Friday, June 14, 2019 3:49 pm
Compared to what happened in 2015, the election into the leadership of the current Senate went smoothly. As this platform reported earlier, Senators Ahmed Lawan of Yobe North and Ovie Omo-Agege of Delta Central, were elected as Senate and Deputy Senate President respectively. At the end of the roll-call of Senators during inauguration, 107 out of the 109 senators-elect were present at the chamber. At the close of voting, Lawan who was unanimously adopted by the APC, polled 79 votes to defeat his rival, Senator Ali Ndume of Borno South, who polled with 28 votes. Ndume had defiantly contested for the position against the decision of the leadership of the APC. In the Deputy Senate President contest, Senator Omo-Agege polled 68 votes to defeat ambitious senator Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP, who scored 37.
Read the full story of this year’s election into National Assembly leadership here: https://www.thenewsnigeria.com.ng/2019/06/unlike-at-the-past-apc-takes-total-control-of-the-9th-national-assembly/
Suffice it to state that this year’s contest was without intrigues. It was quite unlike what happened in 2015 when Bukola Saraki adopted subterfuge to become Senate President. We reproduce the story bellow, published in TheNEWS hard copy of the 22 June 2015 edition. It is entitled:
Saraki’s Bloodless ‘Coup’,
Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress gasps as Senator Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara outwitted it as they seize the leadership of National Assembly in a lightning, bloodless ‘coup’
BY AYORINDE OLUOKUN/ABUJA
Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki takeover of the leadership of the eighth session of the Nigerian Senate against the wishes of his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, last Tuesday was not lacking in treachery. It was also replete with the element of surprise, which in military terms would qualify for a blitzkrieg. Indeed, the completely stunned leadership of APC in a statement released few hours after the amazingly speedy way the new Senate President emerged dubbed it the highest “level of treachery, disloyalty and insincerity within any party.”
But how did it happen that APC leaders were caught napping? Didn’t they envisage the game plan, the maneuverings of the former Governor of Kwara State?
The fact was that the leadership of the APC was outsmarted by one of its own in a manner that will qualify as one of the most audacious in Nigerian political history. The success of the June 9 Bloodless Coup by Saraki had literarily left APC with eggs on its face with the new ruling party, becoming an object of crude jokes by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP whose members contributed in no small measure to the big political upset.
But the bigger challenge for the National Working Committee of APC, as became evident last week, will be how to bring Saraki and his group into line in the days ahead as the party and some of its leading members are speaking in discordant tones over the issue. In the statement, which was signed by its spokesperson, Lai Mohammed, the APC had emphasized that Senator Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara who was also elected as the Speaker of the House of Representatives were neither its preferred candidates nor that of the majority of its National Assembly members-elect for the positions of Senate President and House Speaker. Virtually dripping with rage, the party had vowed “to mete out the necessary sanctions to all those involved in what is nothing but a monumental act of indiscipline and betrayal to subject the party to ridicule and create obstacles for the new administration.”
In addition, APC also said it will use all constitutional and legal means available to it to reverse the situation. It was gathered last week that the party might consider the option of going to court.
However, there were indications that some of the leaders of APC are trying to invoke Article 9.1, Sub-Section 2 of the party’s constitution which deals with the Rules and Obligations of members to the party against the two rebellious members. The section of the APC Constitution recommends punishments ranging from reprimand, censure, fine, debarment from holding party office, suspension or expulsion for members who refuse to comply with the party’s aims and objectives, conduct themselves in a manner that shall bring the party to public odium and disrepute or refuse to observe the rules and regulations of the party.
This, it was learnt may lead to suspension or outright expulsion of the two leaders of the National Assembly from APC. Such drastic action apart from its potential to boomerang and cause further damage to the party may not receive support of other key members outside of the NWC. And one of those that may not likely support such drastic move is the number one member of the party, President Muhammadu Buhari.
The President had in his immediate reaction to the emergence of the two National Assembly leaders noted that while he would have wished that those chosen by the party were the ones elected, he did not have any preferred candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives leadership. The President who noted that a constitutional process has ‘somewhat occurred’ with the emergence of Saraki and Dogara added that he was willing to work with whoever the lawmakers chose as their leaders. He further noted that “the stability of our constitutional order and overall interest of the common man “ were uppermost on his mind, “as far as the National Assembly elections were concerned.”
While expressing the same sentiments, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a former presidential aspirant on the platform of APC and member Board of Trustees congratulated the newly elected leaders of the National Assembly while arguing that with the election of its presiding officers, the 8th National Assembly has prepared the ground work for a full legislative business. He argued that irrespective of the political mix through which the presiding officers emerged, he noted, the 8th National Assembly should never lose focus of its role as a partner in progress with the other arms of government, especially the executive arm. In the same vein, Aminu Tambuwal, the Governor of Sokoto State, has also congratulated Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon Yakubu Dogara over their elections as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.
Tambuwal, who emerged as Speaker of the House of Representatives through a similar rebellion and collusion with the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, against his former party, the PDP even hailed the process leading to the election of the leaders. He said it affirmed that democracy has come of age in Nigeria and that the doctrine of the independence of the legislature is gradually taking firm root. He also expressed confidence in the ability of Saraki and Dogara, saying their various experiences will steady the ship and allow the new APC-led Federal Government, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, to deliver on its electoral promises to all Nigerians.
Ghali Umar Na’Abba, another former Speaker of the House even described the emergence of Yakubu Dogara as Speaker of the House as revolutionary. Na’ Abba who defected from PDP to APC a few weeks before the 2015 general elections, who was on a visit to the new Speaker, alongside other former principal officers of the House last Wednesday added that the revolution was executed by members of APC and PDP. The former speaker posited that any party that wants to manipulate the autonomy of the legislature would be disappointed:
“In spite of the candidates preferred by the APC, the legislators chose who they wanted to lead them. The event that played out on Tuesday which led to Dogara’s emergence as Speaker, reminded me of the case of Aminu Tambuwal in 2011. Then, it was against the PDP but now it is against the APC.” Na’Abba further counseled APC should do its best to accept what has happened and also work with the National Assembly.
With the endorsement by President Buhari and some APC leaders of what has been condemned by the NWC of APC, the confusion that will ensue is better imagined than experienced if the party decided to call a meeting to decide the course of action against Saraki and Dogara.
However, still smarting from the way they were outwitted in the race for the National Assembly leadership, members of the Unity Forum, the group of APC Senators supporting Ahmed Lawan, the preferred choice of the ruling party for the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives were preparing to institute legal action to reverse the process as at the time of writing this story last week.
The legal challenge, especially against the election of Saraki, it was gathered, will be predicated on the ground that the Senate was not “properly constituted” for the election of its principal officers as at the time of its emergence. Lawan’s lawyers, it was learnt, will argue that if two-thirds of members of the Senate can remove a Senate President or deputy, two-thirds of members must also be present for the election of the same officers. Kabiru Marafa, a member of the group had last Wednesday, the first day of the plenary of the new session of the Senate presided over by Saraki raised a point of order to protest the manner of emergence of the new Senate President. “The news was that the Senate was inaugurated with 57 senators while 51 senators- elect were absent,” Marafa said while demanding a full investigation into the issue. He spoke after he, Lawan and 26 other Senators that were absent during the election of Saraki on Tuesday were sworn in. But his point of order was over ruled by Saraki. The 28 dissenting Senators thereafter walked out of the session to address a press conference where they made their intention of going to court over the issue known.
Senator Barnabas Gemade, who spoke for the group told journalists that 51 APC senators did not take part in the election of Saraki because they were at the International Conference Centre in Abuja for a scheduled meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari. Gemade, who described the election as illegality, said his group will challenge the emergence of Saraki in court “since it takes two-third of members to impeach the Senate President, two third of the members should also, have been in attendance before he(Saraki) was elected on Tuesday.” He therefore insisted that the election of Saraki was null and void because a quorum which should be two-third of the senators present was not formed. “53 senators were out and the remaining 56 were not enough to elect the President of the Senate. That is a clear position that we take. We are not considering the attendance of that day to connote the quorum in the Senate because many Senators came there after the event was done.”
While arguing that the right of all Senators to participate in the election of the Senate President is a constitutional right which cannot be taken by any person or group of persons, the Benue Senator accused the Clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, of complicity in the coup that resulted in the election of former Kwara State Governor as the Senate President. Gemade accused the Clerk of going ahead to conduct the election, even when he was aware that the quorum for election of the Senate President was not met because 51 other senators were absent: “The insinuation in some quarters that we boycotted the election is totally unfounded. As loyal party members, we would take all necessary political and legal means to strengthen our democracy and democratic process in line with the change that we promised our teeming supporters during our electioneering.”
But Like Minds Senators, a group of APC Senators in support of Saraki, argued that a quorum was formed during the election of the Senate President. Senator Dino Melaye told journalists that Order 10 of the Senate standing rules clearly stipulates one third members to form a quorum for election of principal officers.
Legal luminaries are also not in agreement over the legality or otherwise of the process that led to the emergence of Saraki as the Senate President.
Olisa Agbakoba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria said in a newspaper interview that the election of the new Senate President was legitimate. According to him, the law did not require every Senator to be present in the chamber when electing principal officers. He added that only a simple majority of Senators needed to be present for the election of the principal officers . Robert Clarke, a Senior advocate, argued that the 51 lawmakers that were not present during the election of the Senate President were right to feel disenfranchised and should not shy from going to court to seek remedy. He also faulted the reliance of the Saraki and his group on Order 10 of the Senate standing rules.
Professor Itse Sagay, a constitutional lawyer who did not mince words in describing the Clerk of the National Assembly as a principal actor in the Saraki conspiracy also disagreed with the claims of the Like Minded Senators. While agreeing that the law says that the Senate only need one third of its members to be present to form a quorum, and a simple majority to take decisions, the issue may be different as regards the proclamation of a new Senate. “We have a Senate which has many parties. What has happened is that the party that has the majority was somehow deceived out of the premises and other people went behind and surreptitiously and fraudulently purported to have Senate proceedings going on. That fraud cannot be legitimate regardless of the technical words of the Constitution, because the spirit is not there,” Sagay told a national newspaper.
As lawyers agreed and disagreed last week on the legitimacy of the Saraki election, what was not in contention was that the Saraki coup was executed in the most audacious manner capable of leading to the disintegration of APC less than a month after the party assumed power. In the National Assembly elections conducted on 28 March, the APC, a merger of opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Congress for Progressives Change, CPC, the All Nigeria People’s Congress, ANPP and some elements in the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA had gained majority control of the two chambers of the National Assembly. The party’s victory in the general election was also enhanced by the defection of five governors of PDP into its ranks in 2013. The party had edged out PDP which had absolute control of both chambers of the lawmaking chamber since the country returned to democracy in 1999.
With 60 out of the 109 senate seats in its kitty, the APC came out of the elections with comfortable, though not the two third absolute majority. One of the APC Senators died before the inauguration of the new session of the National Assembly and this reduced the number of Senators elected on the platform of the party to 59. The opposition PDP won 49 seats. With such scenario, it’s given that APC should produce the principal officers of both chambers of the National Assembly, except the positions specifically zoned to the minority party in the Constitution.
The party was however confronted with the problems of whom and where to choose the person to support among its Senators, especially for the two topmost positions of Senate President and Speaker of the House. With the emergence of Buhari (North West) as the President, Yemi Osinbajo (South west) as Vice President, the position of the Senate President going by zoning formula popular for allocation political offices in the country should have naturally gone to either the South East or the South South. But APC choice problem was compounded by the fact that there was no ranking Senator elected on the platform of APC from both parts of the country.
The vacuum led to demands from lawmakers from the North East and North Central for the zoning of the position to their areas. Apart from Saraki, other early contender for the position of the Senate President from the North Central was former Governor George Akume from Benue State. The North East Senators also demanded the zoning of the topmost National Assembly positions to their geopolitical zone. Their argument were that such positions will serve as compensation for their long term marginalization in the allocation of top political positions in the country since independence and for being the zone that elected the highest number of APC lawmakers into the National Assembly. The two major contenders for the position of Senate President from the zone were Lawan (Yobe) and Senator Ali Ndume (Borno). Having helped the APC to win the presidency and with most lawmakers elected on the platform of APC, the South West has also demanded the position of the Speaker with Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos) and Hon. Suileman Lasun Yusuff (Osun) as leading contenders. However, Tahir Monguno (Borno) Yakubu Dogara (Bauchi) from the North East also came out to contend for the position. This magazine gathered that a series of underground moves by the party leaders to get the contestants step down for each other failed.
The party itself compounded its problems when against the demands of its members; it insisted that it will not zone the position of principal officers of the National Assembly. Indeed, Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State had perfectly predicted what happened during the inauguration of the Senate early last month as APC chieftains were dilly dallying on the issue of zoning. The Governor who is a former member of House of Representatives and was elected into the upper chamber in the 2015 elections had advised the leaders of his party to immediately, inform its members and Nigerians where the Senate Presidency and Speakership of the House have been zoned to avoid impending leadership tussle within the APC over who becomes what.
He warned “It has happened before. That is why we must be careful. Aminu Tambuwal was not the candidate of the PDP in 2011. Some of the lawmakers in the House of Representatives in the then PDP mobilised from opposition parties and Tambuwal became the speaker. Tambuwal ‘tambuwalised’ the House by romancing with the opposition to get the seat. PDP may want to adopt the same tactics to retain the leadership of the Senate. We must not allow this. PDP is a master of this game. If the zoning is delayed further, it might become a replay of what happened at the Lower Chamber in 2011. I am one of those experienced in this game. I was a Deputy Speaker in 1991. So, the issue of leadership is very important. The party should come out with guidelines so that confusion can be reduced to the barest minimum.”
The party refused to heed the warning, but continued to insist that it will not zone the National Assembly positions. Each of the contenders also tried as much as possible to get the support of the different chieftains of APC to back their ambitions. For instance, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the former Governor of Lagos State and national leader of APC was at a time reported to be backing Akume and Gbajabiamila for the position of the Senate President and the Speaker respectively. But to get more support for Gbajabiamila, he shifted his support to Lawan who hailed from the North East, the region that produced the second highest number of lawmakers. The former Governor’s thinking was that the North East Reps in the House will vote for Gbajabiamila while Senators from the South West will support Lawan.
But the party also feared that the PDP may unduly influence the choice of the Speaker and the Senate President to spite APC. This was especially fueled by rumours that Senator David Mark, the former President of the Senate and Ike Ekweremadu, his deputy may spring a surprise by putting themselves forward for election if APC is unable to reach consensus on the candidates to support for the position. With block vote of 49 Senators, it was argued that the opposition party is capable of springing a surprise on the floor of the National Assembly on the day of the proclamation, especially if the candidates of APC divided the 59 votes of the Senators among themselves. Analyst who argued that this is possible further noted that the Constitution does not specifically stipulate that the principal officers of the National Assembly must emerge from the majority party.
However, Mark later said emphatically that PDP will not contest for the position of the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President. However, to avoid the springing of any surprises on it, the APC about three weeks ago called the Senators and House of Representatives elect for a retreat in Abuja where it tried to convince the different contenders to step down for each other. Though the effort failed, it led to realignment of forces among the contenders with Ndume agreeing to team up with Saraki as Deputy, while Akume also agreed to run with Lawan under the same arrangement.
Also, Gbajabiamila and Monguno joined forces to run as the Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively, while Dogara and Lasun also agreed to the same arrangement. This magazine gathered that with the emergence of the two camps at both chambers, it became even more difficult for party leaders to broker the idea of consensus candidate to any of the contenders who were being egged on by vociferous supporters. The party attempted to intervene again with the straw poll organized for the lawmakers the weekend before the proclamation of the National Assembly. The contentious straw polls resulted in Lawan – Akume as the party’s candidates for the Office of the Senate presidency and Deputy Senate Presidency while Gbajabiamila and Monguno also emerged as the party’s preferred candidates for the leadership of the House of Representatives. But the camps that lost in the controversial straw polls rejected the result, vowing to defy the APC leadership.
Indeed, while Representatives in the Dogara camp claimed that they were not part of the process, the Saraki group also said it was not aware of the polls. “I want to appeal to APC members of the National Assembly, both Senate and the House of Representatives, to please respect the party, the views of the party and the decision that they themselves took in selecting the persons that will be presented to the National Assembly as presiding officers,” John Odigie-Oyegun, APC National Chairman said in reaction to the threats. But the two rebellious contenders continued the pursuit of their ambition, while emphasizing that the President had repeatedly said he had no preferred candidate for the National Assembly leadership. Also, Lawan and Gbajabiamila were tagged the candidates of the former Lagos State Governor to further put a dent on their ambition.
By last Monday, it was clear that Saraki and Dogara were set to defy the party as all entreaties to make them see reasons failed. The two camps boycotted a meeting called by the party which was to be addressed by Vice President Osinbajo. The party then reached out to the President who returned to Nigeria from the G7 meeting on Tuesday morning, urging him to intervene in the situation which was now clearly out of the control of the party leaders. But as APC was scratching its heads for what is obviously the biggest challenge it had confronted since its formation, Saraki reached out to members of his former party, the PDP for support. This magazine gathered that 47 PDP Senators gathered on Monday night at the residence of the former Senator Mark. Also present at the meeting was Ekweremadu and members of the PDP National Working Committee led by the acting National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.
Also present at the meeting were the Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State and others. This magazine gathered that discussion at the meeting about who to support for the position of the Senate President was driven by the need to get back at the National leader of APC which the PDP has never forgiven for the role he played in its comprehensive defeat in the 2015 general elections. With such mindset, it was not difficult for the party to decide that their support should go to Saraki who even before then had been reported to be feverishly courting members of his former party. It was gathered that PDP members at the meeting had called Saraki to the meeting to inform him of the decision taken by the PDP to adopt him and vote for him during the election.
Thus, Olisa Metuh, the National Publicity Secretary, of PDP issued a statement Monday night indicating that members of the party would vote for Saraki and Dogara the next morning.
“The PDP has adopted Senator Bukola Saraki for the position of Senate President. In the same vein, the PDP adopted Hon. Yakubu Dogara for the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The party therefore urged its senators and members-elect in the National Assembly to act accordingly,” Metuh said in the statement. This magazine gathered that old members of PDP in the APC who are already feeling marginalized in the power-sharing formula of the Buhari administration also supported. It was gathered that the fear of the group which joined APC from PDP and has in its ranks heavyweights like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former governors Kwankwaso, Rotimi Amaechi, Aliyu Wamakko was particularly fueled by the delay in announcement of appointments into key positions by the President. Members of the group, in supporting Saraki, it was gathered were also driven by what they believe was the need to slash the influence of Tinubu which they believe was already becoming too overwhelming in APC.
Members of the New PDP component of APC, it was gathered were of the opinion that with the Office of the Vice President, the Southwest has got more than its fair share of power while others believe that President Buhari is conceding too much to the former Lagos State Governor. But in a last minute attempt to stop the Saraki/ PDP plot, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC sent out a message that President Muhammadu Buhari would be meeting the APC National Assembly members at the International Conference Centre at 9a.m. Meanwhile, a previous letter from to the Clerk had indicated that the 8th session of the National Assembly would be proclaimed at 10a.m. the same day. It was gathered that APC lawmakers had started arriving the International Conference Centre for their meeting with Buhari as early as 8a.m.
But Saraki had other plans.
Instead of heading for the venue of the meeting, the former Kwara State governor, assured of the block votes of the 49 PDP Senators- elect, in addition to the votes of few renegade APC members headed for the National Assembly.
Saraki had further solidified the support from the PDP members with offers of the deputy presidency of the senate to one of the PDP senators. Therefore, when the Clerk of the National Assembly called for nominations for the post of Senate President, only Saraki’s name was mentioned. The Lawan group were clearly not in the Senate. Thus by default, Saraki was elected unopposed. A contest that was predicted would be keenly fought, became a walk in the park for the politician from Kwara State.
Ekweremadu also defeated Ndume to become the Deputy President of the Senate. He got 54 votes to Ndume’s 20 votes. The rise in the number of votes was because some of the APC senators marooned at the International Conference Centre had arrived to join the voting. For Saraki however, Ndume’s loss was not a problem: Ekweremadu’s victory was a promise fulfilled to PDP.
TheNEWS learnt that President Buhari was getting ready to head to the ICC, when he was persuaded by one of the Governors in the North West not to attend the meeting. Reason: If Buhari supported the ambitions of Lawan and Gbajabiamila , he would be handing over the Senate presidency to Tinubu.
TheNEWS learnt that the 11th hour meeting at the ICC was the idea of the NWC of the APC and that the President was duly subscribed to it before the statement inviting the lawmakers were sent out by the party. But Spokesmen of the President, Femi Adesina and Malam Garba Shehu confirmed that President Buhari was duly informed, though the meeting was at the instance of the party. Garba, the SSA confirmed that in an interview on Channel TV that both Dogara and Saraki were duly informed about the meeting. Shying short of accusing Saraki and the Clerk of the National Assembly of collaborating to disrespect the President, Shehu accused Senate President Bukola Saraki and National Assembly Clerk Salisu Maikasuwa of defying President Muhammadu Buhari to conduct Tuesday’s election.
According to him, there was a request for the National Assembly to move the time of the inauguration of the Senate for the meeting between the President and the APC lawmakers to hold. He added that the President decided not to go to the meeting at the ICC as he learnt that the process of the election of the Senate President had already begun as he was about to leave his house for the meeting: “I am talking about the clerk, Saraki, the key characters … had sufficient information directly or indirectly coming to them that the President will be meeting the party members and the party chairman was on the ground. Assumption would have been that every loyal, committed party member would have presented themselves to the party and to their President. That did not happen yesterday,” said Shehu. This contradicted the claims of Dino Melaye, the spokesperson of the Saraki group that there was no official communication that the President wanted to have a meeting with the members last Wednesday.
But how far can the party go to discipline its rebellious members? Analysts warned that going all out against Saraki and Dogara may turn them completely against the party and may portend more danger for the APC in the long run. In the same vein, the Saraki challenge, analysts said is a strong message to Buhari that he cannot allow members of the party to run riot in the name of non-interference if he is desirous of not losing the plot to the opposition so early in his administration.
Saraki’s Acceptance Speech
I Will Be Just, Equitable, And Fair To All
Distinguished Colleagues, Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I am most honoured and privileged to be elected from among such distinguished men and women of your caliber to serve you as President of the Senate.
I accept with humility and respect the honour you have conferred upon me today. I am indeed moved by such demonstration of faith and trust you have reposed on me. I am truly grateful and I accept this call to serve with humility, responsibility and sense of duty.
I give all glory to the Almighty God for the significance of this day for our dear country. I am delighted that only a few months after we witnessed an uncommon democratic transition in our country, we are witnessing yet again, a further consolidation of that lofty victory for our country and our democracy.
I want to thank all members of the National Assembly, especially the distinguished Senators for your maturity and patriotism in the exercise that we have just concluded in electing the leadership of the 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
We have demonstrated that even though we may belong to different persuasions and parties, we are ultimately united by our common desire to entrench democracy and allow its core principles guide the conduct of our political affairs.
I thank all those who have supported me and journeyed with me through the difficult road that has brought us here. I believe that the courage and the commitment that you have demonstrated go beyond your support for any individual’s ambition.
I believe that what you have demonstrated is an unflinching commitment to the sanctity and integrity of this hallowed chamber as the primary bastion for the government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Beyond any political party or personal victory, the 2015 general elections, in many ways, represents a major watershed in the political annals of our great country.
And for long would forever be remembered as that moment when our democracy truly came of age. The uniqueness of these times, fired by our people’s overwhelming desire for change would remain an inspiration for the future generations of our country.
However, the enormous responsibilities that it imposes on those of us who occupy leadership positions in our respective capacity at this time can hardly be over-emphasized.
The change that our people voted for is a change from a life of poverty, misery and hopelessness to a life of prosperity, happiness and confidence in the future; a change from a pervasive culture of fear to a life of security and comfort; a change from impunity and elite arrogance to a life of accountability and respect for every citizen, regardless of tribe, gender, religion, region or political persuasion.
This is the change that all of us in this National Assembly must strive to bring about, if we must justify the privilege of representation conferred on us by our people. Nigerians want to see a proactive National Assembly that will devote itself to rigorous thinking, rolling up sleeves to forge a new and prosperous Nigeria.
As the President of the 8th Senate and the Chairman of this National Assembly, I shall be guided by the enormity of the responsibilities that this moment imposes on us all.
As a first among equals, I shall strive at all times to be just, equitable and fair to all. I shall work with you all to build a National Assembly that will enjoy greater confidence and trust among the people that we represent.
We shall entrench greater openness and accountability. We shall strengthen our capacity for public engagement as well as broaden access for inclusion, recognizing that this temple of democracy belongs to all the people of our country.
Modern democracy is built on the principle of separation of powers. It will be my responsibility to protect the independence of the legislative arm of our government in the overall interest of our democracy.
However, I will pursue this duty with the understanding that our autonomy must be embedded within the collaborative framework that allows government to function more effectively in bringing the greater good to the greatest number of our people.
Our quest for autonomy must not lead us into pursuing adversarial relationship with other arms of government, especially the executive. Our oversight duties must be constructive, supportive and productive, believing that while we all have different roles to play; we have a common responsibility to the people of Nigeria.
At this juncture, permit me distinguished Senators, Honourable Members to salute the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR for remaining steadfast in his defence of the right of the National Assembly members to choose its own leaders.
With his principled position, he has laid a solid foundation for the stability of the 8th National Assembly and for strengthening our democracy.
On behalf of my colleagues in the Senate (and the House of Representatives,) I promise that we shall reward the great confidence you have reposed in us by being worthy partners and dependable ally in the great task ahead.
Similarly, I thank all the leaders of our party, the All Progressives Congress for the leadership you have provided and the efforts you have made in providing guidance and in managing the process that would lead to amicable resolution of the conflict and contention that any democratic process necessarily generates.
Now we can move forward with renewed confidence in our efforts to build a stronger and virile party, where all members would find comfort and space to pursue their legitimate aspirations.
I shall end this address by expressing the immense gratitude of all members of the 7th Senate and House of Representatives to His Excellency, David Bonaventure Mark, for the uncommon leadership that you have provided for us over the years, which has stabilized the National Assembly and paved the way for the enormous achievements that were recorded under your leadership. Thank you for your immense service to our country.
My dear distinguished colleagues, we are entering the saddle at a time when a lot is being expected of us.
Nigerians expect the barest minimum out of our agenda; that the new Senate and National Assembly must make laws that will enable us renew our infrastructure, reform the oil sector, reform our security systems, boost agriculture, create jobs and make doing business in Nigeria much more competitive.
In the coming days we shall be converging to hammer out an aggregate agenda that will help us focus and deliver on these minimum expectations.
Distinguished Senators, Honourable Members, as we formally assume the legislative task of our nation’s government today, I pray that the Almighty God will continue to increase us in wisdom and visit us with courage to always do that which is best for our people and our country.
May our hallowed chambers continue to ennoble the memory of our great country men and women who fought and died so that democracy may see the light of day in our country. And, may the future generations of our citizens look upon the 8th National Assembly as a true assembly of our people’s representatives who did their very best in the service of our nation.
A speech presented by Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki on the occasion of his swearing-in as the President of the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Tuesday June 9, 2015.