episode was programmed to go awry. An order directing the authorities, including the inspector general of police to obstruct entrance to the legislative chambers was not carried out. The attempt at its enforcement was defrayed by the discovery that no such order came from a lawful authority.
Consequently, gaining access into the Senate chambers, Saraki and senators-elect from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) formed a quorum and proceeded to hold the election of principal officers of the Senate. Being one of the few APC Senators-elect that shunned the ICC meeting for its incongruity, Saraki was elected unopposed, while Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP was returned as Deputy President of Senate.
Ever since that independent leadership selection took place in the Senate, President Buhari switched off, isolating the legislature in the practice of aloof leadership style. Strenuous efforts and logistics were deployed in the attempt to ‘right the wrong’ in the leadership organogram of the Senate, where the majority APC was forced to share leadership with the minority cum opposition PDP.
As the icy relations between the Presidency and NASS continued, governance suffered and the nation wallowed in suspense. To compound matters, Saraki was dragged to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on charges bordering on irregularities in his asset declaration form 12 years earlier, when he was governor of middle belt state of Kwara.
While the matter dragged at the CCT, President Buhari and the Senate president were not on talking terms. The president forgot that he belongs to the same party as Saraki and that it is in Saraki’s domain that the raw materials needed for good governance are produced.
But the reality of the fact that such isolationism cannot endure in a democracy dawned on the president when he submitted his belated list of cabinet nominees and first annual estimate, the appropriation bill.
Both arms continued to parch up relations until the president took ill and saw that the Senate under Saraki could determine his fate. It was evident also that had he chosen to be mischievous or excessively ambitious, Saraki could not have wasted time to declare the president incapacitated after he stayed outside his office for more than 90 days.
Whether such power play could have succeeded or not is immaterial, but the fact remains that the legislature wields enormous power in a democracy such that it could curtail the excesses of a holier-than-thou anti-corruption president.
Fresh Plots, Seeping Anxiety
IS the president planning another prolonged test cycle abroad? Why the resurgence of attempts to remove Saraki as the president of Senate at this point in time, barely one year to the end of four years term of the APC administration?Those were some of the concerns raised in the minds of many Nigerians when the Senator representing Bauchi Central, Isa Hamman Misau, revealed that a fresh plot has been in the works to unseat the son of Oloye as the president of Senate.
The exposé would have been dismissed as cheap political alarmism if not that the squealing senator is a member of APC. Also the detailed manner in which Misau delivered the account of the plot without naming names, convinced Nigerians of the veracity of such.
The senator explained that the plotters decided on the latest move to preempt the Senate president, whom they believed might defect from APC to another political platform, stressing that the plot was activated during the Christmas recess. He added that a minister, believed to be close to the presidency was spearheading the fresh plots to ensure that Saraki’s anticipated exit does not create serious problems for APC.
Alluding to the shadowy excesses of the so-called cabal in the presidency, Misau alleged: “While we were on holiday, so many people were going behind (meeting senators) and pleading that we should remove the Senate president.“A minister was spearheading the move. They said that the president of the Senate would leave APC and that it would create problems. I wonder what kind of country is this, where everything is about religion and tribe.”
Saraki, APC And Senate Solidarity
THE prevailing stability in the eighth Senate, which mirrors the David Mark era, could be traced to the political clout and astute leadership of Saraki. In an interview with The Guardian, the Senator representing Anambra North Senatorial district, Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah, noted the stability of the eighth Senate could be traced to its leadership.
Senator Oduah said: “For the first time, we have a leadership that was fully and totally acceptable to the members, and it has been teamwork. And in everything you do, once you have a good leadership that is focused, with vision, then it works. So, everybody goes by that vision and the legislative agenda, so we don’t have any crack to the best of my knowledge, and I don’t think any crack will succeed.”
The senator added: “We cannot have a progressive democratic society without a good leadership, we cannot have a progressive society that is democratic without having the democratic principle.”However despite Saraki’s wide political network, the exceptional balance of political forces in the eighth Senate made his office very challenging and interesting. At the inauguration, the ruling APC had 56 senators while PDP had 50.
Like other members of nPDP in APC, Saraki still retains his appeal to PDP senators, who seem to understand the compelling reason for his defection to APC based on the breach of the zoning arrangement in the former ruling party.Born into a political family, Saraki’s father was indeed the leader of the second republic Senate. His mother was from Ondo, while his father, Dr. Sola Saraki, hailed from Ilorin. The Senate president’s maternal grandmother was from Oyo and his wife is from the royal family of Ojora in Lagos.
With tentacles spread socially and politically across Nigeria, those who worked for his easy removal from office must have seen how far they fared in the last three years. Therefore renewing the nefarious distraction of “Saraki must go” at this point in time of the nation’s history would bode evil to not only Nigeria’s democracy, but also to the stability of the country.
Why? From the election timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently, it is barely four month to full-blown political activities in the country. Therefore, unless those plotting to destabilise the National Assembly through the orchaestrated plot against the office of the President of Senate want to throw Nigeria into a state of emergency, there is no way it would augur well for Nigeria.
Perhaps, it could take one year for the anti-Saraki group to successfully carry out an assignment they could not undertake in three years. With the spate of insecurity threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria, another trouble in the National Assembly might be the easiest way to dismember the country.
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