The thought of President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu sitting to eat in the same room with Senators Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu would have been considered foolhardy not too long ago. But in politics nothing is permanent as the men demonstrated on Wednesday night
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
As Senator Bukola Saraki finished introducing the about 90 senators that came with him for the historic dinner with President Muhammadu Buhari last Wednesday, the president and all those present could not but clap in awe of the Senate President’s cognitive capacity.
Senator Saraki had introduced each senator by name and constituency and when he finished all the senators and the guests, including Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu looked up in admiration of the prowess of the Senate President. Indeed, the president stood up to shake Saraki on his feat.
It was long in coming, but on Wednesday night President Buhari and his associates in the All Progressives Congress, APC finally made peace with the Senate and the leadership that emerged against their will.
As if hunted by the spectre of instability, the peace meeting almost did not hold.
On Wednesday morning, Senator Saraki was away from Senate proceedings for the second time, leaving Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the deputy president of the Senate, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP to preside for the second time since his emergence as the deputy presiding officer on June 9.
Ekweremadu had called for an executive session as it is called to deliberate on a letter supposedly from President Buhari requesting the attendance of the senators to a private dinner with him.
However, the letter was not signed by the president but by Alhaji Abba Kyari, the chief of staff to the president. Some senators had observed that it was a breach of protocol.
Nigerian senators addressed as Distinguished Senators, are wont to protect the protocol that executive communication to the Senate can only come from the president and not from his subordinates. But the senators also desperately looking for accommodation with the president overlooked that slip and resolved to attend the dinner. They also overlooked the fact that the letter reached them only on the morning of the dinner.
Saraki meanwhile was away representing Buhari that morning at the burial of Mama Hannah Awolowo in Ikenne. It was not the first time that Saraki in recent times had represented the president on state functions.
The assignment to Ikenne was also reflective of the thawing of the icy relationship between the Senate leadership on one side and the presidency and the APC leadership on the other side.
Remarkably, as the dinner commenced on Wednesday, Saraki drew attention to his earlier assignment for the president at Ikenne.
“Thank you for the opportunity to represent you earlier today I want to apologise for leaving early,” Saraki said in reference to the fact that he departed Ikenne not long after the president arrived. Throwing in a teaser, Saraki said that after Buhari arrived the Awolowos that there couldn’t have been two chairmen and so he had to leave, forcing President Buhari and all those seated at the dinner to laugh!
The president had in his opening remarks on Wednesday appreciated the senators for the expedited action they took in screening and confirming his ministerial nominees and he subsequently urged the senators to handle similar issues of national importance with equal despatch.
“We are enjoying tremendous goodwill outside this country. Whatever we do, let us have it in mind that people have confidence in this government,” the President said.
Following him, Senator Saraki responding on behalf of all senators thanked the president for the gesture and promised to treat all proposals from the president with dispatch in consideration of the collective interest of the polity.
“Petrol does not know APC or PDP. We will always work hard in the interest of the country in everything we do,” Saraki said.
The thought of such conviviality between onetime avowed political opponents may have been dismissed just few weeks ago.
Saraki had against the desire of the power brokers in the APC achieved his aim of becoming Senate President but doing so in collaboration with the PDP, a party that the APC power brokers had so much despised.
Even worse, as a bargain, Senator Ekweremadu, of the PDP had become the Deputy President of the Senate.
Furthermore, Saraki had gone ahead to announce the other APC principal officers of the Senate as they emerged from the different caucuses, and that too, against the desire of the APC power brokers. It was as such not surprising that President Buhari had overlooked the past tradition of immediately receiving National Assembly leaders after the inauguration of the National Assembly.
That it took the president six months to do the necessary is reflective of the hurt he may have felt.
But that he has moved on to put the interest of the nation above his own political desire is reflective of his own genuine intentions for the country.
It was even important that Senator Tinubu, the APC leader was at the dinner, the first time he would have shared food with Saraki in a long, long while.
For the PDP senators and APC senators associated with Senator Saraki, the dinner could open a new vista in their legislative affairs.
With the door firmly locked against the demons that had in the past troubled the relationship between the two arms of government, the PDP senators now only have the spectre of the assassination attempt against their man, Ekweremadu as an issue.
When that is finally dealt with, it could indeed be a whole new world!