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Opinion: Ekweremadu, Buhari, APC And The ICC Meeting

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by Olatunde Odunyemi

The emergence of the leadership of the current National Assembly in our country has thrown up many issues which will generate a heated debate for a long time. The June 9 inauguration of the Eight National Assembly and the drama attending the election of the Senate President, Speaker and their deputies have presented drama, intrigues and political calculations which deserve that not only books be written about the event of that day and what happened before and after, but also requires scholars of political science and Nigerian political developments and government to further interrogate and document what happened for posterity.

While so much has been written and many explanations given by the actors and their supporters on the leadership crisis, one has noticed how the issue of the emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu representing Enugu State and a member of the minority party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as the Deputy Senate President has equally assumed a life of its own.  It is being presented  that the Ekweremadu issue is what President Muhammadu Buhari could not live with in the entire National Assembly leadership crisis. Those who are sponsoring this narrative said the President and the leadership of the All Progressive Congress (APC) would not forgive the senators from the ruling party who participated in the June 9 election on the floor of the Senate.

However, it appears that those who accuse the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki and the other Senators who participated in that election of selling out to PDP and betraying the position of the party have refused to answer one particular question. The question is: Why were majority of the APC Senators not in the Senate Chambers that morning?

The follow up question is: were the APC Senators not aware that President Muhammdau Buhari had exercised his legal powers by communicating to the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, that the Senate should be inaugurated by 10am on June 9, 2015? Also, one can ask why over 50 APC Senators who were to take their oath of office that day chose to gather at the International Conference Centre (ICC), some kilometers away from the National Assembly Complex, instead of inside the Senate Chambers.?

It is also pertinent to raise the question of WHO convened the meeting inside the ICC and made it to coincide with the time the Senate was to be inaugurated and what was the motive, the motivation and objective of the convener? If one was to be a researcher or an academic, these will be the research questions. Providing answers to these questions will help in realising the research objectives.

The dominant narrative earlier referred to had stated that the ICC meeting was convened  by President Buhari for all APC Senators and House of Representatives members. However, subjecting this claim to further scrutiny showed that it stands fact on the head. It is on record that President Buhari has not disclaimed the fact that he sent a proclamation order to the Clerk of National Assembly for the inauguration to commence by 10 am on the appointed day. That order was at no time withdrawn. The President flew into the country from Germany about 6am that morning. How will he fix  a meeting for 9am with the awareness of another constitutionally backed gathering fixed for an hour later with his expected audience being the main actors in the second meeting?

Also, up till today, nobody has admitted that there was any formal  invitation for the President’s meeting. It was said that the invite was an SMS. The President convened a crucial meeting by SMS? Who also ordered the National Assembly gate closed early that morning of June 9, using the name of the President, until the IGP, Mr. Solomon Arase sought clarification from Buhari who then denied ever giving such?  Again, as at 10.05 am when the election in the Senate Chambers commenced that day, President Buhari, a man known as a stickler for promptness had not arrived at the ICC where he supposedly fixed a meeting for 9am. That also appeared strange.

One is therefore compelled to look beyond the dominant narrative to find a more plausible explanation. It is obvious Buhari did not convene the meeting in ICC, otherwise it will be a contradiction. That is why he did not attend it. Those who convened the meeting using Buhari’s name must be the ones behind the illegal order that the National Assembly gate be shut in the morning of June 9 to deny entry to even the then legislators-elect. The plan was to get all the Senators and Representatives to the ICC and whether Buhari attended or not, they were to use his name to cajole, coerce and intimidate the National Assembly members to go into the chambers and elect Ahmed Lawan, George Akume, Femi Gbajabiamila and Monguno as Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively, without question.

Those behind the meeting had also schemed to ensure that if Saraki attended that meeting, They were to tactically exclude him, using the name of Buhari, to an extent that he would not attend the plenary when the election would be held. Unfortunately, a member of that group got too loquacious and let the cat out of the bag, inadvertently though.

What those who wove this plot did not reckon with was that the Saraki group had taken some precautions. They also did not fathom the capacity of the PDP Senators with 49 members s against APC’s 59. Again, the untidy arrangements made by the plotters also did them in. For example, why did they not get the President to change the proclamation he earlier sent to the Clerk? Why did they not keep a few of their men in the chambers to monitor events? Why did they not get the President to keep to time and finish the ICC meeting by 9.30am so that the members could get to the NASS Complex just on time for the commencement of business in the chambers by 10am? Why did the ICC meeting not hold in the night with the president addressing his legislators as he arrived from Germany? Still Many unanswered questions.

So, if one is to join the blame game, the people to blame for the emergence of Ekweremadu, the PDP man as Deputy Senate President, are those who kept the Senators away from the chambers for a partisan meeting at the time they should be working as legislators. Let us blame the schemers who have been out-schemed  for all these crises. Let us also blame the discerning lawmakers who did not see beyond the manipulations they were subjected to.

The APC should be grateful that PDP senators did not get too ambitious. They could have taken the Senate Presidency because at the time that Saraki was elected un-opposed, only about 25  or half of the full capacity of APC members were on the floor of the Senate as against PDP’s 49.  When the nomination for the top post was called by the Clerk, if the PDP had nominated one of their own, he would have won. The PDP only displayed their own sophistication at the game by averting the noise that would have heralded such a big gamble. They then went for the next available office, that of the Deputy Senate President (DSP).
It  should be recalled that at the time the clerk called for nominations for the office of DSP, Saraki and other APC senators did not just leave the post for the PDP. They presented their own candidate, Ali Ndume, who got the votes of all the 25 APC senators present at that time.

So, why are we blaming Saraki and his supporters for the enthronement of the PDP man, Ekweremadu, as DSP? President Buhari and all Nigerians should look in the direction of those who convened a subterfuge meeting in ICC to distract the Senators from performing their first official duty. Now, everybody should either live with the reality of an Ekweremadu as DSP or APC senators should plot Ekweremadu’s impeachment. The latter option look far-fetched as there is need for a two-third majority to impeach the SP or DSP. And PDP has 49 senators as against APC ‘s 59. Two-third of the 109-member senate is 73. Shikena!

Olatunde Odunyemi writes from Festac, Lagos.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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