The crisis within the ruling All Progressives Congress took a new turn on Sunday with the Senator Ahmad Lawan group in the Senate accusing the Bukola Saraki group of plotting to make President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration fail.
“The election of a Peoples Democratic Party senator as deputy senate president is evidently a grand conspiracy to sabotage the Buhari government,” spokesperson for the pro – Lawan group, Senator Kabiru Marafa, said in an interview with PUNCH correspondents in Abuja.
Marafa argued that the inauguration of the 8th Senate and subsequent election of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, with 57 senators in attendance was an indication that the perpetrators of the act actively involved the management of the federal parliament.
Lawan loyalists in the Senate, under the Senate Unity Forum, said on Sunday that the election of Ekweremadu was a grand conspiracy to sabotage Buhari’s administration through the legislature. The Saraki supporters style themselves Like Minds Senators.
Both Lawan and Saraki groups had on Friday disagreed on how the principal officers of the Senate should be chosen.
While the Lawan group aligned with the position of the APC leaders that the party should choose the officers, the Saraki group insisted that the Senate officers should be picked at zonal levels.
The spokesman for the Lawan group also demanded the prosecution of the National Assembly Management for allegedly contributing to the plot.
Marafa said, “We are convinced that there is a general conspiracy in this country to sabotage the APC government, particularly the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. For God sake, why should Senator Bukola Saraki be declared as senate president with 57 votes while 51 other senators were disenfranchised.
“The management of the National Assembly knew that 109 Senators were being expected on the day of inauguration. Why did they not wait for the others to arrive before rushing to conduct election?”
Marafa argued that no opposition senator made any attempt to seek election into the majority position when the PDP had the majority in the senate in 2011, asking, “Why should somebody do it now? Is it because Muhammadu Buhari from the North is the President?”
He added, “People are asking why we did not go to court to challenge Ekweremadu’s election. Why should we bother ourselves to go to court when there is already a grand conspiracy to frustrate all our moves?
“The conspirators had hijacked the media and are using them to complicate issues even in the court of public opinion. Why should we go to court?
“The Senate standing rule that was reviewed overnight is another pointer to the fact that the inauguration of the Senate on June 9 and the election of Saraki/Ekweremadu was part of the planned conspiracy.
“That is a criminal conspiracy. Our standing rules were changed. Who changed them? Why were they changed? For what purpose and who ordered the change? Who brought ballot boxes inside the chamber on June 9?
“Those who brought in the ballot boxes were obviously privy to the grand conspiracy. The rule of division was adopted in 2011 when David Mark contested election. People’s names were being called and each person would stand up and say who they want to vote for.
“But on June 9, boxes were brought into the chamber. Who brought them? Who changed our rule? President Buhari should prosecute the perpetrators of the criminal act because that was corruption”
However, a member of the Like Minds Senators, Rafiu Ibrahim,on Sunday denied allegations of conspiracy against the government of President Buhari with the election of Ekweremadu.
He said, “We (Pro- Saraki group) campaigned across the party lines because some APC senators already had their candidate.
“However, when members of the Senate Unity Forum were not around in the chamber to vote, the PDP seized the opportunity to contest and Ekweremadu, being a two-term senate president, used his goodwill among the senators to score 54 votes across the APC and the PDP.
“There was no case of conspiracy; there was no form of pact. In fact members of the Senate Unity Forum should be held responsible for the emergence of Ekweremadu as deputy senate president.
“If they had not absconded on the day of inauguration, an APC senator would have emerged just like what happened in the House of Representatives.
“It is not correct to say that the election of Ekweremadu was part of a design to make President Buhari’s administration to fail. Rather, the Saraki leadership in the Senate would ensure the success of President Buhari’s programmes and policies and he had started work on it already.”
Meanwhile, there were insinuations on Sunday that Buhari was angry with Saraki over Ekweremadu’s emergence as his deputy.
“Buhari has not spoken with Saraki since the incident happened on June 9 and he had rebuffed all attempts to contact him. Don’t forget that the senate president also had issues with the Vice – President, Yemi Osinbajo, for using a derogatory language on him”
But Ibrahim denied the insinuations, which he described it as a rumour.
He said, “It is not correct to say that the President was avoiding Saraki. The senate president flew to Ilorin on Friday with the presidential jet. If Buhari is angry with him, will he release the jet in the Presidential fleet?
“There is no crisis between the President and the senate president. As a matter of fact, Senator Saraki has since settled down and has started working.”
In the House of Representatives, there were indications that the former Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, will keep the same post in the House.
The APC is insisting that Gbajabiamila, the party’s choice for the House speakership but who lost to Yakubu Dogara, should be made the Majority Leader, The PUNCH learnt in Abuja.
The House will resume sitting on Tuesday (tomorrow) after members took a two-week recess after inauguration on June 9.
The party also reportedly gave the South-South the position of Deputy House Leader.
Findings indicated that the national leadership of the party took the decisions at its meeting held in Abuja last week.
Checks by our correspondents revealed that a move by the APC to anoint Gbajabiamila as the Majority Leader of the House a few days after he lost the speakership contest was opposed by North-West lawmakers.
The zone had already positioned a lawmaker from Kano State, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, for the position.
“Besides the opposition from the North-West members, there was also the feeling within the Dogara camp that having Gbajabiamia as the Majority Leader could place the speaker under much pressure.
“But, we have gone beyond that stage now. The party has taken a decision that Gbajabiamila should be the majority leader. It has also been decided that Mr. Pally Iriase should be the deputy House leader,” a National Assembly official told one of our correspondents on Sunday.
Iriase, an APC lawmaker from Edo State, had also made a bid for the speakership, but later dropped out of the race to support Gbajabiamila.
A second source claimed that it was Ado-Doguwa and not Iriase that the party agreed to be Gbajabiamila’s deputy.
“That is exactly what the party is proposing (Gbajabiamila/Ado-Doguwa); all things being equal.
“I guess by Thursday, Friday this week, everything would have been spelt out,” the second source stated.
However, the National Working Committee of the APC has been scheduled to meet in Abuja on Monday (today) to, among others, deliberate on peace proposals aimed at bringing an end to the crisis rocking the party.