10 Jun 2015

Legislative Coup: How Saraki and Dogara emerged Senate President and House of Reps Speaker

A new political reality berthed in the nation on Tuesday, with a precedented legislative coup and well-oiled rebellion in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), producing a hybrid of leadership in the National Assembly, with analysts positing that the real impact of the horse-trading that produced an APC Senate President in the person of Senator Bukola Saraki of Kwara Central and a PDP Deputy Senate President in the person of Senator Ike Ekweremadu of Enugu West, would be more telling in the race for presidency in 2019, which is thought to have commenced.

Though the dynamics of the the new “political rapprochement” were slightly different in the House of Representatives, with the APC producing both the Speaker in Honourable Yakubu Dogara, representing Bogoro/Dass/Tafawa-Balewa federal constituency of Bauchi State and the Deputy Speaker in Honourable Sulaiman Lasun Yusuf, representing Irepodun/Osogbo federal constituency of Osun State, it was still the show of the new opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which teamed with APC rebels to snatch the most prized diadem in the lower chamber from the ruling party-anointed, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, representing Surulere federal constituency, just as it did in the Senate, when its “collaboration” with Saraki supplanted APC-anointed, Senator Ahmad Lawan.

Interestingly, the franchise of opposition party exploring internal discontent in the ruling party to promote rebels to positions of authority in the National Assembly while the former holds the level of power belongs to one of the APC’s legacy parties, the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), whose loyalists dominated the National Working Committee (NWC) of the new ruling party, now spurned on its choices of Senate president and speaker.

In what has come to be known as the “Tambuwal syndrome,” ACN then, interestingly again, led by the now national leader of APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, from the outside and incidentally again, by Gbajabiamila from within the House of Representatives, “collaborated” with PDP rebels to enthrone now-Sokoto Governor Aminu Tambuwal as Speaker, against the then-ruling party’s choice, Honourable Mulikat Adeola-Akande.

Strangely, Tuesday’s play-out was almost exactly a repeat of 2011 precedent and with almost principal actors to boot, only that the event confirmed the saying that “revenge is always sweeter,” because while ACN/APC then got PDP supplanted only in the lower chamber, it was a complete rout for PDP in both chambers, with an icing of almost a total take-over of the Senate, with the emergence of Ekweremadu as Saraki’s deputy.

Though PDP did not put its trough in the deputy speakership, yet there is no doubt that it “owns” Dogara, considering that the speaker is a “junior” partner in the arrangement that threw him up, having contributed a far lower number of APC rebel Reps-elect to the bloc votes PDP delivered to him and if the reports regarding the “deal” are anything to go by, PDP lawmakers were said to have been pencilled in for the choicest committee chairmanship as pay-back.

Effectively, PDP now has effective say in the two chambers of the National Assembly, while the rejection of both Saraki and Dogara as well as their APC supporters by the party leadership could only drive the two helmsmen further into the warm and comforting embrace of PDP, whose governors broke into wild jubilation on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, celebrating what analysts now termed as a resurgence for the defeated party.

Saraki and Dogara, for good measure, would not be total strangers among their new-friends. In fact, they are erstwhile associates before the “Big Bang” in PDP, which drove five governors out of the party, with both Saraki and Dogara having to move into APC when both Bauchi and Kwara moved.

The new romance is, therefore, more like a homecoming for the duo and while they may not necessarily be antagonistic to the administration of their party-man, President Muhammadu Buhari, it is crystal clear that the interests of PDP, wherever found in the polity, would be paramount in their hearts, if they want to enjoy the fruit of their rebellion.

In the real sense of it, Saraki and Dogara are curiously immune from impeachment despite the delicate balancing, once the gulf between APC and PDP remains, because none of the two can muster the two-thirds majority to impeach either of them, with analysts pointing out that the new romance between the nPDP and PDP should ordinarily last since they are same of a whole.

In the build-up to Tuesday’s political earthquake, both the Saraki and Lawan’s camps had been touching base with the new “beautiful bride,” considering that none would win without the PDP senators-elect and the Lawan’s camp had reportedly calculated that PDP, as a party, would not do business with Saraki, having been one of those who weakened it by pulling out and contributing immensely to its defeat.

Interestingly, similar conviction was the ace of the Saraki’s camp which reportedly reasoned that Tinubu, being the most singular institutional opposition to PDP while in power, would surely not find favour with the opposition party.

PDP reportedly had issue of trust with both APC camps, but while one was said to be more promissory with its offers, though with ready-cash, the other was ready for immediate sharing of what was available, even before the favour would be done.

With PDP governors reportedly led by Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, spearheading the negotiation in collaboration with Senator Mark, the Saraki offer was said to have been the more exciting with prospects that it could get bigger with time.

The unabated heckling of PDP governors by those backing Lawan, using their media influence, was also said to have further encouraged the party chieftains to key into an opportunity to give the camp a bloodied nose, at least for once. With these on the table, PDP simply grabbed Saraki’s offer.

Saraki’s deal also reportedly provided Dogara with an opening with PDP, as the two party-reject teamed up for survival. PDP also reportedly settled for Dogara for ethnic and religious balancing, having been a Christian minority from Bauchi State.

His candidature was said to have been very appealing to PDP in the South-South and South-East, which was said to have seen in him another opportunity for minority emancipation. It was also reportedly reasoned that with the president being a Muslim, the vice president a Christian and the Senate president a Muslim, it was just fair to elect another Christian as the speaker, considering that Gbajabiamila is a Muslim.

The passion for revenge on the part of PDP and an opportunity to launch a revival equally overrode ethnic consideration, as PDP Reps-elect from the South-West, who were reportedly approached by the Gbajabiamila’s camp, were said to have rebuffed the argument that they should support him in order for South-West not to lose the speakership to the North.

One of those in the know told the Nigerian Tribune that it was even shameful that Gbajabiamila’s camp could come up with such ethnic persuasion when it did not consider same before supplanting Mulikat-Akande for Tambuwal. He said it was a perfect pay-back time for the ACN caucus in the APC.

It was learnt that PDP, however, did not want to be completely insensitive to the South-West as was done by the ACN during Tambuwal’s reign, which reportedly led to its demand that a Rep-elect from the South-West should be presented as Dogara’s deputy by their alliance, leading to Yusuf’s victory, despite an initial reported attempt by the Gbajabiamila’s camp to talk Dogara into Honourable Monguno, earlier picked by APC as Gbajabiamila’s deputy, being elected unopposed.

PDP’s involvement in the National Assembly deals sprang surprise as it helped the ruling party to achieve the ethnic balancing many in its fold had been clamouring for, with appointment spread that now covers all the geo-political zones except the South-South.

While APC leaders had been all about the four geopolitical zones that gave Buhari victory, having all the spoils of the political war, PDP’s “coup” has now extended the booty to South-East, that was not originally in the equation, with Ekweremadu’s election.

The new balancing engendered by PDP now has North-West (President), South-West (Vice President), North-Central (Senate President) South-East (Deputy Senate President), North-East (Speaker) and South-West (Deputy Speaker).

The celebration was loud in PDP’s camp on Tuesday. But the battle appears to just be starting within APC, where Buhari has technically overruled the party by recognising Saraki and Dogara.

Saraki had, through his aide, denied quitting APC, but such political talks are hardly believable.

While Dogara poses minimal headache to the bruised ego in APC, Saraki has a political history that speaks to a bigger challenge for those kicking against his political promotion, even if he truly has no presidential agenda in 2019, which is said to be the main plank of the opposition to his occupation of the number three position.

He may not be anytime soon on his way to PDP, but he is nestling in it, in a way that makes any conjecture plausible.

For a PDP that wants to be back in power in 2019 and a Saraki that knows how to stay in power, the combo would be perfectly discomforting for any ruling party that has no plans to accommodate the reconciled old buddies in its power configuration. A new dawn beckons.

Tuesday’s development also appears to have widened the gulf between the two central tendencies in the party. Despite Buhari being the official national leader of the party by virtue of being the president, he was not at the fore-front of installing the principal officers of the National Assembly and had used several fora to express his neutrality and non-alignment in the process of selecting party’s candidates for the top-most legislative positions and his readiness to work with those that would eventually emerge.

It was learnt that despite his confessed neutrality, his close associates were not folding their arms and watch others run the show by throwing covert support behind those rejected by the party leadership, which is under a different influence, signaling a parting of ways between hitherto allies.

A governor in the North-Central was said to be the arrow-head of Buhari’s associates, backing the Saraki project, while a former governor, now ranking senator, reportedly coordinated the Abuja end for Saraki and, by extension, the president’s camp.

A female close ally of the ranking senator told the Nigerian Tribune that Buhari’s associates among the front-row chieftains were becoming more embittered by the day, with the perceived disrespect being shown Buhari while Tinubu was being positioned as the ultimate godfather of the party, despite the president being the national leader.

The senator, who is from a North-East state, was said to have retorted at a caucus meeting that “is he not just an ordinary former governor like us? Why should everybody now worship him. We will prove to him that we play better politics.”

The Buhari team was, however, said not to be about northerners alone, as his close associates from their All Peoples Party (APP) days, who are southerners, are also in on the project.

Two governors in the southern part of the country were said to be neck-deep in the internal struggle for influence, though senators from the two said states were said to be among those that endorsed Lawan in Abuja as the party’s consensus candidate on Saturday night.

Three PDP senators from a state in the South were also deeply involved in the project, which an insider noted might serve as a platform of rapprochement between the PDP governor and the presidency.

A source in Buhari’s camp said the president kept maintaining his neutrality publicly as a way of sending signals to those scrambling to influence the outcome of Tuesday’s elections, but some chieftains appeared not to be taking cue from the presidential signal.

The source wondered what manner of democratically-elected president would not be interested in the leadership of the legislature that would be required to approve nearly all his action-plan.

“The president was being decent and everyone was expected to take the right cue,” the source stated.

The president men were poised to explore all political avenues to show who the real leader of the party was and the message was clear and reverberating on Tueseday, with one of them saying that “this is not as much as about Bukola (Saraki), as it is about putting everybody in his place.”

Credit: Lanre Adewole/Nigerian Tribune

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