Bukola Saraki’s senate presidency received a boost on Tuesday when 81 of 108 senators endorsed his presidency. Reports has it that despite the open show of support, the leadership crisis persists.
On July 28, the Senate gallery was filled to capacity. Legislative aides, journalists and sundry onlookers had come early to witness a rowdy session, as predicted.
The crowd expected drama. However, when Senators started arriving the chambers and began exchanging friendly banters, it was clear that the Senate would resume from its forced month-long recess on a peaceful note.
Apparently, the Senate President’s reconciliatory moves and fence-mending efforts were paying off.
After weeks of accusations and counter accusations, it was an anti-climax on Tuesday when senators passed a vote of confidence on Senate President Bukola Saraki and the entire leadership as constituted.
Recall that the Senate has been embroiled in a leadership crisis since the emergence of Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu as Senate president and Deputy respectively. Saraki emerged senate president over the preferred candidate of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Ahmad Lawan. The senators have been at logger heads since then and attempts by the APC to compensate Lawan and George Akume with the positions of Senate Leader and deputy was resisted vehemently by the Saraki group as the Senate president named Senators Ali Ndume and Bala Na’allah as leader and deputy leader respectively prompting a fresh round of crisis in the Upper House.
The dust was yet to settle on the leadership crisis, when Senator Kabiru Marafa accused the Saraki-led Senate of forging the Senate rules called for the cancellation of the Senate leadership elections on the grounds of illegality.
According to Marafa, Saraki; the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and the National Assembly clerk Salisu Maikasuwa called for the cancellation of the elections.
Senators of the Unity Forum insisted that the leadership of the Senate must be impeached and threatened to raise a motion for impeachment on resumption of the Senate last Tuesday.
Senator Marafa when contacted by reporters Friday on the alleged impeachment of the senate leadership and the suspension of members of the Unity Forum, replied via text message .
“How do you impeach what is not there?
Anyway, my understanding of the case is; we are in court challenging the events of June 9 2015 based on the evidences we gave the police.”
“The police report will help the court in determining our case. If the court agrees with the police it will, in addition to handing down appropriate sanctions nullify the events of that day, that’s all! On the rumoured suspension, I pray it is true.”
Also in his reaction to the planned impeachment, Senator Dino Melaye via a text message said:” Joke joke joke. It is awada keri keri. The senate President was not sworn in with the standing rules of the senate. Police should prosecute those found wanting. It is advertisement of ignorance at display. Saraki dey. No shaking.”
The Unity Forum also went to court to stop Saraki from constituting standing committees of the Senate, however the court threw out the case.
Also, a reconciliatory meeting convened on July 26 by the APC Governors Committee consisting of Governors Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State and Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State
who called a meeting on Sunday night (July 26) could not bring together members of the Unity Forum and Like Minds. They met the two groups differently that day without any resolution.
On July 28, when the Senate resumed from its recess, Senator Anyanwu from Imo State came up with a motion which was co-sponsored by 80 other Senators. The motion passed a vote of confidence on Saraki, Ekweremadu and the entire leadership of the Senate. It called on security agencies not to intimidate Senators with unnecessary cases.
Also Senators noted with dismay, the continued harassment of the National Assembly management and Spouses of senators by security agencies of government.
They also averred that the vote of confidence on the leadership of the Senate as presently constituted was very necessary in view of the sustained interference in the internal affairs of the senate by detractors and media propaganda against the senate and senators by selfish politicians.
The motion got express approval of the senate without debate on account of already securing more than 2/3 supports of the entire senators before presentation.
A critical look of co- sponsors of the motion, shows that aside 47 PDP senators, that assented to it, 34 others from the All Progressives Congress (APC) also assented their signatures to it, among whom were Monsurat Sunmonu (APC Oyo Central) and Bukar Abba Ibrahim (APC Yobe East) who were formerly in the camp of Senator Ahmad Lawan.
However spokesman of the Unity Forum, Kabiru Marafa, had before the vote of confidence on Saraki and others, attempted to put in nullity, all proceedings of the 8th Senate aside its proclamation, from 9th of last month till yesterday, 28th July 2015.
Marafa who came through Senate Orders 15, 1 and 13 said the 2015 senate standing rules states that proceedings of senate as specified in the rules, have not been complied with by the 8th Senate since inception.
He said: “I want to posit that the activities of the Senate on the 9th of June stands because it was covered by the proclamation of Mr President which states that the proceedings of the chamber shall start by 10:00am. But all other activities of the Senate from the time but not limited to the oath of office, is a nullity because it was not done within the time frame. The activities of the Senate on the 23rd and 24th are equally a nullity as far as provisions of orders 13(2) are concerned”.
He was however ruled out of order by the Senate President.
Based on the events on Tuesday, monitors say the overwhelming support of Saraki by the senators have effectively put a nail on the coffin of the Unity Forum.
According to the Senate rules, two-third of the senate membership which is needed to pass the most important motion or legislation is 73. Now if the votes of Saraki and Ekweremadu is added to the 81 Senators that endorsed the motion, it amounts to 83 senators.
With 36 APC and 45 PDP Senators supporting Saraki, he has successfully built a bi-partisan support base in the Senate.
It is believed the rank of opposition will continue to be depleted with time as the Senate settles down to the business of legislation.
Well, the Senate President has challenged his colleagues to put the crisis behind them and concentrate on their core legislative business.
“It is time we remind ourselves of the solemn promise to deliver to our people real change. Leadership is secondary to our primary responsibility of good governance. As Senate President you have given me responsibility to ensure that our primary responsibility is placed on the table not under the table. Nigerians did not put their lives on the line for politics but for the delivery of good governance.”
Incidentally, Saraki was magnanimous to ensure that many adhoc committees leadership and membership consist of names of members of the group of 25. These include: Chief Barnabas Gemade in the committee on Environmental and erosion control; Jide Omoworare, chair of the business and rule committee and Kabiru Marafa who is a member, among others.
The legislators should face the rigorous work of legislations and oversight of executive. The unity of the legislature is critical to the success of this administration as the legislature is a key driver of democracy.