Issues regarding the Biafra crisis and the controversial stand of Saraki are expected to divide the senate with lawmakers taking opposing views.
Senate President Bukola Saraki
As the National Assembly resumes tomorrow, indications have emerged of an imminent showdown in the Senate.
Highly placed sources in the upper chamber told Daily Trust that a number of senators are still unhappy with the Senate President Bukola Saraki over his recent remarks on the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
The senate president, Daily Trust learnt, is already making frantic efforts to calm aggrieved lawmakers following the controversy that his comments have generated.
Senator Bukola Saraki, the sources said, would have to convince his colleagues as to why he “unilaterally” described the proscription of IPOB as illegal. But some senators close to Saraki said his seat “remained unshaken because he did not go beyond the boundary.”
It was gathered that at the height of the debate ahead of the proscription of IPOB, Saraki had serious misunderstanding with the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
“A lot of issues came to play, Malami felt the Senate president was undermining the executive. It was a serious issue that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had to intervene,” a source said.
Saraki had last Monday issued a statement describing as “unconstitutional,” the proscription and declaration of the IPOB as a terrorists group.
Though some sources said the Senate was sharply divided over what to do with Saraki, considering the “weighty nature of the words he used in calling the attention of the executive arm of government,” other sources said Saraki actually fell into a trap.
It was gathered that Saraki’s statement had angered many northern senators, who received endless calls from their constituents as to whether he had their mandate to say what he said.
“Many constituents, especially in the North and some places in the South West, have undiluted support for President Muhammadu Buhari. They hardly tolerate attack on Buhari; they therefore viewed what Saraki said as an affront, disrespect or an attempt to ridicule the presidency,” a source said.
A senator said: “Actually, it was a section of the presidency that dug the ditch for Saraki. Some people close to the corridors of power approached and asked him to make the statement on IPOB as the chief lawmaker in order to stabilize the polity.
“It was based on their prompting that he issued the statement but unknown to him, it was meant to put him in trouble. But after issuing the statement, they are now mobilising senators against Saraki.
“It is serious treachery because many of the senators are being encouraged to go against Saraki when we resume tomorrow on the grounds that he was wrong to have spoken without first consulting us,” he said.
“While the call for Saraki to speak on IPOB made sense on face value, the same people actually wanted to use what he said to undermine him in the eyes of President Buhari,” another source said.
Aware of the plot, Saraki last week embarked on marathon meetings with caucuses of the Senate with a view to reassure his colleagues and assuage their fears.
He separately met with senators from the South East, South West, South South and then the North caucuses of the Senate where the issue was reportedly discussed.
At the meeting with the northern senators, Saraki was said to have assured them that he was not against President Muhammadu Buhari and that he issued the statement to simply douse tension in the country.
It was gathered that at his meeting with the South East senators, Saraki asked them to use their caucus to preach for the unity and progress of the country.
Specifically, Saraki appealed to them against preaching division and break up.
“In fact, he told them to stop playing the ostrich and talk to their people on the need to keep Nigeria one,” he said.
A ranking senator said, “The meeting is not unusual, it’s a sort of routine whereby issues relating to a particular caucus or forum is discussed. The meeting was successful and it was to keep the Senate and its various caucuses united for cohesion, stability and peaceful coexistence,” he said.
On the possible showdown, he said people who were unhappy would inevitably raise the issue when the Senate resumes tomorrow.
“Remember, he spoke as an individual not as the Senate president. But even at that, I’m sure people who are not happy with the statement will seek explanation on Tuesday. There is a possibility that it will result to a showdown.
“We are all members of the National Assembly, representing various senatorial districts and constituencies. We are here to promote, protect and foster the interest of our constituents,” he said.
He said members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) either in the executive or legislature must not be seen speaking at cross purposes or fighting each other.
“We must at all times support our armed forces to discharge their constitutional responsibilities, anything short of this must be resisted,” the ranking senator said.