There are strong indications that the All Progressives Congress is insisting on the removal of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.
Sunday PUNCH reliably gathered on Saturday that although the APC was happy with the appointments, which the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, made in the committees of the upper chamber on Thursday, the party believed that for the peace process to complete, Ekweremadu must resign or be removed.
Saraki became the senate president in June last year against the wish of the APC, which supported the emergence of Senator Ahmed Lawan.
The former Kwara State governor emerged as the senate president with the support of the his loyalists under the aegis of Like-Mind Senators comprising members of the Peoples Democratic Party in the upper chamber and most of their colleagues in the APC.
It was reported last year that one of the conditions that the PDP gave to Saraki was to concede the deputy senate president seat to one of its members.
The senate president defied the APC when he ensured that his loyalists, except Senator Sola Adeyeye (Chief Whip) became the principal officers.
But on Thursday, Saraki began a peace move when he reshuffled senate panels and appointed his critics in the Senate Unity Forum as heads of “juicy committees.”
For example, the spokesman of the SUF, Senator Kabiru Marafa, became the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), while Senator Oluremi Tinubu was appointed the Chairperson of the Committee on the Environment.
A chief of the APC, who pleaded anonymity, confided in Sunday PUNCH on Saturday, that although Saraki’s action was a right step in the right direction, he should do more.
He said the APC was not comfortable with Ekweremadu as the deputy senate president and Saraki should look for a way of “getting him out.”
He said that besides being a PDP member, the deputy senate president had not hidden his disdain for the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The party chieftain stated, “We are happy with what he (Saraki) did with the committees, but Ekweremadu cannot remain as the deputy senate president. When the PDP was in power, opposition parties did not produce the deputy senate president.”
Another APC leader who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “What Saraki has done is not enough. Ekweremadu must leave that position.”
When contacted to comment on the claim that the APC was insisting on Ekweremadu’s removal, the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, said, “No comment.”
Repeated calls to the mobile telephone number of the party’s National Secretary, Mai Bala Buni, were neither picked nor returned, a response to a text message sent to him was being awaited as of the time of filing this report.
Our position has not changed —SUF member
But a member of the SUF, Senator Adesoji Akanbi, (Oyo South), told SUNDAY PUNCH that the aggrieved lawmakers would not back down on their agitation for the Senate leadership.
The senator explained that he, and other members of the SUF, despite being offered positions in the Senate, would continue to support the directive of the APC.
He added that he was sure members of the forum, who were recently offered positions, would not turn against the party.
Akanbi said, “We all know what the party wanted from day one. Initially, when the leadership of the Senate was to be formed, we all know where the party stood. Up till now, the party has not changed its position and will not.
“Those who have been offered positions have the choice to accept or not to accept. I am sure that it will not affect their loyalty to their party. The Kabir Marafa and Suleiman Hunkuyi that I know, are loyal to the party, just like any other members of the SUF which I belong.”
He said that the forum was formed by senators who believe in the APC and the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Akanbi said, “We from the South-West also believe in the leadership of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. If that (loyalty to the three) is a sin, we are prepared to commit it. If it is a sin to stand by those three – APC, Buhari and Tinubu – we will continue to be sinners.”
The senator also noted that the recent reshuffle of committee chairmanship was not a new thing in the legislature, regardless of which sides of the divide lawmakers belonged.
He added that those who were giving and taking positions should do so as representatives of the party and not as independent individuals.
Efforts to get Marafa and Suleiman Hunkuyi, who are both members of the SUF and beneficiaries of the new appointments, were not successful on Saturday as their telephone lines indicated that they had been switched off.
Marafa had on Friday said that the reshuffling of the committees was an initiative of the party.
But a senior aide to Saraki, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said those who were still not satisfied with the leadership of the Senate among members of the SUF, were speaking for themselves.
The aide also said that the APC currently lacked the popularity to unseat Ekweremadu in the current scheme of things.
The source said, “How does the APC even want to remove Ekweremadu when it takes the simple majority to elect the Deputy Senate President but it takes two-thirds of the entire legislators to remove him.
“Do they have the two-thirds? They don’t have it. As of today, the PDP senators are more in the position to do that than the APC senators.”
Appointments, part of reconciliation — Saraki
The Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, who spoke to one of our correspondents on behalf of Saraki, confirmed that the new committee appointments were parts of the moves to bring senators closer together.
He said, “It cannot be the only thing. When you have 109 people representing large constituencies, continuously, you have to manage situations. It is like having 109 captains. Continuously, you have to discuss with and engage people; you have to make reconciliatory moves. That is what you have to do continuously if you want to get the job done.
“It (the appointment) is just one of the continuous moves that have to be made from time to time. Remember that Saraki met with (Sen. Oluremi) Tinubu for a long time; he also met with Dino (Melaye) over their issue. As the issues arise, you have to continue to engage them. It is a continuous effort.”
Meanwhile, senators of the Peoples Democratic Party have denied media reports that they were planning to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a a press statement at the weekend jointly signed by Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Senate Minority Whip, Senator Philip Aduda, and Senate Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Biodun Olujimi, the PDP Senators described the said impeachment plot as “false, baseless and unfounded.”
They said, “For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to state categorically that the said impeachment plot is false, baseless and unfounded. The PDP Senate Caucus had neither discussed nor participated in any discussion or congregation on the issue of impeaching and/or serving notice of impeachment on President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR. Hence, we advise Nigerians generally to be cautious in spinning and/or peddling rumours capable of heating up the polity.”