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Published On: Mon, Aug 20th, 2018

Oshiomhole tackles Saraki in fight to finish

 

By OBINNA EZUGWU

Adams Oshiomhole, National Chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC), has since made the removal of Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki from office as Senate helmsman his major preoccupation. But his plots in this regard, as well as his hard-line stance on otherwise delicate issues, are not only threatening APC cohesion, but could also put the much awaited 2019 general elections in jeopardy.

President Muhammadu Buhari and All Progressives Congress (APC) national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Photo Credit: www.heraldnigeria.com

Upon assumption of office in June, had to contend with an already polarized party. His first challenge as the party’s new chairman was to mend the broken fences of a party whose many stalwarts had begun to threaten to leave for other platforms over issues bothering on alleged marginalisation and the intractable local political rifts in various states.

The new party chairman got to work, but he did so by blowing hot and cold. In the open, he bragged about not losing sleep over the threats of defection, especially from the Buba Galadima led breakaway Reformed APC (R-APC), maintaining in his many jibes that Mr. Galadima had no political address and was therefore, insignificant.  But in another breath, he visited them to appeal to them to stay.

In the end, he bungled the whole process and within days of his accent to power, APC lost a number of its key members, including fifteen senators, three governors and 38 of members of the House of Representatives. But it would be unfair to put the blame of the mass defections on his shoulders. Indeed, it had become inevitable by the time he took office. However, his hard-line stance and overly denigrating remarks never helped matters.

Oshiomhole’s new preoccupation is ousting Saraki from senate presidency, having allegedly, promised President Buhari that he would do so within 10 days. It hasn’t quite happened, and it’s a task that is fast overheating the already volatile Nigerian polity and with the budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) hanging on the balance as the August deadline by by to begin the process elapsed, there is real danger of the ongoing impasse jeopardizing the 2019 polls.

“Obviously, the delay in signing the budget will affect INEC preparations, it is already doing so,” said analyst and former banker, Dr. Boniface Chizea.

“The fact that it is sad that we did the 2018 budget and something as important as election which is coming and we did not include it in the budget. Does that not tell you about the level seriousness that we have?

“Obviously, the delay in the budget will affect us. For us budget is just a structured procedure; it’s like a ritual we go through. Of course, if there is a big ticket item like you spending over N200billion for election, you must go and get approval from the National Assembly.

“How do we get down to ask about this money, how are we going to spend it? Like just having a breakdown down, how much you are spending on manpower, how much are you spending on supply of materials, and so on. So that you can do some little tracking because you might not be able to control everything.”

On Tuesday last week, Oshiomhole met with the party’s senators at the Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, with a view to reaching an agreement on Saraki’s impeachment. At the end of the meeting, he insisted that Saraki must be impeached legally and democratically and that the only way he could avoid impeachment is if he resigned honourably.

“Once you lose the majority, without further ado, you step down,” he said. “Let me restate that we cannot be subjected to minority rule in the Nigerian Senate and, therefore, whether it is convenient for Distinguished Senator Saraki or not, the truth is whether by morality or by law or by convention, Senator Saraki can only avoid impeachment by toeing the path of honour, step down so that the APC can take over the leadership of the House.

“I want to repeat, Sen. Saraki as President of the Senate will be lawfully and democratically impeached. It will not be illegally done. It will be done according to law and tradition.”

However, with only 56 senators out of the 109 within its ranks, which is short of the required two-third majority, many legal practitioners have pointed out that the APC chairman must be under an illusion if he truly believes he can remove the Senate President legally.

“If he really means ‘legally’ in the real and literal sense of the word, then APC has an uphill task of convincing more PDP members to defect and support that intention. Anything outside that is unconstitutional,” said Mr. Anthony Ezugwu, Abuja based legal practitioner.

“The constitution is very specific that two-third means two-third of the all the members of the Senate,” Mr. Ezugwu continued.

“The Supreme Court has also in one of their decisions decided in like manner. So it is either two-third of all Senate members or nothing. You can see that APC has no escaped route.”

Arguing in like manner, Barr Aremo Oladotun Hassan, founder and president, Yoruba Council of Youths Worldwide (YCYW), noted that there was no way Oshiomhole could carry through his threat and called for his investigation, as according to him, the APC helmsman is planning to commit felony.

“Is 56 APC Senators equivalent to two-third needed to impeach Senator Bukola Saraki as Senate President?” Hassan queried. “We demand full scale investigation by an independent judicial panel of inquiry because it’s like someone is planning a conspiracy, to wit, commit treasonable felony.

“There is need for onward prosecution of Comrade Oshiomole over his widely reported statements of illicit acts, which are tantamount to invitation to anarchy and treason. He might be planning another invasion of the National Assembly, which will make it the third time in a space of few days.

“This unconstitutional and ‘garage boys fight’ calls for concern and all stakeholders should join hands to put a stop to it.”

INEC’s preparations for 2019 election has already been dealt a blow by the inability of the National Assembly to sit and pass the N242.4billion budget for the election presented to it by President Buhari. On Monday, the leadership of both chambers of the Assembly called off a meeting they had scheduled for Tuesday, citing the inability of the committees on electoral matters and appropriations to meet and the fact that many legislators had gone for hajj.

President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki

“The Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, have directed that we inform all Senators, Honorable members and the public that a date has not been set for the reconvening of the Senate and the House of Representatives to consider the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) 2019 elections budget request forwarded by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 17, 2018,” the statement jointly signed by both leaders read.

“The leadership of the two chambers had met and agreed to reconvene to consider the proposal this week before which a meeting between the Joint Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Electoral Matters and officials of the INEC must have held on or before Monday August 13, 2018.

“The joint committees were also expected to meet with the joint Senate and House Committees on Appropriations, Loans and Debts on the Eurobond loan request after which two reports would have been ready for presentation in the two chambers.

“However, no such meeting had taken place yet as a result of which both Senate and House of Representatives cannot reconvene as there is no report to consider.

“Until the Committees have a ready report for the consideration of the two chambers, it will be most irresponsible to recall members from recess especially those that may have travelled to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj.”

Contrary to the above reasons however, there are suggestions that the decision to cancel the meeting was made because the lawmakers got a hint that there was a plot to carry out the impeachment plot in the process.

This is so especially because their decision had come a day after the R-APC in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kassim Afegbua, alleged that the group had it on good authority that Oshiomhole and the senators of the APC had perfected plans to carry out their impeachment plot.

“This time,” Afegbua had noted. “They are hell-bent on giving nebulous interpretation to the provision of the 1999 constitution (as amended) by using the numbers of senators present to provoke an impeachment.”

On Wednesday however, both Senate and House Committee on Electoral Matters separately met and grilled INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu over N189.2billion INEC budget he proposed. However, there was a discrepancy on the exact amount proposed. President Buhari’s letter to the NASS asked for N148 billion, while INEC Chairman report requests N189 billion, creating a N40 billion difference. A subsequently meeting with the INEC boss was scheduled or Friday.

The two panels will subsequently hold a joint session to harmonise their findings and produce a report, setting the stage for the reconvening of the legislature. But with the plot to use such opportunity to impeach Saraki, it is unlikely that the lawmakers will reconvene sooner.

Oshiomhole’s attempt, it was learnt, is also threatening to put the APC into even bigger crisis as his brashness is dividing the party’s senators. At the meeting on Tuesday, Senator Shehu Sani was said to have handled the job of convincing the senators present to sign up to the idea of Saraki’s impeachment with ₦100 millon each.

However, it was revealed that out of the 42 in attendance, only 29 signed while the others refused, including Senator Goodwill Akpabio who recently joined the party, insisting that he had nothing to say at the moment. It was also learnt that Rivers South East Senator, Magnus Abe was locked out of the venue on allegations that he was still loyal to Saraki.

Oshiomhole achieved fame as chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) during the President Olusegun Obasanjo days. A garrulous, no nonsense labour leader, he made life uncomfortable for the Obasanjo’s government with his hard stance on issues that had to affected the welfare of working men and women in the country.

Till today, he is still revered by Nigerian workers as one of their best advocates in living memory. When internal politics threaten the union, like it did with the election of Comrade Ayuba Wabba as president a few years ago, which led to factionalism with Comrade Joe Ajaero leading a breakaway faction, Oshiomhole was up in arms to resolve the impasse.

Although his team failed in the end to convince Ajaero to dissolve his faction, he succeeded in winning some of the aggrieved labour leaders like Isa Aremu back into the Wabba fold.

Having achieved fame and fortune as NLC president, Oshiomhole ventured into politics, becoming subsequently, the governor of his home state of Edo in 2007 under the Laour party and later defected to Action Congress of Nigeria, a platform that would, in 2013, form part of the coalition that birthed the ruling APC.

His administration was welcomed by Edo people with hope and expectations. The people had become disillusioned with the Lucky Igbenedion led People’s Democratic Party administration that held sway from 1999 to 2007.

Coming as a labour leader who was vocal in standing for the rights of workers and was generally a vociferous advocate of good governance, he was expected to do well as governor. In the end however, his eight years as governor was neither here nor there in many people’s reckoning.

“I would say that overall, he did well,” said Onyema Ezema, a trader at New Benin market. “He did a lot of roads. He performed much better than Igbinedion, but in the end, he plunged the state into debts.

Another resident, Kevin Osazuwa however believes that as governor, Oshiomhole achieved little compared to his predecessor.

“Igbinedion did a lot in terms of empowerment, job creation and infrastructural development,” he said. “Oshiomhole’s government was all motion, no movement. The current governor is crying because of empty account Oshiomhole left for him.”

The highlight of his administration was perhaps, in November 2013 when he told a widow whose wares was seized by officials of the state being led by him on a sanitation tour to “go and die,” whilst she knelt to beg him for mercy.

It was a gaffe that cost him tremendous amount of goodwill and was cashed upon by the opposition, forcing him to tender an apology to the woman whom he later hosted at the Government house, gave cash gift of N2million and employed in the state’s civil service.

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