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Monday, 20 August 2018

Battle For Saraki’s Seat


Following the recent defection of Senator Bukola Saraki, from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), there are determined moves by the party in power to ensure he either resigns as Senate President or is impeached. But PDP is bent on ensuring he retains his seat. Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu and Sunday Oguntola report on the battle for Saraki’s seat.

THE battle for the Senate President’s plum seat, currently occupied by Bukola Saraki, has emerged the fulcrum of the ongoing power game in Nigeria ahead 2019 elections.

The scene for the raging battle between the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was set late July, when Senate President Bukola Saraki, who assumed that position as an APC member, formally defected to PDP without resigning his position as both the President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly.

In a way, the battle over Saraki’s seat, between APC and PDP dates back to the very day Saraki emerged as the Senate President three years ago. Although he was an APC senator, he was not the candidate the leadership of his party scheduled to hold the top position. But, in what some of them described as a coup against the party, Saraki, went into a secret alliance with the opposition PDP, and with PDP’s support and votes, he emerged the Senate President, to the chagrin of APC leadership. More worrisome to APC leadership then was the emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu, a PDP Senator, as the Deputy Senate President, an arrangement many considered as part of the secret deal Saraki had with PDP. Since then, Saraki’s seat has remained a source of complex intrigues probably unrivalled in the political history of Nigeria’s National Assembly leadership tussles.

So, when Saraki finally defected to PDP without resigning his position as Senate President at the time the country is preparing for 2019 General Elections, APC became alarmed at the possible consequences on power equation and so demanded his resignation as Senate President.

Explaining why he believes Saraki must be impeached if he refused to resign so that APC will re-claim leadership of the National Assembly, APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, told the party’s lawmakers late last week: “If we have 56 senators and they have 49, I insist that 49 senators cannot preside over the affairs of a House in which the APC has 56 senators.

And I ask them to tell us anywhere in the world where minority rules over majority. Often times, we take flight to America to under study American presidential system of government; once you lose majority, you step down and hand over. Let me reinstate that, and I do so on behalf of our party, I also know that it is the wish of all our senators, that we cannot be subjected to minority rule in the senate.

Therefore, whether it is convenient for Distinguished Senator Saraki or not, the truth is, whether by morality or by law or by convention, Senator Saraki can only avoid impeachment by toeing the path of honour, step down so that APC can take over the leadership of the House. Senator Saraki will be lawfully and democratically impeached as President of the senate. It will not be illegally done, it will be done according to law, it will be done according to tradition and those lawyers who have chosen to sit as judges, we need to remind them that lawyers are best officers of the court they do not constitute the court.

So when Senator Saraki is lawfully and democratically impeached, they will be free to go to anywhere they want to go to and canvass the legal or illegality of the act. It does not lie in their mouth to pronounce the finality as if they have constituted the judicial arm of government. And I am also happy that just recently, in the ruling of the Court of Appeal, when the APC went to court to challenge the bill that was under consideration in the National Assembly as regards the order of election, when the court held that based on the principle of separation of powers, that the court cannot stop the legislature from exercising their independence but when they have exercised their independence and make a law or a decision, now the legality of that decision as it relates to the constitution, the court has jurisdiction to inquire into it.

So, all those people who are wasting their time, believing that they can go and file dubious cases in the court, so that they think wrongly that they can in turn hang on it to purport that the matter is in court, therefore the senate cannot exercise their fundamental right to determine their leadership; they need to read carefully that judgement by the court of Appeal: APC vs the National Assembly.”

The former governor of Edo State also hinted that the caucus meeting is not designed to end after resolving the current leadership battle at the Senate but will be a continuous process aimed at helping the APC-led executive. “I earlier promised that we will be holding meetings with our National Assembly to ensure that we work with the Executive to succeed.

This meeting we are holding with our National Assembly members will continue, those who are assuming that any of such meeting is about impeachment is their headache. Impeachment will take place legally but even long after impeachment, the tradition of having caucus meeting must be sustained. That is the promise we intend to keep. I want to reassure all our National Assembly that our party values experience, our party values knowledge, loyalty and we will do anything possible to reward loyalty,” he said.

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