Two All Progressives Congress (APC) national assembly legislators were interviewed on Channels TV yesterday.
First up was Femi Gbajabiamila, from Lagos State, who was the party’s chosen candidate for Speaker of the House of Representatives. Gbajabiamila, was quite articulate, as you would expect of a US-trained attorney, and he alternated between a combative and reconciliatory tone.
He said the election for Speaker was conducted in the right way, but that it was wrong and terrible for party discipline for some people to decide to “let personal ambition override the party”. He spoke about the legitimacy of the “primary” that meant he was the ruling APC’s chosen candidate for the position of Speaker.
The party line was ignored, with Yakubu Dogara allegedly conniving with the minority Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) legislators and a handful of APC colleagues that went against the party whip to defeat Gbajabiamila.
Although Gbajabiamila accepted the result, he was quite bitter about how party loyalty was undermined. He said the devious behavior was the handiwork of two top and “high level” APC people, fuelled by “personal ambition”. He argued that ambition was not such a bad thing, but it should not be at risk to party unity. He didn’t mention who the two top people were. It is very likely that former vice president Abubakar Atiku was part of the Devious Duo.
The next interviewee was senator Dino Melaye of the APC and Kogi State, who was one of the few APC senators that backed Bukola Saraki for senate president. Melaye claimed that there was no constitutional infringement in the election of Saraki, and the required quorum was in place for the election to hold. He said that the only election recognised by the constitution for the position of senate president was one held in the floor of the senate. So the “mock election” held by the APC that saw Ahmed Lawan emerge as the party’s senate president choice was not valid.
He claimed that the Saraki faction of APC senators did not attend the reconciliation meeting called at the International Conference Centre (ICC) with the other APC legislators because they had gone to an earlier meeting and no one showed up. The APC legislators were allegedly invited by the president for this meeting and while many of them were there, an election was held in the floor of the senate and Saraki was elected president alongside Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP as his deputy.
Melaye denied that there was a deal between Saraki and the PDP to facilitate Ekweremadu’s victory and pointed at the fact that their faction of the APC presented a candidate for deputy senate president to challenge Ekweremadu, and that the PDP man won because the numbers of APC senators present were low – as many were at the meeting at the ICC.
Gbajabiamila then claimed that the election denied APC members the right to vote in the senate president. He said that this will be challenged in court. He said that the election of Ekweremadu as deputy senate president was not the “change” that Nigerians voted for. And that they didn’t want the PDP back through the back door.
He acknowledged that the party has had “so much problems too early” in its term. But said that the problems “will make the party stronger”.
Many observers see these problems as a “power show” between Atiku and the former Lagos State governor Bola Tinubu, with Atiku’s eyes on the APC presidential nomination in 2019. It remains to be seen whether their ambition would “make the party stronger” or destroy it. A long litigation battle over the senate presidency will surely not help.