DSS operatives laying siege to the National Assembly

Without officially declaring open the 2019 elections, there are strong indications that the race, which is a few months away, might have already begun. It also goes without saying that a majority of the events that have shaped the last few weeks have not helped matters either, but corroborated this position. Interestingly, what appears the slight difference between the last national elections and the much talked about 2019 is that the battles are being fought at different levels, albeit at the highest level of power play. Whilst some are being fought at the party level (intra and inter), some are being slugged out at the parliamentary level. The presidency has its hands full as it struggles to deal with all sorts of challenges within its ranks, including looking for a selling narrative or message that could appeal to the people. But, whatever it is, some of the experiences of the last few days seem to have provided the platform for a good review of the coming elections, write Olawale Olaleye, Deji Elumoye, Omololu Ogunmade and Onyebuchi Ezigbo report

About a week ago, just before he left for his 10-day vacation in London, the United Kingdom, President Muhammadu Buhari, had requested of his supporters to suspend all forms of campaigns, pending the time the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declares the race open. He frowned at any activities, either directly or indirectly, that could foul the laws of the land.

The irony, however, was that shortly before he embarked on the trip, Buhari too, had paid an unscheduled visit to his campaign office in Abuja, newly and beautifully put together by the Minister of Transportation and Director General of the campaign organisation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi.

Although the president was circumspect in terms of his utterances, because when the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha allegedly asked for the programme of activities, the president, who described himself as the Chairman of the campaign, allegedly said he would provide all of that with time, the campaign office in itself was a message with subliminal content.

But could it also be sheer coincidence that a few days to the vacation trip, there was an initial move to arrest the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, when the police blocked his residence and that of his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, with the sole aim of effecting leadership change in the legislature? That failed, but unfortunately, it exacerbated the intensity of the power game, as the different contending forces dug deeper into their trenches on the path to 2019.

However, with a second and brazen attempt at a forceful leadership change in the Senate, a move that left both the government and the country thoroughly embarrassed before the international community, there is no gainsaying the fact that the 2019 battle has begun in full blaze, whether or not INEC has declared the race open. It is now an open political warfare as each side perfects strategies to outdo each other and gain political advantage.

ENTER PARTY POLITICS
The signs of the current cracks in the various political parties and the rivalry therefrom derived basically from the manipulations of the congresses and national conventions especially, of the two main political parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The exercises conducted by the two parties were fraught with such manipulations that gave away the sincerity of their respective congresses and conventions. Whilst the development was not as bad in the PDP as it quickly moved in to contain the various tendencies, the APC has sort of failed in handling its own situation well, a move that has resulted in staggering defections of very important members of the party, including the President Senate of the Senate, Saraki, governors, former governors, senators, House of Representatives members and many more party faithful.

Unfortunately, for the new leadership of the APC, which is believed to have more to lose than the PDP in the emerging power play, rather than being contrite and employ suasion in dealing with the tense situation, it became annoyingly arrogant, calling the bluff of those, who could not stand its guts and even threatening to sack ministers, who would not play by the rules. It won’t stop there; it also sent a clear message to the president, when the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole said if the president had been condoning a disrespect of his office, he would not.

And because of the palpable indication that the president might not be hands-on, a fact that has always been public knowledge, this leadership, in connivance with some characters in the party decided to run their own government within the legitimate government of President Buhari to flesh personal agenda, however, in the name of the president.

Expectedly, the PDP too has refused to let the APC live rent-free on the turf by constantly pushing back hard on nearly every issue. Also, supporting the position of the PDP at nearly all the time is the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), which just appointed a former APC spokesperson, Bolaji Abdulahi as its new Publicity Secretary.

Although the engagements have been a little bit dirty and tension-soaked, sometimes with the crudest of languages being employed, the PDP has also tried to make the 2019 debate issue-based by constantly raising concerns to which it has been encouraging the Nigerian people to ask relevant question.

Clearly, party rivalry actually presents itself as the fulcrum of debate in the battle for 2019, both internally and across. But with more defections expected across the parties sometime soon, the rivalry is also expected to scale up in the next few weeks as the election dates approach.

DEFECTIONS AND THEIR IMPORT
For some time now, the APC and the PDP have engaged in a battle of wits, trying to surpass each other in what many observers have dubbed the political transfer market. As at the last count, the APC had lost a substantial number of its key support bases to the PDP. Most of them now crisscross the country, seeking to appease or woo more members. With the gale of defections rocking the polity, the first to go was the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, who had to defect to the PDP with a majority of the members of the State House of Assembly as well as all his political structures in the state.

APC had hardly recovered from the shock of Ortom’s departure, when about 14 Senators of the APC left the party in their droves to join the PDP. But the defection of the senators did not go without a drama, as there was a major onslaught on the leadership of the Senate by security agents. Early in the morning of the day of the senator’s defection, the homes of Saraki and Ekwerenmadu were barricaded by fully armed Policemen to prevent them from attending the day’s sitting.

Saraki had to pull off one of the uncommon political stunts in the country’s recent history to beat the security and found his way to the Senate chambers to preside over the day’s proceedings. The defection train also saw former governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso lead a good chunk of the lawmakers from the state to defect to the PDP.

As if scripted, a week after the Kano defection, the Kwara State governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed also left the ruling APC with his entire cabinet, state assembly lawmakers and party structures in the state and moved to the PDP. The gale defections from the APC continued unabated. With the defection of the Kwara State governor, who is a known protégé of the Senate President, everyone expected his boss to toe the same line, but Saraki kept his decision to his chest and waited, perhaps, for the right moment to drop the bombshell.

When Saraki’s decision to defect to the PDP came, it was communicated in style. First, it came through a short tweet early in the morning but as newsmen and politicians tried to digest his post, the real message came via his media aides, who issued a lengthy resignation letter, chronicling all his reasons for bidding the APC goodbye.
Another blow to the APC ego came shortly after Saraki’s departure, as the Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal defected from the party to the PDP with a majority of the state lawmakers. Aside from this, there were other defections suffered in the APC states like Kaduna, Katsina, Adamawa and Niger.

The leadership of the party had dismissed the defections as a non-issue especially, the defections in the Senate. It said as the ruling party, it still maintained the majority, although such position has been disputed by the PDP, which claimed that it has taken over the majority in the Senate.

But the later reaction of the ruling party belies its earlier bravado that it had nothing to worry about.
A visibly shaken APC immediately beckoned on President Buhari to help halt the defections. National Chairman of the party, Oshiomhole had to shuttle between his office and the Aso Rock Villa, where series of meetings and consultations were held to map out the strategies to adopt in rescuing the ruling party from drifting. Not even the initial braggadocio exhibited by Oshiomhole and some of APC leaders could calm the tension and anxiety caused by the defection of 14 of its senators in one fell swoop.

More worrisome was the possibility of APC losing its majority status in the senate, which could lead to PDP not only occupying the two principal offices of the President of the Senate and the Deputy, but also taking over the seat of the majority leader. Such were the stakes that woke up the lion in the APC and its leadership started making efforts to reconcile with aggrieved members, trying desperately to reverse the advantage PDP seemed to have gained with regards to wining over key politicians.

However, the effort of the APC paid off, when its dragnet caught a big fish in the South-south politics, in the person of former Senate Minority Leader and former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio. Before Akpabio’s defection, APC national chairman had gone to Ebonyi State to receive a senator from the area into the party’s fold. The ruling party also took advantage of the misgivings that heralded the return of Saraki to the PDP to woo the Kwara State PDP chairman, Iyiola Oyedepo.

Although APC is still basking in the euphoria of having caught a big fish in Akpabio and some House of Assembly members, its leaders know that it still needs to do more in order to match the calibre of defectors PDP has garnered in the last few weeks. With the high chances of the Speaker of House Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara also defecting from APC along with his loyal colleagues, it remains to be seen what the ruling party is going to do to counter the trend.

Putting Akpabio and Kwankwaso side by side, the latter will no doubt be more beneficial to the “umbrella” than the former to the “Broom revolutionaries”. For instance, Kwankwanso pulled Kano State Deputy Governor, some state assembly members, commissioners, state APC chieftains and other political appointees with him to join the PDP. Don’t forget Kano alone has two million votes, whereas Akpabio pulled only two commissioners and a few legislators to join the APC during the mega rally at Ikot Ekpene Township Stadium. In fact, four of Akpabio’s aides resigned and insisted on staying with the PDP.

A BACKGROUND TO THE SIEGE
When Senate President Saraki formally defected from the APC to the PDP, in his country home, Ilorin, the Kwara State capital on Tuesday, July 31, 2018, little did he know that his return to the PDP, which he left some four years ago, would generate so much heat! The APC caucus in the Senate, which claimed it still has the majority quickly swung into action and commenced moves towards ensuring that Saraki vacates his seat as Senate President, having left the party under which platform he became the nation’s number three citizen.

The Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, who is also the Chairman of the APC Senate Caucus and arrow head of the game plan met with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, to discuss the issue of the defecting Senators and the way forward.

In one week, the APC Senate Caucus were said to have met with President Buhari in a record four times. At one of such meetings, the Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, joined Senator Lawan and 11 other APC Senators to meet behind closed-doors with the President.
The APC Senators at the meeting with President Buhari included Aliyu Wamakko, Ali Ndume, Hope Uzodinma, Umar Kurfi, Yahaya Abdullahi, Danjuma Goje, Robert Borrofice, Sabi Abdullahi, Sunni Ugborji, Abubakar Yusuf and Abdullahi Gumel.

At another time, a fourth-time member of the National Assembly, Senator Abu Ibrahim, warned that the Senate would know no peace until Saraki vacates office, having defected from the ruling APC to PDP.
Senator Ibrahim (Katsina South) had in an interview declared that peace would elude the Senate except Saraki resigns as Senate President.

“If Saraki doesn’t resign, we will never have peace in that Senate, because it is absolutely clear that APC has majority to produce the leadership”.
He said Saraki has chosen the path of survival by leaving APC, which he claimed the senate president had undermined for some time.

He, however, noted that “The next line of action for him is to resign as Senate President, because by all conventions all over the world, the majority party produces the leadership: Senate President, the majority leader and others. So, let him be gentlemanly enough and resign as Senate President. If the leadership does not ask for peace, it will not get peace. Peace is a function of leadership. I have been in the Senate for about four times. I can’t allow anybody to manipulate me. I can’t take it.

“Nobody was elected as Senate President. We all came here as Senators. So, we have equal footing. We gave you leadership. If you fail to give us the right leadership and if majority of us don’t want you any more, you have to leave. Saraki was elected by us. At any time majority of us say he should go, he has to go.”

On the allegation that some senators attempted to break into the Senate chamber on Tuesday to reconvene plenary, he retorted: “How do you break into the chamber? If we like we can reconvene legally, because it is legal for us to reconvene. We don’t need to break into the chamber when we have the number. I will never subscribe to that. The rules are there that if we are up to 30, we can reconvene”.

Ibrahim, a close confidant of President Buhari, had at that time hinted that the APC Senators even with 30 members could reconvene. His position is however contrary to Rule 12(1,2,3) of the Senate Standing Order 2015 as amended.
Rule 12(1) of the Order states: “Whenever the Senate shall stand adjourned to a date not fixed and it is represented to the President of the Senate by the leaders of the political parties in the Senate that the Senate shall meet on a certain day at a certain time, the President of the Senate shall give notice accordingly and the Senate shall meet on the date and at the time stated in the notice.”

Rule 12(2) states: “Whenever the Senate stands adjourned either to a date fixed by the rule of the Senate or to a date determined in accordance with paragraph (1) of this Rule and it is represented by the leaders of the political parties in the Senate to the President of the Senate and the public interest requires that the Senate should meet on an earlier or later date or time than that which it stands adjourned, the President of the Senate shall give notice accordingly and the Senate shall meet on the date and at the time stated in the notice.”
a fourth-time member of the National Assembly, Senator Abu Ibrahim, warned that the Senate would know no peace until Saraki vacates office, having defected from the ruling APC to PDP.

Senator Ibrahim (Katsina South) had in an interview declared that peace would elude the Senate except Saraki resigns as Senate President.

“If Saraki doesn’t resign, we will never have peace in that Senate, because it is absolutely clear that APC has majority to produce the leadership”.

He said Saraki has chosen the path of survival by leaving APC, which he claimed the senate president had undermined for some time. He, however, noted that “The next line of action for him is to resign as Senate President, because by all conventions all over the world, the majority party produces the leadership: Senate President, the majority leader and others. So, let him be gentlemanly enough and resign as Senate President. If the leadership does not ask for peace, it will not get peace. Peace is a function of leadership. I have been in the Senate for about four times. I can’t allow anybody to manipulate me. I can’t take it.

“Nobody was elected as Senate President. We all came here as Senators. So, we have equal footing. We gave you leadership. If you fail to give us the right leadership and if majority of us don’t want you any more, you have to leave. Saraki was elected by us. At any time majority of us say he should go, he has to go.”

On the allegation that some senators attempted to break into the Senate chamber on Tuesday to reconvene plenary, he retorted: “How do you break into the chamber? If we like we can reconvene legally, because it is legal for us to reconvene. We don’t need to break into the chamber when we have the number. I will never subscribe to that. The rules are there that if we are up to 30, we can reconvene”.

Ibrahim, a close confidant of President Buhari, had at that time hinted that the APC Senators even with 30 members could reconvene. His position is however contrary to Rule 12(1,2,3) of the Senate Standing Order 2015 as amended.
Rule 12(1) of the Order states: “Whenever the Senate shall stand adjourned to a date not fixed and it is represented to the President of the Senate by the leaders of the political parties in the Senate that the Senate shall meet on a certain day at a certain time, the President of the Senate shall give notice accordingly and the Senate shall meet on the date and at the time stated in the notice.”

Rule 12(2) states: “Whenever the Senate stands adjourned either to a date fixed by the rule of the Senate or to a date determined in accordance with paragraph (1) of this Rule and it is represented by the leaders of the political parties in the Senate to the President of the Senate and the public interest requires that the Senate should meet on an earlier or later date or time than that which it stands adjourned, the President of the Senate shall give notice accordingly and the Senate shall meet on the date and at the time stated in the notice.”
Rule 12(3) States: “When the President of the Senate shall have given notice in accordance with either of the two preceding paragraphs, the Clerk shall communicate the terms of the notice to each Senator.

This was the build-up to the eventual invasion of the National Assembly premises by security operatives on Tuesday. The invasion, which was condemned by all and sundry, including the international community led to the sack of the Director-General of the Department of State Security (DSS), Alhaji Lawan Daura.

DAURA’S CUP OF OFFENCES
The sack of Daura, last Tuesday, dominated events throughout the week. Until he was fired by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, the erstwhile Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS) was law unto himself. The DSS under his watch fell short of a sense of professionalism and that seemed to be the general consensus among Nigerians.

In his days, professionalism which had been the hallmark of the service since inception ceased to be a principle as operatives of DSS, who were hitherto respected for decency, descended into the abyss, storming secondary schools to beat up teachers, raiding homes with sheer disregard to professional ethics and laying siege to churches to arrest pastors for daring to criticise the government, among other vices.

The Daura-led DSS even reportedly had little or no respect for the presidency to which it owed responsibility as it had the guts to write the National Assembly, asking it to reject the nominees of President Buhari. It would also deploy some of its men to stop the arrest of people that the system believed had questions to answer.

The DSS led by Daura hardly took instructions from anyone, as it was allegedly at loggerheads with the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) to which it ought to report. Those were the features of the secret service, which climaxed on Tuesday, when it deployed men to take over the National Assembly without consulting the acting president, who was the head of government.

With that decision, Daura’s cup of offences seemed to have run over, culminating in his summary dismissal. Reports had it that when the news of his sack got to the DSS headquarters, it was a celebration all the way as his colleagues were said to have hailed the development as good riddance.

There were reports that even though the acting president was shocked to the marrows over the deployment without his authorisation as the acting commander-in-chief of the armed forces, he did not conceive any plan to sack him. The decision was only dictated by his alleged rude and unrepentant posture.

Daura’s sack was the fallout of the meeting called by Osinbajo in the Presidential Villa over the matter on that fateful day. Both Daura and the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, had been summoned to the meeting to explain the rationale behind the sudden deployment of masked armed men to besiege the National Assembly without his knowledge.

While Idris arrived at the Villa at the nick of time, Daura came much later to join him. There were allegations that his egoistic attitude, which smacked of disrespect for both the personality and office of the acting president, compelled the latter to make a telephone call to his boss in London, reporting the development at home and the attendant arrogance of the protagonist.

Without having to go into the details, a consensus was allegedly reached between Buhari and Osinbajo to do away with Daura. Thus, at about 1.50 pm on Tuesday, Daura, in whose imagination it never existed that he would quit the service that day, albeit in such an ignoble manner, was forthwith given the boot.

It was learnt that a top presidency official rushed to the acting president’s office to plead for leniency and allow Daura to keep his job, but then, it was too late as it amounted to medicine after death.
Daura, thus, kissed the dust and in a matter of minutes, the one-time powerful DSS boss, who would arrest and stop planned arrests at will, was himself under arrest and cooled off his heels in the custody of Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS). Even as at the time of filing this report, he was still under house arrest.

It was the end of an era as all the perceived personal aggrandisement of over three years came to a close with just a two-sentence statement, which read: “The Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has directed the termination of the appointment of the Director-General, State Security Service, Lawal Musa Daura with immediate effect. Mr. Daura has been directed to hand over to the most senior officer of the State Security Service until further notice.”
Osinbajo had on that day, been scheduled to embark on a trip to Lagos, where he had been billed to address a meeting on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), organised by his office in collaboration with the government of Lagos State.

After getting rid of Daura, Osinbajo condemned what he described as unauthorised takeover of the National Assembly, saying it was a gross violation of constitutional order, rule of law and all acceptable notions of law and order.
Categorically stating that the act was unlawful and done without the knowledge of the presidency, he insisted that the act was condemnable and completely unacceptable, threatening further that everyone who was party to the conspiracy would not go unpunished.
The sack of Daura is expected to serve as a deterrent to a number of presidential aides, who make impunity their badge of honour.

2019 IN THEIR FACES
Let no one be deceived, 2019 is fully and finally here. INEC could choose to announce the kick-off date whenever it is pleased to do so, it would not stop the high-wire power game that is currently at play. Whilst some of the trappings are utterly disturbing, it appears there is no stopping the gladiators as everyone seems determined to undo one another in the ensuing end game.

However, while it is okay to flex muscles and outwit one another in the battle for 2019, embracing outright anti-democratic tactics must be discouraged, no matter the desperation on either sides. The stakes for collective interest as a people are far greater than the individual aspiration that some desperately seek. Yes, 2019 is in their faces, let them see the positive approach to the power game and not inadvertently undermine the gains of the nation’s 20 years of democracy.