Ripples Nigeria has learnt that what began as an innocuous award to Deputy Senate President,Ike Ekweremadu, on Tuesday has created serious unease in the camp of Dr Bukola Saraki, incumbent leader of the Senate, who is currently facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for false declaration of assets.
The award, ‘Anti-corruption Ambassador,’ which is now mired in controversy was reportedly cooked for Mr Ekweremadu by the Liaison Officer of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the National Assembly, Mr Sulaiman Bakari. The agency has since denied the said staff, leaving the Deputy Senate President thoroughly embarrassed and feeling that he may have been scammed.
Sources close to Senator Saraki say that the anti-corruption crusader award bestowed on his deputy took his camp by surprise, coming at a time the Senate President’s integrity was being questioned both at the tribunal and in the Panama Paper leaks. Saraki’s loyalists are now querying the original intentions behind the Ekweremadu misadventure, a source confided in Ripples Nigeria.
What has emerged is that the Saraki and Ekweremadu camps are heading for an apparent showdown as mutual distrust sets in. The Saraki camp is alleging underground moves to unmake their principal via a ‘timed coup’.
The unease among the Saraki elements heightened on Wednesday when the Deputy Senate President emerged from a closed-door session of the Senate to announce that the upper legislative chamber was reversing some of its earlier decisions which had drawn the ire of Nigerians and made Saraki even more unpopular.
Among others, Ekweremadu said the Senate was suspending further debate on amendments proposed for the Code of Conduct Act which many believe was instigated by Saraki to extricate himself from the CCT trial.
He also announced that the Senate was standing down the suspension clamped on Senator Kabir Marafa, a known Saraki critic who wanted the Senate President sacked soon after he was elected.
He added that the Senate had also resolved that all members who had cases instituted in the courts against their colleagues should have same withdrawn, emphasizing that the Senate was now more united than before.
Finally, he said that Senators will stand by their embattled President all through the course of trial at the CCT. While many at the Senate closed-door session cheered, reports say that die-hard Saraki loyalists were not amused and have since drawn a battle line.
Our source said, “We are surprised at the Deputy Senate President. We believe that the award was an orchestrated move to rubbish Dr Saraki and position himself as a saint. We see through this charade, and are not impressed.
“We smell a dirty plot, a timed coup to stampede Oga out of office.
“We think Ekweremadu is in a hurry to be Senate President. They should allow the law to run its course. Dr. Saraki has said he would not resign and is ready to face trial. This set back is only temporary. We are confident he will prevail in the end”, he said.
Last week, the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Odigie John Oyegun, sent the clearest signal till date of the party’s resolve to sack the troubled Senate President. He had given indications that the APC would spare nothing to oust Saraki.
Analysts believe that Ekweremadu’s succession plots may have been bolstered by Oyegun’s pronouncements.
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One commentator told Ripples Nigeria, “The man has a right to aspire. There is a gap to be filled, and this has been made manifest by APC chieftains who have come out to say that they do not want Saraki anymore.
“Politicians are the same everywhere. They are all opportunists and would seize the moment if an opportunity presents itself. Ekweremadu cannot be an exception. He has been lying in wait for long.
“I think he is being edged on by permutations that the opposition party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have a comfortable standing in the Red Chamber and only require a few disgruntled APC Senators to climb the throne”, he noted.
The apprehensions in Saraki camp, reports say, are the reason behind the latest plot by his legal team to cause further delays in his trial.
On Wednesday, the Agabi-led legal defence force got their principal to formally request that the CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar, quit the trial on grounds of alleged bias against Saraki. There are speculations that Saraki’s camp won’t take matters lying low and are preparing to unleash a media war against all perceived enemies, with Ekweremadu no exception.
Though no official words have come from either camp, the Deputy Senate President, it is gathered, has reached out to Saraki to reassure him that he means well. An inside source said, “Yes, he called to let him into all the goings-on in the Senate and all is well between the Senate President and his Deputy. He is privy to all that transpired.
“It is very clear that there is no love lost between the two. We will stand by our leader, no matter what,” he said.
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