The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, have yet again defied their party, the ruling All Progressives Congress, rejecting the APC’s nominees for top leadership positions in the two chambers of the National Assembly.
Messrs Saraki and Dogara defeated candidates nominated by the APC to emerge Senate president and House Speaker respectively.
Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila were the APC’s official candidates for the positions of Senate President and House Speaker.
On Tuesday, the party wrote the two leaders directing them to adopt candidates who lost at the elections as principal officers.
In its letter, the party picked Mr. Lawan as Senate Leader; Sola Adeyeye as Chief Whip; George Akume as Deputy Senate Leader; and Abu Ibrahim as Deputy Whip.
For the House Representatives,Mr. Gbajabiamila is the party’s choice to emerge House Leader, while Mohammed Monguno would serve as Chief Whip; Alhassan Doguro Deputy Speaker; and Pally Iriase as Deputy Whip.
However, investigations by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that Messrs Saraki and Dogara were yet to accept the party’s terms as at 5 a.m. on Wednesday.
“The issue of the principal officers is a party affair,” a senior party leader told PREMIUM TIMES. “Traditionally; in the legislative practice, it is the party that forwards names of its members who should fill the positions to the Senate President or Speaker as the case maybe. And that is what APC is insisting on.”
The official said while Mr. Dogara has agreed to a power sharing arrangement with the party, Mr. Saraki has vowed not to adopt any of the party’s nominees for the positions.
“What Dogara is saying is that if the party takes the House Leader, a member from his group should be the Chief Whip and so on. But Saraki is not ready to comply with the party’s directives at all.
“You know why Saraki is doing like that and making the party to be at his mercy? He is confident the party cannot mobilise the two-thirds majority to remove him,” the party official said.
He said the party was not prepared to negotiate its directives with any of the two leaders this time.
“The party has written letters to both the Senate President and the Speaker. What the party is expecting is compliance; nothing but compliance.”
Asked what the party would do should the National Assembly leaders decide to kick against the directive of the party, he said, “We are expecting him to do that. We are waiting for him. We shall wait for him.”
Mr. Saraki and his aides could not be reached for comments Tuesday night. Telephone calls to them were neither answered nor returned.
But a staunch supporter of the Senate President, Dino Melaye (APC-Kogi) told PREMIUM TIMES his group was not prepared to compensate those who lost out in the election for the senate president position.
“Saraki has won the election and become Senate President,” Mr. Dino said on telephone. That’s the position everybody should live with it. And I don’t know for the man who contested for the Senate President but now lobbying to be Leader. It is like contesting for governor and then looking to be Commissioner. They should have pride.”
The Senate president’s refusal to accept the party’s position played out Tuesday at a stormy session that split lawmakers into two factions – those supporting Mr. Saraki and those backing the party and Mr. Lawan.
The two sides disagreed on the procedure for choosing members for the available positions of principal officers, leading to verbal exchanges.
Members supporting Saraki want the positions zoned by the Senate as follows: Majority Leader, North-East; Deputy Majority Leader, North-West; Chief Whip, South-West; and Deputy Whip, South-South.
By contrast, lawmakers in support of the party said the APC must fill all the available positions.
Suleiman Hunkuyi, who represents Kaduna North senatorial district, said the disagreement was caused by an attempt by the leadership of the Senate to impose its decisions on the majority of the APC senators.
“The leadership of the party, which is the APC, still reigns supreme to decide the true position of leadership and we shall have it. An attempt to do otherwise is to cause confusion,” he said.
Abu Ibrahim, representing Katsina South senatorial district, said the senators had no power to zone the leadership positions to any region.
“As far as I am concerned this was never done, I was a principal officer in the last senate, the party gave our names and that’s how I became a principal officer,’’ he said.
He called on the APC to “wield its big stick, if anybody decides to go against the directives of the party. The party must take disciplinary action”.
Shortly before the Senate’s closed-door meeting Tuesday, the senate president, Mr. Saraki urged the lawmakers to work as a family and resolve their issues.
“Distinguished colleagues, I do believe that no matter what are the issues outstanding amongst us as a family, they are surmountable and resolvable in the atmosphere of love and understanding.
“In this room today, we can and shall put the past behind us and we shall all come out of this room, individually and collectively victorious. There is nothing like a winner or loser.
“Our party, the APC is the winner and we are all conquerors,’’ he said.