•As Kalu leads 22 aggrieved senators to president
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, ABUJA
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari yesterday joined the efforts to save the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, from losing its majority hold on the National Assembly by meeting with some aggrieved senators at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
There were fears, following the outcome of the ruling party’s primaries for National Assembly seats, in which many of the incumbent representatives and senators lost out, that an exodus was imminent in the party.
The fears grew as seven APC senators defected to opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the New Nigeria People’s Party, NNPP, with information that 18 more senators may be firming up plans to dump the party.
To save the imminent crash of the party’s control of the National Assembly, National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, last Wednesday, rallied some members of the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party, including National Secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore, to a meeting with members of the Senate APC caucus.
The aggrieved senators had pledged to defect from the party over the outcome of primaries in their states, ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Leader of the delegation and Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu, said the lawmakers felt disenfranchised by the process.
However, President Buhari at the meeting, assured that the leadership of the party would sustain the hearing and healing process to ensure fairness, justice and oneness before the 2023 general elections.
The President in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, noted that complaints were received from some members, and that machinery had been put in place by the National Working Committee, NWC, to address their various concerns.
He said: “In keeping with our ethos, therefore, I shall continue to address the ensuing challenges and grievances through the party machinery, while paying keen attention to the outcomes.
“I must also remind you of the primacy of justice in all our actions. If justice is denied, the outcome is usually unpleasant.
“This is because you are the members who keep the party running. I should add that as part of the policy of using the party machinery for effective resolution of conflict, the chairman and some members of the National Working Committee visited the National Assembly recently to dialogue with our legislators.
“The leadership of the party is currently addressing the outcomes as part of the way forward. I am encouraging all the party functionaries to adhere to the truth and to be fair to all parties in any dispute.”
President Buhari told the APC senators that the strength and victory of the party in the election would depend on unity of members and ability to prevent injustices or heal them, perceived or real.
As the leader of the party, one of my primary roles is to ensure that our culture of internal democracy and dispute resolution is strengthened by creating the opportunity for members to ventilate their opinions, views and grievances at different levels.
“Notwithstanding the fact that we have accomplished 23 years of uninterrupted democratic governance, our journey is still in a nascent stage and we continue to learn from our challenges and mistakes.
”Similarly, our party is still evolving in its culture and practices and it is my expectation and hope that we shall attain a mature level in our internal conduct,” Buhari said.
He urged party members to exercise restraint and continue to demonstrate commitment to the ideals of the party, while the leadership continues to build and develop APC and the country.
The President said: “I have noted your grievances, particularly as it concerns the just concluded processes, the cost to the nation, the threat to the majority position held by our party in the legislative chambers and likely consequent cost to the electoral fortunes of our party as we approach the general elections.
”We must not allow these dire threats to come to pass. I must acknowledge that in every contest, there must be a level playing ground, just as there would be grievances at the end. That is the test of our democratic credentials, systems and practices.
”I have since the conclusion of the processes been inundated with various reports and complaints.”
The President assured that “justice shall prevail, aggrieved members shall be assuaged and the interest of the party and the nation shall be protected.’’
He thanked the senators for suggesting a meeting on the issues, which include the future of the party and pursuit of solutions to the challenges thrown up by the recent election-related activities, particularly, the primaries.
In his remarks, leader of the delegation and Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Kalu, said at least 22 senators and members of the party were unhappy with the outcome of the primaries in their states, noting that they felt disenfranchised by the process.
He said the legislators had made sacrifices for the growth of the party and democracy in the country, asking for the President’s kind intervention.
“Mr President, in the Senate, we have worked hard and consistently sold your programmes beyond party lines. Be assured always of our support,” he added.
After the meeting, Kalu said the aggrieved senators would no longer pursue defection from the APC.
“Earlier this afternoon, I led the 22 aggrieved Senators and members of the All Progressive Congress to President Muhammad Buhari.
“Our meeting with Mr President was successful and the issue of decamping from our party has been laid to rest,” Kalu, the Chief Whip of the ninth Senate, said in a statement.