The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, is plotting to remain in office despite defecting from the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
Mr Saraki had on Tuesday renounced his membership of the party after weeks of speculation that he would do so.
“I wish to inform Nigerians that, after extensive consultations, I have decided to take my leave of the All Progressives Congress (APC),” he wrote on his Twitter handle.
He later announced that he was rejoining the PDP, a party he left in January 2014 after he accused it of raping democracy repeatedly.
Mr Saraki, a former governor of Kwara State, emerged the senate president in June 2015 following the success of the APC at the general elections. He and 10 other senators had joined the party in January 2014 from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The other senators were Shaba Lafiagi (Kwara North), Mohammed Ndume (Borno South), Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West), Magnus Abe (Rivers South East), Wilson Ake (Rivers West).
Others were Bindo Jubrilla (Adamawa North), Abdullahi Gobir (Sokoto East) and Alhassan Aisha Jummai (Taraba North).
Mr Saraki emerged the senate president against the wishes of the leadership of the APC, which favoured Ahmed Lawan, the incumbent senate leader.
A close aide of Mr Saraki told PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday that his principal would remain in his position, citing precedences.
According to the aide, although a clearer picture of which of the parties between the APC and PDP commands majority in the upper chamber would emerge when the senate resumes from recess in September, Section 50 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution (as amended) does not bar persons from minority parties from occupying the position of the senate president.
Section 50 (1) (a) of the document states that there shall be “a President and Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.”
The aide, who pleaded not to be quoted because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, argued that the Constitution does not specifically states that members of minority parties cannot seek election into the position.
He said Mr Saraki would rely on the provision to retain his seat until June 2019 when the Ninth Senate would elect its presiding officer and new principal officers.
The aide further argued that defecting to another party was not one of the ways a senate president could lose his position.
Buttressing his argument, he cited Section 50 (2) of the Constitution which says “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 maybe, 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 removed from office by a resolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of the House.
The aide also argued that in line with the constitution, there were occasions in the past political dispensations in the country where persons from minority parties presided over both chambers of the National Assembly.
He specifically referred to the Second Republic when the late Edwin Ume-Ezeoke of the defunct Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) was Speaker of the House of Representatives while his deputy, Ibrahim Idris, was of the then governing National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
He also cited an instance where John Wash Pam, also of the NPP, was the deputy senate president. Mr Pam from Plateau served as deputy to NPN’s Joseph Wayas.
Both cases were however made possible because of the alliance formed between the two parties after the 1979 elections.
The aide also recalled that in the Seventh Assembly, then Speaker Aminu Tambuwal defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC but retained his position as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
He also said in the current Eight Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, a member of the PDP, is sitting as the deputy senate president despite belonging to the minority PDP.
The aide further told this newspaper that although he would not foreclose attempts by the APC leadership to seek to remove Mr Saraki, he however, said such move might also trigger the removal of other principal officers who are members of the ruling party, Mr Lawan.
When contacted, the spokesperson to Mr. Saraki, Yusuph Olaniyonu, confirmed that Mr. Saraki was not considering resigning as Senate President.
“All I can say at this time is that you should go and read the constitution,” Mr. Olaniyonu said. “Does it forbid members of minority or majority parties from becoming presiding officers of House or Senate.”