There are ongoing alignments and re-alignments in the nation’s political space ahead of the 2019 general elections. BODE GBADEBO takes a look at the recent events within the governing All Progressives Congress (APC).
Since after Friday, May 29, 2015 when the APC took over the mantle of leadership at the centre with a commanding majority in the nation’s parliament – both Senate and the House of Representatives, the ruling party had been sharply divided until last week over the leadership crisis in the National Assembly.
The crisis was fueled by President Muhammadu Buhari’s initial nonchalance to party affairs and the dissatisfaction of some top guns in party and their disciples over the emergence of Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara for the NASS top jobs.
But Dogara was quickly embraced by the party and President Buhari after he implemented some of the APC’s decisions on the choice of the principal officers of the House of Representatives.
He thereafter became a regular guest at the Aso Rock Villa and the Wuse 2 national headquarters of the party even as Saraki as many will believe is being punished by powerful forces in the party for realising his ambition to serve at the Senate level.
His controversial arraignment before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in 2015 few months after he emerged as the Senate President over alleged assets declaration offenses when he became governor of Kwara State in 2003 is still ongoing.
It’s noteworthy that after he was welcomed back home like the proverbial prodigal son having rebelled against his party to become Speaker of the House, Dogara was at a time saddled with a strategic responsibility of brokering a out-of-court settlement between the incumbent Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, and Emmanuel Jime over the manner of the governor’s nomination as governorship candidate in 2015 election.
Road to peace deal:
Although the Buhari administration may not have bargained for other crises that trailed the National Assembly leadership squabble like the economic recession among other that have dragged on for some time now contrary to the ‘change’ agenda of the APC but the party became worried of its fate in future electoral contests after realising that members of the public are becoming frustrated with the economic crisis in the country and the seemingly lack of preparedness by the federal government to respond appropriately.
This worry seemed to emanate from the fact that even with a divided PDP, the ruling party is facing a strong opposition in the most of the pending bye-elections and re-run polls across the country, hence the need for a re-think and a re-appraisal of approaches by look inwards and get all hands on deck lest it become too late.
A highly placed source recently told a select journalists why the realignment was necessary and how it started.
“It is the President who first realised the fact that alienating the National Assembly is creating a perception problem as well as presenting a clog in the wheel of the progress of government. Perhaps, the best example of the problem between the legislature and the executive is the manner in which key policy issues which ought to have been agreed on by both arms before being presented officially suffered because the executive feels it should not befriend or reach out to the legislature.
“The President was the first to realise that the legislature is crucial to the success of the administration. Buhari came to that realisation after seeing that even the party leadership that encouraged him to antagonise the legislature is equally divided and not so strong as to help him push through his policies from conception to realisation stage,” he said.
The source added that Buhari himself realised that the few times he had listened to the Senate President on some issues, Saraki appeared knowledgeable and his opinions have been very useful.
Incidentally, with Saraki also consistently working on creating a united Senate, particularly after winning over lawmakers like Senators Kabiru Marafa, Suleiman Hunkuyi, Abu Ibrahim and host of others, it became reassuring to Buhari that he has to stretch the olive branch to Saraki in return.
And that was the genesis of what will later become a regular consultation between Saraki and Buhari; and incidentally too at a time the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s people were aggrieved after the Ondo APC governorship primaries, consequently, the President realised he could not be fighting “internecine wars” from all fronts.
Another Senate source opines: “Buhari also realised that if with all arsenal deployed against Saraki he is still standing and popular in the Senate, then he has proved to be a fighter and somebody who can hold his own against his enemy. That is the way a General would think. You evaluated your strategy when you fight an enemy who has remained undefeated after all weapons deployed against him.”
Saraki’s role in Ondo election
LEADERSHIP also learnt that the role Saraki played in the recently concluded Ondo election where he not only suggested several strategies that proved useful but also hosted several meetings to reconcile the aggrieved party chieftains and aspirants, impressed President Buhari.
Interestingly Saraki’s mother is from Owo, the hometown of the APC candidate and eventual winner of the election, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN). Also, two of the three Senators from the Ondo state are his close allies, particularly, Senator Tayo Alasoadura, who was an aspirant keenly contested primaries.
This was coming at the time Tinubu, a pillar in the South West was not supporting Akeredolu. As such the role of Saraki in ensuring APC’s victory was perceived with respect by the APC leadership.
How APC got the signal:
The Buhari-Saraki reunion sent a strong signal out, particularly to the party national leadership, that the Senate President has to be fully reintegrated like Dogara and that they must build on what Buhari has started.
Recall that before now Saraki has a good personal relationship with the APC national chairman Oyegun and that the first time Tinubu accused Oyegun of not being firm in asserting party discipline was on the issue of how Saraki emerged as Senate President.
It is also on record that Oyegun and some APC leaders were not against Saraki becoming the Senate President. They only tagged alongside Tinubu and those who claimed then that the President preferred Senator Ahmed Lawan as Senate President.
“In fact, Oyegun always wonder how issue got to where they were with Saraki knowing the role the Senate President played in the building of the party and sustaining it during the campaigns.
“Now, it is becoming clear to both Buhari and APC leaders that they are lucky that Saraki is Senate President because they cannot be sure Ahmed Lawan can handle the Senate and push party agenda with gusto or so much support of his colleagues,” the source added.
LEADERSHIP Sunday further gathered that after being pressured by influential power blocs in Buhari’s government to follow suit, Oyegun as a sign of good faith, moved for Saraki to provide a replacement for Lai Mohammed, who is the current Minister of Information, as party spokesman.
Although Oyegun is said to have always known Bolaji Abdullahi as Saraki’s representative in the Presidential Campaign Council of APC in the last election. But when it was suggested that Abdullahi can help as the party’s spokesman, it became clear that without Saraki being fully reconciled with the party, the appointment of the former Minister of Sports will not fly.
LEADERSHIP Sunday recall that last week Saraki led a delegation from the Senate to the national headquarters of the party in Abuja to meet with Oyegun preparatory to the latter’s all-important parley with the National Assembly Caucus of the ruling party any time soon.
Meanwhile, the much-anticipated Oyegun’s return meeting with the APC Caucus in the National Assembly is the first of its kind since the inauguration of 8th National Assembly on June 9, 2015.
LEADERSHIP gathered from privileged sources that the Oyegun-APC NASS Caucus parley is coming against the backdrop of a renewed cordial relationship between President Muhammadu Buhari and Senator Saraki, who is the chairman of the National Assembly.
The meeting is also said to be on the heels of recommendations by APC governors and ministers aftermath of the visit of the Imo State governor, Rochas Okorochas, who is the chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) to the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly few weeks ago.
LEADERSHIP further learnt from a highly-placed source that the APC national chairman, Oyegun, has gotten President Buhari’s approval as the President is said to be “enthusiastic” about the move, which is aimed to achieve a tripartite result among the Executive, Legislature and the ruling party.
During the first leg of the meeting last week Wednesday at the APC headquarters, Saraki used the opportunity to emphasise his disappointment with the role the party played in the snowballing of the issues to this point. He made the point that it was wrong to state that he ran against the decision of the party as the party never had a position and or a candidate.
He said the positions in NASS were not zoned or allocated. He said the President made it clear he was ready to work with any candidate who emerged. So, should he take it that the candidate being pushed by a few individuals who are manipulating all others was the party candidate?
For his part, Oyegun also pointed out how the Senate President refused to accept the people nominated by the party after he had emerged. He said the nominations were to assuage those who were hurt by the June 9, 2015 outcomes.
“In all, APC is strategising to ensure that the Buhari government as a tripod stands on the three legs that can stabilise it. The Executive, Legislature and Party machinery. The people will be the winners if the efforts are sustained,” the source added.
But pundits await to see how the new romance between Buhari, Saraki and the APC would affect the PDP senators, who have remained a major support base for the senate president.
Evidently, Saraki could not risk losing that base, hence his hurried attempt to mend fences with them after they staged a walk out during plenary over handling of the defection of an Ondo State Sen. Yele Omogunwa, to the APC.
In all, Saraki has strategically position himself to be the courted bride, being the major beneficiary of the fracas within his party.
Without a doubt as the 2019 general election approaches, the senate president will continue to be pivotal as the ongoing tussle in the party escalates.
SOURCE: LEADERSHIP NEWSPAPER