The Senate caucus of the All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, expressed serious bitterness to the national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, over their perceived exclusion from the scheme of things by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
The caucus, which met with the National Working Committee (NWC), led by the National Chairman, at the National Assembly, said that the party had offended them by failing to consult with them on critical issues of governance in the past two years.
Some of the senators called for the resignation of Oyegun over his failure to provide effective leadership for the party. The lawmakers told the Oyegun-led NWC that they lacked the courage to speak the truth to Mr. President.
Consequently, the caucus asked Oyegun, if he has the courage to tell President Buhari to carry its members in the legislature along in the process of governance, stressing that this would engender harmony between the executive and the legislature.
The meeting was the first of its kind by the party and its caucus in the Senate since it was inaugurated on June 9, 2015. New Telegraph learnt that senators were angry and indeed ventilated their anger to the NWC that they have been pushed aside in the government’s process all along.
A source told our correspondent that the lawmakers complained that the government had failed to appoint Boards of Parastatals, as well as failed to fill existing vacancies in many of the agencies, thereby allowing civil servants occupy the offices in acting capacity. It was also learnt that the senators were angry that the party refused to appoint their numerous supporters to boards of parastatals and agencies.
“It is already two years that we took over the government, but our supporters are languishing in the states without appointments. Many of them are disillusioned as the government of our party continue to make do with piecemeal appointments,” a lawmaker at the session told New Telegraph. A senator from one of the North-East states told the APC national chairman that there was no basis for him to remain in office with the dwindling fortunes of the party.
“Many of us told Oyegun that he has failed to provide leadership for the party, which has been responsible for the exclusive nature of governance in the Buhari administration such that those that sacrificed for the party are being victimized and excluded in the government,” a source at the meeting told this newspaper.
A senator from the North-West told the party leadership that Saraki was being victimized because he told President Buhari that they would not accept a Muslim-Muslim ticket in the build up to the 2015 presidential election. “We told the party chairman to resign since he cannot call the executive to order,” a senator told New Telegraph. At the meeting, a senator reportedly told the APC NWC that many of the lawmakers are disap pointed in the party. The ranking senator said many of them will likely defect to other parties before 2019 if the ship of the party is not salvaged.
“We told the party leaders that many of the senators might leave APC before 2019 because of the rudderless leadership. A friend of mine told the national chairman that: ‘In 2019, do you think we will still be in APC? We are tired of the party. We don’t have a party for now’,” the source told our correspondent. A first term senator accused an appointee of President Buhari of funding protests against the Senate.
The powerful presidential aide was accused of declaring N3 million in his Code of Conduct Form shortly after his appointment, but now has over N10 billion in his accounts. “The appointment of some of the presidential aides was an indictment on the anti-corruption crusade of the Buhari administration,” a source told New Telegraph. “This much we told the party.” Majority of the senators said since Oyegun cannot talk to the president, the secretariat of the APC Caucus in the Senate should send the minutes of the meeting to the president.
“This is to show the seriousness of the issues we discussed. There is no reconciliation at all from the outcome of the meeting. We were frank that the party has failed us,” one of the senators told New Telegraph. Oyegun had led other members of the APC NWC to the Senate Caucus, in a move to end the current feud between the Executive and the Red Chamber.
This was as the New Telegraph also learnt that the party leadership failed to persuade the Senate to reverse or mitigate the sixmonth suspension placed on Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, for purportedly bringing the image of the chamber to disrepute.
It was reliably gathered that when the issue of Ndume was raised during the meeting, the Caucus told the party hierarchy that the matter was beyond the APC members alone to address because it was a collective decision of the apex chamber.
It was further learnt that the Caucus told the party leadership that if anything would be done about the matter, the entire Senate in plenary had to take the decision, which some senators had insisted that it would not be done. Oyegun, who spoke to journalists after a threehour closed-door session with the APC Senate Caucus, appealed to the warring parties to sheathe their swords in the interest of peace and national development.
Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, stressed that peaceful coexistence of all the arms of government depended on mutual respects for institutions by stakeholders of such institutions. Oyegun, however, commended the National Assembly for extending a level of cooperation to the executive arm in spite of the persistent acrimony between the two arms.
He noted that if the Executive and the Legislative reached a rapprochement, in a matter of weeks, the country would experience tremendous progress in terms of socio-economic development and tackling the basic needs of the citizenry. He said: “I want to take tribute to the National Assembly for the degree of cooperation that they have been extending to the executive in spite of seeming differences under the surface. “Secondly, I want to say that we have now completed our consultations with the National Assembly and we are going to move forward from now.
“One appeal I have to make that it is necessary for all underlined at all levels of government is to maintain some level of respect and civility to one an- other. My appeal is, as we start now the process of reconstructing relationships and consultations, there should be what I will call a ceasefire in terms of the kind of abuse that is used all round on one institution of government or the other, even principal parties of these institutions.
“Once that is done, I can assure you and assure the nation that in the next couple of weeks, we will have a new level of amity, cohesion, cooperation and mutual respect between the different arms of government and the party; the executive, the national assembly and the party.
“We have assurance that the budget is going on and is going on very well. I might as well say it and I should have said it when we were inside that the report I get, or the briefing I get from the Minister of Budget is that the National Assembly has been very, very cooperative in the interactions between both his ministry and also between the different ministries and the National Assembly.”
However, also speaking to journalists at the end of the meeting, the President the Senate insisted that harmony, as being canvassed by the party leadership, could only be attained when players in the different arms mutually respect the institutions of government. Saraki also pointed out that regular consultations between the legislature and the party was very crucial to facilitating peace and harmony in the polity. His words: “First of all, let me thank the chairman and NWC for coming and it’s a good development because we are all part of one umbrella as a party.
And whether there are issues or not, regular consultations between the legislative arm of government and the party is important.” Saraki further said that there were more fundamental issues to the people which should attract the attention of the lawmakers more than what was currently being discussed in the country. According to him, questions about Ndume’s suspension, non-confirmation of Ibrahim Magu and other issues bordering on persons were distractions to the Senate, which should focus more on tackling worrisome economic problems.
“As I said yesterday, some of these issues that we have, I believe that more fundamental issues are important to our people; issue of budget. Despite all the noise you heard last week, we still passed an amendment to the INEC law that had been there for over six or seven years. “By this time next week, our Committee on Petroleum will lay the PIB which has never been done.
We are focused on the major issues and we are not going to be distracted with other issues not so important. And we are still going to do our work. “It’s unfortunate, but the most important thing is that a lot of stakeholders must respect these institutions.
These institutions are there now, and they are going to be there after and we should not allow our selfish interest to enable us to try and ridicule the institutions. The institution is what we have and we must ensure that we respect that. “But for us in the Senate, we are focused. We will continue to do the work.
Today, we are talking about meningitis, looking at how we are going to find funding for that. So, none of these issues is distracting us from that. And I think we’ve shown that over the last few weeks.” When a question on Ndume’s suspension was raised, Saraki said: “Your question again is distracting from the issues. You have 108 senators here. And you have the National Chairman. Let us focus on national issues.”