Senate: The Marafa challenge

By Zacheaus Adebayo

8th Senate since its inauguration on 9th June 2015 is to state the obvious. That is why it is difficult to truly appreciate the Senator Kabiru Marafa challenge  in Senate without a brief recap of some critical events.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) made history when it won the 2015 presidential election and the majority in the National Assembly. Unfortunately, the party was unable to come up with a clear-cut power-sharing formula before or immediately after the elections. Party leaders, including the party’s former Interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, discountenanced initial media reports on the sharing of offices at the National Assembly.

According to Akande, “Zoning is not part of APC. It is a PDP arrangement and we will not practice it. It is true that sometime after the election, the National Chairman Chief John Oyegun wanted to toy with the idea of zoning. But as a united party, we unanimously said, ‘No’.”

The closest APC came to setting the tone was the kangaroo mock elections that was obviously geared towards producing Senator Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila as preferred choices for the offices of the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives. It was not surprising that pro-Hon. Yakubu Dogara forces walked out on the party, while Saraki and his supporters boycotted it entirely.  This automatically left the positions open for grabs

Worse still, the arrangement that wanted to enthrone Senator Lawan (North East, former ANPP) as Senate President, Senator George Akume (North Central, former ACN) as his Deputy, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (South West, Former ACN) as Speaker, and Hon. Monguno (North East, former ANPP) as his Deputy did not go down well with those who joined the APC from PDP.

The same way the move to install northern Senate President and Deputy Senate President was resented by the South-East and South-South, which boasted of 37 out of the 49 PDP Senators. Lawan’s perceived ethno-religious irredentist tendencies did not also help matters.

It was in the milieu of this absence of zoning/sharing formula, perceived injustice, and fear of external imposition that the APC went into the battle for control of the National Assembly divided. PDP took advantage of the confusion by endorsing Saraki and Dogara en bloc on the eve of the inauguration of the National Assembly.  

To mitigate the impending doom, the APC National Assembly members-elect were summoned to a meeting, supposedly by President Mohammadu Buhari, at the International Conference Centre the same morning a set aside for the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly. while the President none for keeping to time did not show up for a meeting billed by 9am, the inauguration of the Senate was commenced according to the directives in the Presidential Proclamation at 10am. Senator Saraki was elected unopposed, while Senator Ike Ekweremadu (PDP) was elected the Deputy, polling 52 votes as against 20 votes polled by the APC’s Senator Ali Ndume.

Although APC leaders want the nation to believe that this was possible because the inauguration took place in the absence of some of its members who were at the International Conference Centre, the truth is that the battle was lost and won once the PDP endorsed Saraki and Dogara en bloc. Dogara’s election despite the full compliments of the APC in the House says it all. The APC snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by refusing to zone its offices in a clear and just manner. The rest is history.

But rather than let everything be history, learn from it and move forward, some entrenched interests within the ruling party have vowed to make the Senate ungovernable so long as they were unable to install their preferred candidates. The Senate Unity Forum, a body of pro-APC leaders Senators, are the willing tools.

First, they claimed that the Standing Rules that was used to inaugurate the 8th Senate and elect Saraki and Ekweremadu were forged. They petitioned the Inspector-General of Police. They filed a suit before the Federal High Court seeking the nullification of the election of Saraki and Ekweremadu as presiding officers. Not done, they filed another suit before the Federal High Court alleging forgery of the Senate Standing Rule 2015.

Ironically, they not only submitted themselves to be sworn in before the same Saraki and Ekweremadu whose emergence they are contesting in court, they have continued to be members of the 8th Senate supposedly inaugurated on the strength of a forged Standing Rules. They even accepted appointments into Committees empanelled and inaugurated by Saraki/Ekweremadu leadership.

In particular, the spokesman of the Forum, Senator Kabiru Marafa, has continued to cause trouble  in the senate.  For instance, at the meeting of the APC Caucus in the Senate on June 23, 2015, Marafa’s Senate Unity Forum, Senator Tayo Alasoadura (APC, Ondo Central) got a shock of his life when he involved himself in an argument with Senator Marafa over who (between the party or the Senators themselves) reserved the right to appoint the principal officers.

Angered by Tayo’s point on abiding by long-standing convention, Marafa violently confronted Alasoadura with a push, which almost landed him on the floor. Senators quickly intervened to rescue the 65 year old Alasoadura from further assault.

Also recall that in November 2015, Marafa rushed to the Senate Press Centre where he said unprintable things about the Senate leadership because he was ruled out of order on the issue of the composition of Senate Committees. Ironically, the same Order he said was forged. Senator Mallam Ali Wakili trailed him to warning: “You have come here to disgrace the Senate again. Is this what you want to do for the next four years? You cannot sit down there and fight against the Senate. That is not what your Constituency sent you here to do”.

On the day the Senate resumed (30th September 2015) from recess, 83 out of the 109 Senators moved and passed a Vote of Confidence on Saraki, Ekweremadu and the rest of the Senate, leadership.

On November 15, 2015, Marafa raised issues over the composition of the Senate Committees, pressing a Point of Order that the Committees ought to have been approved by the entire Senate. As he continued to shout angery, Saraki asked him to read Order 53(6), which states that “It shall be out of order to attempt to reconsider any specific question upon which the Senate has come to a conclusion during the current session except upon a substantive motion for rescission.”

   But that didn’t stop Marafa from shouting and swearing.  When Senator Isah Hamman Misau (APC, Bauchi Central) cautioned him against disobeying the ruling of the Senate President, he refused. He reportedly  removed his babaringa and went after Misau, threatening to deal with him, but was prevented by a number of Senators who shielded Senator Missau. He stormed out of the Senate.

    However, what seemed to be Marafa’s undoing now is his taking advantage of former President,  Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter accusing the National Assembly of corruption to say unprintable things about the Senate in particular. Senator Missau raised Marafa’s media interview before the Senate, complaining that his privileges had been breached and the esteem of the Senate lowered by Marafa. The Senate referred the matter to the Committee on Ethics and Privileges.

•Adebayo writes from Ibadan

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