Buhari to Saraki, Dogara: I’m for party supremacy


President Muhammadu Buhari will tell Senate President Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara today that they should respect party supremacy in the choice of principal officers of the National Assembly, it was learnt last night.

Buhari will attend today’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of his party – the All Progressives Congress (APC)  – the first since it won the presidential election and the breakout of the crisis over the National Assembly’s principal officers’ elections.

Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu gave an insight into what the President will tell his party members today in a statement last night.

He said Buhari was “thoroughly disappointed” about what happened at the Senate where Senate President Saraki not only defied his party, but a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member, Ike Ekweremadu, was elected Deputy Senate President.

Shehu, who was clearing the air on Wednesday night’s meeting the President had with House of Representatives member Femi Gbajabiamila and 30 others, said: ”It was a mistake, possibly our own, to have assumed that Speaker (Yakubu) Dogara was expected at the meeting with the President yesterday (Wednesday).

“He was not invited because he had had his own meeting with the President earlier on.

“The President having heard from the Speaker needed to hear out Gbajabiamila and the 174 APC loyalist-members behind him.

“When he met the representatives of the APC caucus on Tuesday night, President Buhari rued the fact that ‘we won the battle and lost the war’. Without mentioning names, he said that ‘those who went with the PDP know that they are killing the APC’.

“He said he was thoroughly disappointed about what happened in the Senate and was still agonising over it, but equally blamed the APC majority for failing to assert their numerical superiority.

“He said he expected Senator Saraki and Dogara to bend in deference to the party leadership, because, as he said, ‘we have to make the choice of either having a party or none at all. I believe in the superiority of the party over all members so this issue and all others, I will continue to stand with the party,” the President told the meeting.

“President Buhari is also expected to emphasise at tomorrow’s (today’s) NEC meeting that he is a product of the party’s due process himself, and would not allow due process to end with him.”

Gbajabiamila is confident that the party will insist on its supremacy.

He said: “We all know the President is a party man. He believes in party supremacy”.

The 174 APC members of the House loyal to Gbajabiamila urged the President to prevail on Dogara to abide by the APC’s decision and announce the remaining four principal officers.

APC wanted Gbajabiamila to be Majority Leader, Alhassan Doguwa Deputy Leader, Mohammad Monguno Chief Whip and Pally Iriase Deputy Chief Whip.

But Dogara and his group –  in a replica of the Senate scenario –  are not disposed to the party’s position.

Urging Buhari to call to order the 39 disloyal APC members, who have colluded with the PDP members in the House to undermine the APC, the group said the Federal Character principle being thrown up by Dogara and his loyalists cannot apply to National Assembly as it did not apply in the 6th and 7th National Assembly.

If it must apply now in the 8th National Assembly, the group said, either Senate President Saraki or Dogara must step down as they are both from the North.

A copy of the group’s presentation to Buhari reads: “On the 9th of June, 2015, 174 APC members in the House faithfully and loyally followed the directives of the party to vote for Hon Femi Gbajabiamila and Hon. Mongunu as Speaker and Deputy Speaker while 39 other APC members colluded with the opposition party, the PDP, to elect the current Speaker and Deputy Speaker with only 8 votes superiority.

“Whereas the candidates of the majority (Gbajabiamila and Mongunu) openly congratulated the winners and continued to cooperate with the House, the opposition and the 39 APC members continued to hold the APC leadership in contempt.

“Whereas we the 174 party faithful and loyalists had been obedient to the party, what shall be the reward of our loyalty to the party?

“The Party has chosen not to punish the 39 APC members, including the elected Speaker and Deputy Speaker, but chose to direct, as it is customary and conventional, on how the other four (4) Principal Officers should be distributed. Alas! The opposition and the 39 members continue to hold the ruling party in contempt by disobeying the party

“Whereas, the beneficiaries of the disobedience are citing Federal Character Principle as the main reason for their disobedience, His Excellency should note that

“(a) During the 6th Assembly 2007 – 2011, the following officers were elected from the Northwest (I) the president and Commander-in-Chief (ii) Hon. Ismaila Kawu  (iii) Hon. Mutawalle. The two (ii) and (iii) occupied 2 out of the 4 principal officers positions of the Minority Party (iv) Hon Aminu Tambuwal was elected Deputy Chief Whip.

“(b) Also during the 7th Assembly, the following officers in Government were elected from the Northwest

“(I) The Vice President (II) The Speaker, Rt. Hon Aminu Tambuwal (III) Hon. Ismaila Kawu, Deputy Minority Leader (IV) Hon. Garba Datti, Deputy Minority Whip. In these instances there was never an issue of Federal Character.

“It should be noted that the Federal Character principle as embedded in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is not justiciable and of no legal consequence. Its provision in S.14 of the Constitution is only applicable to appointments in federal ministries and agencies. The House of Representatives is not an agency of the Federal Government and the principal officers positions are elective and not by appointment. If the Federal Character is applicable to the National Assembly, then both the Senate President and the Speaker cannot come from the North; one of them should be advised to step down.”

The two- page presentation added: “It is noteworthy that Mr. President and the governors had strongly put their weight behind the party and had severally admonished the House to abide by the party position. The 39 APC members in the House continued to collude with the PDP to flagrantly disobey Mr. President, the governors and the party with a view to bringing the party and government to ridicule before Nigerians.

“The conduct of the 39 APC members colluding with the PDP is tantamount to affront, ultimately targeted at polarising our party so as to give room for many of them to decamp to the PDP.

“It is, therefore, imperative for Mr. President to take a stand and save the integrity of the party by calling to order the 39 members, which include the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, to respect, honour and obey our Party Leaders and their directives.

“In conclusion, Mr. President, we as loyal party members shall continue to abide by the party and our party leaders and their directives. We strongly appeal to you to direct the Speaker to return to our fold and be truly elected Speaker on APC platform. He should be directed to announce the other four party principal officers positions as directed by the party as it has always been the convention.

“We sincerely appreciate Mr. President for the audience, trusting in his ability to successfully mediate so as to save our great party, the APC, from further embarrassment.”

Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, Gbajabiamila said it was “very successful” and that the caucus and the party will come out bigger and stronger.

According to him, Buhari, who is a party man, is committed to party supremacy.

On what Buhari’s response to the group was, he said: “We all know that the President is a party man. He believes in the party supremacy. He believes in the ideology of the party and he believes that the party will move forward. That is how much I can tell you. That is not new; we all know the President.”

Asked why Dogara did not attend the meeting if it was a caucus meeting, Gbajabiamila said: “The Speaker probably had other engagement and there were other caucus members that were not here. We are a representative of the caucus.”

He said that the meeting was not about himself or any individual, but the party.

“It is not about me. We need to get that very straight. They voted with me, but the idea is about the party; they supported the party, the party position and the party line. It is not about any individual. Nobody came here as an independent candidate.”

On the way forward, Gbajabiamila said: “The party’s will will be done.”

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