NASS Crisis: Dissecting Saraki’s Leadership Approach, Senators’ Vote Of Confidence
Despite the anxiety, and uncertainty that trailed the National Assembly’s resumption on Tuesday, events since then have indicated that the leadership crisis in the two chambers is over. It would be recalled that the leadership of two Chambers hurriedly adjourned plenary at the peak of the crisis that erupted over the choice of principal officers.
Resuming on Tuesday, the Upper Chamber toed a different path from the picture being painted while the adjournment lasted. Although, it was revealed that despite the verbal threats and tantrums between the Unity Forum, and The Like-Mind groups before the Tuesday resumption, there were sincere consultations between the two groups at the instance of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki. This was apart from the intervention by the APC Governors’ Forum Committee headed by the Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
One of the Senators from the Southeast zone who pleaded anonymity disclosed to The Guardian that Saraki as a seasoned politician knows what is required of him to achieve stability in the Senate.
“When we adjourned sitting, Saraki in order to calm frayed nerves moved into action. Aggrieved members were reached out to on the way forward. The assistance of prominent party leaders was enlisted and great work was done for peace to reign. The outcome is our peaceful resumption on Tuesday, and the overwhelming vote of confidence we passed on Saraki and his deputy, Ekweremadu,” the senator said.
It would recalled that in what looked like a shocker for members of Senate Unity Forum on Tuesday, 81 senators out of the 109 senators passed a vote of confidence on Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu without a dissenting voice. The motion was moved by Senator Sam Anyanwu (Imo East) and supported by Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West). Surprisingly, out of the 81 Senators that passed the vote, 35 of them were elected on All Progressives Congress (APC) while 46 are of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Buoyed by the confidence vote and in a bid to cover the lost ground and garner more support, the Senate President made some key and strategic interim appointments.
Prominent among them was the appointment of a staunch supporter of Senator Ahmed Lawan-led Unity Forum, Senator Barnabas Gemade, the Chairman of the Ad hoc Committee on Ecological Disasters and Bad Roads.
Some political observers have since described the appointment as a strategic move by Saraki to further consolidate his hold on power in the Upper Chamber and ensure peace and stability.
Gemade’s appointment followed the adoption of two motions on the state of disrepair of some major roads in Akwa Ibom State and landslide in parts of Isiukwuato and Arochukwu Local Government Areas of Abia State.
Besides Gemade, other members of the committee included Senators Athanasius Achonu (PDP Imo North), Bassey Akpan (PDP- Akwa Ibom North East), Mohammed Shittu (APC- Jigawa North East), Olarenwaju Tejuosho (APC-Ogun Central), Barau Jibrin (APC Kano North).
Others are Senators Matthew Urhoghide (PDP- Edo South), David Umaru (APC-Niger East), Uche Ekwunife (PDP Anambra Central), Mohammed Hassan (APC-Yobe South), Binta Masi (APC- Adamawa North) and Donald Alasoadura (APC-Ondo Central).
The committee was asked to present its report to the Senate within two weeks.
Others were the appointment of one of his staunch supporters and senator representing Kogi West district, Senator Dino Melaye as the spokesperson for the upper legislative chamber.
Melaye’s appointment was one of the three Standing Committees and one Ad hoc Committee announced by Saraki on Wednesday.
The committees include Committee on Services chaired by Senator Ibrahim Gobir; Committee on Rules and Business headed by Senator Omowoware Babajide, and Committee on Ethics and Privileges under the chairmanship of Senator Samuel Anyawu.
Also in a move to demonstrate pragmatic leadership, and give his colleagues irrespective of party, a sense of belonging, the Senate President announced at plenary on Tuesday that forms would be distributed to senators to indicate interest in committees they would serve.
He said that each lawmaker was at liberty to belong to more than one committee, adding that they were free to also make suggestions after studying the forms.
“Senators are advised to fill the forms indicating their interest in belonging to the committees of their choice and it is a maximum of five committees per senator.
“The forms will be distributed by the clerk. You can also take a look at the form and make your submissions to the leader of the Senate,” he said.
Saraki revealed the senate’s plan to visit the Internally Displaced Persons, and the Nigerian military troops in the North East region is to identify with them, and motivate the security forces. A plan that has attracted mixed reactions from Nigerians, especially members of Bring Back Our Girls group led by former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili. The group has advised the Senate to ensure that the visit makes meaningful impact on the lives of the affected persons.
Following the PDP caucus in the Senate’s choice of former governor of Akwa Ibom and senator representing Akwa-Ibom North-West, Senator Godswill Akpabio as the Minority Leader, Saraki on Tuesday announced his appointment, and that of others on the PDP platform as principal officers.
Making the announcement, Saraki also announced the appointment of Senator Emmanuel Bwacha (PDP Taraba South) as Deputy Minority Leader.
Other appointees of the PDP are Senator Phillip Aduda (PDP FCT), Minority Whip; and Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP Ekiti South), Deputy Minority Whip.
But Senator Kabir Marafa (APC Zamfara Central) immediately challenged the appointments, saying they violated the Senate’s rules on ranking.
Marafa, who particularly challenged the appointment of Senator Godswill Akpabio who is a first-time senator as minority leader, urged that the appointment should be declared null and void.
Citing Order 13(2) of the 2015 Senate Standing Rules, he argued that a ranking senator was supposed to have occupied the position given to Akpabio.
In a swift response to Marafa’s position, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekwerenmadu, insisted that the appointment of the officers was PDP’s affair, and not the business of Marafa, who is an APC member.
He stressed that the rule on ranking only stipulates that ranking senators should be considered first before other non-ranking senators, stressing that the constitution allows any senator to occupy any position.
“If the ranking senator cannot take the position for any reason, then the next level of ranking senators can be considered,” he said.
Saraki ruled Marafa out of order, saying the PDP senators were not complaining and as such, urged Marafa to “stop crying more than the bereaved.”
Meanwhile, it was alleged within the week that 22 Northern senators elected on the All Progressives Party (APC) platform have been identified as “teaming up with the opposition to work against President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling party.”
The senators allegedly teamed up with 46 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators in the Red Chamber to pass a confidence vote in the leadership of the Senate under Dr. Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, a PDP senator. It could be recalled that 35 APC senators were among the 81 that endorsed the vote of confidence in the principal officers of the Senate on Tuesday.
According to the allegation 22 of the senators are from the North, according to the list attached to the motion moved on the floor of the Senate by Senator Samuel Anyanwu.
The 22 senators are: Anyanwu, who promoted the motion; Abdul A.M. Nyako; Isah Hamma Misau; Kabiru Gaya; Adamu Aliero; Abdullahi Adamu; David Umaru; Ahmed Rufa’I Sani; Tijjani Yahaya Kaura; Ahmadu Abubakar and Malam A. Wakili.
Others include: Abubakar Kyari; Sabo Mohammed; Dino Melaye; Abdulrahman Abubakar; Binta Masi Garba; Mohammed Goje; Muhammad U. Shitu; Salihu H. Egye and Aliyu S. Abdullahi.
But one of the APC senators from the North, name withheld because he was not authorised to speak described the allegation as false and misleading.
The senators said the vote of confidence was altruistic, because majority of the members irrespective of party platform want peace and stability in the chamber.
On the alleged teaming up with PDP to work against President Buhari, the senator said that time will tell, stressing that Nigerians will see how patriotic the senate will carry out its legislative duties for the benefit of Nigerians and shame to the detractors.
The Guardian learnt from a source in the party that the Oshiomhole-led Reconciliation Committee saddled with the task of brokering peace between the party factions in the Senate has recommended that Saraki and other party’s principal officers should be allowed to be, while the Unity Forum members should be compensated with lucrative Senate Committees leadership.
This, according to the source, is to avoid further crisis and acrimony among party members in the Senate.
“Obviously, the committee recognises the challenge of APC not having a clear two-third majority in the Senate, which has made it impossible for the party to work alone in the Senate without the opposition PDP. That is why members of the Unity Forum loyal to Senator Lawan were appealed to allow peace to prevail. That was what Oshiomhole Committee recommended for the Presidency and the party leadership,” the source revealed.