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Saraki is no Oba : 55 Senators can force the doors open

Saraki

By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo

The APC  has come  alive. It barks endlessly these days. That is some  consolation for many of its disillusioned supporters.  They can begin to hope again. That  this enthusiasm and energy would yield a strong party  with  firm democratic traditions.

Saraki

Time will tell if the party can bite, and chew and grow.  Time will also tell if it can infuse the government with sense of party politics. The APC must, whenever it finds the opportunity, defend the principles of democracy vigorously. And an opportunity has presented.

The APC claims 57 senators. So why does it wait for Saraki and Ekweremmadu to reconvene the Senate. There is an urgent reason for reconvening the Senate. The Independent National Electoral  commission (INEC) needs funds  for an imminent  major democratic assignment. It doesn’t matter that the executive may have been less than diligent and didn’t make the request for appropriation in time.  The party cannot fold its hands and moan helplessness. The law is, after all, not such an ass.

The law in any situation lies somewhere between the letters, the spirit and  the underpinning  legal philosophy  of relevant statutes, case law and political morality. Those who drafted the constitution had objectives. Their intentions and overall interest of the country become especially important when a literal interpretation of the law doesn’t cure a grave  unforeseen malady.

Imagine that Saraki retains his current  position. And elopes to Gambia with Ekweremmadu in tow. The drafters of the constitution could not have anticipated that level of  self centredness and cynicism. They couldn’t have therefore  allocated the power to reconvene the Senate to  only its presiding officer to bestow ‘Obaship’ on them.

The Senate  cannot foreseeably  wait until Saraki and his comrade return  from their anxiety neurosis  and decide to reconvene the Senate.  What if Saraki and Ekweremmadu choose an extended holiday in Seychelles rather than pay attention to national issues of urgent importance.  It couldn’t have been  the intention of the drafters of the constitution to hand over to  a Saraki and an Ekweremmad the balls of the Senate and  of the nation.  It couldn’t have been.

The constitution  is clear about the status of the presiding officers.  Saraki is a mere  first amongst equals. He can only break ties. His votes  in any senate resolutions have same weight as those  of any  individual senator. Any exclusive rights  extended to him by the constitution  must be to serve order and co ordination and not to make him a super senator. Therefore, such a right should never be construed as capable of   defeating  the wishes of the  majority of senators at any time. No such rights and privileges accruing to the presiding officers  must be read  to make fellow senators their inferiors,  subjects or  houseboys.

A sufficient number of senators acting in unison  with an equivalent number of members of the  House of Representatives can cause a political earthquake at the centre. They can bring down the  presidency. If 73 senators can breach the sacred  wall that separates the executive and legislature and set the executive asunder then it can smash open any  locked doors of the of the national assembly. A holistic reading of the constitution then  must mean that a sufficient number of senators can easily override the Senate president on any single decision.

But what could the actual  deciding  numerical  threshold be?

Seventy three senators are needed to remove Saraki. That is my reading of the constitution.  I think that  that constitutional requirement  is stiff considering that less than half of the number can make a senate president. But it could have been so couched to enthrone stability and discourage frivolity.  But let’s leave that aside. Let’s concede that the number for removal is 73. 73  can remove him even if he  decides to run into a cave in  Timbuktu to avoid an impeachment. If 73 have to wait for him to reconvene the Senate once he declares a recess, then an unscrupulous senate president and his deputy can stave off impeachment indefinitely by refusing to reconvene a state they have thrown into an abrupt recess. That cannot be the right reading of the constitution.

In a regular plenary, a  majority of senators always speaks for the Senate. The majority  has its way regardless of how the senate president feels. If that is the case then a majority of the whole house must be able to override Saraki and recall the Senate. Fifty seven senators acting in unison can reconvene the Senate without Saraki and Ekweremmadu’s co operation. A majority of the whole house would make the need for every single senator’s presence  irrelevant. It is an unassailable majority. It must be the intention of the drafters of the constitution that a majority of the members, 55 senators, can  override the intransigence of a  Saraki and Ekweremadu, and the insouciance of other holidaying senators and reconvene the Senate.

If the APC can muster the support of all of its senators then they should forward a signed resolution to the Senate president and the clerk. If the Senate president fails to recognize the resolution as binding because he prefers the beach  then the majority should have its way and throw open the doors of the chambers. By so doing the party would be deepening our practice of democracy. Saraki and the members of the opposition would be welcome to challenge the action not by calling on the European Union to revoke visas but by approaching our courts for judicial interpretation of the relevant statutes and a review of that action.

It is my submission that no judge would preserve the Obaship of Saraki over the majority of senators.

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