The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) suffered a crucial setback on Tuesday; as it failed to have its chosen candidates elected leaders of both arms of the National Assembly.
The development, aside putting the party in power in very difficult position with the federal legislature, has dealt a blow on the authority of the APC, especially its strongman, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, believed to have orchestrated the party’s position.
In what was a clear repeat of the 2011 scenario in the House of Representatives when the then opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) connived with rebellious members of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to deny the PDP the chance of installing its chosen candidate as Speaker. This time, in what some see as payback time, PDP members in the Senate and House of Representatives connived with some members of the APC who were unhappy at the party’s choices to elect Senator Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker respectively.
The APC leadership had picked Senator Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila as the party’s candidate for the position at a mock election held last Saturday.
The intrigues surrounding the fight for the NASS leadership crystallized yesterday when the party members, especially those in the Senate, shunned the meeting called by President Muhammadu Buhari, early in the day, to find a solution to the challenges bedeviling the party.
Instead they appeared in the chamber, and with the support of PDP members, formed a quorum, and went ahead to elect Saraki as the Senate President un-opposed.
In a Senate of 109 members, 57 members made up mostly of PDP members converged in the Senate Chambers, got inaugurated by the Clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, who acting on the letter of proclamation forwarded to him a week ago by President Muhamnadu Buhari, set the 8th Session of the National Assembly in motion.
With calls for nomination made, Saraki was the only one nominated for the seat at a time Senator Ahmed Lawan and his supporters were at the International Conference Centre, waiting for the arrival of President Buhari and the Saraki team.
He emerged un-opposed, following which affirmation vote was taken to ratify his election.
The PDP, however, played a fast one on the APC members when one of the PDP members and the immediate past Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Emweremadu, was nominated as Deputy President candidate to slug it out with Ali Ndume of the APC and Saraki’s running mate.
With their numerical advantage, the PDP members outwitted the few APC senators in the chamber, voting en-mass for Ekwerenmadu.
Those who know say Ekwerenmadu’s emergence was not happenstance, because on Monday night, news broke that Saraki had in the bid to win the support of the PDP caucus, agreed to support the bid to return the Deputy Senate President, who served for eight years to his prime job.
The emergence of Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President is the first time a mixed leadership is presiding over the Senate.
With the “palace coup” in the Senate effectively executed, the battle field was shifted to the House of Representatives where the PDP members had struck an agreement with the Yakubu Dogara team offering him their support to emerge as Speaker against the candidature of Femi Gbajabiamila, the APC’s anointed candidate.
The animosity between the two camps was openly displayed even before the Clerk to the National Assembly was done with the assignment in the Senate.
As soon as the news filtered in that Saraki and Ekweremadu had clinched the seats in the senate, the supporters of Dogara both in the PDP and APC threw caution to the wind by engaging in wild jubilation, shouting “PDP” “PDP” “PDP”.
Ironically, Dogara in his last two elections into the parliament, was elected on the platform of PDP but about nine months ago, decamped to the APC to actualize his third term bid.
The lawmakers who supported Dogara did not hide their disdain for Gbajabiamila as they booed him when he entered the chamber at about 10.30 am.
However, the tide changed some minutes later when his supporters who were also at the ICC waiting to attend the meeting called by the President, came in, in droves.
Both camps began to engage each other in war of praise singing, causing much noise in the chamber.
At about 1:03 pm, the clerk of the House of Representatives Mohammed Sanni Omolori, concluded the roll call of members after the Clerk to the National Assembly, Maikasuwa had read the proclamation letter from President Muhammadu Buhari, in accordance with the law.
Of the 360 members, two persons were absent, leaving the floor to the 258 members to engage in the election of the principal officers.
With call for nominations made, Jibrin Abdulmumin, stood up to nominate Dogara for the position of Speaker, which was seconded by Chike Okafor.
Dogara accepted the nomination to the admiration of his supporters.
Minutes after, Mohammed Sanni from Bauchi state nominated Gbajabiamila for the contest and was seconded by Shuaibu Philips from Edo state.
As soon as Gbajabiamila accepted his nomination, the Clerk announced that secret ballot system would be adopted.
Members were called in a group of 10 and in alphabetical order of state of origin and asked to vote by writing the name of their preferred candidate.
The voting commenced at about 1:30 pm.
When the voting were concluded, and the ballots counted, Dogara emerged victorious with 182 votes, beating Gbajabiamila by a slim margin of 8 votes, as the APC adopted candidate scored 174 votes.
Wild jubilation erupted in the chamber, as Dogara’s supporters hugged one another while some supporters of Gbajabiamila who could not stomach the defeat were seen crying openly, while leaving the chambers.
The desire of the PDP to take absolute control of the lower parliament was however thwarted as members refused to nominate Leo Ogor, the immediate past Deputy Leader of the House, for the Deputy Speaker position. Ogor was said to have rallied the PDP members for Dogara, because he was promised the Deputy Speaker seat as compensation.
As soon as it dawned on Ogor that he had been edged out, he stormed out of the chambers angrily even before the nomination was made openly.
It took the intervention of some PDP members to bring him back into the chamber, and even then, he sat with anger openly visible on his face.
When nominations were made, Lasun Yusuf, an APC member from Osun State was nominated and put in the ring with Mohamned Tahir Monguno who was the Deputy Speaker-designate on the Gbajabiamila ticket. Yusuf garnered 203 votes to Monguno’s 153.
While the voting for the Deputy Speaker seat was still ongoing, the leadership of the APC in a statement issued by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, raised objection to the game that played out on the floor of the House and the Senate Chamber.
Meanwhile, celebration broke out in Bauchi State as soon news of Dogara’s emergence filtered in.
He represents the Bogoro Dass/Tafawa Balewa Federal Constituency of the state. Youths, women and political groups, Muslims and Christians were almost united in celebration as almost every man on the street of Bauchi was elated with the emergence of Dogara as the 8th Speaker.
Dogar, 48, is from Gwaranga village in Bogoro Local Government Area of Bauchi State.
He scored 182 to beat his main rival, Femi Gbajabiamila, who represents Surulere Federal Constituency, Lagos state, in a keenly contested election. Gbajabiamila scored 174.