By Zacheaus Adebayo
The wailings by the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the emergence of Dr. Bukola Saraki and Senator Ike Ekweremadu as President and Deputy President of the Senate, respectively, is not new. It started on 9th June 2015 after their election. While the APC national spokesman, Lai Mohammed issued a statement denouncing both men’s emergence as “a monumental act of indiscipline and betrayal”, vowing that the party would “met out the necessary sanctions to all those involved”, the APC’s spokesperson in Lagos, Joe Igbokwe, said the party wouldn’t mind cutting off their hands if they feel they were too tightly glued to the exalted seats.
True to the threats, both men have also been visited with thunder and brimstone and dragged before the courts, security, and anti-graft agencies in the bid to remove them. It climaxed with the failed civilian coups on the duo on 24th July and 7th August 2018, when security sieges were laid to their residences and the National Assembly, respectively.
Meanwhile, integrity, according to Cambridge Dictionary, is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change. So, the more one listens to the bizarre arguments by the APC leadership, chieftains, and senators, etc. on why Senator Bukola Saraki must resign his position as Senate President following his defection from the APC to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the more one just wonders in bewilderment over the ricocheting hypocrisy of a people that ought to be shinning lights in integrity and honesty.
What the Constitution says
Section 50 (1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution clearly provides that “There shall be: a President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by members of that House from among themselves”.
Section 50(1)(b) and Section 92(1) make exactly the same provision regarding the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and States Houses of Assembly. So, there is clearly no provision that demands that the presiding officer should come from the party that is majority in parliament.
Also, while the presiding officers of the National Assembly are elected by a simple majority, Section 50(2) (c) provides that they can only be removed “by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of that House.
The measure APC gave PDP
The Holy Scriptures, in Matthew 7:2 says that the measure you use, is the measure you receive. Nigerians don’t appear to have paid attention to the fact that although the APC was the minority in the Benue and Plateau Houses of Assembly, their members – Hon. Terkimbi Ikyange and Hon. Peter Azi – were elected Speakers of the Benue and Plateau Houses of Assembly, respectively even before the inauguration of the 8th Senate in June 2015.
Equally, Governor of Sokoto State, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, defected from the PDP to the APC on 28thOctober 2014 and adjourned the House to 3rd December 2014 without relinquishing the position.
President Muhammadu Buhari was so elated at the Special Convention of the APC that he enthused: “We will like to thank Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal for what he did yesterday. We were overwhelmed. Taking such a remarkable risk and sending everybody on holidays till December is an achievement”.
APC’s spokesperson, Lai Mohammed, chanted: “I must say that this historic development means that our democracy is growing by the day and it is dynamic. On a more serious note, we welcome the defection of Tambuwal to APC. With this defection, APC has now taken the leadership of one arm of the national legislature. We think that having the head of the legislature from the opposition party makes for a balanced setting in government and it’s good for democracy. Those who are saying this has not happened before and that Tambuwal should step aside as Speaker, do not have the backing of history and the constitution”.
The Minority Leader at the time (now the Majority Leader), Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila declared: “We welcome and applaud the Speaker’s decision… We are proud to acknowledge that the Speaker remains not only a Member of the House of Representatives but also its Speaker. This position is consistent with the law and practice in a presidential system. For the avoidance of doubt, the constitution requires only that the Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be elected by members of that House from among themselves”.
Now, in less than four years after, the same party and leaders are practically crying, following Saraki like kids whose piece of meat was snatched by a bully. The National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomole, even described Senate Presidency as APC’s crown. Who said?
Even more brazen was Buhari’s kinsman and Chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Senator Abu Ibrahim (APC, Katsina South), who boasted: “By all conventions all over the world, the majority party produces the leadership, Senate President. If he (Saraki) doesn’t resign, we will never have peace in that Senate. How can we 53 allow a renegade (Saraki) to control us? No, we cannot allow that.”
The question then is, what has changed in our Constitution between October 2014 and July/August 2018? So, unlike Tambuwal’s defection to APC, Saraki’s defection doesn’t mean “that our democracy is growing by the day”? So, having the head of the legislature from the opposition party no longer “makes for a balanced setting in government and it’s good for democracy”? Haba!
Tambuwal, who recently returned to the PDP exposed the hypocrisy of the APC thus: “When they talk about cross-carpeting, I begin to wonder. When I cross-carpeted the other time, did they complain?” APC is yet to answer that.
Recess and Reconvening
Another contentious issue is the insistence of some APC Senators, specifically members of the Buhari Parliamentary Support Group (BPSG) and the presidency that the Senate must reconvene to consider the President’s request for virement and supplementary budget for INEC for the 2019 elections.
The wrong impression being dished out is that Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara unilaterally shut the National Assembly (NASS). Truth is the presidency and every lawmaker knew that NASS scheduled to go on eight-week recess starting from 25th July 2018. However, following the tension triggered by the siege to the residences of the Senate President and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, by EFCC and security agencies, the Senate and the House adjourned two days earlier- 24th July to forestall trouble. Could the INEC budget have been passed in two days?
The adjournment of the Senate and House of Representatives came vide motions moved by Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan and House Majority Leader, Hon. Gbajabiamila and passed by the respective Houses. No one complaimned. The same Senator Lawan is the one wailing over the adjournment.
Meanwhile, on reconvening, Senate Rule provides: “Whenever the Senate stands adjourned… and it is represented by the Leaders of the political Parties in the Senate to the President of the Senate that the Public interest requires that the Senate should meet on an earlier or a later date or time than that on which it stands adjourned, the President of the Senate may give notice accordingly, and the Senate shall meet on the date and at the time stated in the notice.”
So, any resort to self-help to reconvene either Chambers of the National Assembly or to topple Saraki and Ekweremadu as attempted on July 24th and 7th August under the guise of a purported urgent need to approve INEC’s budget for the 2019 general elections won’t fly. The NASS recess and 2019 elections didn’t take INEC and FG by surprise. INEC even published a 36-year election timetable. Shouldn’t the election budget have come with the 2018 Appropriation Bill?
APC should also save us this hypocritical wailing and call for Saraki’s resignation. They have canonised and made Saraki and Ekweremadu heroes of democracy and no Nigerian takes them seriously again over all these invectives on the duo or their harassment with ant-graft and security agencies. They had their chance, but chose to blow it!
Adebayo writes from Ibadan