Members of the House of Representatives loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari have given details of what they discussed with him when they met behind closed doors Thursday evening.
Members of the Parliamentary Support Group met with the president inside the conference room in the office of the wife of the president.
They were led by two colleagues, Musa Sarkin-Adar and Abdulmumini Jibrin.
Speaking with State House Correspondents after the meeting, Mr Sarkin-Adar said the meeting “looked at the concerns within the country and the various political parties because election is approaching.”
He said as members of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) in the National Assembly, they felt it is necessary to go and have an interface with Mr Buhari and the national chairman of the party “to address issues and concerns raised by members across the federation.”
The lawmaker said they had “certain concerns and misgivings” in each state of the federation, where congresses were held from wards, to local government and state level recently.
“There were so many discrepancies and issues that came up and people made a lot of complaints and they were not listened to. As a result of that, some people thought that they will move out of the party and join another party.
“Others, even before that have made up their minds they are going somewhere and we feel it is necessary to come and inform the president that we are committed to remain party members, but issues should be looked into and addressed properly, so that all aggrieved members can be persuaded to remain.”
Mr Sarkin-Adar, who represents Goronyo/Gada Federal constituency Sokoto State, said they were also at the Villa to help improve the relationship between the Executive and the National Assembly.
“We know who caused all those frictions and we are trying as much as possible to make sure that such things do not happen again for the betterment of this country.
“We should not be partisan in everything we do, especially on our conduct on the floor of the House,” he said.
He said their decision to remain committed members of the APC and offer advice on how best to resolve the crisis that arose from the congresses was based on their experience as members of the House of Representatives.
“So it is now a clarion call for us to rally behind the president and the need for us to also be listened to so that the issues of development of this country can be addressed,” he said.
On how Mr Buhari responded to their submissions, Mr Sarkin-Adar said the president’s response was “very well and very fantastic”.
He said they took time to explain to the president the idea of zonal interventions or what is called constituency projects which has always been a subject of controversy.
He said they told him that contrary to widespread belief, “it is not money given to us, but projects worth millions of Naira that we should only site where it should be sited in our various constituencies and it is one of the most unifying factors of this country.”
The constituency projects, usually marred in fraud, have been condemned by many Nigerians. President Buhari also condemned the insertion of thousands of such projects in the 2018 budget.
Mr Sarkin-Adar, however, said constituency projects is “one of the ways in which you can have a reflective performance of the government in certain areas.”
He said most rural areas in the country would not have had any government presence if not because of constituency projects.
He said projects are allocated to their constituencies and it is often “what your people will benefit from and as such, there is equitable distribution of infrastructure across the nation”.
Also speaking, the member representing Bebeji/Kiru constituency of Kano, Mr Jibrin, said they decided to visit Mr Buhari to show their solidarity. He said they had a very good meeting.
Mr Jibrin said Mr Buhari took time to share his experiences with them and also explained his “vision and a lot of the things he is doing for the country.”
He said members of the support group are happy with the outcome of the meeting.
He said the president suggested that such meetings should be held every quarter, adding “in any case that is what we always wanted. We can meet, exchange information, rub minds and find a way to continue to work together.”
On reports that the APC may lose its majority strength in the National Assembly owing to reports of mass defection to the opposition party, Mr Jibrin simply said “every party in the world, not only in Nigeria has its challenges and the APC is not an exception”.
He however, expressed the belief that the leadership of the party is doing all that it can do to ensure it does not lose more members.
Another member of the group, Mohammed Gololo (Gamawa Federal Constituency) chipped in: “with the interaction we are having with the national chairman of the party, with the synergy that is ongoing, most likely, the defection may not take place as it used to be amplified.”
Positive Outcome – Executive
Also, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, described the meeting as an “encouraging interface between the legislature and the executive.”
Mr Mustapha said the National Assembly just had an “Open Week” programme and that the meeting is a continuation of that engagement.
“I believe that after this kind of interaction with different arms of government, we will be able to build synergy, build consensus on issues and find resolutions to it,” he said.
“Politics is a game of negotiations, it’s a game of dialogue, and understanding and it is for the betterment of our country.
“We are the party in government; the legislature is part of government. If the executive does not succeed, it will also rub off on the legislature. So it is just a continuation of this dialogue that can afford us the chance to deliver the dividends of democracy to our people,” he added.
On his part, Mr Buhari’s aide on National Assembly matters, Ita Enang, commended
members of the parliamentary support group.
He said members took advantage of the meeting to express their concerns to Mr Buhari.
He also said the president “has responded in a manner that is very satisfactory to them.”
Mr Enang said the meeting is one of the back channels “that is being arranged and is granted by Mr President and officers of the executive from time to time to enable the legislators interact personally, with personal questions and personal concerns on the state, the party, projects and programmes of government”.
He said most of what was raised was “fully addressed” and that Mr Buhari decided to invite APC chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, to address the gathering.
He said Mr Oshiomhole assured the members that the matters raised will be addressed and that no one should have fears because the party is for all.
“He told them how the nominations will go and has given them confidence and this confidence will be transmitted to all other members of the House and Senate who are not here.
“We are going to arrange for senators in the next few days as part of confidence building and bridging the gap between the executive and legislature,” Mr Enang said.