Against party decisions, Senator Bukola Saraki is the Senate President. And Yakubu Dogara is the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Here are details of the midnight plot and daylight intrigues that made them winners
The dramatic election of four key officers of the National Assembly yesterday unsettled the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and breathed life into the Peoples Democratic Party which lost its prime position to the APC. At the end of intrigues and drama that followed the battle for the four presiding officers’ positions in the National Assembly, all the candidates of the APC lost to the candidates backed by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki raising the gavel at the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly in Abuja, yesterday In his immediate reaction to the emergence of the National Assembly presiding officers, President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledged that a constitutional process has occurred in the election even though he wished the process had followed the initiative by the APC.
Senator Bukola Saraki of the APC was returned unopposed as Senate President as the game of intrigues which played through Monday night to the early hours caught the APC leadership on the wrong side. His emergence was facilitated by the solid backing of the 49-member strong PDP caucus with unalloyed support from APC Senators from Zamfara, Sokoto, Adamawa, Kogi and Kwara States.
As part of the quid pro quo from the PDP, the Saraki elements backed the return of Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP as Deputy President of the Senate, the first time a bipartisan leadership was enthroned in the Senate.
The emergence of Saraki and Ekweremadu bounced off negatively for the official APC candidate in the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, who lost to the unofficial APC candidate, Yakubu Dogara. Gbajabiamila was also widely reported to be strongly backed by the party leader and former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The rout of the APC leaders’ choices was completed late last night when the party’s candidate for Deputy Speaker, Tahir Monguno also lost to the unofficial candidate backed by the PDP, Lashan Yusuf.
The contest for the deputy was after Gbajabiamila had, after his defeat, spurned entreaties from the Dogara camp to take the position of Deputy Speaker. Rep. Leo Ogor, coordinator of the PDP in the chambers and Deputy Leader of the House in the Seventh House of Representatives also spurned the offer.
Saraki’s emergence as Senate President was preceded by hard negotiations and intrigues that played for most of Monday night into the early hours of Tuesday. Game of intrigues Having rejected last Saturday’s internal party caucus which it claimed was skewed to favour Senator Ahmad Lawan who emerged official candidate of the party, Senator Saraki had through Monday made moves to concretise an alliance with the PDP which came into the Eighth Senate with 49 members compared with the 59 seats occupied by his own party, APC.
PDP leaders, including virtually all governors belonging to the party in meetings gave their commitment to Senator Saraki after it emerged that 41 out of the 49 senators-elect in the party were already committed to him. That was based on the strong lobby put forward by Ekweremadu, Senator Andy Uba and former Akwa Ibom governor, Godswill Akpabio. The PDP senators, it was learnt, saw Saraki who served two terms as governor and a Senate term on the platform of the party as a prodigal son of better consideration than an enemy which they saw in Lawan.
However, consideration was given to the strong support being given Senator Lawan by immediate past Senate President, Senator David Mark, who had for the past eight years had Lawan as part of his inner caucus. Besides was the lack of cordiality between Saraki and Mark. Upon the strong support for Saraki, governors and members of the PDP National Working Committee, NWC including the immediate past chairman of the Board of Trustees of the party, Chief Tony Anenih persuaded Mark to drop his objection to Saraki in the interest of party unity.
Mark, according to sources, heeded the appeal and immediately brought relief to all present at the high-level meeting. However, the quid pro quo was that Senator Ekweremadu would run for the office of Deputy President of the Senate.
Upon the agreement which was sealed sometime around 2.a.m yesterday morning, Saraki and his entourage moved over to Senator Mark’s Apo Mansion residence where he thanked the immediate past Senate President for his hand of conciliation and support. Mark, according to sources, was visibly moved by the entreaty from Saraki and further reaffirmed his support.
The PDP quickly issued a statement following the agreement with a directive to senators-elect and members-elect on the platform of the party to vote for Saraki and Dogara in the leadership contest in the two chambers.
The APC meanwhile had the previous night been making furtive attempts at reconciliation. A move by Lawan to reach Saraki according to sources was frustrated by Saraki who put himself out of reach to the party leadership.
Early yesterday morning the APC, apparently aiming to undercut the agreement reached between the Saraki/Dogara groups and the PDP, summoned a meeting with all senators-elect and members-elect using the name of the president, Muhammadu Buhari who had just returned from his outing at the G7 summit in Germany.
To give vent to the meeting, security was tightened around the National Assembly complex and senators-elect and members-elect were initially refused entry. However, supporters of Saraki and Dogara were quick to dismiss the meeting as they alleged that the president did not summon the meeting as they accused the party leadership of using the name of the president.
Meanwhile as if bound by some agreements, the rebel APC senators-elect shortly before 10.00 a.m. drove into the National Assembly complex within a ten-minute period to team up with the 49 senators-elect from the PDP.
At exactly, 10:03, the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, began the day’s business with the roll call, after which it was discovered that out of the 108 senators-elect, only 57 were in attendance, leaving 52 others, mostly of the APC fold still outside. At that time, the 33 senators-elect committed to Senator Lawan, the party’s official candidate were still waiting for President Buhari who was nowhere to be found at the International Conference Centre, about two kilometres away.
Seated, waiting were members of the National Working Committee of the APC led by the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Abia state governor, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, former Interim National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande and Yobe state governor, Ibrahim Geidam.
Meanwhile in the Senate chambers, with a quorum in place, senators-elect were asked to confirm their attendance in a roll call. Remarkably, Senator Saraki’s entry into the hall was hailed by wide applause from the seated senators-elect.
Following the roll call, the Clerk of the National Assembly read the proclamation address to him from the president. He thereafter, requested the senators-elect to nominate someone among themselves for the position of the Senate President and Senator Ahmad Sani, Yeriman Bakura (APC, Zamfara Central), immediately nominated Senator Saraki and he was seconded by Senator Dino Melaye, APC, Kogi West.
After the first nomination, Salisu, again, requested for other nominations, but there was a deafening silence as no other nomination for the post of Senate President was made and he immediately closed nomination upon which Saraki was adopted as the sole candidate and returned unopposed as the Senate President.
Meanwhile, word of the development in the National Assembly reached the ICC, forcing a break-up of the meeting as APC senators-elect waiting for the president started dashing back to the National Assembly.
After his election, he was immediately sworn in by the Clerk of the National Assembly following which he asked senators-elect to make nomination for Deputy President of the Senate. Senator George Sekibo from Rivers State nominated Senator Ekweremadu for the position of the Deputy Senate President and he was seconded by his kinsman, Senator-elect, Olaka Nwogu.
Senator Ndume was nominated for the same position, setting the stage for an epic battle that however, melted into an easy sail for Ekweremadu who won with 54 votes to 20. He becomes the first senator to be elected to the office three times and the first principal officer of the National Assembly in either House to be elected presiding officer three straight times.
The defeat of the official APC candidates immediately translated into a bounce for Dogara who had formed a partnership with Saraki in the rebellion against the official candidates of the party.
The election of Saraki as the Senate President prompted wild jubilation on the floor of the House of Representatives, especially among the supporters of Dogara. Hon. Emeka Azubugu (Anambra PDP) brought the news at exactly 10.19 a.m. and Pat Asadu, (Enugu PDP) walked and signalled the victory of Saraki to the members. Amid the jubilations, members began to sing solidarity songs like “All we are saying, give us Dogara”, “solidarity forever, we shall always fight for our rights”.
The songs later gave way to shouts of “Dogara, Dogara”, in unison. But the chants changed when Femi Gbajabiamila rushed in into the chamber from the ICC at 11.00 a.m. apparently to undercut a unanimous vote for Dogara. His entry also led to a chorus of his name by his supporters.
While his fans shouted “Sai Gbajabiamila”, Dogara’s supporters in a surprise response loudly re-echoed “Sai Dogara”, meaning “It is Dogara”. The mother of all chants, however, came when Dogara walked into the chamber at 11:12 a.m.
But feeling provoked, Gbajabiamila’s supporters joined the fray in the chants, showing a clear division of the camps. This continued until 11:58 a.m. when the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Maikasuwa came into the chamber and introduced himself as the clerk
It took about 30 minutes for the house to get ready for the election. At exactly 12:33, the House was called to order with the clerk reading the proclamation letter from President Buhari. Following the letter, the roll call of members-elect was taken and it lasted for 25 minutes between 12:35 pm and 1:pm in alphabetical order of the states. In the end, 358 members were announced by the clerk to be present.
In line with Section 60 of the 1999 constitution and Order 2, Rule 4 of the standing rule of the House, Hon. Abdulmumin Jubrin from Kano State nominated Dogara as a candidate for the speakership. The motion was seconded by Hon. Dike Okafor, a member from Imo State.
Thereafter, Dogara stood up and acknowledged the nomination. He said: “I rise to accept my nomination as the speaker of the 8th House of Representatives”. His acceptance was greeted with standing ovation by his supporters, prompting shouts of “unopposed”.
When this died down, Hon. Mohammadu Saleh from Bauchi State also moved another motion, nominating Gbajabiamila. The motion was also seconded by Hon. Shuaibu Philip from Edo State. “It is with great humbly and profound gratitude that I accept my nomination for the speakership position of the 8th House Of Representatives”, he said.
With the rituals concluded at exactly 1:21pm, the clerk later said “We are proceeding with the election and according to the rule. The election will be by secret balloting.” Voting formally commenced at 1:27 pm and ended at exactly 3:31 pm with sorting and collation of results commencing almost immediately. In the end, Dogara was announced the winner with 182 votes to 174 votes.