At the caucus meeting held between the National Working Committee of All Progressives Congress and the party’s senators Tuesday in Abuja, it was obvious that the Senate President had so many of them on his side. Dr Bukola Saraki’s men demanded that the federal government stops Saraki’s ongoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Newspaper reports of the horse trading showed that Saraki and his men are bent on getting him off the hook, hence the difficulties FG had getting Senate approval for President Muhammadu Buhari’s men like the acting EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu, etc.
A senator who spoke to The Punch said, “The APC leaders said we were too confrontational against (Saraki). They said the Presidency was not supposed to be finding things difficult with us since we belonged to the same party. Some of the senators also asked the party leadership to ensure that Saraki’s trial at the CCT was stopped as this would be the perfect way to reconcile the two arms of government.”
To be honest, it is horse trading like this that spells out real politics, unfortunately. Buhari’s presidency must consider the lesser evil between punishing Saraki for hijacking headship of the Senate or getting its men and federal requests granted by the Senate.
APC party leaders promised to convey the issues to Buhari while the senators said they would ensure that the 2017 budget was swiftly looked into as well as the screening of the Resident Electoral Commissioners and ministers. See what I mean? Looks like Saraki is sitting pretty and Nigerians would have to forget all about his CCT trial. Reality beckons. Big shame though.
The closed-door meeting lasted for three hours, Tuesday afternoon. the APC senators absolved themselves of blame over the non-confirmation of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
It was learnt that the senators told the party leaders that Magu’s confirmation “died” before getting to the Senate and that the senators only did its funeral.
Investigations also showed that senators, who were loyal to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, demanded the withdrawal of the suit against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, describing the trial as political.
The meeting, which was held in Room 022 in the New Building section of the National Assembly Complex, Abuja, began shortly after Saraki and the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, led others to the venue at 2.30pm before journalists were sent out at 2.45pm.
In his opening remarks, the Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said the event was historic as it was the first time the leadership of the party would be meeting with the senators.
“This will be the first meeting of the APC Senate caucus with our National Working Committee. On behalf of my colleagues here, Mr. Chairman, I welcome you to this historic, memorable and very important interaction with the Senate APC Caucus of the National Assembly,” he said.
Odigie-Oyegun, who made reference to the point made by Lawan in his remarks, also described the meeting as historic. Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Odigie-Oyegun called on party stakeholders to “cease fire.”
He said, “My appeal is that as we start now the process of reconstructing relationships and consultations, there should be what I will call a ceasefire in terms of the kind of abuse that is used all round on one institution of government or the other, even principal parties of these institutions.”
Saraki pointed out that whether there were issues or not, regular consultations between the caucus and the party were important.
He stated, “Despite all the noise you heard last week, we still passed an amendment to the INEC law that had been there for over six or seven years.
“By this time next week, our Committee on Petroleum will lay the PIB, which has never been done.”
“It’s unfortunate but the most important thing is that a lot of stakeholders must respect these institutions. These institutions are there now and they are going to be there after, and we should not allow our selfish interests to enable us to try and ridicule the institutions.”
When asked if the suspension of the former Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume, was raised at the meeting, Saraki replied, “Your question again is distracting from the issues. You have 108 senators here and you have the National Chairman. Let us focus on national issues.”
According to the source, the senators accused Buhari’s appointees of disrespecting them, the senators said, “We also called for more respect for the institution of the Senate, especially by those under the executive. That was where the cases of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (Mr. Babachir Lawal) and the Director General of the Nigeria Customs Service (Col. Hameed Ali) were cited.”
The senator further said the lawmakers reminded the NWC that the National Assembly caucus of the party was critical to the existence and well being of the APC as the members were the ones who were funding the party.
He added, “We told the party that we have been considerate enough. In fact, we would have rejected about four ministerial nominees but we felt we should not embarrass the President Buhari-led administration.”
When asked about the demands of the APC leadership, the source said the members of the NWC could not refute some of the issues raised by the lawmakers.
The Senator stated, “They also realised that they had not been playing their role. We even asked Odigie-Oyegun if he usually takes directives from President Buhari before taking actions regarding the party. We told him that he did not need to consult with the President before playing his role as the leader of the party. We also warned the leaders that our party might find it difficult to win elections the way things are going.”