By John Ameh and Leke Baiyewu
Some senators and members of the House Representatives have said Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, will survive the impeachment plot of the All Progressives Congress against them as a result of the crises attending the ruling party’s primaries.
They believed there would be a realignment of forces in the National Assembly as the federal lawmakers resume from recess on Tuesday, which would make it difficult for the APC legislators to muster the required number to remove the presiding officers.
The lawmakers, who spoke with this paper, explained that most of the supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari, who wanted Saraki and Dogara removed, had lost their bid to return to the National Assembly during the APC primaries.
Some of the lawmakers, who spoke on and off the record, told this paper that two factors would, on resumption of the legislature, determine the fate of Saraki and Dogara, who had defected to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in July and September respectively.
A member, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said, “One of the factors is if the APC has any foolproof strategy to plot the removal of the presiding officers, considering the fact that in the final analysis, it boils down to the game of two-thirds majority.
“The second is the outcome of the primaries. Will everyone, who was in either the APC or the PDP prior to the primaries, still remain in the parties?
“If you want to impeach an officer, what do you stand to gain with just months to the general elections?”
Some members confided in this reporter that if the APC retained its majority lead and mounted pressure on members to begin impeachment proceedings, they might comply just to please the party.
Another member said, “If there is a directive, members will comply; but you may ask how far can we go looking at the position of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) on the requirements for removing a Senate President or a Speaker?”
The Chairman, House Committee on Justice, Mr Razak Atunwa, on his part, observed that senators and members would be contending with new challenges on resumption such that impeachment would become “a stale idea.”
Atunwa, a member of the PDP, also noted that many of the top guns the APC wanted to use as the arrowheads of the anti-Saraki or Dogara fight, were having difficulties getting return tickets smoothly.
He added, “If the APC, and by extension, Mr President’s known supporters don’t seem to have his backing in getting their tickets, will they come back to talk about impeachment?
“In Ogun State, the governor is helpless; in Adamawa State, the governor is facing a tough battle. Senator Ovie Omo-Agege has crisis in Delta State and in Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu is gasping for breath and so on.
“I will say that there will be realignment of forces after the primaries. When this happens, the presiding officers will become the beneficiaries. Much depends on the outcome of the primaries.”
But, a member from Lagos State, and member of the APC, Mr. Babajimi Benson, informed this medium that members would file behind the party on whatever directive it gave to them on resumption.
Benson stated, “It depends on what the party wants us to do. Like I have always said, the party should give us direction. We are still conducting our primaries. After the primaries, we will wait for what the party says.
“(Adams) Oshiohmole’s leadership today is pursuing the supremacy of the party above all other things, which is a good development for our democracy.”
Speaking on the telephone on Friday, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara South), who has been speaking for senators led by Saraki to the PDP, said those calling for the Senate President’s removal had backed down.
According to Ibrahim, some of the APC lawmakers calling for Saraki and Dogara’s sacking or impeachment have lost the party’s tickets for their reelection. This, he said, would lower their morale in the leadership tussle.
He said, “There will not be drama. People are now humbled; you know what is happening especially to the APC people at their primaries. You can see that people will be very humble that day (Tuesday). But we have no problem.”
Ibrahim added, “We are resuming to work. We don’t have any agenda and we don’t have any plan. All the most important issues on our table, we will start to attend to them.”
The Secretary of the Parliamentary Support Group, a body of anti-Saraki lawmakers in the National Assembly loyal to Buhari, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, declined to comment on whether the impeachment threats would be carried out on resumption.
“I can’t talk about resumption now, please. We are doing primaries,” Omo-Agege said.
Before the holiday, the lawmakers were working on the Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill, the budget of the INEC and security agencies for the conduct of the forthcoming elections, among others.
N’Assembly to focus on N143bn INEC budget, loan requests
Meanwhile, members of the Senate and the House have placed the passage of the N143bn budget for the 2019 polls as a priority before them as the National Assembly reconvenes on Tuesday.
Aside this, the Eurobond and other loan requests by President Muhammadu Buhari will be on the table, beginning from this week.
However, there are doubts in the House over whether members will be prepared to revisit the controversial Electoral Act (amendment) Bill 2018 again.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Abdulrazak Namdas, stated that the INEC budget in particular, was of utmost importance.
He nevertheless clarified that the House would still look at the details of the items in the budget.
Namdas said, “Considering the fact that the elections are approaching, we have to look at the budget immediately and pass it when we resume.
“There are other loan requests from Mr. President, including the Eurobond; we will look at all of them and vote on them on their merit.”
Asked whether the electoral bill would also be of priority, Namdas expressed doubts that members would be ready to go all over it again.
However, he told this reporter that a final decision would depend on the recommendations brought before members by the Joint Senate and House Committees on Electoral Matters.
The spokesman parried a question on whether members were meeting or having a discussion on whether Saraki, and Dogara should continue as presiding officers.
“I don’t think that this is a matter that should worry anyone, especially that members are busy with their primaries. I will stress that the National Assembly, barring any change in arrangement, will reconvene on Tuesday.
“The INEC budget and loan requests by Mr President will be part of our immediate attention. That is what I know,” he added.
However, our investigations showed that much as the members focused on their ‘survival primaries’, they did not lose sight of the reality that Saraki and Dogara, both members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party on current rating, were presiding over an All Progressives Congress-led National Assembly.