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 Mr President is optimistic that the APC will overcome the setback. 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. At the meeting he pleaded for understanding of APC Senators as the party explores reconciliation options.
However, most APC governors and state chairmen are insisting that Senate President Bukola Saraki and House of Reps Speaker Yakubu Dogara comply with APC’s directive on the choice of principal officers. 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 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 Reps.”
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.”