Posted by News Express | 11 September 2018 | 1,209 times
The Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki has come through some meandering trail: a rugged pathway chosen for him by the forces forging the nation’s past and present. Same for his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu!
Dr Saraki’s story is reminiscent of the hunting dog and the hunter who sets out on a hunting expedition. The hunter knows his dane gun would do only a little. He needed the ferocious hunting dog. It has the prowess and ways with the wild. It can follow the scent of animals and ferret them out of their hiding places. It can overrun the wild animals and, with its canines, sink its teeth into the killing hold. The hunter can then finish off the game.
At last the twosome would head home again, congratulating each other for a good outing; the hunter whistling for good fortune while the fawning dog stages mock hunts as they go.
Once home, the hunter's wife prepares the game. The woman had no idea what the hunter and the dog went through to bring home a kill. Now, the game is cooking and the dog is lurking around, hoping for a bite of its own gallant labour. The hunter, forgetting all, turns to the wife and instructs, “Chase the dog away; it may carry away the cooking meat!” That’s the story of Saraki, the nPDP and APC.
Juxtaposed, it was the nPDP, which gave the APC victory and ushered President Muhammadu Buhari into Aso Rock in 2015, but got chased away afterwards. Saraki maintained that since the nPDP was legitimately one of the four legacy blocks that merged and meshed into the APC, going for the office of Senate president was a fitting reward for his group’s remarkable contribution. After all, the votes delivered by the five nPDP states surpassed the votes delivered by the entire South-west. Kano alone delivered nearly 2 million votes to APC in the turbo-charged election where less than 3 million votes separated Buhari and Goodluck Jonathan.
Astonishingly, once Buhari was declared president-elect, like the hunter who forgot the hunting dog, a cabal seized the reins of power and began to allocate positions at whim and to dispense favours. The cabal easily signed off the office of the Senate president and Speaker to Senator Ahmed Lawan and Rep Femi Gbajabiamila respectively, not minding whether or not they were popular with their colleagues.
For the Office of the Senate President particularly, the APC conducted a straw vote, ostensibly to prove to Saraki that Lawan was a better choice. Two baskets were put out and labelled ‘Saraki’ and ‘Lawan’, and the senators-elect forced to vote between them in the open. Without secrecy, the party denied itself the chance of knowing between Saraki and Lawan who was really preferred by the senators-lect. Cajoled, Lawan predictably won.
As it later turned out, APC also forgot that it enjoyed only a slim majority in the 109-member House, where opposition PDP had 49 senators and spoiling to join the fray to decide who became what. PDP was armed with Section 50 (1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which states: “A president and deputy president of the Senate shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.” As this section did not bar lawmakers from the minority political party in parliament from seeking the position of Senate president or deputy or retain same, it was easy for the PDP to make deals and split the offices.
Recall that in the build-up to the election of presiding officers of the 8th Senate, PDP came with 49 senators. The APC had 59 (Ahmed Zannah, Borno Central, died before the inauguration). The Senate Unity Forum (33 APC senators-elect) endorsed Senator Ahmed Lawan, while 26 Like Minds senators-elect were for Saraki. In other words, it was not the PDP alone that produced Saraki as the Senate president; it was a collaboration between the PDP and the Like Minds’ Senators-elect.
Whoever is arguing that the presence of the APC (Unity Forum) senators who decided to go to the International Conference Centre while the election held would have ensured a different outcome argue amiss. Though Saraki was elected unopposed, Senator Ike Ekweremadu was elected by 52 senators, whereas the PDP senators were 49, clearly proving that some APC senators-elect equally voted for Ekweremadu, while 20 voted for Senator Ali Ndume, who also contested for the office of deputy Senate president.
The reason the jittery APC senators-elect ran to the International Conference Centre was that they knew that the Like Minds’ senators-elect teaming up with PDP senators-elect would spell doom to their fate. That was why the group desperately wanted President Buhari, who had already directed the Clerk of the National Assembly to proclaim the National Assembly at 10 a.m. same day, to double back and compel the Like Minds senators-elect to toe party line.
Having failed to stop Saraki from emerging, the cabal in the party resorted to persecution and prosecution - even on trumped-up criminal charges - one of which had to be quashed by the Supreme Court after three years. Even after the Supreme Court’s and lower courts’ exoneration, the Police is still trying hard to link Saraki with the Offa bank robbery. The desperation of the ruling party to force Senators Saraki and Ekweremadu out of office and have them replaced with Lawan, Akume and, Akpabio who just defected under most curious circumstance, is a false sense of entitlement.
Since litigations and intimidations have not yielded Saraki and Ekweremadu’s ouster as envisaged, force is now being applied. The first futile attempt was the brash attempt by a suspended senator to invade the Senate chamber with some thugs who took away the mace. The Police claimed they are yet to apprehend the invaders, despite the desecration happening at the instance of the suspended senator and in full glare of television cameras.
Since Saraki returned to the PDP, after the example of Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (as he then was) who left PDP for APC in October 2014 and still kept his office, the APC and its militant new Chairman have intensified the use of force to see that Saraki and Ekweremadu vacate office.
Adams Oshiohmole has an experience he is extrapolating. When he was governor of Edo State, he saw to the forceful and unconstitutional removal of the State Assembly Speaker and had him impeached by a simple majority, despite the express provisions of the section179 of the Constitution, which states that removal of the Speaker could only be by the affirmative vote of 2/3rd of the elected members of the house.
To Oshiohmole, therefore, the same treatment should be meted out to Saraki and Ekweremadu and let them go to court and obtain a Pyrrhic victory since the tenure of the 8th Senate would expire by the time such respite would come their way. What is more, the Court of Appeal has twice settled and rested the issue of 2/3rd as the 2/3rd of the total number elected into each House, in the cases of Asogwa v Chukwu, and the President v. National Assembly, both in 2003.
In all their travails, Nigerians are watching, miffed, and wondering why APC is trying so desperately and farcically to remove the two presiding officers without following the laid-down procedure in the Constitution. For the avoidance doubt, two Senate presidents, namely, Senators Evan Enwerem and Chuba Okadigbo, were impeached in this dispensation. Enwerem was impeached by 90 senators: 2 voted against. Okadigbo was impeached by 82 senators: 14 voted against.
Yet, despite these glaring exemplary historical antecedents and express constitutional provisions that have made the issue of 2/3rd so trite, APC is brazenly pushing to impeach Saraki and Ekweremadu; perhaps, with only 29 senators that were said to sign up as at the day Daura’s DSS invaded the Senate in masks, to effect a forceful removal of the two presiding officers.
In this entire saga, Saraki and Ekweremadu have carved the images of martyrs of democracy, and last men standing. If this democracy has got a face, Saraki and Ekweremadu are the ones. It isn’t an achievement by design; it is an achievement by default. The duo has become the faces of democracy because of the unwarranted and fascist persecution they have been subject to, which has alarmed both well-meaning Nigerians and the international community.
•Dr Mefor, an Abuja-based forensic/social psychologist and journalist, can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
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