A PDP senator from the South-East has revealed to the Sun how senators from the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress, who supported Senator Bukola Saraki for the Senate presidency were threatened the week before the inauguration of the National Assembly to support Ahmed Lawan, the APC’s chosen candidate.
The senator alleged that elements from the Action Congress of Nigeria faction of the APC who also nominated the vice-president wanted to use Lawan as a ruse to cage President Muhammudu Buhari, and it was at this moment that APC senators from the North backed out of the ‘Ahmed Lawan-for-Senate President project’.
The senator alleged that the ACN elements, who wanted Senator Lawan to emerge as Senate president used uncompromising methods to change their support from Saraki to Lawan.
He told the Sun: “Sometime last week, it got so bad that their men stormed the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, where most of us stayed and had our meeting to attack members. The attacks came as last effort after we resisted and refused their $50,000 bribe.”
““Yes, we were all approached to take bribe and vote the people they wanted in the two chambers of the National Assembly, but we said no. We resisted them because we were on a mission to salvage our party, and we were bent on voting the person that would serve our interest. Now PDP is in the opposition and we have to teach APC a lesson in positive opposition.”
The senator said there were plans in place to appoint a PDP choice as the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives just as the Senate had done. However, the quick intervention of Femi Gbajabiamila saved the day. He urged the speaker and PDP deputy Senate speakership choice, Leo Ogor, to allow the deputy speaker to come from the South-West.
The senator said Dogara approached Ogor to step down and he did so, saying if dropping his interest would allow for the smooth working of the House, he would not mind.
Yusuf Lasun (Osun) was elected the deputy House speaker.
The informant said the ACN made different approaches to the PDP senators but they rejected them.
“The same people that had been persuading us resorted to force and had to get security agents to intimidate us and make us yield. It was at that point that we all vacated our suites in Hilton and relocated to the Sandralia Hotel in Abuja to conclude our plans and held to the decision we had taken,” he said.
According to him, the PDP suspicions were confirmed when, “the mild drama where some senators walked out of the chamber while in session on Wednesday, a day after the inauguration, that we got the message very clear. As those senators filed out of the chambers, we all noticed that the northern APC members who were among them, from the beginning, remained in chamber. All those that walked out were South-West APC senators.”
He added that another reason why Saraki was favoured was because the ACN arm of the APC wanted Lawan to emerge as the Senate president so the ACN bloc could cage Buhari.
“There is this feeling that the ACN bloc had already taken the vice president’s slot, and allowing them determine who manages the National Assembly was like simply taking too much and making sure they manipulate the President with their men around the number one man. That is not politically sound and when the northern senators of the APC were aware of that plot, they had to beat a retreat and align with Saraki.
Also, people who are very close to the President must have revealed to him why the agitation over the National Assembly leadership as targeting him, reason he changed his mind about attending the party’s caucus meeting in the morning, prior to the election of the National Assembly leaders.”
From the disclosure of the senator, the development in the APC over the outcome of the selection of the National Assembly leadership might have caused an early and major crack in the party.
The fear, according to watchers, is that the party might experience an early crack that might lead to a split along the lines of the blocs from which the ruling party was formed.
The tension in the national assembly was caused by the election of Saraki and Dogara against the party’s wish to have Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila emerge candidates for the Senate presidency and House speakership.
The APC conducted mock elections and Lawan and Gbajabiamila were touted to become the National Assembly leaders.
But Saraki and Dogara went against party directives, contested and won with the support of opposition Peoples Democratic Party lawmakers.
In the Senate, the PDP member Ike Ekweremadu retained his post as the deputy Senate president.
Ekweremadu defeated an APC senator, Ali Ndume, who also defied the party’s directive by contesting. The APC’s anointed candidate for the post was Mohammed Mungono.