Senators and House of Representatives members, yesterday, were expected to return to legislative duty from a two-month vacation. The annual recess began July 24. However, the resumption was postponed for 24 hours, forced by the death of a member of the House, Princess Funke Adeddoyin, a fortnight ago. The National Assembly, therefore, will reopen officially this morning, Wednesday.
Before the recess, three major dramas happened that provided the canvass or background for today’s reopening. Firstly, thugs entered the Senate during plenary and made away with the mace, the symbol of its authority. They beat the tight security cordon. Secondly, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the president of the Senate, and Mr. Yakubu Dogara, the speaker of the House, led a rebellion in parliament against their party, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC). The rebellion led to some APC senators and representatives exiting the party to join the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Saraki himself followed suit on July 31. Thirdly, shortly afterwards, an overzealous security chief ordered a blockade of the National Assembly the day the lawmakers were to cut short their recess to return to consider President Muhammadu Buhari’s supplementary budget of N143 billion for INE for the 2019 national elections.
This is the thick political cloud under which the lawmakers are returning to work today. Buhari’s parliamentary liaison spokesman, senator Ita Enang, however, said Monday he expected the senators and reps to settle down quickly to consider the President’s supplementary INEC budget and his request for parliamentary approval to borrow to fund the 2018 federal budget of N9 trillion as well as amendments to the electoral law that deal with the order of next year’s polls. “We are appealing to them (lawmakers) to, please, consider this budget expeditiously and pass it so that the nation’s electoral process can move forward”, said Enang. The polls hold Feb. 13, next year.
However, it is doubtful the Presidency will get its wish. Buhari’s agenda for NASS is very likely to be overshadowed by the bickering over the untenable positions of Saraki and Dogara as president and speaker of the Senate and House respectively after their defection to the opposition. The APC senators’ caucus is bent on removing Saraki if he won’t quit on moral grounds. They are backed by the party’s outspoken national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate past governor of Edo state. However, it is clear Saraki won’t go easily, believing he has so sufficiently eroded the big APC majority in the Senate that his impeachment is out of the question. The nation should, therefore, brace itself for a titanic battle for control of the leadership of not only the Senate but the entire National Assembly. Should this happen, as it is certain to, the 2019 elections will receive a terrible knock.
The implications of a cancellation or even much less a postponement of the elections for the future of our democracy are too dire to contemplate. This is why we, at Peoples Daily, appeal to APC and its senators to tamper their hawkish stand against Saraki and Dogara and allow them to sit out the lifespan of the current National Assembly in the nation’s overall interest. In all probability, Saraki, who has just lost his bid for PDP’s presidential nomination, will not return to the Senate next June. And if he does, a comfortable APC majority can remove him from his current position. We also urge Buhari to prevail on the APC apparatchiks and senators to drop the impeachment threat against Saraki and face the task at hand, which is to make sure the elections next go ahead.