Opinion: Why is Saraki still our Senate President? – By TONNIE IREDIA
At the beginning of this republic in 2015, Senators elected Bukola Saraki, to serve as their President. The decision obviously did not go down well with the hierarchy of the ruling party-the All Progressive Congress (APC) because it reportedly disorganized her zoning arrangement.
Thereafter, Saraki had to face several challenges including his long drawn out trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal on charges of incorrect declaration of assets. But not many disbelieved Saraki’s thesis that he was only being politically victimized. Other challenges such as the accusation of his being behind the celebrated Offa bank robbery clearly showed that Saraki was going down in history as the most harassed Senate President ever. It was probably for this reason that Senator Victor Umeh, (Anambra Central) had to make a call for the leadership of the National Assembly to also have immunity. By the time the Judiciary left Saraki off the hook, many of his admirers assumed that the worst days were over which turned out to be a farce. The politics of 2019 took over, pitching the legislature and the executive into a cat and rat game over the control of everything especially the budget. Why Buhari’s presence in Paris peace forum necessary – Presidency
This led to the regrouping of some politicians towards effecting a break in the existing party power structure in the country. By the time it became clear again that Saraki was the rallying point, the APC itself suddenly developed into an aggressive party with the election of Adams Oshiomhole a ‘radical’ activist to flog everyone into line. Many things happened in quick succession culminating in the invasion of the National Assembly by security operatives whose motivations were never clearly identified.
The invasion itself had a side attraction of an attempt to lock out Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu from the day’s proceedings at the Senate. Although, the expedition failed, it didn’t fail to draw a battle line. Indeed, it didn’t take long for Saraki to defect from the ruling party to the main opposition party-the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Thereafter the politicians, particularly, those in the APC overheated the polity on a daily basis making Nigeria a horrible place. First, the APC caucus led by the Senate leader, Senator Ahmed Lawal insisted that Saraki must resign from the position of the Senate President which according to them could only be held by a Senator of the majority party. Surprisingly, House of Representatives Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila himself a lawyer, expressed similar political sentiments devoid of legal rationality. At the same time, the party’s garrulous national chairman and other activists spent endless air time on national television canvassing how the seat of Senate President was like a family crown that could only be adorned by one of its siblings.
As one analyst euphemistically suggested, Oshiomhole being from Edo was making a solid point premised on a vast knowledge of the principle of primogeniture. Alas, the principle neither operates everywhere in Edo to make all its citizens expert in it, nor is it applicable to the Senate situation. The truth is that no party owns the Senate crown The strategy of the agitating politicians was just to pull a wool across our faces to make it look as if Saraki was elected Senate President by the APC when in reality the man was a coalition elector with higher premium from opposition support.
Senate’s secret deal to keep Saraki as Senate President and two troubles in a row Besides, the claim that only an APC member could be Senate President runs counter to the constitutional provision for Senators to elect ANY one of their own to hold the post. By the same constitution, a Senate President does not get removed simply because any political party becomes unhappy with him, instead those supporting the removal must not be less than two-third the size of the Senate- a ratio the APC has never had. As clear as this subject was, the party still decided to unleash its bitterness on the polity, advancing several reasons why the Senate which was on recess must be forced to reopen. Nigerians knew that passing the 2019 election budget which was put forward as the rationale for the opening was a charade. It was just ‘a Saraki must be removed’ project.
The Senate has long reopened with Saraki remaining as President from the opposition party. Yet, all the war generals in the ruling party have gone cold. Painfully, they deceived us again that the battle was put off in the national interest. According to the Senate Leader, “we definitely have to bury our hatchets for us to work for Nigeria and Nigerians.” Does it then mean that the previous push to remove Saraki was against the national interest? If so, where did our people go wrong to have their legislators operating below national interest? Should we not ask them these questions while taking a hard look at events which occurred that turned what they swore earlier to be a bad goal into a good one? These were the questions this writer sought answers to during the week from political analysts and commentators. While some of our respondents imagined that many of the Senators may have lost ample steam after their rancorous party primaries, a few argued that economic interests accounted for the game change. This school pointed at the 2019 election budget from which a unity of direction was likely to better ensure that everyone made material gains.
President Buhari did not only send a proposal on the subject, he had hinted that the proposal may have to be funded from constituency projects – the sacred cows of our law makers. The premise of the argument was that except there was unity of purpose, the legislators may lose out. Thus, it was probably the usual self-serving interest of our legislators that brought them together again. 2019: PDP chieftain urges Urhobo to back Omo-Agege On the basis of a newly found national interest, our Senate and indeed both chambers of the National Assembly are once again one family with Saraki remaining as confident as ever to attempt to reshuffle committee chairmen.
Only last Wednesday, he so acted by moving four Senators around. They are: former Senate leader, Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno), who will now head the committee on establishment and public service; Senator, Lawal Gumau (APC-Bauchi), now to serve as chairman of the committee on federal character, Senator, Tijani Kaura (APC-Zamfara north), now Chairman of the Police affairs committee; while Senator Abu Ibrahim (APC-Katsina south), now heads the committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity. So, do our Senators have a right to play politics with our development by feigning quarrels now and again to deceive Nigerians? Don’t we deserve an apology for the bitter but meaningless struggle to remove Saraki? It is either they explain or remove Saraki. Vanguard