Right of Reply: How Saraki is commanding loyalty in the Senate


An aide to Senate President Bukola Saraki, Olu Onemola based in Abuja, sent a ‘Right of Reply’ rubbishing a Premium Times analysis on how Mr. Saraki has been able to establish control of the Senate.
Make no mistake, we do not see things as ‘they are,’ we see things as ‘we are.’
This is why, reading the Premium Times Senate correspondent, Kemi Busari’s interpretation into how the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has managed to lead the Senate — despite the political turmoil of the past 3-years, I understood that clearly, like many Nigerians who have heard and read the skewed narrative that has been propagated against Mr. Saraki for so long, Mr. Busari, himself a young reporter, is and has also been misinformed. Here is why…

On Saraki’s Emergence

One narrative that has been pushed out and amplified is that Saraki emerged as Senate President against the wishes of his party — and he somehow managed to singlehandedly convince the then PDP senators-elect to vote for him in a ‘clandestine agreement’.
Well, let’s be clear: this is politics and every vote counts. Hence, there were no ‘clandestine agreements.’ In fact, the only thing clandestine about Mr. Saraki’s emergence as senate president was the fact that the rules of engagement in what would have otherwise been a fair democratic contest, kept on changing.
On one hand, the ruling party zoned the position of senate president to the North Central. However, when it was clear that Mr. Saraki would defeat the other contender from the zone because he (the other guy) did not have the president’s full support, they apparently attempted to re-zone it to the North-east – which generated a lot of noise in the public arena.
Then, the party attempted to bamboozle and hoodwink the group of senators that was loyal to Saraki by calling for a ‘meeting’ of all PDP Senators. At this meeting held in Abuja, they ambushed these pro-Saraki APC senators with a ‘straw poll’ that the other faction of senators had already mobilised for. It was at this point that the Saraki supporters walked out of the clearly orchestrated meeting.
Similarly, if the internal political agreements that led to PDP senators voting en masse for Mr. Saraki were in fact clandestine, then Bola Tinubu could also have been accused of being engaged in surreptitious activities in the run-up to the National Assembly elections of 2015.
In fact, it is known in political circles that until after 10 p.m. on the 8th of June 2015, Mr. Tinubu — a former Lagos State Governor who favored Ahmed Lawan’s emergence over Mr. Saraki’s — was meeting with the PDP senators-elect to get them to vote for his preferred candidate.
Now, let’s look at this from the PDP side of things. Did it favour them to vote for the establishment candidates in both the House and the Senate — and get drowned out entirely by the ruling party? Or did it favor them to vote as a bloc for the candidate that was more inclined to accommodate the interests of their members in the governing of the National Assembly? Afterall, at the end of the day, the politics that we must play in these times must place the nation over party and party over self.
This is why as a senator, Ben Bruce, tweeted just this Saturday, politicians must emulate Mr. Saraki and always put the best interest of the entire nation above the selective interests of the party that they belong to. It is only by practicing this ‘country first’ approach can we move beyond the archaic and gang-like predisposition of those in public offices placing the interests of their party over the interests of the millions of Nigerians, who don’t care about politics, but care a lot about the impact and the decisions of the government that is in power.

On the National Assembly Elections

So, Mr. Busari’s ‘analysis’, which was drastically devoid of facts, claimed that “on the day the formal election for senate president was to be held, while majority of APC senators, about 50, were waiting for President Muhammadu Buhari who had invited them to a meeting with him at the International Conference Centre, Mr. Saraki and other “rebel” senators of the APC moved into the National Assembly complex, where the police had thrown a cordon to prevent workers and reporters from entering, for the “election” of principal officers.”
In the words of the person who first said it: “Haba now? Fear God a little.” This is because the narrative that has been pushed out there, is: One, there were messages sent round to every federal legislator that had been elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the night of the 8th of June 2015; two, the messages apparently instructed the legislators to assemble at the International Conference Center — at the behest of President Muhammadu Buhari — the following morning; and three, as Mr. Busari claims, there was some sort of agreement with PDP to get the current Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, elected.
Again, permit me to re-debunk this narrative.
One and two: If there was a letter from the President, instructing the Clerk of the National Assembly to convene the parliament, shouldn’t it have taken another letter or counter-instruction from the same president to the same clerk postponing the inauguration of the same parliament? Why is it that till date, although some people have claimed that the meeting in question was called by President Buhari, President Buhari never showed up or corroborated that he did actually call for the meeting? In fact, Mr. President as we all know was still airborne as at the time that the directive to the legislators was being issued. Those who convened the meeting wanted to get all the legislators together and used the name of the president to coerce them into hearing to the National Assembly to vote in the so-called ‘party candidates’. We can even ask the question: Were there actually party candidates or preferred choices of a clique claiming to represent the party? The latter appears to be the case.
Three: Now that we have established that the message to convene a meeting at the ICC did not come from Mr. President, we must also make it clear that security reports on the 9th of June, revealed that part of the plan was to prevent Mr. Saraki and all his core loyalists from being present at plenary during the vote for senate president and the subsequent inauguration.
This is why “police had thrown a cordon to prevent workers and reporters from entering”: the Tinubu faction, using the name of President Buhari (who was still flying back from Germany), had instructed the then-Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, to prevent the legislators and their family members from entering the National Assembly complex.
It is on record that Mr. Arase had thought that the directive came from Mr. President, until someone asked him if he was sure that President Buhari had in fact issued such an order. It was only after checking with the president and his people that Mr. Arase found out that no such order had been given — which immediately led to the opening of the complex to the workers, legislators, reporters and all those who had been waiting to get in.
Finally, it is important to note, that it was the tactical folly of calling for a meeting on the morning of an important parliamentary election that led to the emergence of Mr. Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President. This is because, vote for vote, if all the APC members were present on the floor of plenary on June 9, 2015, Mr. Saraki would still have been elected. However, because they were not on the floor, the PDP took advantage of the opening to elect one of their own as his deputy. In fact, the PDP, if they had wanted would have elected one of the members as senate president, if they had so wished. Now, whose fault was this? Surely, no one can think of blaming Saraki for sending his colleagues in the APC to the ICC at the time of the inauguration.

On Ndume and Magu

I am sure that even Mr. Magu himself would not subscribe to Mr. Busari’s account of that whole confirmation saga. This is because the reason why Mr. Magu was not confirmed by the Senate is entirely based on the two Department of State Services (DSS) reports that clearly stated that he, Mr. Magu, was unfit to lead Nigeria’s foremost anti-graft agency based on his own alleged involvement with activities and individuals involved with graft.
We must also clearly establish that the insinuation that Mr. Magu is a threat to any senator is entirely laughable. This is because Mr. Magu cannot influence the case of any senator in court; in addition to this, he can also not stop any ongoing investigations against any senator. If he could do any of these things, don’t you think he would have done so already?
This is why Premium Times, as a platform that has a significant following, needs to be more circumspect in the opinion pieces that it dubs analysis. Hence, it will run the risk of over-exaggerating the influence and powers of some actors in the political space — which plays right into their hands.
Now, we come to Mr. Ndume, who Mr. Busari somehow thinks was suspended because of his support for Mr. Magu. This is entirely false.
Mr. Ndume, was suspended by his colleagues — not the senate president — for calling for the investigation of the senate president and another senator for an ‘alleged illegality.’ We need to remember that after Mr. Saraki submitted himself to the investigative process willingly, Mr. Ndume then backtracked, stating that he did not have any information on the ‘alleged illegality.’
Additionally, Mr. Ndume should have known that the issue that he raised on the floor of the Senate about the bulletproof car which was supposedly purchased for the office of the senate president had no direct correlation to Mr. Saraki. This is because, in the procurement process, political office holders are not involved. These procurements are entirely handled, signed and acquired by the National Assembly management which is peopled by civil servants.

The Facts

Moving forward, it is highly important that in all analysis, writers need to accommodate all sides. The Mr. Saraki that Mr. Busari claims has a “vice-like grip” on the Senate, has been able to secure the trust of his colleagues by considering himself as the first amongst equals. He doesn’t order his colleagues around, he seeks their consensus on issues. He doesn’t lead based on fear. He leads by accommodating his colleagues and their interests through an open door policy.
Yes, Mr. Saraki is smart. Yes, Mr. Saraki is politically savvy. Yes, Mr. Saraki understands politics. However, Mr. Saraki is a politician, who knows how to lead and who he is leading.
And if that fact is being misconstrued by anyone, so be it. However, we now know the truth. Let it set us free.

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