By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Suspended Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central) might have won his case against the Senate at the Federal High Court, but the victory is essentially not his alone. The victory is a common patrimony of the silent minority in the Senate against whom the full weight of the gavel has been deployed by the leadership of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Saraki’s leadership is against the silent minority who decided to have their say after the tyrannical majority, as happens universally, had their way in the passage of the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment Bill, 2018). For Saraki and his loyalists, the real Mccoy in the entire amendment saga was the inclusion of section 25 by which the sequence of the 2019 elections was reordered.
The big deal about the reordered sequence was the fixing of the presidential election as the last in the series. The import of that gambit to the APC leadership under President Muhammadu Buhari was not far-fetched. It was, therefore, an unacceptable ploy to deny the president the clear advantage of having his election as a precursor to the others.
Whereas, from the presidential election holding first, according to the original sequence drawn up by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), is a possible bandwagon effect that Buhari’s victory is likely to precipitate for other APC candidates. Saraki and his few APC loyalists in the Senate must have their reasons for moving to reorder the sequence and fixing the presidential election as the last in the series.
That, really, is not the motivation for this piece. This piece is about the vilification of members of the minority group in the Senate who have suffered abridgment of their rights to represent their constituents for some period and whose freedom to associate in groups within the precincts of the Senate has been constrained. The thematic essence is the interrogation of the futility by the senate leadership to perpetually intimidate the minority senators.
Whereas, the minority group is blessed with an inspirational and steadfast leader; it is in this context that the leadership role of former Nasarawa state governor and ranking member of the Senate, septuagenarian Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa West) is situated and cannot escape essential appraisal. He approximates in the Senate the de facto and strategic arrowhead in the current proxy battle for the defence of Buhari’s political and electoral advantages as well as those of the bigger APC family.
There is no doubt that the senate leadership recognises how critical Abdullahi Adamu is to the re-election effort of President Buhari as the north central coordinator of the presidential campaign. He is therefore the real scarer of the senate leadership in the moves and exertions to project and promote the president’s interest in the Senate to the discomfort of the leadership. His strategic role in the coordinated antagonism to the reordering of the sequence of election is referential.
Members of his minority group were able to strengthen the hand of Buhari to veto the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment Bill 2018). The president’s veto was the most significant indication that he was on the same page with the silent minority over the issue. That raised tension in the polity as both sides readied to go for broke. But Buhari, at the head of a very formidable machine, appeared more daring to take risks in the executive-legislature’s supremacy battle.
Indeed, it is now very clear that the few senators who disagreed with the decision of the Senate to reorder the sequence of elections were clear-headed from the outset about the goal they wanted to achieve. Even though, they did not have the number to filibuster the process, their post-passage protest was sufficient enough to raise the red flag that all was not well in the Senate over the decision, which was not a product of unanimity or consensus.
Therefore, it goes without saying that the pocket of dissenting senators, working to promote the overarching interest of the president and the APC, drives the strategic argument that the APC family would benefit from potential bandwagon effect if the presidential election is held first and Buhari wins. But in an obvious counter move aimed at forcing a compromise towards securing their positions and future within the APC, Saraki and his loyalists resorted to the brinkmanship of reordering the election sequence to make the presidential election the last in the series.
And this is where the minority group disrupted, perhaps, the joker by Saraki-led majority group (it still enjoys the bloc support of the PDP caucus). The group stood up against the senate leadership. Credit must be given to Senator Abdullahi Adamu who has led the silent minority to run the gauntlet in the Senate with the equanimity of an elder and experienced political strategist.
Ordinarily, he should have been the one to address the press on the position of the group on the sequence of elections but he remitted the task to Omo-Agege. Despite that, the senate leadership still found a flimsy excuse to announce his removal as chairman of Northern Senators’ Forum (NSF). Adamu did not protest the charade. Those close to him quoted him to have said in some private discussions that he was not in the Senate to be chair of NSF.
But he took steps to explain the expenditure of NSF’s N70 million that some members claimed was embezzled and on which basis they reportedly announced his removal. There are feelers that he has been unfazed as he continues to represent a voice of moderation and reason in the Senate especially during executive sessions where the internal affairs of the Senate are discussed.
With his vast experience as former minister, pioneer Chairman of Governors’ Forum and one-time Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Adamu is believed to have all it takes to calm frayed nerves and deflect onslaughts. His obvious positions, according to feelers, which Saraki, whom he perhaps takes as a son, does not seem to appreciate, are: why would the Senate President want to run down a government of which he is a major beneficiary and why is he, as first among equals, foisting autocratic leadership on the Senate?
There are more posers by some watchers of the Senate: If Senator David Mark, as senate president for eight years, did not suspend a single senator, why has Saraki resorted to suspending his colleagues at the slightest provocation? Why has Saraki deployed the platform of the Senate to promote local politics between senators and their governors? The supremacy of the party is a universal reality. Why is Saraki subtly pulling down the APC instead of propping it up?
Was Saraki not overreaching the position of Senate leadership by proscribing the Parliamentary Support Group (PSG), which was perhaps misconstrued to be a pressure group in support of Buhari? In fact, the PSG, according to some of its promoters, is committed to protecting and projecting the APC as well as defending it against plots by persons in the Senate to undermine it. The existence of pressure groups is not new in the Senate. There had been the G-89, Integrity Group, Unity Group, et al that served some specific purposes while they subsisted.
As Abdullahi Adamu, together with Omo-Agege, continues to run the gauntlet-in and outside the Senate respectively-their positions are enjoying judicial support, to wit: the court’s ruling against NASS over the reordering of election sequence; the ruling that Omo-Agege could not be suspended for more than fourteen days plus one day; and, finally, has the National Assembly not dropped the casus belli (that is the amendment bill) at the root of the entire saga?
· Ojeifo is editor-in-chief of The Congresswatch magazine.