Oshiomhole’s outreach thwarted initial plan by 32 senators to dump APC

On defection day, Senate President left his phones at home to avoid his location been tracked

Olawale Olaleye

Interesting details emerged at the weekend on how the rapprochement between President Muhammadu Buhari and Senate President Bukola Saraki penultimate Thursday collapsed, just a few days after.

The truce meeting at Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja, had in the attendance Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, and Governors Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, Aziz Yari of Zamfara State and the newly elected Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State.

THISDAY gathered at the weekend that the presidential team had gotten wind of the defection plot by Saraki and about 32 other senators and quickly moved to stop them using new APC Chairman Adams Oshiomhole who called them one after the other, knowing full well that the mass defection could have adverse consequences for the party as it prepared for the 2019 general elections.

For Saraki, a presidential meeting was arranged. And President Buhari went on the charm offensive, when to the shock of all present, he apologised to Saraki for all the pain he may have suffered over the last few years.

And a dis-armed Saraki returned the goodwill by also apologising to the President for all the discomfort he too may have caused the Presidency.

Soon after, it was banter all over. Truce reached. Over the weekend that followed, APC Chairman began reaching out to aggrieved Senators one by one winning back some 16 of 32 Senators as of last Sunday.

But that was not to continue as another invitation last Monday by the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to Saraki over his alleged involvement in a recent robbery in Offa, Kwara State scuttled the deal and gave the impression to the Senators that the presidency and its security apparatchiks could not be trusted after all.

The police invitation was despite an advice by the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), which said no nexus between Saraki and the robbery had been established.

According to sources, Saraki was disarmed by the Buhari humility and apology and was “considering his options” when the police invitation arrived “like a thunderbolt”.

At the meeting with Buhari, sources said participants were pleasantly shocked at the humility of the president, who uncharacteristically apologised to Saraki for all he had gone through in the hands of the security agencies and asked that they should both move on in the collective interest of the party and the country.

According to sources, Saraki and the President agreed to work together, even though Saraki allegedly added that he would have to run the outcome of the meeting by his people since he was not alone in the matter.

Earlier, the team of Osinbajo, Aziz, Amosun, and Fayemi had taken turns to speak along the same line of truce. They appealed to Saraki to suspend the idea of defection, especially, as some of the governors of the party had met with him the night before the meeting with the president.

The meeting had also decided, as mooted by the president, that a team of governors, led by the vice president, be formed to continue with the rapprochement until they arrived at a suitable meeting point, convenient for both parties.

But all that was suddenly upturned the following Monday, when Police Chief, Idris not only wrote to re-invite Saraki to come and face questions on the Offa robbery.

Following the Police invite the Saraki team swung back into action to remobilise Senators immediately calling for a discontinuation of talks with Buhari’s team, alleging that they could not be trusted, various sources told THISDAY, but only 14 of the 32 were then ready to sign on at the point on a 12 hour notice which many of the senators considered too short as they too had to consult.

And when the Police also went as far as cordoning off the residences of the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President, and preventing them from leaving for both work and the Guzape police station, they sensed real trouble, they concluded that if the police could still go ahead to invite Saraki, despite of the position of the Attorney-General that there was no evidence against him, “then, you cannot trust these people.”

Although Senator Lanre Tejuosho was originally among the initial 32 senators who had agreed to go, he was not available the night the others were being mobilised for the emergency defection and was only able to sign on the floor of the senate the next day.

Besides, following a tip-off, that he may be arrested and impeached while in custody, Saraki left his house by midnight and smartly left all his phones behind in the house to shut down the possibility of his location being tracked by his traducers, THISDAY learnt. So, while the tracker showed that he was at home, unknown to the authorities, he had left the house, only to resurface at the National Assembly the next day to announce the defection of 14 senators plus Tejuoso who later withdrew his defection.

Sources said had Saraki not played smart, the plan was to prevent him from leaving the house, effect a change in the leadership of the Senate, and subsequently arrest him.
To get this done, senators believed to be loyal to the president had already been mobilised with a bus at the Transcorp Hilton, with one of them, Hope Uzodinma being tipped as likely successor to Saraki, to divide the South East and South South where Saraki had most support.

But the reason Saraki did not defect with others last week, sources said, was because he still believed he had a deal with the president, even if the element of trust had been greatly decimated.

The weeks ahead promises more drama as the presidency, the party and rebel- lawmakers perfect their war plans. There were speculations at press time that the presidency was being persuaded by hardliners to forcibly reopen the senate – who are now officially on recess, arrest Saraki and Ekweremadu, impeach them while in custody and elect a new leadership for the National Assembly.

But the problem is first in the numbers. To impeach and remove Saraki and Ekweremadu from office you need a 2/3rd majority, which will mean getting half of the opposition PDP Senators to join in the plot, which will be near impossible.

The second problem is in the law. Robbery is a State crime on the residual list of the constitution. To arrest and prosecute Saraki for any link to the Offa robbery, which may again look like political persecution, you have to charge him in a State Court, which will in this case be Ilorin, Kwara State where Saraki ‘rules’, and with the Kwara State Attorney General as the prosecuting authority as was done in Lagos with the Kudirat Abiola murder, with prosecutor Authur Worrey and the then Attorney General Yemi Osinbajo SAN.