A source at the Presidency has told SaharaReporters that Senator Bukola Saraki misled President Muhammad Buhari into believing that he was welcome to help broker a solution to a crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the choice of the party’s candidates for top legislative posts in the National Assembly, including President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives. The APC had chosen Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila as their candidates for the Senate Presidency and Speaker slots respectively.
But in a stunning development, Mr. Saraki was this morning elected as President of the Senate after garnering the block support of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and some APC senators who broke rank with their party. In a similar vein, PDP members of the House of Representatives threw their block votes behind Yakubu Dogara, selecting him as Speaker over the APC-endorsed Gbajabiamila.
Our Presidency source accused Mr. Saraki, who had earlier shunned a meeting with Vice Present Yemi Osibanjo, of inviting President Buhari to intervene in the widening internal schism within the APC. In refusing to attend an earlier peace meeting with the vice president, Mr. Saraki had reportedly fumed that he could not be summoned to a meeting by a mere commissioner, a comment he later denied making.
Soon after Mr. Buhari arrived in Abuja early on Tuesday, he invited all APC legislators to a meeting with him at the International Conference Center at 9 a.m. “Senator Saraki assured the president that he would attend the meeting,” said our source.
According to the source, Mr. Saraki instead “held a marathon meeting with members of the People Democratic Party to cement their support for him.”
The Ahmed Lawan faction of the APC awoke to news of the PDP’s endorsement of Mr. Saraki. Even so, they still headed for the 9 a.m. meeting called by President Buhari. They were waiting for the presidential parley when Senator Saraki and some other “rebel” senators of the APC moved into the National Assembly complex, where the police had thrown a cordon to prevent workers and reporters from entering, for the “election” of principal officers.
While lawmakers loyal to Mr. Lawan and Mr. Gbajabiamila waited for President Buhari to arrive, word reached the president that Mr. Saraki had been elected as Senate President.
“Mr. President felt deceived by Dr. Bukola Saraki. That’s why he did not bother to attend the [APC legislative] meeting he called.
Mr. Saraki and his cohorts also ignored the protocol for the president’s formal proclamation for the inauguration of the National Assembly, a source close to Saraki said they relied on a letter written by Buhari asking them to be inaugurated. Instead, 57 senators loyal to Mr. Saraki, most of them PDP members, unanimously “elected” Mr. Saraki after he was nominated by Senators Dino Melaye and Sanni Yerima. The rebelling APC Senators worked overnight to produced new rules for the elections with the help of outgoing Senate President, David Mark. Mr. Mark was later elected as “Senate Majority Leader”.
Mr. Saraki was quickly sworn-in as the new Senate President even as his APC colleagues were at the ICC waiting for Mr. Buhari to address them.
Two APC lawmakers loyal to Senator Lawan and Mr. Gbajabiamila told SaharaReporters that they had hoped to move to the National Assembly for a real election after the “peace meeting” with President Buhari. The two lawmakers said they were dismayed to receive text messages reporting that Mr. Saraki had been elected.
PDP governors from Rivers, Ondo and several other leaders of the party witnessed the election and swearing in of Saraki today.