Lawmakers allege plot to undermine APC, anti-graft war
TWO grave allegations were made by some members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Senate and House of Representatives against their leaderships and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the crises rocking both chambers of the parliament regarding the choice of principal officers for the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to meet with all elected APC members of the House of Representatives today with a view to resolving once and for all, contentious issues.
The meeting is coming against background of the clear division within the camp loyal to Femi Gbajabiamila, who was the party’s preferred candidate for the headship of the House in the June 9 elections, which was won by the group of Speaker Yakubu Dogara. Since then there has been no peace in the lower legislative chamber.
The Senior Special Assistant to Buhari on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, who confirmed the meeting to State House correspondents yesterday, said the meeting would hold at the Presidential Villa, Abuja bat5.00 pm.
The first allegation from the senators is that PDP plans to wrest majority status from APC.
An APC senator alleged that the plan is “to forestall the unraveling of individuals involved in the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Order and to stave off a probe by the executive.”
He stressed: “Some PDP Senators have perfected plan to reduce APC to a ‘minority’ party in the upper chamber of the National Assembly.’
“The two-prong plan is being coordinated by a principal officer of the chamber embroiled in the alleged forgery of the document while details and the real purpose are being shielded from Senate President Bukola Saraki and his group of the APC ‘Like-Minds Senators’ who are in ‘alliance’ with their PDP counterparts there.
“The plan when executed will first result in suspension of no fewer than six members of APC Senators in the fold of ‘Unity Forum’ and subsequently lead to impasse in the legislature. Notable former public office holders in the last PDP administration both at the federal and state levels are the financial backers of the plan.”
Four ranking Senators, including a member of ‘Like-Minds’ group spoke in the same vein on the development at the weekend.
The second allegation came from the ‘Loyalists Group’ in the House of Representatives which yesterday continued to react angrily to the decision by some of their key colleagues, including Ado Doguwa, Pally Iriase and Mohammed Monguno, to support Dogara.
At a press conference in Abuja, Spokesman of the Loyalists Group, Nasiru Daura, accused the ‘renegade members of colluding’ with Dogara and members of the PDP to truncate the anti- graft agenda of the Buhari-led administration.
Meanwhile, a ‘renegade’ member of the Loyalists Group has alleged that the so-called list of principal officers of the House of Representatives, which is causing crisis in the Lower Chamber, was not endorsed by all members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
Accompanied by scores of members of the group, Daura who represents Zango/Baure Federal Constituency of Katsina State, expressed concern that some of their colleagues have opted to “disobey the position of the APC on the sharing of both presiding and principal officers positions in the lower legislative chamber.”
Deploring Dogara’s alleged decision to jettison the directive of the APC, they accused him and his Consolidation Group of plot to deny the loyalists entry into the House of Representatives Chambers tomorrow.
Reiterating their support for the leadership of Femi Gbajabiamila, the loyalists urged Dogara to cease relation with both PDP and the renegade members in the interest of both the APC and the Buhari-led administration.
The Senators who spoke on the issue said names of their APC colleagues pencilled for immediate suspension once a window of opportunity opens upon resumption of the National Assembly are still not clear as the list keeps changing.
According to them, PDP Senators would move for the suspension of some of APC members who took the Senate bureaucracy to the police and court over the alleged forgery of the Standing Order and a number of those who have rebuffed pleas to cross over to the side of the Senate leadership.
One of the ranking Senators from South-West said: “The argument that the PDP Senators will put forward for the suspension to convince their ‘Like-Minds’ friends is that only the suspension will douse the tension in the chamber while in reality such move will create impasse in the National Assembly and by extension stall the forgery probe and distract the Buhari Administration.”
Explaining further the political implications of the suspension when carried out, a ranking Senator from North West said: “ With the suspension of the six APC Senators our number will, on the face value, be reduced 52 as we are now 58 because of the passing on of one of us, but in reality only 28 of us in the ‘Unity Forum’ are party compliant Senators while the remaining 20 are members of ‘Like-Minds’ group who are in alliance with PDP Senators.
“With the current 28 loyal APC Senators in the upper chamber, we are already in the minority. Suspension of six out of the number will create impasse not only in the Senate but also in the National Assembly and the polity in general. The power of confirmation of appointment which resides with the Senate will be greatly impaired.”
Explaining why erstwhile public office holders are backing the plan, a ranking Senator and a former PDP member said the insistence of Buhari to probe the last administration “ is a wake—up call for action from those who have skeleton in their cupboards.
“They monitored the president throughout his last official visit to the U.S.A and are aware that the Obama Administration had promised Buhari to help Nigeria repatriate all ill-gotten wealth to Nigeria once they are legally traced to be stolen.
“ I doubt if Senator Saraki will buy into this idea of suspension to undermine his party’s majority status in the Senate as that will put him further apart from the party and President Buhari.
“The public will also be against the idea because of the disdain Nigerians currently have for the PDP. There is the possibility that the party might take the option of expelling the ‘Like Minds’ Senators from its fold if this idea is executed. Hence, the best option for Senator Saraki is to seek reconciliation with his colleagues in the ‘Unity Forum.’
“The National Assembly is the only arm of government open to the PDP Senators for the sole launch of their plan to stall all efforts of Buhari as far as probe of the Jonathan Administration and by extension corruption perpetrated at the state level.”
Daura said if Dogara was allowed to have his way, the House of Representatives would be denied a House Leader in Gbajabiamila “who could sell the change agenda as well as lobby members of the House to support Buhari actualise his campaign promises.”
Expressing their loyalty to the John Odigie-Oyegun-led APC, they said: “We also note that in the elections of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, there was an unsanctioned and unholy alliance between members of the opposition parties in the House and the 39 disloyal members of the APC in the House that connived to produce the Dogara Speakership.
“We had hoped that with a difference of just eight votes between Dogara and Gbajabiamila, Dogara would have realised the need to cultivate a united House of Representatives.
“We are also aware that this unholy alliance is a bid to truncate President Buhari’s agenda, which include his anti-corruption stance, by using the National Assembly to, at the very minimum, slow it down if they cannot stop this presidential initiative dead cold.”
The renegade who craved anonymity claimed yesterday that the National Chairman of the party, Odigie-Oyegun, in cahoots with a few members of his executive council actually handpicked the nominees for the posts of principal officers without consulting members of the NWC.
The development was said to have “angered other members of the NWC who went round the matter and instigated the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, not to accede to the request from Odigie-Oyegun.”
The source said: “Let me tell you something. The APC is talking about party discipline and respect for the directive of the party, but what people don’t know is that it was the same APC national working committee members that told the Speaker to ignore the list sent to him. They told us not to work with it because there was no deliberation on who should get what as far as the appointment of principal officers of the House of Representatives was concerned.
“As loyal party men, some of us felt like playing along and see what would happen. You can see for yourself that the crisis would not take us anywhere. To make matters worse, some of us even looked foolish that somebody is using us to achieve his own goal. So, this explains why we started having a change of mind. “Everybody should be for himself. It is not about betrayal, but it is all about doing things in the appropriate way.”
Under the so-called APC arrangement, Gbajabiamila (South West), who lost the Speakership seat to Dogara, would have been House Leader; Doguwa (North West), Deputy House Leader; Iriase (South-South), Chief Whip and Mohammed Tahir Monguno, Deputy Chief Whip.
But Doguwa and Iriase “who are now leaders of the APC loyalists renegade group” have accepted Dogara ‘s offer of House Leader and Chief Whip respectively on the basis that there was need to consider the North Central and South East geopolitical zones in line with federal character principle as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.
Effort to reach the National Chairman and Publicity Secretary of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and Lai Mohammed to speak on the issue failed.
Today’s would be time Buhari’s second meeting with the House of Representatives members since the crisis began. He met with the group loyal to Gbajabiamila at the same venue on July 1.
Curiously, some of his loyalists, who accompanied him to the July 1 meeting, including his designated deputy, Mohammed Tahir Monguno from Borno State and outspoken former Chairman of the House Committee on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the Seventh Assembly, Alhassan Ado Doguwa from Kano State, appeared to have changed camps to the Dogara-led group.
This followed the proposal by the Dogara group to offer the position of the House Leader to Doguwa and Deputy House Leader to Parry Iriase from Edo State, in contradiction to the party’s directive to Dogara that the positions of House Leader and Deputy be reserved for Gbajabiamila and Monguno respectively.
But the Presidential aide, however, did not say anything about the crisis in the Senate. The President on June 24 met with APC governors with a view finding solution to the lingering leadership crisis in the national assembly and directed them to intervene and resolve it quickly.
Following the presidential directive, the governors raised two peace committees for the two legislative chambers.
The Committee for the House of Representatives was chaired by the immediate past Speaker of House of Representatives, and Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, while the Senate peace committee is chaired by the former deputy chairman of the Senate Committee on Education in the Seventh Assembly and Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu.