CHUKWU DAVID reports on the unending drama in the Senate over amendment to the Electoral Act that reordered sequence of elections, which has not only pitched the leadership of the upper legislative chamber against some members, but may lead to the suspension of those who kicked against the alteration
The trouble started in the Senate on February 14, when some senators considered to be pro-President Muhammadu Buhari rose from plenary and walked out of the Chamber over the amendments on the 2010 Electoral Act by the conference committee of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Section 25(1) of the new amendment is what has generated the controversies currently tearing the apex legislative chamber apart. The section reordered sequence of elections in Nigeria, making the presidential election to come last, while that of the National Assembly comes first.
This angered the pro-Buhari senators, who in their own interpretation, concluded that the President was the target of the amendment because of his interest in re-contesting in the 2019 general elections. The senators alleged that the amendment was designed to frustrate Buhari’s ambition and cause him to fail at the poll.
The lawmakers with this view made desperate efforts to truncate the passage of the bill or at least, get that section, which they considered unfavourable expunged, but failed as the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, used his discretional powers to ensure that the agitators did not have their way.
In a protest against the development, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and nine other senators immediately stormed out of the chamber to the Senate’s press centre, where they addressed the press, expressing their grievances and total opposition to the action of Saraki in midwifing the adoption of the report in a manner they said lacked due process.
The senators who walked out of the chamber to brief journalists include Abdullahi Yahaya (APC, Kebbi North), Ibrahim Kurfi (APC, Katsina Central), Abu Ibrahim (APC, Katsina South), Abdullahi Gumel (APC, Jigawa North), Binta Masi Garba (APC, Adamawa North), Ali Wakili (APC, Bauchi South), Andrew Uchendu (APC, River East) and Benjamin Uwajumogu (APC, Imo North).
They all took turns to speak against the adoption of the controversial report, declaring it as a constitutional breach, which will not see the light of the day as according to them, it was targeted against President Buhari.
While Senator Adamu, who led the group, said the controversial amendment would never be allowed to stand, Senator Omo-Agege, on his part, claimed that 59 senators had signed against the insertion of Section 25(1) into the Electoral Act, a claim they were not able to provide proof to back it up.
Consequently, the Senate asked it Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to investigate Omo-Agege, who was more vocal than others on the day of their briefing. He has since apologised on the floor of the Senate, but his probe is still on-going.
The Senator also last week mandated the Ethics Committee to investigate Senator Abdullahi Adamu and some other senators, for allegedly plotting to throw the Senate into confusion and by so doing, see grounds to unseat Saraki.
The committee, which was instructed to be thorough with the investigation, was also asked to complete its assignment and turn in its report within a period of two weeks.
The Chamber took the decision following a point of order by Senator Obinna Ogba, who cited Order 43 of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 (as amended), drawing the attention of the lawmakers to a purported conspiracy by some disgruntled members to destabilize the entire Senate.
Ogba specifically said that Senator Adamu was the leader of the group of senators orchestrating to launch massive destabilizing measures on the Senate through several channels including demonstrations.
The lawmaker representing Ebonyi Central on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), hinted that the alleged anti-leadership senators were plotting to carry out the demonstrations, using civil society organisations, market women and other social groups.
He said that he had a documentary evidence to back up his claims on the alleged plot, noting that he had telephone conversations of Senator Adamu and other unnamed persons.
Ogba said that it would have been better for any aggrieved senator(s) to bring their grievances to the floor of the Chamber for consideration rather than going to form alliance with outsiders to unleash any form of attack on the parliament. He therefore, prayed the Senate to investigate the allegation, a motion which was overwhelmingly supported by members when it was put to voice vote.
His words: “I rise to bring to the notice of the Senate, that there is a plan by some people in this Senate under the leadership of Senator Abdullahi Adamu to destabilize this Senate.
In January, Isah Hamman Misau, made a comment here that there was a plan to remove the Senate president and the entire leadership.
“Now, I have reliable information that some people are already planning to distabilise the Senate, including the leadership by organising demonstrations. I believe that all of us are leaders and none of us should do anything that will distabilise the country or the Senate.
Anything that will distabilise our democracy, we should avoid it. “If there is any issue going on, you have an opportunity to raise it here. But not to go outside and start planning with civil organisations, market women and others to lead protests against the leadership of the Senate.
I want this matter to be investigated. I have evidence to show what I am saying. There is a telephone discussion going on between Senator Abdullahi Adamu and other people. “This is a very serious issue. When this issue was raised in January, we did not take it seriously. We must have to stand up and look into it. Waving it aside is not the best thing.
If have your permission, I want to lay the evidence in full.” In his remarks, the Deputy President of the Senate, Dr. Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, said the parliament is what differentiates democracy and dictatorship, stressing the need to preserve the institution. He said: “The difference between military, autocratic or any oppressive regime and democracy is the parliament.
Once you remove the parliament, you are going to have problems. In whatever you do, we must continue to preserve the sanctity of the parliament. “I want to appeal that anybody who is interested in destabilising this country is not doing anybody any good. We have received this information. For whatever it is worth, we will refer it to our appropriate committee on Public Petitions to look at it and report back within two weeks.”
Meanwhile, Senator Adamu had reacted to the allegation and resolution to probe him. He denied leading or being behind any plot targeted at Saraki or the institution of the Senate, saying that he would appear before the committee when invited to defend himself.
He said that Saraki was like a son to him, stressing that it was not logical for anyone to say that he was planning to remove him from the highly coveted office, saying that doing that would amount to fighting a lost battle, in view of the fact that election year is very close.
He further expressed optimism that he would come out clean if invited by the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions because whoever raised allegation must produce evidence to the committee, stressing that he was not afraid of anybody.
His words: “I am not in anyway after Saraki. Saraki is like a son to me. I have every right to contest for the Senate President seat three years ago when the 8th Senate was inaugurated, but I never did because I wasn’t interested.
It is therefore, not logical for anyone to say I’m interested in the seat now, and will be planning to destabilise the Senate. To achieve what? For what purpose? It is not right for anyone to make such unfounded insinuations.
“We are almost three years in office, election year is drawing nearer, and I think any one thinking of upstaging the leadership of the Senate for any reason will only be fighting a lost battle because it is not what should naturally occupy the mind of any serious minded lawmaker now.
“I am not in anyway afraid of anyone who thinks I’ve offended him, I have the neck to carry my cross, but no one should cook up lies just to discredit me or any senator for that matter. If I’m asked to appear before the committee on Ethics and Privileges, I will come out clean because whoever raises the allegations will have to come out and present incontrovertible facts to prove the allegations.
Then, names of other so called collaborators will be made known, they will be confronted, evidence of such meeting will be produced, those accused will be asked to defend themselves, and recommendations will be made by the committee based on facts presented to it.
“As for me, let me repeat that I’m not in anyway after Saraki, I can’t be after Saraki, and I won’t do anything to upstage the leadership as being claimed because it’s a fruitless venture.
But if I believe strongly in a cause, I stand by it. If I’ve offended anyone by my strong stand on some issues in the Senate in accordance with my conviction, I stand by it anytime. But the issue of trying to cause disaffection in the Senate is a no issue at all.
Whatever we do in this world, we must be ready to bear our cross, I’m ready to bear mine. Anyone who knows me will say clearly that I’m not plotting to remove Saraki. Let them look for another thing to say.”
While there is the fear that the senators, who accused the Senate and indeed the National Assembly of amending the Electoral Act to stop Buhari’s second term bid might face suspension, Nigerians are watching and waiting for the unfolding drama to reach its climax.
Senate: Echoes of negative tales from Kogi
CHUKWU DAVID reports on how Kogi has continued to feature in the proceedings of the Senate as a result of power tussle among political gladiators in the state
Kogi State has become a regular feature in the legislative proceedings of the Senate. In recent times, whenever Kogi is mentioned during Senate in plenary, it is not usually for any complimentary development, but for negative issues that attract serious criticisms from the lawmakers.
Most times, the issues border on insecurity, political crisis between the governor, Yahaya Bello and politicians from the state, particularly the three senators representing the state in the upper legislative chamber, especially Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West), and lately Atai Aidoko (Kogi East) and Ahmed Ogembe (Kogi Central).
It is pertinent to note that while the tussle for who would become the governor of Kogi heightened, after the demise of the All Progressives Congress (APC) flag-bearer, Abubakar Audu, Senator Melaye was a formidable supporter of Bello, to the point that he (Melaye) declared that Bello was anointed by God to rule the state.
However, few months after Bello was inaugurated, his relationship with Melaye turned sour and even became bitter. In fact, the feud between the two politicians is now so obvious that political watchers are concerned that if it is not properly addressed, it might degenerate to a regrettable end.
This lingering political feud between the duo has actually gone to give credence to the popular saying that in politics “there are no permanent friends or enemies, but permanent interests.”
Melaye served as the chairman of the transition committee that worked out the modalities for a hitch-free handing over of power to Bello and his eventual inauguration on January 27, 2016, and also served as the master of ceremony at the inauguration of Bello at the Confluence Stadium, Lokoja.
The senator, who was then highly elated at the emergence of Bello as the governor of his state, was unequivocal in telling the whole world that Kogi people voted for Audu, but God voted for Bello and anointed him as the political leader of the state. He further asked the people to give unflinching support to Bello-led government, describing it as “divinely orchestrated.”
Surprisingly, the close friends of yesterday are today becoming the worst political enemies, with their unabating political conflict threatening the peace and progress of the Kogi people.
Some analysts claim that the genesis of the lingering political impasse between Bello and Melaye could be traced to some of the political appointments made by the governor as it was alleged that the governor sidelined the senator and the party structure at the state level.
However, one of the first issues that Melaye brought to the Senate against Bello was the issue of non-payment of salaries and pensions to workers and pensioners, as well as the continued closure of all tertiary institutions in the state on the account of strike embarked upon by lecturers due to non-payment of salaries.
Another negative issue that featured Kogi in Senate plenary session was the alleged failed assassination attempt on Melaye’s in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital. The lawmaker told the Red Chamber that it was Governor Bello’s killer squard that tried to eliminate him, but God saved him.
The lawmaker explained that he was on a routine visit to his constituency and was received by his constituents in Kabba and other places, but was attacked when he came to the state capital. He claimed that the encounter at Lokoja turned bloody when one of the governor’s hit-men was killed while some persons on his entourage sustained injuries.
The senators condemned the alleged attack on their colleague and stressed the need for politicians not to heat up the polity, while also urging on the importance of members of the different arms of government collectively working to deliver dividends of democracy to the electorate rather than giving them crisis and apprehension.
In another development, the Senate also on March 3, mandated its Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to investigate the allegation of multiple registration against Governor Bello. The Senate had frowned at the alleged issuance of Temporary Voters’ Card (TVC) to Bello and insisted that it must be investigated.
However, this time around, it was not Senator Melaye that brought the matter to the apex legislative chamber, but Senator Mohammed Hassan (PDP, Yobe State), who brought a motion to that effect, pointing out that the investigation would help in sanitising the electoral system.
Hassan in his presentation, said: “There is this situation going round regarding the governor of Kogi State. It was reported recently in the newspapers that the governor of Kogi State was involved in double registration in the voter registration exercise.”
Shortly after that, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) held a press conference at which it confirmed that three members of its staff have been sacked over the matter.
Within this month (March), the Senate also passed a resolution on Kogi State, following a motion entitled “Increased and alarming spate of political intimidation and violence in Kogi Central Senatorial District of Kogi State,” sponsored by Senator Ogembe.
The lawmaker representing Kogi Central had in his motion, told the apex chamber that on Saturday March 3, he organised an empowerment programme for his constituents, but that the event was disrupted by hoodlums and miscreants, who meted violence to his constituents.
He also told the Senate that the Police Area Commander, Okene and the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Okene, Okehi and Adavi local government areas within his senatorial district were aware of the programme and the violence unleashed on the beneficiaries and his supporters, yet they did nothing.
On March 14, the Senate also raised the alarm over alleged illegal establishment and equipment of state police under the guise of vigilante service by the Kogi State government, thereby bringing Kogi to a negative light again.
As usual, the Senate mandated its Joint Committee on Security and Intelligence and Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, to invite the National Security Adviser (NSA), with a view to investigating the alleged illegal establishment.
The apex legislative chamber also directed that after the investigation, the NSA should advise the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice to disband the unconstitutional security outfit.
The Red Chamber further decried the action of Governor Bello, pointing out that his actions and tendencies had been posing serious security threats to the existence and stability of democracy in Nigeria.
The Senate made these resolutions following a motion brought to the floor by Melaye, who cited Orders 42 and 52, to draw the attention of the Senate to the setting up of the vigilante service in total breach of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He said that the vigilante service had already commenced operations and was equipped with sophisticated weapons, even better than what the Police have.
On March 8, Kogi was again in the Senate news, forming part of its major deliberations that day and leading some paper and making front page in others the following day. This time, Senator Melaye accused Governor Bello of importing restricted security gadgets without obtaining the end user certificate from the National Security Adviser (NSA), as required by the law of the land.
Melaye said he had sufficient proof to show that the items were imported without the NSA’s knowledge. He explained that the Customs Service intercepted the items which were in the custody of Nigeria Aviation Handling Company of Nigeria (NAHCO).
The most recent mention of Kogi in the Senate proceedings was last week Thursday, when the Chamber received the sad news of the invasion of some communities in the state by armed Fulani herdsmen, with about 32 persons reportedly killed and property destroyed.
Consequently, the Red Chamber called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to use his powers as the country’s commander-in-chief to stop the senseless killings across the country by armed Fulani herdsmen.
The Senate also urged the President to direct the police, the military and all the nation’s security forces to as a matter of urgency, move into the affected communities in Kogi and other parts of the country and bring the killings under control.
The Red Chamber further called on the Inspector-General of Police and all the security agencies to arrest the perpetrators.
The resolutions were sequel to the adoption of a Point of Order by Senator Atai Aidoko (Kogi-East), who told the Senate that 20 people were killed in Ogane-Enugu community in Dekina, while 12 others were killed in Agbejukolo, Agbenema communities in Omala Local Government Area.
No doubt, the Confluence State has persistently featured on the negative side in the Senate, but the development puts a big question mark on the political maturity of some political leaders in the state.
Adeniran: Security apparatus requires urgent rejuvenation
Comrade Debo Adeniran, a human rights activist, is the Chairman of Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL)
The news of the release of the Dapchi girls is very elating and timely. We rejoice with the families, friends, colleagues and wellwishers of the abducted girls, who have been released by the Boko Haram Sect. It is heart-warming to receive the news of the release even as security agencies continue to pass the buck amongst themselves.
Though the return of the kidnapped students should put a stop to the blamegame that has been going on between security agencies, a number of social media gladiators have started mooting and weaving a “conspiracy theory” to wrap up in the mud, the monumental significance of this release.
As far as we are concern at CACOL, we urge Nigerians to shun making political profits over this highly traumatic incidence. Families, especially children, should never under any circumstance be subjected to situations that de-robes their humanity or commoditise their lives as items for pecuniary and political advantages. At this junction, all human beings with any iota of human feelings should rejoice and feel relieved. While we condemn all acts of individual or social terrorism, we in the same vein demand from government and its security agencies to ensure the release of the remaining Chibok girls that were abducted by the same Boko Haram sect since 2014.
Having stated this, we call for forensic audit the country’s security apparatus with a view to making them more pro-active in tackling security challenges confronting the nation. We must accept that the responses of our security forces falls abysmally below pass mark if not even below failure marks.
Their operational performance is totally untenable just as it does not justify the huge security expenditures particularly the security votes of all chief executive officers of the states in the federation. We call on the Federal Government to rejuvenate the security apparatus to enhance their capacities in combating insurgency and other violent acts in all parts of the country.
Security personnel must be trained and re-training persistently, given that it has become very obvious that the war against insurgency is a long-drawn one that must be confronted with expertise and creative strategies. All incentives necessary for the optimal performance of the security agencies must be given including improving on the living and working conditions of personnel.
SDP: The emergence of third force
The defection of some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) has provoked a debate on whether the SDP is the much anticipated third force ahead of the 2019 general elections, ONYEKACHI EZE reports
It is, perhaps, the best of time for the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which suffered electoral misfortune during the 2015 general elections. Though it was not among the popular parties then, it won a seat in the House of Representatives through Hon. Kwamoti Laori representing Demsa/Numan/ Lamurde federal constituency of Adamawa State.
The party did not win any executive office or any senatorial seat in the 2015 elections. As a matter of fact, SDP did not field a presidential candidate during the polls. Instead, it adopted the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), then President Goodluck Jonathan.
Abdul Isiaq, then SDP National Publicity Secretary, explained then that the decision to adopt Jonathan was based on a report of a committee set up by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) on adoption of a presidential candidate. According to him, the then PDP presidential candidate accepted the SDP’s required conditions to warrant the party’s support.
The conditions include faithful implementation of the 2014 National Conference report, zero tolerance for corruption and intensification of efforts to defeat insurgency in the North-East. “Based on the foregoing observations, the committee has unanimously recommended that SDP should endorse and support the candidature of Jonathan.
This is to enable him to complete the restructuring of the polity based on the report of the National Conference, 2014. The party has accepted these recommendations and hereby directed all its supporters and members throughout Nigeria to vote for Jonathan,” Isiaq explained then. Ironically, the SDP National Chairman, Chief Olu Falae, was the joint presidential candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and All Peoples Party (APP) in 1999. He lost to the eventual winner, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP. Since the 2015 general elections, Falae has been in the news.
He was among the politicians accused of collecting money from former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), from the $2.1 million allegedly meant to buy arms to fight Boko Haram insurgents. The sun of N100 million was allegedly traced to Falae from the arms fund. Again, he was kidnapped on his 77th birthday on September 21, 2015, while in his farm at Ilado village in Akure North Local Government Area of Ondo State, but was released three days later (September 24).
But, Falae’s spirit has not been dampened by these ordeals. Rather, the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) continues to trudge on. Also, his party did not allow the electoral misfortune of 2015 and the allegation that it benefitted from the arms fund to hamper its rebuilding. The rebuilding efforts seem to be paying off as the party has gradually become the “beautiful bride” ahead of the 2019 elections given recent developments in the polity.
Just recently, some members of the PDP, who felt aggrieved after the December 9, 2017 national convention of the party, joined the SDP. Among them were two founding members of the former ruling party, Prof. Jerry Gana and Prof. Tunde Adeniran.
A former National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prof. Ahmed Rufai Alkali, also joined the defection train. Adeniran was one of the defeated national chairmanship aspirants at the convention, while Gana was Chairman of the PDP Strategy Review and Inter-party Affairs Committee that had commenced merger talk with SDP and other political parties ahead of the 2019 general elections.
SDP National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Alpha Mohammed, who spoke on the “new arrivals,” said seven serving governors and 15 serving senators have indicated interest to also join the party. He also disclosed that five former members of the House of Representatives have hinted of their desire to move to the platform.
His words: Already, arrangement is on top gear to welcome seven former governors, 15 serving senators, five former members of the House of Representatives as well as six top stakeholders from the two leading political parties in the North Central geo-political zone.
“The SDP is set to provide the much desired credible leadership in Nigeria come 2019. Already, taking the advantages of the failure of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to provide Nigerians with the promised positive change for which it was elected, as well as the crisis in the PDP, which just suffered a rejection at the 2015 polls, the SDP is currently engaged in serious and fruitful discussions with credible and progressive minded individuals and groups within the country.
“The promising team being built by SDP shall comprise of energetic young and experienced middle aged Nigerians, who are passionate about reverting the country back to its glorious days as the giant of Africa. “Meanwhile, one of the centre points of SDP’s quest to rule Nigeria is job creation, women and youths empowerment, and the quest shall be youths driven.
To this end, a committee of experts has been put in place to articulate a programme that would see the party empowering at least one million youths and women in between now and 2018, across the country.” Mohammed’s optimism was justified last week, when Hon. Emmanuel Bello, a former member of the House of Representatives led over a thousand APC members in Adamawa State to join the SDP. The SDP claimed to be the third force former President Olusegun Obasanjo talked about in his letter to President Muhammadu Buhari early this year that would win the 2019 presidential election. Adeniran, who buttressed the claim, said in an interview that the SDP is “the third force of the coalition of progressives…. Whatever name you call it, SDP has become a force to be reckoned with and it will soon become a party to beat. People believe that SDP is a viable platform to really get to the Promised Land for Nigeria.”
He also disclosed that members of the Coalition for New Nigeria Movement (CNM) will join the SDP for next year’s general elections “because Nigerians will reject PDP and APC at the polls.” Former Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Chief Akin Osuntokun, who is also a member of CNM, corroborated Adeniran’s position, when said the group will collaborate with SDP in the July governorship election in Ekiti State.
He said: “We are doing that with SDP because it is inevitable that election is coming and we have to be mindful of the timeline. It does not mean we (CNM leaders) have finally resolved to work with SDP. We have only asked our people to contest on SDP platform.” The SDP spokesperson, Mohammed, however explained that though the party is presently not enjoying the support of Obasanjo, some members of his coalition attended the meeting where SDP was adopted as a third force.
Mohammed further disclosed that some members of the National Intervention Movement (NIM) were equally at the meetings. “The National Intervention Movement – Dr. Jahlil Tafawa Balewa, the South-West Coordinator of the NIM, Dr. Olu Agunloye, and so on, were there. Then, you have Sani Garba, who is a staunch member of the coalition; he was there. In fact, he gave the closing remarks. “In Chief Obasanjo’s organisation, members were present and I think it won’t be wrong if I say that the organisation was represented at the endorsement ceremony of the SDP.
“The organisation has not made an open declaration, but we have a lot of them coming. Very soon, when we stabilise, one by one, the organisations will visit the party secretariat and make open declarations. “It is a mass movement that we have now; the SDP has become like a mass movement in Nigeria, so many people have been trooping into this party.
The traffic of new members has become so high and it has never happened in the history of Nigeria,” he said. While SDP continue to witness influx of new members, there are some political schools of thought which believe that the party is unlikely to make much impact in the 2019 general elections.
This is probably because none of those who have so far joined the party could alter any political equation, even in their own ward. Former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope said the exit of Adeniran and Gana from PDP would not affect the fortune of the party because PDP was not on built on personalities. Although he admitted that the two politicians contributed greatly to the growth of the PDP, Babatope however, said the party should respect their decision to leave and move on.
“I am not one of those calling for their return to the PDP because they have the democratic right to join any party that suits them. Again, they are competent and intelligent adults, who must have reasoned very well before they took the decision.
“Even though the feeling might not be too good, being that I have known them for long, especially Adeniran, I cannot fault or stop their decisions. I believe the PDP will remain strong even with their exit, as the party was built on a strong foundation and not personalities,” he said.
Babatope expressed doubts that the SDP would evolve to be a dominant party before 2019 as political parties need time to develop. He, however, added that “if at the end of the day, the SDP develops into a dominant party like its chieftains have claimed, good, then, we will have three dominant parties. We will all be competing together for the votes of Nigerians.
I think that will be good for democracy,” he said. PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, on his part, described those who left PDP for SDP as retired politicians, who have outlived their usefulness. “They are running around from pillar to post. We will not bother them. They are our fathers.
When the time comes, they will come back and the youths will provide food for them,” he said. No doubt, leaders of the SDP are savouring the turn-around in their party’s fortune, but only time will tell if it will translate to electoral victory in the forthcoming elections.
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