The Cat And Mouse Game Of Buhari, Saraki | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


The Cat And Mouse Game Of Buhari, Saraki

Posted: Jul 2, 2016 at 4:26 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


Busola Saraki


When on June 9, 2015, Senator Bukola Saraki, outwitted his own political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) with the assistance of members of the new opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to mount the saddled of the Senate Presidency, little did he know the battle of resistance that followed his action would be this long drawn.

More than one year after that action, the power that be within the APC is yet to forgive the Senate President for his “transgression” which was compounded by the fact that his action unilaterally set in motion a “unity government” in the country by allowing a senator elected on the platform of PDP in person of Senator Ike Ekweremadu to emerge as his Deputy, in a parliament in which if all Senators are seated in the chamber, the APC has a clear majority to determine who gets what.

At the inception of the war of vengeance, the presidency put up a straight face, pretending not to feel concerned about happenings in the parliament, not with the famed declaration by President Muhammadu Buhari that he could work with anyone who the parliament might choose as their presiding officers.

Those who know say clearly that the presidency was hurt by the action of the Senate President and his backers, which resulted into a fierce battles fought underneath with dexterity, while faked laughing faces were shown to the cameras when the need to deceive the populace becomes essential.

While the battle was restricted to the chambers of the Senate for months, with the parliament unfortunately polarised into “pro Saraki and anti Saraki camps” a seeming good cover-up was managed between the presidency and the parliament, while their loyal foot soldiers held one another by the jugular, all in the name of fighting the cause of their different principals.

The battle of wit within the chamber saw the Senators who openly expressed their dislike for Saraki forming the group called “unity forum, made up of APC members only while his backers which comprised senators of different political lineage in the chamber formed the “Like Minds” to present a formidable support for senate president.

With the Senate President and his team being able to cage the “Unity Forum “, using the instrumentalities of powers of presiding officers, and numerical strength of the membership of the “Like Minds”, the presidency was forced to step into the battle with a view to “humiliating and dethroning” Saraki and Ekweremadu.

The suddenness with which the Code of Conduct Bureau remembered the “sins” of Saraki, while he held sway in Kwara State as the Chief Executive, drew the ire of the lawmakers who were uncomfortable with the decision to try him for alleged improper asset declarations, after leaving office in 2007 as the State Governor. This move by an agency under the control of the Executive Arm of government was interpreted by the lawmakers, especially, the supporters of Saraki as direct attack on their principal and a call to war by the Executive.

Though, the Senate tried as much as possible to hide it’s bitterness over the attack by the presidency, it was not properly concealed as the battle of wits that erupted over the consideration and passage of the 2016 budget left much to be desired.

It is noteworthy that after much mudslinging, and brickbats between the two warring arms of government, the Senate supported by its ‘Siamese twin’, the House of Representatives, showed maturity and got the 2016 budget passed after the presidency had succeeded in getting the parliament adjust some of the inputs considered as unacceptable.

Seeking For Internal Peace

Appreciating the necessity for peace in the Upper House, the Senate President swallowed his pride and sought to make peace with his traducers within the parliament by setting up a peace panel headed by Senator James Manager with a mandate to get to the root cause of the crisis in the Senate and find the best solution to the challenges. The committee subsequently finished its work with far reaching recommendations on the way forward. Indeed the grouse of the two conflicting parties were also clearly enumerated which the senate was expected to address at its session.

The nine-page report which Independent was privy to, recommended that there was need for the various factions in the senate to withdraw their lawsuits for the sake of peace and unity in the Senate

The Senator James Manager headed Committee also recommended that the Senate Standing Orders must be respected and adhered to at all times by Senators.

The report also asked the Selection Committee headed by Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, to review the composition of the membership of committees to reflect equity and fairness.

This the committee said, could be achieved by ensuring every Senator is a member of the same number of committees, with each committee having a minimum number of eight members and a maximum of 12 members.

It also recommended that all vacant positions for chairmen and vice chairmen of committees be filled forthwith and that no Senator should be chairman or vice chairman of more than one committee.

The report said stated that committee chairmanship should be shared equally to all States of the Federation with a maximum of two chairmen of committee from each State. The committee recommended that all factional groups in the Senate be disbanded forthwith.

The report also noted that some petitions brought before the Senate should be referred to the relevant committees, instead of adding to the workload of the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions.

It recommended that the Committee on Rules and Business should be strengthened to do its job efficiently without over-bearing influence and all matters not previously approved at the Principal Officers meeting should not be allowed on the Order Paper. According to the report, all Senators should recognise and support the Presiding Officers of the Senate.

It stressed the need for the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs to improve on information management and articulate proper explanations on workings of the Senate.

The report also recommended that “apparent discriminatory actions in choice of Senators for overseas conferences, seminars and tours should be corrected.”

On observations/findings, the committee noted that after careful deliberation and study of all presentations by the two groups, the Senate Unity Forum and The Like Minds Senators, consideration of the Senate Standing Rules and legislative norms, it observed: “The conflict and disunity bedevilling the Senate started on the day of proclamation of the 8th Senate when the Presiding Officers were elected and inaugurated.

“There was an allegation of unilateral alteration of the Senate Standing Orders, 2011 giving rise to the 2015 Standing Orders used for the inauguration of the 8th Senate and the election of the Presiding Officers.

“After the inauguration and despite the disagreement among Senators of the ruling party, the Presidency and All Progressives Congress (APC),accepted the outcome of the election of the Presiding Officers.

“As a norm and usual practice, political parties play and important role in the appointment of the Principal Officers in the National Assembly.

“The ruling party, APC, wrote to the Senate President and Speaker forwarding the list of its preferred Principal Officers.

“All Progressives Party directives were upheld in the House of Representatives while in the Senate they were not complied to.

“There was perceived marginalisation of Senators who did not support the election of the Presiding Officers in both political parties.

“There is existence and recognition of fractions and informal caucuses in the Senate.

“There is a poor and negative perception of the Senate by the general public.

“Ranking and seniority were not adhered to in some instances.

“There exists imbalance in the composition of committees according to States of the Federation as in some states all three Senators are chairmen of committees, while other states have only one or two as chairman of committees.

Reaching For Saraki’s Jugular

With the budget successfully passed, and assented to by the President and peace move gathering momentum, the expectations became high that a more workable relationship was about being established between the two arms of government, but it was a pipe dream.

While the trial of Saraki for improper asset declarations was still ongoing in the Code of Conduct Tribunal, another more deadly move was made for his jugular, this time around, bringing into the ring, Ekweremadu who has consistently provided a cushion for the Senate president through unalloyed loyalty secured for him through his party, the PDP.

The Office of the Attorney General of the Federation out of the blues, gave permission for the prosecution of Saraki, Ekweremadu and two other top staff of the National assembly for allegedly getting involved in the forgery of the Senate Rule with which the current 8th Session of the parliament was inaugurated.

The prosecution averred that the Senate Rule was manipulated in such a way to officially accommodate the whims and caprice of the “coup plotters” who upstaged the plans of the APC leadership for the sharing of offices within the parliament. Expectedly, the senate reacted furiously to the new move.

A strongly worded statement condemning the new move against Saraki was issued by the Senate Spokesman, describing the presidency in negatives.

To all his supporters, it was an evidence of their fears that the presidency was engaging in political persecution of the Senate helmsman.

The issue also resurfaced on the floor of the senate when the vocal Senator Dino Melaye brought another strongly worded motion to the floor of the Senate. Apparently speaking the minds of his colleagues as he moved the motion, Melaye described as uncharitable the role being played in the brouhaha by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, which he noted was done by proxy on behalf of the president.

The parliament insisted that president Buhari was being misled and he’s dancing to a tune that will spell doom for the nation’s democracy.

The angry senators stated unequivocally that the Senate Standing Rule 2015 used for the inauguration of the 8th Senate on the 9th of June last year, was not forged but authentic in all its ramifications.

The Senate also warned the president to face the economic challenges facing the country rather than dissipate energy at fighting the parliament.

The Senate through the motion condemned in all its entirety what it considered as surreptitious attempts by the executive arm of government under President Buhari, to erode the independence  of the parliament by forcing on them , a leadership change through the back door.

The Senate specifically noted in the motion that the current attempt to arraign its leadership over an internal matter is unacceptable, insisting that the charges are spurious.

Melaye in the motion entitled: “Imminent Threat to Our Democracy as it relates to the alleged invitation of our presiding officers by a court of law in Abuja”, said the ongoing systematic degradation and abuse of office of the leadership of the National Assembly by the executive arm of government through intimidation and harassment was unacceptable and would not be tolerated.

Dino in the motion also accused the executive arm of government of lack of respect for the judiciary as it has been exhibiting to the National Assembly, which according to him, are geared towards one man rule as against participatory governance.

“This Senate notes regrettably that the executive arm of government has presently constituted is still to come to terms with the constitutional tenets of separation of powers and the independence of the legislative arm of government.

“The senate notes that the current attempt to arraign the leadership of the senate over an internal matter of the senate and claims spuriously a forgery that does not exist is a smokescreen for an impending attempt to overthrow the legislative arm” the Senate said in alleging persecution.

The upper chamber accordingly directed its committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matter to immediately summon the Attorney General to appear before it over the planned move to have the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike EKweremadu arraigned before a federal high court in Abuja for prosecution on the alleged forgery offence.

The Attorney – General as declared by the Senate, would before its committee, explain and justify with evidences, the basis for his action and why it does not constitute gross misconduct, incompetence, contempt of court and abuse of office.

And The Presidency Hit Back

The Presidency rather than make noise like the senate did, opted to act and show its readiness to fight on. The first signal was sent by the Attorney General of the Federation who spurned the invitation of the Senate committee.

A week after, the duo of Saraki and Ekweremadu were dragged before the courts like common criminals, docked and granted bail. While Saraki had his bail granted on self recognition, Ekweremadu was made to produce sureties before he was set free to go home pending the determination of his case.

Complaints And Threats

While the charge sheets were yet been prepared, loyalists of Saraki once again expressed their anger and threatened not to cooperate with the current government if their principal was not left alone.

The members of the PDP Caucus in the Senate who had not hidden their support for Saraki stated openly their resolve to frustrate the government of President Muhammadu Buhari even as they passed a vote of no confidence on his government.

The legislators at a press conference said emphatically that they were withdrawing their support for the government under the control of the APC with immediate effect, and would sustain the opposition until they were convinced that the government has had a change of heart, and is being fair to everyone irrespective of political lineage. The effect of this is that Executive Bills and other issues from the Presidency which had hitherto enjoy smooth passage in the senate will henceforth, receive stiff opposition from the PDP members.

Interestingly, the PDP has the numerical strength to frustrate any matter that demands two-third majority vote to pass.The grouse of the PDP Senators, according to them, stemmed mainly from the decision of the executive to prosecute the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his Deputy,  Ike Ekweremadu, over alleged involvement in the forgery of senate rule in 2015.

They insisted that what’s going on in the name of anti-corruption war by the APC government was actually a witch-hunt of the opposition, while known members of the ruling party found to have been involved in sleaze are protected from the long arms of the law.

However, the APC Senators will have none of it as they insisted that the president was not persecuting the Senate leadership but just in the war against corruption.


The prosecution of Saraki and Ekweremadu would continue as the court has expressed it’s readiness to try the case to its conclusion.

The threat by the angry senators to frustrate the government are already manifesting as they were united in their resolve to turn down the list of Ambassadors sent to the parliament by the Presidency for confirmation. Objections were raised on the list and the confirmation put off.

The tone for the fight between the two arms of government has been set, how much the effect will be felt on governance and business of government will be seen in coming days should both parties stick to their guns.