How Senate nailed Yar'Adua

THE SUN Newspaper- Amos Dunia

When on December 1, 2009, the Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate, Victor Ndoma-Egba made spirited attempts to move a motion for the discussion of President Umaru Yar’Adua’s health, he was tactically blocked by President of the Senate, David Mark.

The Benue born legislator rather preferred that the Senate offered prayers for the quick recovery of the ailing president.
When the motion under Standing Order 42 was put to voice vote, surprisingly, majority voted against it being tabled for deliberation.
Chairman, Senate committee on information, Ayogu Eze later explained why the upper chamber did not support the motion saying that since the Senate President had spoken on it, his colleagues felt it was not necessary to channel their energies on the matter but should rather concentrate on the budget.

Then, the ailing president had just spent barely 10 days out of the country and the implication of his absence was yet to dawn on the law makers. The reality came during the 2009 Supplementary Appropriation Bill and the question of how it was to be implemented without Yar’Adua’s assent took centre stage.

But assenting to the appropriation was quickly arranged, and the document was said to have been taken to the President on his sick bed where he approved the money bill. Upon the development, the Senate leadership assumed that the matter would mellow down but that was not to be. The situation created more tension and apprehension among the people.

Not even the National Assembly vacation for the Christmas and New Year could keep the matter off the front burner with more pressure mounted on the leadership of the National Assembly to get genuine information on the President’s health. Unfortunately, the more questions the people asked, the fewer information that trickled in.
The citizens were told different tales of the President’s health. Some believed not to have seen him even before he was flown out of the country said he was recuperating and even watching football while others said he had started eating food and would soon return to the country.

There are those who said Yar’Adua spoke to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan on phone as well as the Chairman of the Governor’s Forum, Bukola Saraki, the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole. Despite the confusion, none of them confirmed or denied speaking with the President on phone in order not to step on toes.

However, as the intrigues played out, Senators who were on recess came under pressure from their constituents over the whereabouts of the President. It was as a result of the intense pressure that the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu led 29 other Senators to move a motion over two weeks ago for the chamber to constitute a team to visit Yar’Adua to determine his health staus.

The main prayer contained in the motion was later amended to read, “The Secretary to the Government of the Federation should be invited by the Senate to brief it on the President’s health and absence.”
The resolution adopted by the Senate inviting the SGF was seen as weak and an attempt to buy time and did not go down well with some of the Senators but were not given the opportunity to do so by the Senate President.
That was the catalyst that propelled the duo of Senators Bala Mohammed and Smart Adeyemi to stake their necks by embarking on a thorny road that most of the Senators were initially afraid to thread. They formed what is now known as “National Interest Group (NIG)”.

Determined to ensure full implementation of their dream of a smooth governance and peace in the country, they lobbied their colleagues and started collecting signatures of those who shared their philosophy of getting the ailing President to handover to his vice to prevent chaos in the nation.
The eventual outcome of the closed door briefing of the Senate by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed was like the needed impetus members of NIG needed to further consolidate and mobilize for more members.

The membership drive for the NIG was therefore made easier following the near total lack of information on the President as provided by Alhaji Ahmed who equally confessed to the Senators that he last saw his Principal in November 2009. The SGF, it was gathered told the Senators that he personally drafted a letter which was vetted by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa that was to be transmitted to the National Assembly through the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly matters, Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji.

The bombshell dropped by the SGF infuriated many of the Senators. They smelt a rat by some people in the corridors of power. It was this revelation that made more Senators initially sitting on the fence to now team up with members of the NIG to further drum support for Yar’Adua’s vice to act in his stead. The fear of the NIG Senators that met from Tuesday night to early hours of Wednesday morning was that if Yar’Adua was allowed to continue as President despite his incapacitation, some greedy elements around him would abuse their positions.

It was gathered that but for the concession later granted the Senate leadership by the NIG members to adopt due process in its conduct, Yar’Adua would have lost his seat long ago. The plan was to out rightly resolve the Yar’Adua saga by directing the immediate swearing in Goodluck Jonathan or risk invoking Section 143 to resolve the constitutional crisis.

It was in line with this move that some members of the Senate advised that due process must be followed by the upper chamber. Accordingly, the legislators saw reasons and then directed for the amendment of Section 145 to give powers to the National Assembly that has oversight functions on the President and as elected representatives of the people to be the institution to determine the health status of the President and not Ministers who are appointees of the government


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