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SENATE PRESIDENCY

APC, Saraki and Senate presidency

Truth is the Presidency and the lawmakers know that the National Assembly was scheduled to go on eight-week recess starting from July 26, 2018.

Zacheaus Adebayo

Integrity, according to Cambridge Dictionary, is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change. So, the more one listens to the bizarre arguments by the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership, chieftains, and senators on why Senator Bukola Saraki must resign his position as Senate President, following his defection from the APC to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the more one wonders in bewilderment over the ricocheting hypocrisy of a people that ought to be shining lights in integrity and honesty.

Section 50 (1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution clearly provides that “There shall be a President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by members of that House from among themselves.”

Section 50(1)(b) and Section 92(1) make exactly the same provision regarding the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and states Houses of Assembly. So, there is clearly no provision that demands that the presiding officer should come from the party that is majority in parliament.

Something happened at the inauguration of the Benue State House of Assembly in June 2015, which Nigerians appeared not to have paid adequate attention to. Although the APC was the minority in the Benue and Plateau Houses of Assembly, their members, Hon. Terkimbi Ikyange and Hon. Peter Azi, were elected Speakers of the Benue and Plateau Assemblies, respectively.

Equally, Governor of Sokoto State, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, defected from the PDP to the APC on October 28, 2014, and adjourned the House to December 3, 2014. He did not lose his seat.

President Muhammadu Buhari was so elated and poured encomiums on Tambuwal at the Special Convention of the APC at Eagle Square. He enthused: “We will like to thank Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal for what he did yesterday. We were overwhelmed. Taking such a remarkable risk and sending everybody on holidays till December is an achievement.”

The former spokesperson of the APC, Lai Mohammed, thundered: “I must say that this historic development means that our democracy is growing by the day and it is dynamic. On a more serious note, we welcome the defection of Tambuwal to APC. With this defection, APC has now taken the leadership of one arm of the national legislature. We think that having the head of the legislature from the opposition party makes for a balanced setting in government and it’s good for democracy.

“Those who are saying this has not happened before and that Tambuwal should step aside as Speaker do not have the backing of history and the Constitution.”

READ ALSO: Wike commends Tambuwal’s defection to PDP

On his part, the Minority Leader at the time (now the Majority Leader), Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, declared: “We welcome and applaud the Speaker’s decision … We are proud to acknowledge that the Speaker remains not only a member of the House of Representatives but also its Speaker. This position is consistent with the law and practice in a presidential system of government and Nigeria is no different. For the avoidance of doubt, the Constitution requires only that the Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be elected by members of that House from among themselves.”

Now, less than four years after, the same party and leaders of “integrity” are singing a completely different song. Insisting on Saraki’s resignation, the national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomole, said Saraki “should not collect a crown that belongs to a family and wear it on behalf of the family, if he has gone to another family.” Who told them Senate Presidency is an APC crown?

The question then is, what has changed in our Constitution between October 2014 and July/August 2018? Unlike during Tambuwal’s defection to APC, the party no longer thinks that such defections “mean that our democracy is growing by the day” and that “having the head of the legislature from the opposition party makes for a balanced setting in government and it’s good for democracy.”

Tambuwal, who returned to the PDP a few days ago, exposed the hypocrisy of the APC thus: “When they talk about cross-carpeting, I begin to wonder. When I cross-carpeted the other time, did they complain? The constitution of this country is very clear that members of the Senate and the House of Representatives can choose from among themselves their own President of the Senate or Speaker (of House of Representatives) without leaning to any political party.”

READ ALSO: Beckoning 2019: Boycott and defections

Another contentious issue is the insistence of some APC senators, specifically members of the Buhari Parliamentary Support Group and the Presidency, that the Senate must reconvene to consider the President’s request for virement and supplementary budget for INEC for the 2019 elections. The wrong impression being dished out is that Saraki and House Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, unilaterally shut the National Assembly. Truth is the Presidency and the lawmakers know that the National Assembly was scheduled to go on eight-week recess starting from July 26, 2018. However, following the tension triggered by the siege to the residences of the Senate President and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, by security agencies, the Senate and the House adjourned two days earlier, July 24, to forestall trouble. Could the INEC budget have been passed in two days?

The adjournment of the Senate and House of Representatives came by motion moved and supported by the majority and minority leaders, respectively, and was passed by the respective Houses. To reconvene, Senate Rule provides: “Whenever the Senate stands adjourned … and it is represented by the leaders of the political parties in the Senate to the President of the Senate that the public interest requires that the Senate should meet on an earlier or a later date or time than that on which it stands adjourned, the President of the Senate may give notice accordingly, and the Senate shall meet on the date and at the time stated in the notice.”

So, any resort to self-help in the guise of a purported urgent need to approve INEC’s budget for the 2019 general election won’t fly. The National Assembly recess and 2019 elections didn’t take INEC and Federal Government by surprise. INEC even published a 36-year election timetable. Shouldn’t the election budget have come with the 2018 Appropriation Bill?

APC and the Federal Government are being desperate, hypocritical and deceitful.

READ ALSO: 2019 elections: INEC raises concerns over funding
• Adebayo wrote from Ibadan
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Tokunbo David
Tokunbo David

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