Ekweremadu Must Go, APC Chiefs Insist

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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.”