By James KANYIP
When the present Senate was convoked in June of 2015, it was, as is customary, saddled with the responsibility of electing its Principal Officers, especially the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President.
The Leadership of APC had a list of those it wanted for these positions. However, instead of conveying a meeting between the APC Leadership and APC Senators a day before the day fixed for the convocation and election of the Principal Officers of the Senate to enable them perfect their plans, the APC Leadership called for the meeting on the same day and time slated for the convocation and election. That was APC’s costly mistake that is still haunting it and its Leadership till date.
The PDP Senators and their Brother Senators of the then nPDP that had defected to the APC shortly before the 2015 general elections were the ones that were present in the Senate Chambers for the convocation and election. Since they formed the constitutionally required simple majority quorum to elect the Senate President, Deputy and other Principal Officers, they went ahead to conduct the election, while the other APC Senators were in the International Conference Centre conducting a ‘fait accompli’ meeting.
That was how the smarter and more experienced PDP minority Senators outmaneuvered the less experienced APC majority Senators. Thus, Saraki (nPDP) and Ekweremadu (PDP) emerged Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively. The rest is now archival.
Recently, Saraki has defected to be a full PDP member thereby joining his Deputy and other PDP Senators. This means that as it stands today, both the Senate President, and the Deputy Senate President are members of the PDP, a Party whose majority status in the Senate is still obscure.
With the recent gale of defections that hit the Senate, the number of PDP Senators has been inflated, while that of the APC has been depleted. But, this is neither here nor there. While APC cannot claim convincing majority in the Senate, PDP cannot also be seen as minority in its true parliamentary sense. The numerical difference between the two Parties in the Senate is merely of marginal strength. In any event, the truth seems to be that APC has been shut out of the Senate Leadership for now. By all political standard, this is not a good omen for APC.
Then comes Oshiomhole into the scene. Since his coming on board and the twist of these unfortunate events for his Party, he has been threatening fire and brimstone, invoking all political powers and principalities within and outside the constitutional and statutory ambit of his powers as APC Chairman to impeach Saraki. Listen to him:
“Saraki is not going to be the first senate president to be impeached and I doubt if he is going to be the last, but definitely he will be impeached according to law and democratic norms”.
If Oshiomhole has to perfect his plan to impeach Saraki, he needs at least 2/3 majority quorum of the Senators to do that. Translating this to figure, he will require at least 73 Senators; and this is a number that APC does not currently have in the Senate.
APC now has around 56 Senators. This means that to get up to 73 Senators, APC will have to convince about 20 PDP Senators to defect to APC. Certainly, this is a herculean job. Even if these Senators were to be ‘bought’, the cost would be expensive for APC.
I think the problem of APC in the Senate is a foundational one which Oshiomhole inherited. PDP exploited the legislative inexperience of APC to elect Saraki and Ekweremadu. Naturally, APC was not and it is still not pleased with this situation but it lacked and still lacks the parliamentary skills and craftsmanship to change things. Unfortunately, Oshiomhole’s approach to this situation and the method he has employed in going round it leave much to be desired.
Obviously, unless he wants to employ crude, crass and unconstitutional means to impeach Saraki, there is nothing he can do to impeach Saraki “according to law and democratic norms”, as he is being quoted above to have said. Saraki has become a constitutional albatross round the necks of Oshiomhole and APC. They have to accept to live with him like that.
The Senate is not just like any State House of Assembly where we have witnessed crass constitutional breach to remove the Speaker. The Senate is the parliamentary citadel of the Nation. It epitomises the Legislature and legislative arm of government in Nigeria and before the international community. Any attempt to remove Saraki without due regards to the Constitution will portray Nigeria as a country still living in dark ages and uncivilisation. The recent unfortunate events at the Senate involving the blockage of the entrance to the National Assembly by the DSS has already painted the local and international image of Nigeria in bad light.
Oshiomhole is crying wolf unnecessarily. I do not think Saraki is the problem. The foundational mistake APC made which preceded even the events that led to the election of Saraki as Senate President was to have, in its desperation to win the 2015 general elections, opened its door wide open and thereby made it a floodgate for everybody to come in with a stereotype, personal and ulterior agenda that did not fit into the pigeon hole of what APC had set out as its objectives and goals.
By allowing nPDP and all other sort of characters to join the APC fraternity and fray at the peak of the 2015 general elections, APC is now paying the costly price. And, Oshiomhole’s bravado and outburst cannot correct it at this point in time. He must accept this simple fact, manage it, and live with it till the end of this Senate Republic. Otherwise, his case will be akin to smoke without fire.
As it is at the moment, Saraki seems to be the one laughing. For how long, only time will tell.
Ours is to wait and watch…