How Saraki, Dogara defied ‘powers that be’
Yesterday’s activities began with the reading of President Muhammadu Buhari’s proclamation by the Clerk of National Assembly (CNA), Abubakar Salisu Maikasuwa.
The CNA then ordered the Clerk of the Senate to take the role call of Senators-elect present, at the end of which 57 Senators responded to their names.
The number also passed for quorum, which was required for the exercise. Before further exercise, the CNA cautioned all Senators-elect against raising any Point of Order in the course of events.
This reaction may have been prompted by an attempt by a Senator-elect to call the Clerk’s attention to the fact that some Senators-elect were not in the chamber.
Shortly afterwards, the Clerk called for nominations for the post of Senate President. Senator Bukola Saraki of North Central was nominated by Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima of Zamfara State. His nomination was seconded by Dino Melaye of Kogi West.
The Clerk quickly called on Saraki to either accept or decline the nomination – a call that was quickly heeded by Saraki in affirmation. The Clerk then called for another nomination. But there was absolute silence on the floor of the Senate as no other nomination was made.
Then Maikasuwa returned Saraki opposed. For the position of Deputy Senate President, Senator-elect, Ike Ekweremadu was nominated by Senator-elect, George Sekibo and seconded by Olaka Nwogu of Rivers State. Senator-elect Ali Ndume was also nominated for the same position of the Deputy Senate President. After the acceptance of nominations by the two candidates, voting was conducted by secret ballot.
At the end of the exercise that lasted about one hour, Ekweremadu emerged winner with 54 votes. Ali Ndume scored 20 votes. One abstained.
A total of 75 senators-elect took part in the election of the deputy Senate president. Consequently, both the Senate President and his deputy were sworn in by the Clerk of the National Assembly. Events leading to the emergence of Saraki as the President of the Eighth Senate could be said to have started early in the morning with a scheduled meeting of APC senators.
They were said to have gathered at the International Conference Centre where they were expecting Mr. President to wade into the issue of Senate leadership, which appeared to have divided the party.
Recall that the battle of who becomes the President of the Eighth Senate was between Saraki and Ahmed Lawan. At the weekend, the party endorsed Lawan as a consensus candidate – a development that did not go down well with Saraki.
The Kwara State-born politician had, through colleagues loyal to him otherwise known as Senators of Like Minds, sought a transparent election between him and Lawan on the floor of the Senate in line with Senate rules.
Having lost the support of the majority of APC members in a primary election that was alleged to be highly influenced by party chieftains, Saraki and his key supporters moved swiftly to bargain with the 49-member PDP caucus and the deal was struck in the early hours of yesterday, when the national leadership of PDP promptly directed its party members in the Senate to vote enbloc for the candidature of Saraki.
The APC caucus on the side of Saraki was also smart to have agreed to the condition given by PDP to produce the Deputy President of the Senate. It was gathered that APC Senators on the side advised their own candidate, Ndume to step down for Ekweremadu despite pockets of protest from that camp.
Unfortunately, at the time the roll call was taken, Lawan and most of his supporters were not in the chamber even though majority of Senators-elect were already presented as reflected in the roll call of 57 members announced by the Clerk of National Assembly.
When some of the Senators-elect at ICC learnt that election has begun, they rushed to the Senate. By then, it was too late.
Former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso was among the few pro-Lawan Senators-elect that entered the chamber after Saraki had been sworn in. Disappointed, he quickly moved out of the chamber to one of the Senate hearing rooms where he remained until the election of the Deputy Senate President was concluded.
However, for the PDP Senators, it was victory all through. Even some former and present PDP state governors were seen jubilating around the Senate Foyer.
Among the governors present at the event were Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Emmanuel Udom, Cross River State Governor, Ben Eyade and Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko. There was also the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha.