Tuesday, 3 November 2015

How Saraki Bowed To APC - Taiwo Amodu

His emergence as Senate President had unnerved certain leaders of the party, who perceived his insistence to seek the exalted office as the height of obduracy and his ultimate victory, a threat to their grip on the ruling party.
The party leadership had endorsed the duo of Senator Ahmed Lawan and George Akume as Senate President and deputy senate president, respectively, but the Like Minds Senators in the Red Chamber who
craved for autonomy for National Assembly ensured victory for Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu.
While Saraki and his Like Minds Senators relished their victory, the aggrieved party leaders recoiled into their shells, smarting for showdown. To those calling for ceasefire, for the sake of amity in the progressive camp, the aggrieved leaders squealed over the election of Senator Ike Ekweremadu as deputy senate president, which they argued cast a slur on the monumental feat achieved by the All Progressives Congress, (APC) in the last general elections. To rub salt into APC’s injury, the Peoples Democratic Party, went to town proclaiming that the election of Senator Ekweremadu showed it political astuteness, taunting the ruling party as inexperience.

Acting national chairman of the erstwhile ruling party, Uche Secondus let the cat out of the bag on the power game and intrigues that led to Senator Ekweremadu’s victory as he had told chieftains of the party at its 57th National Executive Committee meeting that the latter as Deputy Senate President remained a major achievements of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) National Working Committee, (NWC).
Immediately I took over as the Ag. National Chairman, the NWC inaugurated the Ike Ekweremadu-led Post-Election Review Committee to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the problems of the Party with a view to making recommendations for moving the Party forward.
In our drive to revive the Party after the elections, the National Secretariat in conjunction with the PDP Caucus at the National Assembly organized a Retreat in Port Harcourt for our legislators.
It was a forum, which was used to train and mobilize our legislators to excel in our new role as the leading opposition Party. Happily, that initiative became a huge success. Today the PDP as an opposition Party has become the driving force in the National Assembly and our own Senator Ike Ekweremadu is the Deputy Senate President, a feat unprecedented in the political history of Nigeria.’’

To the aggrieved camp, in the ruling party, no meaningful progress can be made by a president who had made a commitment to retrieve the nation from the abyss it has sunk without the cooperation of a progressive minded National Assembly leadership.
An indication that they were not ready to let go was the invitation extended to Senator Bukola Saraki by the Code of Conduct Tribunal to answer a 13-count charge allegation on falsification of assets in 2003. Recall that before his appearance before the CCT, his wife Toyin Saraki had been a guest of the anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over some money laundering allegations.

Enters Ministerial screening
Ahead of the screening of ministerial nominees recently conducted, there were insinuations that the Senate President would use the exercise as a political bargain: delay, or frustrate the process, in order to compel President Buhari to ensure soft-landing for him over pending trial before the CCT.
But the Senate President swiftly dismissed the insinuation as unfounded and assured Nigerians that the Senate would conduct the exercise with fairness.
“The screening of ministerial nominees will be handled by me and my colleagues with all sense of responsibility and in adherence to the provision of the constitution. We will be fair to all and be guided by the interest of Nigeria. The screening will be devoid of sentiment and it is not an opportunity for anybody to settle scores. We are equally eager for us to make a positive difference in our polity and Nigerians will be able to judge us whether we acted in their best interest or not.’’
To the admiration of Nigerians, the Senators conducted themselves maturely, considering the seriousness they brought to bear on the exercise . The Senate President also left no one in doubt about his mastery of parliamentary skills and intrigues, considering his moderating role in ensuring the confirmation of former Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi as ministerial nominee without supplanting the debates of the issues involved.
What almost stalled the confirmation of the former Rivers State governor was a petition brought before the Senate by Senator George Sekibo. The petition signed by one, Livingstone Wechie on behalf of the Integrity Group requested the Senate to reject the nomination of Rotimi Ameachi as a Minister on the grounds of alleged corruption, criminal breach of trust, unlawful enrichment and conversion of over N70 billion Rivers Peoples Money when he served as Executive Governor of the State between 2007 and 2015.

According to the group, details of the N70billion allegedly stolen by Ameachi as Executive Governor of the State, had already been forwarded to EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) for the needed investigation and prosecution .
The Integrity Group further argued that its stance against the former Rivers state governor was not premised on witch-hunt or mischief. “ We shall not relent and we will not stop at nothing to support the Nigerian Senate and the National Assembly in the fight against corruption, particularly in ensuring that anyone no matter how highly placed, is brought to justice. “Our evidence and facts against Ameachi on afore stated allegations remain incontrovertible,” they further submitted.

The petition was referred to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions and its report was presented by its chairman , Senator Sam Anyanwu last Thursday before Amaechi’s confirmation.
Despite intensive lobby and entreaties by the leadership of the Senate, the PDP senators led by former Akwa-Ibom governor and Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio were determined to frustrate the confirmation of the former Rivers state governor, as they insisted that the recommendation of the Senator Anyanwu Committee that Rotimi Amaechi nomination be stepped down be adopted.

The recommendation of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions read in part: “Since the ministerial nominee had gone to the Court of Appeal to challenge the content of the petition and the White Paper of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, the Senate is unable to recommend consideration of his confirmation.
“That the Senate do consider and adopt the recommendation as proposed by the committee.’’
Daily Sun checks revealed that Senator Saraki was the rallying force for the APC senators during the ministerial screening exercise, as it was later confirmed by the national publicity secretary of the party, Lai Mohammed who further noted in a press statement that the APC senators for the first time spoke with one voice after the Senate leadership tussle.

Also speaking in similar vein, a member of the party national working committee who craved for anonymity told Daily Sun that the recent screening of ministerial nominees afforded the embattled Senate president, an opportunity to assure the party leadership of his commitment to ensure an harmonious relationship with the executive arm of government.
‘’The Senate President has shown that he is a loyal party man who enjoys the respect of his colleagues across party line and that he can be relied upon to rally the Senate behind party positions. Also, he has proved that there is nothing the President wants from the Senate that he cannot help him to get. It is now incumbent on the Senate to reciprocate this new gesture and help to consolidate new cooperation between executive and legislature.

‘’He should open a new window of peaceful relationship between the
NASS Leadership and the Presidency and we are sure the gesture will be imbibed by other powerful forces in the APC who are aggrieved by the manner the leadership emerged. This is however not possible except the external influences being brought on the Saraki case cease. The President should find political solution to the issue as many believe everything about the case smacks of politics. The President should help to create conducive atmosphere for unity to thrive in APC, National Assembly and in the country.’’

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