SARAKI: THERE WAS NO DEAL OVER EKWEREMADU’S EMERGENCE

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· Says he was not aware or invited to APC meeting
with Buhari     
· Tinubu, Atiku set to clash over BoT chairmanship
With the ruling
All Progressives Congress still coming to terms with the controversial
emergence of principal officers of the National Assembly, the Senate President,
Dr. Bukola Saraki, has said he never intentionally spurned his party’s position
on the choice of the officers. He also denied striking a deal with Peoples
Democratic Party (PDP) which led to the emergence of a PDP senator as deputy
senate president.

In his first public comment since the inauguration of National Assembly on June
9, Saraki, whose election as senate president provoked strong disapproval from
APC, also regretted the emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu from the opposition
Peoples Democratic Party as deputy senate president.

This is as indications emerged at the weekend that the disagreements over the emergence
of the National Assembly leadership may move to the APC National Executive
Committee as the party sets itself to choose the chairman of its Board of
Trustees. There were hints that two key gladiators in the present crisis,
former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola
Tinubu, might be on a collision course over who would lead the
board.  

APC had in a mock election on June 6 picked Senator Ahmed Lawan as its nominee
for the post of senate president and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as its choice for
Speaker of the House of Representatives. But while APC legislators were,
allegedly, meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the International
Conference Centre, Abuja, on the morning of the National Assembly inauguration
day, Saraki was elected senate president on the floor of the senate by mainly
PDP senators. A similar situation occurred at the House of Representatives,
where Hon. Yakubu Dogara emerged Speaker against the choice of the APC.

Saraki was, reportedly, elected by 57 senators, made up of the 49 PDP senators
in the 8th Senate and some APC senators, a situation that fuelled speculation
that the former Kwara State governor might have struck a deal with the PDP.

But speaking with journalists yesterday in Abuja, Saraki denied any deal with
PDP. He said Ekweremadu’s emergence as deputy senate president was a painful
situation brought about by the errors and miscalculations of his party men.
Saraki said the PDP senators made an independent decision to support him and
did not communicate their decision to him until about 2am on that June 9.

According to Saraki, “PDP senators had announced to the public that they were
supporting me at 10pm without meeting me, in their own strategic interest. It
was not until 2am that they called us to tell us this was their decision and
when they expressed their desire that they had a candidate, we told them that
we had our own candidate in the name of Ndume supporting us. It was our own
thinking that after the election of the Senate President, that the two groups
within APC would meet and agree on a candidate.

“We never thought then that the other group would not turn up. We (APC) were 24
in the chamber and they were 49. So, there was no way in an election that they
would not defeat us. If they had done House election first, a PDP deputy
speaker would have also emerged. It is unfortunate that we have a PDP man as
deputy senate president. It is very painful that after we went through all
these pains, that happened. It was not what we signed for. It’s unfortunate,
but it has happened. It is wrong to now put the blame on one group because it
was a combination of errors and miscalculation that led to all this.

“On that morning, nobody expected that some senators would be in another place.
So, to suggest that it was a desperate move that led to that is what l reject.
As l said, if we had had the election of House of Representatives first, the
same thing would have happened. But it has happened. In our own view, we will
see how we move with it.”
Saraki admitted that the current situation in the upper chamber would make his
work difficult, but promised to do his best to minimise the adverse effects.

On the widely held view that he shunned a meeting at the International
Conference Centre called by his party to streamline its position before the
election of the principal officers, Saraki said, “I didn’t finish my meetings
until about 4am that morning. I got information that efforts were being made to
make sure that I didn’t get access into the chambers. So as early as 4am or
5am, I had the contingency plan that by 8am, we would get to the National
Assembly. But I was advised that it might not be safe for me, that if I wasn’t
in the chamber, it would be impossible for anybody to nominate me. So l had to
find my own way, as l was in the National Assembly complex as early as 6am that
morning. I stayed in my small car at the car park until quarter to 10am.

“It was at quarter to 10am that l got the information that the clerk had
entered into the chamber. This is the gospel truth. I was there without any
communication. Anybody that said he spoke to me was lying. I did not even know.
All l was doing was to be monitoring how people were arriving. It was at
quarter to 10 that l got the information that the clerk had entered into the
chamber. So, l got out of my small car, stretched myself and put on my
Babaringa and walked from the car park into the chamber. I didn’t know
anything. When l was in the chamber, the only thing l knew was that some of the
senators were not present, but l noticed that people were arriving in batches.
So, by 10am, the event started and before we knew it, my election had come and
gone.

“Nobody in his wildest imagination ever thought that some senators would
not be present on the day of inauguration. In my own view, I was not surprised
about the outcome because I worked hard and was in touch with every senator.
That is why l laugh when l hear that l struck a deal with Ekweremadu. I had
worked so hard that l didn’t need a deal.  I didn’t need any deal with
Ekweremadu to win because everybody was a senator. So, l was canvassing for
their votes. Some of you would remember the meeting we had in NICON.

“It was because one was able to convince them that this is the person to
lead us and had won the confidence of our colleagues. Looking at the way things
turned out, l think there was the evidence of the hand of fate and destiny
because sometimes l sit down and wonder how some of our colleagues found
themselves at the International Conference Centre.”

Saraki said he had not met with Buhari since the imbroglio over the choice of
principal officers of the federal legislature because “some of us as senators
think that as a father, what he would want to see is reconciliation of the
groups. He will want us to unite before meeting him as a united family, not
group.”

On Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who is widely believed to be one of the hardest hit by
the current state of affairs in the National Assembly, Saraki said he had a lot
of respect for the APC national leader and pleaded that they should put the
issues behind them.

He, however, denied insinuations that his emergence as senate president was a
calculation towards the next general election in 2019.
Meanwhile, THISDAY gathered that the disagreements at the National Assembly
might soon move to the critical organs of the ruling party. Though, members of
the party’s National Working Committee were said to be unhappy with the losses
and humiliation suffered by the party during the election of principal officers
of the federal legislature, they seem to be divided on the approach to adopt in
meting out punishment to erring legislators and restoring discipline to the
party.
APC had on
Thursday condemned what transpired at both chambers of the National Assembly
and said a meeting of the party’s national caucus, BoT and NEC, will be summoned
in a few days’ time to deal with the crisis rocking the party.

However, a top leader of the party who spoke to THISDAY yesterday on the
condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue, said the
BoT might not be able to intervene soon because it was yet to elect its
officers. He explained that it was after the presiding officers had emerged
that the meeting of the BoT could be formally convened to attend to matters
affecting the party.

According to the APC constitution, as amended in April 2014, the BoT is
empowered to intervene in all disputes and crises in the party to ensure its
stability at all times. The board is also to,” Advise on, and when
considered necessary initiate policies for the guidance of the party. Act as
arbitrators and mediators in disputes and ensure the enforcement of discipline
in accordance with the constitution of the party.

“It is to promote reconciliation, encourage and facilitate the settlement of
disputes in an amicable manner among members of the party.”
The constitution empowers the party’s NEC “to exercise control and take
disciplinary actions on all organs, officers and members of the party and
determine appeals brought before it by any member or organ of the party.”

Although the party has constituted its BoT, the body is yet to elect its
principal officers.
It was gathered that there was an initial agreement, though unwritten and
undocumented, that the chairmanship of the board would be reserved for the
North-east and, ultimately, for Atiku as part of measures to carry the critical
stakeholders along in the operations of the party.

However, a highly placed party source revealed to THISDAY that with the trend
of events at the National Assembly, such arrangement might no longer stand, as
some of the leaders seen as worst hit by the crisis are ready to jettison any
formal agreements on allocation of positions.

Another contender to the BoT chairmanship post being thrown up is the former
governor of Osun State and the erstwhile interim national chairman of APC,
Chief Bisi Akande. Akande, now in his 70s, is said to enjoy the support of
Tinubu.
But some of allies of Tinubu are also suggesting that he should jettison his
national leader status, which is seen as clashing with that of Buhari, and
fight for the BoT chairmanship seat.

Under the APC constitution, the chairman of the BoT must not come from the same
zone as the president or national chairman. This leaves the position of the BoT
chairman open for contest by four zones – North-east, North-central, South-west,
and South-east.

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