For President Muhammadu Buhari, the emergence of a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member as deputy Senate President in the current dispensation is nothing short of a setback for his administration.
He is irked that some members of his own party, All Progressives Congress (APC), conceded the position to Ike Ekweremadu when the PDP never gave that much all through its 16 years in power between 1999 and last May.
But he is optimistic that the APC will overcome the setback.
President Buhari made his feelings known at a meeting with a delegation of the Unity Forum at the Aso Rock Villa on Friday night.
The forum is the group of senators backing Dr. Ahmed Lawan, the APC anointed candidate for the Senate Presidency.
Buhari, at the meeting, reportedly pleaded for the understanding of APC Senators as the party explores reconciliation options.
However, the majority of the APC governors and state chairmen of the party are insisting that Senate President Bukola Saraki and House of Reps Speaker Yakubu Dogara comply with the party’s directive on the choice of principal officers of the National Assembly.
The APC governors and state chairmen are encouraging the leadership of the party to enforce discipline to prevent it from collapsing.
Some party leaders, it was gathered, have proposed a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Audu Ogbeh, as chairman of the APC Disciplinary Committee to look into allegations of anti-party activities against some members.
President Buhari at the Friday meeting was said to have said there was no reason for the party to be divided over who heads the National Assembly.
“The President gave us audience and admitted that the development in the Senate was a setback but he expressed confidence that APC will overcome it,” a source at the meeting said.
“He said there was no basis for the split among APC Senators which led to the concession of the Office of Deputy President of the Senate to the PDP. He said PDP did not give the opposition such an opportunity in its 16 years in power.
“Buhari told Lawan and others not to take the law into their hands as the leaders of the party explore reconciliation options. He said peace and the survival of the nation’s democracy should be paramount more than any other thing.”
Asked to assess the President’s mood at the session, the source added: “He was not happy about the development in the Senate but he was hopeful that the situation is redeemable if some leaders can sacrifice their ambitions for the survival of APC and his administration.”
Another source said: “The session was cordial and reassuring. The President interacted with us individually and even had time to crack jokes with us before we receded into the business of the day.
“As for the Lawan group, it was Senator Barnabas Gemade who spoke on behalf of the 51 aggrieved Senators.
“Gemade said the Unity Forum is after justice since its members have demonstrated their faith in APC leadership and having been loyal to the party to a fault.
“Gemade restated the six demands of the group and the need to prevail on Saraki and Dogara to abide by the directive of the party on the nominees for principal offices in the Senate and House of Representatives.”
The source quoted Gemade as saying: “When the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo called a meeting to address the looming challenge, it was only our group that responded; we were the only group which participated in the party’s straw poll and even on June 9, we deferred to the party’s invitation to a meeting at the International Conference Centre.
“Before anybody knew it, the Like Minds went for the inauguration of the Senate and elected Saraki.
“We have proved our unflinching loyalty to the party. This is the time for the party to assert itself and enforce discipline or else members will continue to take the leadership of the party for granted.”
Ahead of the meeting of the National Executive Committee of the APC on Tuesday, there were indications last night that the governors elected on the platform of the party and state chairmen are pushing for Dr. Saraki and Hon. Dogara to comply with the party’s directive on the choice of principal officers of the National Assembly.
They said they will no longer tolerate the defiance of the party by the two leaders.
A member of the NWC said: “We are expecting a stormy session on Tuesday. Saraki and Dogara will have to choose between loyalty to the party or self-serving agenda.
“The only condition for moving forward is for these leaders to accept the list sent to them by the National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
Those recommended by the APC for Senate positions are Sen. Ahmed Lawan(Majority Leader)—North-East; Prof. Sola Adeyeye( Chief Whip)—South-West; Sen. George Akume( Deputy Majority Leader)—North-Central; and Sen. Abu Ibrahim(Deputy Chief Whip)—North-West.
The party’s list for the 8th House of Representatives is as follows: Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila( House Leader)——South-West; Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa( Deputy House Leader)—North-West; Hon. M. T. Monguno( Chief Whip)—North-East; and Hon. Pally Iriase( Deputy Chief Whip)—South-South.
It was gathered that if Saraki and Dogara refused to respect the party’s list, APC may resort to sanctions.
It was learnt that some forces in the party are pushing for the appointment of a former National Chairman of PDP, Chief Audu Ogbeh as the head of the party’s Disciplinary Committee.
A top member of the party said: “There is no doubt that Ogbeh is well grounded in party politics and he is a disciplinarian. We are thinking of him to assist in unraveling the anti-party activities in the Senate and the House.”