By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
LAGOS—The Senate leadership has perfected plans to rebuff attempts by the All Progressives Congress, APC, to shut down government by stalling the appointment of seven of the 12 ministerial nominees recently submitted to it.
The Senate leadership in a show of strength, Vanguard learnt last night, was determined to set aside a Senate convention that the APC senators were planning to adopt to stall the confirmation of the targeted nominees in continuation of the party’s protest of alleged reign of impunity in Rivers State.
Seven of the 12 ministerial nominees had been targeted for the APC offensive at the Senate screening that is to commence tomorrow.
The rebuff by the Senate leadership follows the equally strong snub of the APC plan to stop consideration and passage of the 2014 budget. The Senate is set to forward the budget to its committee on supply for defence before Senate committees by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs of the Federal Government.
Meanwhile, a meeting between the Senate President, Senator David Mark, and 11 senators who last week served him with a letter of their defection from the PDP to the APC was yet to hold at press time yesterday. Senator Mark, according to sources, waited in vain for the senators in his office but none of the 11 senators turned up.
The seven targets of the APC offensive were General Aliyu Gusau (rtd) from Zamfara State; Senator Musiliu Obanikoro (Lagos); Boni Haruna (Adamawa), Hon. Mohammed Wakil (Borno), Abdul Oyewale (Osun), Tamuno Dangogo (Rivers) and Dr. Khaliru Alhassan (Sokoto).
The APC had at the end of a National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting penultimate Thursday asked its members in the National Assembly to frustrate the passage of executive bills including the 2014 budget and the confirmation of executive appointments.
The plan to stop Obanikoro, others
The seven nominees from states controlled by the APC, it was learnt, were to have their nominations derailed through the application of the Senate rule that gives latitude to senators from a state to approve any nomination from their home states.
Senator Obanikoro, it was learnt, had been especially targeted by the three APC senators from Lagos State who it was learnt had planned to openly reject him. Senator Obanikoro was a member of the Alliance for Democracy, AD and a strong ally of the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu until he defected to the PDP in 2005 while serving in the Senate.
Besides the seven, there were also fears that the APC was also tapping into sentiments among senators of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to also derail the nominations of the two female ministerial nominees from Niger and Kaduna states. The two women were nominated by governors presently in political conflict with their PDP senators. Asabe Asamu Ahmed, presently Special Adviser to the Governor of Niger State was nominated by Governor Babangida Aliyu who is pitched in battle with Senator Dahiru Kuta over the 2015 Niger East senatorial contest.
Senator Ahmed Makarfi (PDP Kaduna North) is also believed to be enstranged from Vice-President Namadi Sambo who is believed to have forwarded Mrs. Laurentia Mallam as the ministerial nominee for Kaduna State.
At press time, it could not be confirmed if the two senators would be joining the APC plans to oppose the two nominees from PDP controlled states.
Under the Senate convention, at least two of the three senators from a state should give approval to any nominee sent to the Senate for confirmation by the president.
Ahead of the confirmation hearing beginning tomorrow, a very senior senator, privy to the discussions at the Senate leadership meeting, yesterday told Vanguard that the convention was going to be set aside.
“We are not going to uphold that convention and if there is any person who is not qualified for any reason, we will deal with that. But if any person is qualified, we will not get involved in their local politics,” one senator within the leadership told Vanguard yesterday.
“We are going to deal with it as statesmen,” the senator confided on the condition of anonymity.
Defecting PDP senators shun Mark
Meanwhile, the 11 senators who changed from the PDP to the APC, yesterday, boycotted the scheduled meeting with Senator Mark. The meeting had been proposed by the Senate President to sort out issues arising from the refusal of the Senate presiding officer to read out the letter of defection submitted by the 11 senators.
But investigations revealed that Mark waited for the 11 Senators in his office for over four hours, yesterday, but none of them showed up for the meeting.
It was further gathered that the leader of the defecting Senators and former governor of Kwara State, Senator Bukola Saraki who was said to have travelled to Kwara State was still being expected at press time, yesterday.
A principal officer who spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonymity on the aborted meeting said “they (11 Senators) complained they were not given any specific time and that Senator Saraki travelled to Kwara State.”
He said that the meeting was shifted to the Senate President’s residence in the evening and that Senator Mark was ever willing to meet with the senators anytime they are ready.
But one of the 11 Senators told Vanguard that they could not attend the meeting because there was no formal communication to them that they were meeting with the Senate President.
Reminded that the Senate President waited for them in his office from 10am to 2pm, yesterday, the Senator said: “If the Senate President calls us, we are to wait for him and not for him to wait for us.
“He is our leader, and because of the mutual respect we Senators have for one another, no Senator will invite another Senator without the Senator honouring the invitation.
“Some of us who are his juniors look at him as our elder brother. But why are you journalists so much interested in defection, why are you not worried about the national conference, why are you not worried about insecurity in the country, about impunity going on in Rivers State?”
He further said: “You are aware that 11 of us signed a letter, whether they read the letter or not on the floor, it makes no difference, it is not a big deal. Even if he reads the letter are we going to form another chamber?
“We are all together as a family in the Senate”.