THESE may not be good times for the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, as a complex negotiation to save his job through a political solution to his false asset declaration trial appeared to have failed.
Punch reports that the last-minute attempt to save Saraki was said to have been spearheaded by some leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress but the efforts crumbled because of the conditions which Saraki had found impossible to satisfy.
If the efforts had not failed, a source said Saraki would not have appeared before the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Wednesday and be in the dock for the second time within one month.
The APC face-savers were said to have prevailed on the Senate president to respect the party’s position on the appointment of the Senate leadership, a position Saraki had breached when he chose Senators Ali Ndume, Bala Na’Allah and Francis Alimikhena, as Senate Leader, Deputy Leader and Deputy Majority Whip, respectively.
The APC choices for the positions had been Senator Ahmed Lawan (North-East) as Majority Leader; George Akume (North-Central) as deputy Majority Leader, and Abu Ibrahim (North-West) as Deputy Chief Whip.
Reversing the positions was said to have been the minimum condition for Saraki to retain his position as the Number Three man.
Sources, who asked not to be identified, said Saraki had indeed tried to reverse the appointments of the Senate principal officers but that he met resistance from them, especially Ndume, who was said to have told the Senate president to his face that he could not surrender the mandate given to him by other senators from his zone.
Ndume asked Saraki to forget the vacating of office for Lawan. Bala Na’Allah and Francis Alimikhena were also said to have refused to abandon their mandate for Akume and Ibrahim respectively.
It was the search for the solution to the imbroglio that reportedly informed a meeting between the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, Ndume and three other ranking senators, including Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto East) and Senator Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central), on Monday night.
Osinbajo was said to have told the APC senators that the position of the Presidency remained that Saraki must toe the party’s line on the appointment of principal officers.
But Ndume, according to a source very close to the senate leadership, allegedly told Osinbajo point blank that the decision to quit office as senate leader was beyond him because he was being threatened by his colleagues against succumbing to any pressure to do so.
The source added that the meeting, which also had in attendance the APC chairman, Chief John Odigie – Oyegun, said the Borno senator insisted that having been elected by his colleagues from the North-East, he could only quit the position at their instance.
Ndume was said to have told Osinbajo that the Presidency should not blame his emergence on Saraki because he was voted for as Senate Leader, having lost the contest for the Deputy President of the Senate position to Senator Ike Ekweremadu.
He was also said to have also told Osinbajo that the APC could not sanction him because he was a popular politician who had been winning elections in his area even when he was not in the party.
“With due respect, Mr. Vice-President, I cannot give you what I don’t have. It is the North-East caucus in the Senate that gave me their mandate; they are the only one that can withdraw it.
“Apart from this, asking me to relinquish my position will likely create enmity between Borno and Yobe states because the Borno South would see it as a case of deliberate persecution of their representative in the APC government,” the senator reportedly told Osinbajo.
Ndume was also said to have argued that his constituents would not take it lightly with him because they saw him as holding the position in trust for them. He said he had been been warned before attending the meeting against trading off his mandate.
The Senate Leader was said to have added that having emerged the Senate Leader by the votes of a majority of the senators from the North-East, Saraki could not unilaterally remove him.
A three member committee headed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, was said to have been working on the planned political solution aimed at resolving the impasse.
It was learnt that while the Dogara committee had convinced Na’Allah and Alimikhena to accept resignation as principal officers and accept chairmanship of juicy committees, Ndume had consistently been rejecting the offer.
Another senator from the North-West geopolitical zone also hinted our correspondent that Saraki had actually informed Lawan to be prepared to take office as the senate leader.
“The issue would have been resolved long time ago if Ndume had agreed to be the chairman of a juicy committee since his deputy, Na’Allah, had agreed to resign and accept chairmanship of a juicy committee,” the senator said.
Odigie-Oyegun had on June 24 written to Saraki and Dogara, listing the names of proposed occupants of the leadership positions in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
While Dogara accepted the party’s decision, Saraki had named different people on the floor of the Senate in July
Odigie-Oyegun had, in the letter to Saraki, named Lawan (North-East) as Majority Leader; Prof. Sola Adeyeye (South-West) as Chief Whip; George Akume (North-Central) as Deputy Majority Leader and Abu Ibrahim (North-West) as Deputy Chief Whip.
Attempts to speak with the spokesperson for the Senate, Senator Dino Melaye, on the issue were unsuccessful as calls put across to his mobile were not answered while a text message sent to him on the matter had yet to be acknowledged as of the time of filing this report.
Ndume declined comments when contacted on the phone, saying that he could only speak to our correspondent on issues before the Senate as the leader.
“I am the leader of the Senate and not that of APC senators. I can only speak on issues that concern the entire Senate, which had been tabled for deliberation.”