APC, Saraki and Senate’s game of numbers

You have heard of the story of the crown and the holder of the crown, who bolted to another kingdom as told by the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. It was in reference to the defection of Senate President Bukola Saraki to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Adam’s logic was that Saraki should have resigned his seat having defected to the PDP. His sentiment has been shared by many, especially those who hide under the cloak of the law.

Having listened to such commentaries from lawyers and political minds as well, you want to conclude that many of such persons have fatally murdered the truth and turned facts upside down.

Many of us who have followed the proceedings of the National Assembly for a while were left perplexed at some of the submissions of Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Political Adviser to the President, when he appeared

on Channels Television last week. He had indicated that Saraki emerged the Senate President with minority Senators and so the ruling party “will not take that.”

Let me state here that apart from the writ of elections submitted by members on the day of swearing-in, a key factor in determining the majority on the floor is the voting exercises, especially where it is electronic and in that, personal dispositions matter a lot.

Seeing through the massive ‘Saraki Must Go’ campaigns, you cannot but look through the books and conclude that there is the need to sieve the fact from the faction and practical situation from politics of it all.

Three things are key in the unfolding scenario; the 1999 Constitution, the Senate Rule book and precedence. Of the three, the first two have legal teeth applicable by the courts.

Deformed by thunderstorm, healed 46 years after by thunder blast
Chapter four of the 1999 Constitution as amended provides for the legislative powers of the country. In Section 50 (1) (a), it establishes the office of the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President and also prescribes the mode of emergence of the two officers.

Section 50(1) (a) states that: “There shall be – (a) A President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by members from among themselves.

Section 50(2) (a-c) also provides for the circumstances by which the Senate President, the Deputy and the Speaker of the House and his Deputy can be removed from the respective seats.

Section 50 (2) states that: “The President or Deputy President of the Senate or the Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall vacate his office –

(a) if he ceases to be a member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, otherwise than by reason of a dissolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives; or (b) When the House of which he was a member first sits after any dissolution of that House; or (c) If he is removed from office by a resolution of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of that House.”

Section 50(2) (c) is actually of essence in the present scenario and it emphasises that the presiding officer can only be removed by two-thirds majority of members of that House.

It is instructive that whereas the Constitution knows there are majority and minority parties, it refrained from making reference to anything of such. The essence of it is that all Senators are practically and that the one elected to preside is only first among equals.

Section 3 of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 as amended, also further clarifies the mode of election of a Senate President and his Deputy. In Section 3(a) the rule says: “a senator-elect, addressing the Clerk, shall propose another Senator elect to the Senate to be President of the Senate and shall move that such a Senator-elect “Do take the chair of the Senate as the President of the Senate.”

In Senate Rule 3(b), it is further provided that: “a Senator-elect when nominated and seconded shall inform the Senate whether he or she accepts the nomination. He may then proceed to address the Senate.”

It is also instructive here that none of the rules refer to a Senator from Majority or Minority party. It goes to further confirm that the Senate is a club where all members are truly equal.

In the instant case of Saraki, it needed to be understood that while 57 Senators were on the floor of the Senate on June 9, 2015 when he was elected unopposed, that is not an infraction of the law in any way. The quorum to conduct the business of the Senate is one-third (37) Senators. Once that quorum is reached, the business of the day can be conducted.

Whereas a Senator needs a simple majority to emerge Senate President or Deputy, Senators need two-thirds of all members (73) to remove him from office.

Outside of politicking, political leaders need to know the game of numbers would prove a tough one in this instance. Last week, 49 senators signed against the removal of Saraki and Ekweremadu. If you add the two presiding officers to the number, you will have 51. With the ADC having three Senators and APGA having two and with two seats vacant due to deaths, you should know the situation is really critical, especially when you note that on July 24, when Ahmed Lawan read out the list, Saraki was still counted a member of the APC.

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