By JOHN ALECHENU AND SUNDAY ABORISADE
The crisis set off by the recent election of the principal officers of the National Assembly may be far from over despite the All Progressives Congress’ recent assurance that it has put its house in order.
Aggrieved APC senators, on Saturday, demanded for the immediate resignation of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.
The senators, who are loyal to Senator Ahmad Lawan, the party’s candidate for the Senate presidency, insisted that Ekweremadu’s resignation was one of the conditions that would make the faction to recognise Senator Bukola Saraki as President of the Senate.
The aggrieved lawmakers, under the auspices of the Senate Unity Forum, however, stated that they had nothing personal against Saraki and Ekweremadu.
APC senators had been divided over the leadership of the National Assembly since the controversial elections. The ruling party had chosen Lawan for the Senate presidency and Femi Gbajabiamila as its candidate for the House of Representatives’ speakership in the aftermath of a mock intra-party election conducted on June 6.
But Saraki and Yakubu Dogara had defied the ruling party, allied with the opposition parties, and emerged as the heads of the upper and lower chambers, respectively.
The alliance had led to the return of Ekweremadu, a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, as the Deputy Senate President, the position he held in the last administration.
Initially, the APC had rejected the result of the election, insisting that Saraki, Dogara and their supporters would be sanctioned for defying the position of the party. But a few days later, the National Chairman of the the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, said the party had accepted Saraki as the President of the Senate. “Of course, he (Sakari) has been duly elected by his colleagues. We have a reality and we must live with it,” he said.
However, the spokesperson of the SUF, Senator Kabir Marafa, who spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday night, said the pro-Saraki senators must explain why they disregarded all the arrangements put in place by the leaders of the APC to produce consensus candidates for post of Senate President and Deputy Senate President.
The senator called for thorough investigations into why the Clerk of the National Assembly was in a hurry to conduct the election of the senate president and the deputy without following the normal procedure as contained in the Senate Standing Order.
He said, “We demand that Senator Ike Ekweremadu must resign his position because he needed at least 55 senators to emerge as deputy senate president. Ekweremadu is a lawyer and an experienced lawmaker. He knows he is not qualified to win the election with 54 votes.”
Marafa further said the pro-Saraki lawmakers should tell the party leadership why they rushed to the chamber on June 9 and hurriedly conducted the election, while the rest of the APC lawmakers were at the International Conference Centre, expecting the arrival of President Mohammadu Buhari.
The leadership of the APC had called a truce meeting with all lawmakers on its platform at the ICC for 9am ahead of the 10am scheduled for the inauguration of the eighth assembly.
Marafa further said, “Our colleagues, the Like Minds Senators, on three occasions failed to honour the directive of the party for an arrangement to produce consensus candidates for the senate president and deputy senate president.
“They refused to take part in the mock election when 35 APC senators elected Senators Ahmad Lawan and George Akume as the party’s consensus candidates for the two top positions in the Senate.
“They also refused to honour the invitation extended to all of us to attend a meeting with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on June 8, and another meeting called by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 9.”
Similarly, another prominent member of the Senate Unity Forum from the South-West, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said the requests of the group had been forwarded to the party leadership.
He said, “The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, was not properly elected. He requires a simple majority vote of 55 to win the election but he got 54, so he did not win and we cannot recognise him. We refuse to. Our party has asked us not to talk to the press but we will not keep quiet internally.
“Apart from Ekeweremadu resigning, we are also demanding thorough investigations into the decision of the Clerk of the National Assembly to conduct the election when he was aware that the President had summoned us to a meeting.”
The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Ekweremadu, Mr. Uche Anichukwu, declined comments, when contacted on the telephone on Saturday to respond to the demands of the Unity Forum.
He said, “I don’t want to react to the issue.”
Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Abdullahi Jalo, however objected to the demands of the pro-Lawan senators. According to Jalo, Ekweremadu would remain deputy senate president.
“To ask distinguished Senator Ike Ekweremadu to relinquish a mandate freely given to him by his colleagues, will be a disservice not only to the Senate but to this country. What everybody should be concerned about now, is how to move forward because the issue of election in the Senate has come and gone.
“Remember, it is the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and it belongs to all Nigerian Senators who are duly elected.”