By JOHN ALECHENU, OLUSOLA FABIYI AND OLALEKAN ADETAYO
The All Progressives Congress has said that whatever disciplinary action it will take against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and its members for defying its directive on the election of the National Assembly leadership will follow due process.
This paper learnt that the Presidency had intervened in the crisis the election of Saraki and Dogara on Tuesday penultimate week had generated.
The party had conducted mock elections in which Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila emerged as its consensus candidates for the Senate Presidency and House speakership.
After the mock polls, the APC directed its other lawmakers not to contest the positions but ensure that Lawan and Gbajabiamila became the National Assembly leaders.
But this was not to be as Saraki and Dogara did not only contest but won with the support of opposition Peoples Democratic Party lawmakers.
In the Senate, an opposition member, Ike Ekweremadu, surprisingly retained his post as Deputy Senate President.
Ekweremadu defeated an APC Senator, Ali Ndume, who also defied the party’s directive by contesting. The APC anointed candidate for the post is Mohammed Mungono.
The APC spokesman, Lai Mohammed, who spoke with journalists after an emergency National Working Committee meeting of the APC in Abuja, insisted that the party had not made a U-turn on its earlier position that the errant lawmakers would be sanctioned.
The APC spokesman had in a statement on Tuesday said, that the election of Saraki and Dogara was unacceptable.
He had said, ‘‘The APC leadership is meeting in a bid to reestablish discipline in the party and to mete out the necessary sanctions to all those involved in what is nothing but a monumental act of indiscipline and betrayal to subject the party to ridicule and create obstacles for the new administration.’’
When asked on Thursday if the party would still go ahead with plans to punish Saraki,Dogara and others, he replied, that the “sanctions would follow due process.”
He added that the errant lawmakers would be notified about their alleged offences and given an opportunity to respond.
When asked why the members of the SUF were at the NWC meeting, he said, “They are our senators that wanted to confer with the party leadership; they came to confer on the crisis in the National Assembly.”
On the threat by the SUF to contest Saraki’s election in court, the APC spokesman said, “I think the party made its expression clear on the matter, that it is unhappy with the outcome of the election and I think we won’t say anything beyond that.
“What the senators will do is within their capability and rights.”
It was also gathered that Saraki, who was due to pay a courtesy visit on the party leadership had a rethink on learning that the SUF members were meeting with the NWC.
However, Mohammed said he was unaware of the planned visit by Saraki.
“I’m not aware, probably if you wait you will see him,” he told the journalists, who also informed him that an advance team of security details from the Senate President’s office were sighted earlier in the day at the party’s secretariat.
APC NWC meets Gbajabiamila, other Reps
The APC leadership also met on Thursday with some of its House of Representatives members as part of efforts to douse the tension in the National Assembly.
The members were led by Gbajabiamila and Mungono.
A member of the team, Sani Zoro, said the meeting was essentially to look for a way forward out of the situation the party had found itself.
Zoro said the APC had commenced the process of deescalating the crisis with an approach which would involve the Presidency, the National Assembly and the party’s leadership.
According to him, what is uppermost in the minds of party leaders now is how best to leave the past and forge ahead.
He said, “The solutions that are being worked out by the party, the Presidency and the National Assembly are being triangulated.
“I can assure you that it will accommodate all the concerns and fears and at the end of it, it will provide a single template that all will key into. All that has happened is in the past because we have to defend the government that we have put in place, war cannot be the solution.”
“Measures have been agreed upon that will deescalate the crisis. I assure you that those who are the masterminds of the crisis who thought they are going to benefit politically from it will be surprised.”
Zorro added that it would not be out of place if the APC took appropriate actions against all its National Assembly members who entered into an “unholy alliance” with members of the opposition PDP.
I won’t go to court, says Gbajabiamila
Gbajabiamila told journalists after the meeting that they were prepared to work in the interest of the party and the Federal Government.
He said that members of the APC in the House decided to visit the national leadership of the party on how to unite and strengthen the party for service delivery.
Asked if he would challenge the election of Dogara in court, he said, “Go to court for what? But I don’t k know about the Senate. I can only speak about the House. Nothing happened in the House; we had an election so it is different from the Senate. In the Senate, people were deprived of their fundamental rights to express themselves by voting.”
Mungono, in his comments, said it was normal in political settings for more than one person to show interest in a position.
He however said when a political party chooses to organise an in-house election where candidates emerge, all loyal members must respect it.
Mongono said, “As it is now, that (the election of Saraki and Dogara) is a reality on the ground. And we have to deal with it. We are loyal members of a party that is in control of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and as such, we will not take any step that will affect the interest, the peace and order and good governance of this country.”
It was also learnt in Abuja on Thursday that Presidency might have intervened in the crisis generated by the election of Saraki, Dogara and Ike Ekweremadu, a PDP lawmaker.
A high ranking member of the APC made this known to The PUNCH on Thursday shortly after the NWC also met with some of the SUF members.
The SUF comprises 27 senators solidly backing Ahmed Lawan, the anointed candidate for the Senate Presidency.
They and Lawan were also among the 51 senators that were waiting for a scheduled meeting with Buhari at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, when 57 of their colleagues elected Saraki, a former Governor of Kwara State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, as Senate President.
Shortly after the NWC meeting started, the APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, allegedly received a message that his attention was needed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa.
The high ranking party source,who did not want his name in print, also said that Saraki and Dogara might only be cautioned by the APC for defying its directive not to contest the two highest positions in the National Assembly.
He said, “Our leaders at the highest level have waded into the matter As I speak to you, the general feeling is that, we cannot afford to allow the National Assembly issue to further polarise our party.
“Saraki, Dogara and their supporters are most likely to get away with words of caution because the deed has been done.”
The party source however said the Presidency was disturbed about the emergence of Ekweremadu as deputy president of the Senate.
When one of our correspondents contacted the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, and Mohammed on the Presidency’s alleged intervention, they said they were unaware of it.
Don’t harass N’Assembly Clerk, PDP warns APC
The PDP has asked the Presidency and the APC not to intimidate or harass the Clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, and the National Assembly Service Commission for their roles in the controversial elections of the leadership of the National Assembly.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Olisa Metuh, in a statement on Thursday, said that any attempt by the APC to transfer its frustration to Maikasuwa and the commission would amount to victimisation.
He said the undertone of the statement by Buhari’s spokesman, Shehu, that the Clerk was notified of a meeting between the President and the APC lawmakers “amounts to putting undue pressure on civil servants in the National Assembly for performing their legitimate duties and sends a serious signal which should not be ignored.”
Metuh described as unfortunate, the fact that the APC displayed its “arrogance and disrespect for the dictates of the constitution” by attempting to adjust the President’s promulgation order on the National Assembly and seeking to put their interest over and above the supreme law of the land.
He added, “It is a clear mark of disrespect to the constitution for the President and his party to fix a meeting for him to address their legislators the same time he had directed the Assembly to be inaugurated in line with the constitution.
“For 16 years that PDP nurtured democracy in this country, there was never a day it attempted to arm-twist or intimidate the bureaucracy of the National Assembly to do its bidding given our recognition and respect for the independence and sanctity of the legislative arm.
“The National Assembly is the citadel of democracy and represents the collective voice of all Nigerians. The PDP, even in opposition will continue to protect its sanctity and will therefore resist any attempt by the APC to undermine its independence and those of other democratic institutions in our country.”
Metuh noted that the position of the APC and the Presidency clearly negated Buhari’s well-received and praised assertion in his inaugural speech that he belonged to everybody and not to anybody.
He said, “By the last minute attempt to shift the inauguration time for party interest, the President violates his Presidential oath to defend the constitution and serve the nation without fear or favour and irrespective of party, religion and tribe, as he did not consider the interests of other political parties and the generality of Nigerians.”
Metuh added that emerging events have continued to justify PDP’s position that the APC was ill-equipped and unprepared for the challenge of ruling the country.
According to him, these became glaring in the way and manner the APC handled a very vital issue like the inauguration of the National Assembly.
He said, “From March 28, 2015 to June 9, the APC had about 74 days within which it was expected to put its house in order and present its leaders for the 8th National Assembly, but it could not because of the greed and selfishness of its so-called godfathers who instead chose to fix their party meeting the same time the President was scheduled to inaugurate the National Assembly.”
Metuh advised that rather than vilify the Clerk, the APC should commend him for his patriotic and courageous stand that had helped minimise the embarrassment the shifting the inauguration would have brought to the country internationally.
He therefore charged the Presidency and APC to apologise to Nigerians for the embarrassment their ineptitude and inexperience had been causing the nation since they came into office.