More facts have emerged on the alleged gang-up against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; and other principal officers of the legislative chamber.
Saturday PUNCH has reliably gathered that there is indeed a group of senators in the All Progressives Congress caucus who are loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari and are bent on defending him on the controversial amendment to the Electoral Act 2010.
PUNCH had exclusively reported that both the Senate and the House of Representatives were set to override Buhari should he fail or refuse to assent to the bill, but the intention did not go down well with lawmakers loyal to the President, who felt it would be an “insult” to him if overridden by the National Assembly.
Adoption of the report by the Senate and House of Representatives’ Conference Committee on the Amendment to the Electoral Act had caused a sharp division in the ranks of the All Progressives Congress caucus in the Senate.
The conference committee had approved a new Section 25 in the Electoral Act which states that the sequence of the elections will commence with the National Assembly poll, to be followed by the governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections, while the presidential poll will come last.
The Senate had adopted the report by the committee, which generated controversy.
Saraki had also blocked protests by three senators against the passage, leading to 10 APC members storming out of the chamber.
The senators were Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa-West), Abu Ibrahim (Katsina-North), Abdullahi Gumel (Jigawa-North), Ali Wakili (Bauchi-South), Binta Masi Garba (Adamawa-North), Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta-Central), Umar Kurfi (Katsina-Central), Andrew Uchendu (Rivers-East), Benjamin Uwajumogu (Imo-North), and Abdullahi Yahaya (Kebbi-North).
The crisis became dramatic when the Senate resolved to query Omo-Agege, based on a petition by Senator Dino Melaye, for saying the amendment was targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari, while the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions was mandated to carry out a probe into the claim.
Omo-Agege had, however, raised a point of order at the plenary to apologise to the chamber and withdrew his comment.
The same day, the Northern Senators’ Forum had sacked Adamu as a leader and replaced him with Senator Aliyu Wamakko.
A member of the pro-Buhari group, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity on Thursday night, dismissed the alarm raised by Senator Obinna Ogba (PDP, Ebonyi-Central) at the plenary on Thursday that there was a plot led by Adamu to remove Saraki and other leaders of the Senate.
While the Senate panel probing Omo-Agege was asked to probe Adamu over the alleged anti-Saraki plot, the ex-governor had denied the allegation but insisted that he would remain resolute on his position on certain issues in the chamber.
The pro-Adamu senator disclosed to our correspondent that the group was mobilising for a counter-move against those loyal to Saraki who seemed to be working against Buhari’s re-election in 2019.
According to the APC senator from the South-West, it will be a major “insult” to Buhari if the President vetoes the Electoral Act Amendment Bill and the Senate overrides him.
He said, “Politics is full of cheats and lies. All that they were saying concerning the removal of Saraki is a lie. They only want attention because they are afraid. What the group wants to achieve is to never allow those people to rubbish Buhari. We won’t let them veto Buhari; it is an insult to him and to us.
“The group was formed because of this issue of elections re-order. They want to rubbish Buhari and we won’t support it. Buhari has his shortcomings but how can they just decide to veto the President? If they can get two-thirds of the members to do that, it means they can also impeach the President. And that is what the group wants to prevent. Nobody cares about Saraki’s seat.”
Although Adamu, who has been accused of spearheading the plot for Saraki’s removal, has denied making such move, the source told our correspondent that if the ongoing probe by the Senate led to Adamu’s suspension, there would be a crisis in the chamber.
“They won’t suspend them but if they do, they will create problems for Saraki which he would not want because he is also supporting the President indirectly. The cases they are handling now can create problems in the Senate. They must not suspend them. If they suspend them, it means they have looked for trouble.”
According to the lawmaker, former governors in the chamber will defend Adamu, who was once a governor of Nasarawa State. He also said Wamakko, an ex-governor of Sokoto State, might reject his appointment to replace Adamu as Chairman of the Northern Senators’ Forum.
He said, “Initially, most of the ex-governors were new in the Senate and had not gained their ground. But now, they can fight. At least 19 governors will fight Saraki if Adamu is suspended. Buhari won’t have less than 12 APC governors that will support him. Eventually, Wamakko might say no (to the appointment). He might reject it.”
Another member of the APC caucus from the North-West, however, stated that Adamu and Omo-Agege risked suspension, warning that the ex-governor’s case might be like that of the suspended member of the House of Representatives, Abdulmumin Jibrin.
He also cited the example of Senator Ali Ndume, who was removed as leader of the APC caucus and Majority Leader of the Senate for opposing the Senate’s rejection of the appointment of Ibrahim Magu as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Ndume was later suspended for asking the Senate to investigate scandals involving Saraki and Melaye.
The senator said, “I think the best thing for him (Adamu) is to keep quiet. If he drags this issue further, they will send him out of that Senate. Yes. There is no doubt about it. The people there are angry and ready to crush anybody. The best thing for him is to keep quiet and do his thing, and simply ignore everything. But if he now wants to engage them, he will end up doing like Omo-Agege.”
The lawmaker noted that the Presidency was not always protecting those who suffer in defence of Buhari and his administration. He warned that Adamu and other senators fighting in defence of Buhari might regret their actions.
“The Presidential Villa has this kind of attitude. If they block him here (at the Senate), they will block him there (at the Presidency) too. You see what happened to Jibrin? You see what happened to Ndume?”
When asked if Omo-Agege might get a soft landing after apologising to the Senate, the source said it remained uncertain. The senator was also asked if pro-Saraki senators were after the rest of the 10 senator who openly opposed the Senate on the amendment, he said, “It is only him. This is to send a message. And they know that it is not the kind of a normal government where if anything happens to you, the other side (Presidency) will help you. They will not help you. Even, they will block your finances, block your office and everything.”
Also speaking to our correspondent, Senator Ali Wakili (APC, Bauchi-South), who had challenged Adamu’s removal as northern senators’ leader, noted that the lawmakers would speak when the panel’s report would be considered in the Senate.
“When we debate it, we will speak. It is preemptive. They will definitely bring it to the floor of the Senate. It has gone to the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions; let them come out with their findings. We will be alive and we will talk.”