John Alechenu and Leke Baiyewu
The All Progressives Congress and its Senate caucus are considering no fewer than three senators to replace the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Saturday Punch has learnt.
The APC, since the defection of Saraki to the Peoples Democratic Party, has been calling for his resignation, threatening that the President of the Senate will be impeached, if he fails to resign.
Besides looking for Saraki’s replacement, it was gathered that the ruling party and its members in the Senate were considering three senators to replace the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.
Those the APC has penciled down for the President of the Senate, according to sources in the APC Caucus, are the Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan; former chairman of the Northern Senators’ Forum, Senator Abdullahi Adamu; and former Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume.
One of the APC senators from the South-South, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told one of our correspondents on Friday that the ruling party might adopt one of the aspirants as its candidate to replace Saraki.
It was learnt that while the APC planned to retain the positions of the Senate President and Deputy Senate President in the North and South, respectively, the geopolitical zones might change.
For the incumbents, Saraki is from Kwara State in the North-Central, while Ekweremadu is from Enugu State in the South-East.
For the replacements, Lawan is from Yobe State in the North-East; Ndume is from Borno State, also in North-East; while Adamu is from Nasarawa State in the North-Central.
One of the sources said, “It may be true that Senator George and Senator Godswill Akpabio have been tipped for Senate president and deputy Senate president respectively, but it is not true that they are the consensus candidates. They are not at all.”
Asked to confirm the aspiration by Adamu, Lawan and Ndume, the source said, “Yes, but Ndume is not there (among the aspirants). There is a consensus and it is Lawan. There is nothing for Akpabio yet, though he is eyeing the deputy Senate presidency.
“Lawan is the Senate president – he will be; and Hope Uzodinma is the deputy Senate president.”
In 2015, the APC adopted Lawan to be Senate president but Saraki had formed an alliance with the PDP caucus, who gave him 42 of the 53 votes that made him win the seat on June 9, 2015.
The Deputy Senate President seat was also ceded to the minority PDP, leading to the emergence of Ekweremadu as the occupier.
Uzodinma, who is one of the recent defectors from the opposition PDP to the APC, is from Imo State in the South-East.
Also speaking to one of our correspondents, an APC senator from the South-West, who noted that the ruling party might insist on Lawan, being its candidate from the outset, said members of the caucus were also considering Senator Sonny Ogbuoji to be deputy Senate president.
Ogbuoji is from Ebonyi State in the South-East.
The lawmaker said, “Yes, Lawan has always been the candidate of the APC, but for his deputy, some of us prefer Ogbuoji to Uzodinma. Let us get the two-thirds to sack Saraki first. We should actualise his removal first.”
Another APC senator, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, however said Ndume was among the aspirants. The source recalled that Ndume also contested against Saraki just as Lawan.
He stated, “Those people you have mentioned, Lawan, Ndume, Akume and Adamu are being tipped to replace Saraki. For Ekweremadu, Uzodinma, Akpabio and Ogbuoji are being considered.”
Our senators will choose their leaders–APC
When contacted, the APC said it would support any of its senators to replace Saraki and his deputy.
The National Publicity Secretary, APC, Yekini Nabena, said this in a telephone interview with Saturday PUNCH, in Abuja, on Friday.
He was responding to a question about who the party was pushing forward as replacement for Saraki and Ekeremadu since the party is insisting that the two be replaced.
Nabena said, “The Senators will decide who their new leaders will be. They are the ones wearing the shoes, they know where it pinches.’’
We’ll humiliate Saraki out of office, says Omo-Agege
Meanwhile, a prominent member of the Parliamentary Support Group, a body of the APC members in the National Assembly loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, has said the APC Caucus is insisting on the reconvening of the National Assembly.
Omo-Agege also pointed out that the APC caucus was also against the alleged proposal for a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives whenever Saraki and Dogara reconvene the National Assembly.
The lawmaker, while speaking to one of our correspondents, insisted that Saraki must not remain Senate President after his defection from the APC to the PDP.
APC senators had met with the National Chairman of the ruling party, Adams Oshiomhole, during the week on the matter.
Omo-Agege said, “We have the information that they want to reconvene a joint session and that is completely unacceptable to us. Of course, we won’t accept it. The Senate itself has to be reconvened for this purpose. The reason (for postponing the planned recall on Tuesday) is that he knows that we have the numbers now – and indeed we have the numbers now – to remove him. Any opportunity that we have right now, we will get rid of him.
“They have no choice, they have to (reconvene). They are just postponing the evil day. The credibility of the 2019 elections is at stake and it would be a jeopardy if because of Saraki’s selfish interests he refuses to reconvene the Senate towards approving this budget. Saraki must understand that the national interest ought to supersede his personal and selfish interest. He cannot tie down the fate of the entire country just because he wants to hang on a position that we are determined to remove him from.
“We as a caucus are very resolute to remove him and at the slightest opportunity he gives to us, he is gone. We have said that he ought to do the honourable thing, the right thing by stepping down, otherwise he would be humiliated. We have the numbers and we are going to remove him.”
You are threats to democracy, Saraki tells opponents
Saraki, in his response through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, dismissed the humiliation threat, alleging that those calling for his resignation and impeachment were the threats to Nigeria’s democracy.
He said, “We maintain our position that these are dwellers in the gutter and we won’t allow them to drag us into it. No, we won’t allow them to drag us into the gutter. There are some of them who actually should be in jail now because of their conducts. It is because they have state protection that they are not in jail.’’