NAN – President Muhammadu Buhari reached out to the clerk of the national assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, to “slightly delay” Tuesday’s inauguration of the national assembly, Barnabas Gemade, an All Progressives Congress (APC) senator representing Benue north east, has revealed.
Fifty-one APC senators were at the International Conference Centre (ICC) for a meeting with Buhari – which eventually did not hold – when the assembly clerk declared open the inauguration process and called for nominations for the post of senate president.
While Ahmed Lawan, APC’s choice, could not be nominated as he and all his loyalists were at ICC, Bukola Saraki, an APC lawmaker but also the adopted candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was announced as sole nominee – and consequently the winner, much to the displeasure of the Lawan camp and the APC hierarchy.
Now, the Lawan-led senators under the umbrella of Unity Forum are insisting that Saraki’s election as senate president is illegitimate, as the election should not have started when it did.
Gemade told journalists that Maikasuwa was to blame for Saraki’s emergence, claiming that he disobeyed Buhari’s instruction to delay the inauguration of the assembly pending his meeting with the APC senators-elect.
He said the insinuation that the senators who were absent during the election boycotted it was unfounded, saying that they, as loyal party members, had gone to heed the call of the president.
“This process, which remains unconstitutional, cannot confer legitimacy on the elected senate president,” NAN quoted Gemade as saying.
“Our right to participate in the election of the senate president is a constitutional right, which cannot be taken by any person of group. The clerk of the national assembly, knowing full well that the quorum for election had not been met, went ahead to conduct the election that shut the door to 51 other senators.
“We will like to make it very clear that the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gives the letter for the proclamation. The clerk is the one that received the correspondence of Mr President that there must be a slight delay in order to enable him to speak with senators of the APC before they commence the process. In the House of Representatives, they were able to catch up because their own happened after the Senate.”
Gemade said that although a quorum was formed for the inauguration of the senate, quorum was not formed for the election of principal officers. He also argued that the two-third majority, which applied to impeachment, should have also applied to the election.
He maintained that every eligible senator ought to be present when nomination was made and closed; and that if all eligible senators were not present, then a quorum had not been formed.
However, another group of senators, the ‘Like Minds’ led by Dino Melaye (APC-Kogi West), dismissed the arguments of the Unity Forum, saying Buhari could never have fixed two meetings for the same time.
“The president, in his constitutional duty, sent a proclamation letter to the national assembly,” Melaye said.
“In that proclamation letter, he stated categorically that the proclamation of the 8th Senate will be done at 10 am. on June 9, 2015.
“How can Mr President, on one hand, send a letter of proclamation to the national assembly and, on the other hand, call for a meeting at the International Conference Centre?
“If Mr. President wants to meet legislators, the defence house is there, the villa is there, the banquet hall is there; why International Conference Centre? However, did Mr President eventually attend to anybody at International Conference Centre? Capital No!”
Melaye argued that Buhari had consistently reaffirmed that he had no preferred candidate and was ready to work with whoever emerged. He said the APC senators who backed Saraki were still loyal party members and had declined to attend the meeting as they were kept waiting for hours for a supposed meeting with the vice president on Monday.
“The Buhari that we know cannot and will not give two contrary opinions, especially one that is against the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he added.
“The letter of proclamation was written, duly signed, time stated, date stated; he will not do otherwise. It is not true that we disrespected the president and if the president wants to do that, he would have called.
“He had the powers to call the clerk of the national assembly to say ‘please postpone to 12 pm, I want to meet senators at 9 am’. We in the Like Minds group are ready to have one, united senate.”
Melaye also denied media reports that David Mark was sworn in as senate leader, saying the position is exclusive to the ruling party.