Saraki, Osinbajo and Nigeria’s Chief Justice Onnoghen.
There is growing disquiet within the corridors of power in Abuja, over feelers that Senate President Bukola Saraki intends to take advantage of President Muhammadu Buhari’s failing health to supplant himself as the nation’s number one citizen.
Two top ranking officials in the office of acting President Yemi Osinbajo disclosed to Pulse on conditions of anonymity, Tuesday night, that Saraki’s recent actions and posturing point to an overreach.
Saraki is the 3rd most powerful man in Nigeria’s leadership hierarchy–as enshrined in the nation’s constitution.
It all began when Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe moved a mischievous motion during plenary on Tuesday, July 4.
The motion stopped short of declaring Saraki president; with Osinbajo away in Ethiopia for the 29th Ordinary Session of the African Union.
The acting president has since returned home.
Sen Abaribe tabled the motion for Osinbajo’s ‘impeachment’
Back in April, Osinbajo had told Pulse and other media outfits inside his residence at the Villa, that the executive didn’t need to send Ibrahim Magu’s name to the legislature for confirmation, in the first instance.
Magu’s nomination for the position of chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by the presidency has twice been turned down by parliament, necessitating Osinbajo’s remarks to select online media publishers on the night.
“I am fully in support of Magu as EFCC Chairman and so is the president”, Osinbajo had said. “If our candidate is rejected, the law says we can re-present him.
He added that; “Even a pocket book lawyer knows that the constitution overrides the EFCC Act. The EFCC Act says the presidency has to send the name of the EFCC nominee to the senate for confirmation. The constitution states otherwise.
“There was no need, in the first place, to have sent Magu to the senate for confirmation”.
Acting president Osinbajo and Senate President; Bukola Saraki in a conversation.
As Saraki read a letter from the acting president seeking for the confirmation of another nominee from the executive this week, senators went beserk.
They cited the comments above from Osinbajo on confirmation of nominees by parliament, as one reason why they weren’t going to consider the new letter before them.
“I look at the issue of the confirmation brought today like a double standard or a kind of hypocrisy”, said senator Isah Misau.
“I hope Nigerians are watching, as long as we are operating the national assembly, the executive must respect it,” he added.
Senator Dino Melaye who was very vocal in the rejection of Magu, wasted no time wading in.
Saraki and Osinbajo exchange ideas.
“Mr President, let it not be heard that it was during your time that the institution of the Senate lost its powers. I want to move a motion to prevent you (Saraki) from reading any letter from the executive seeking the confirmation of any nominee. It should become abominable,” Melaye blared.
Moments later, Abaribe and Senator Kabiru Marafa were asking Saraki to replace Osinbajo.
“I simply want to bring to the attention of this chamber and all Nigerians and to ask the question. The acting president is the person who is at the head of government now, but we have a serious problem in Nigeria today. We have nobody in Nigeria who is at the head of the government,” Abaribe said.
He added that; “The law and the procedure and all the laws in Nigeria states that you cannot have a vacuum. Today, the acting president is outside the country and so there is a vacuum.”
Citing Order 54 (4) of the Senate Standing Rules, Marafa said; “The constitution is very clear, if the president is out of the country, the constitution is clear as to who is the head of government. If the acting president is out of the country, the senate president is the next in the line of succession”.
Dino Melaye and Saraki at a function.
Stifling laughter, Saraki ruled the senators out of order with a bang of the gavel.
However, the prevailing sentiment in the country is that the senate president who hasn’t hidden his ambition to become Nigeria’s number one citizen some day, had recruited senators to test the waters and the mood of the nation, during plenary.
The two top ranking officials in the presidency who spoke to Pulse concerning the subject, expressed similar sentiments.
In the past, certain sources had also disclosed that given Buhari’s struggles with his health, Saraki has been scheming to shove Osinbajo out of the way just so he can become the nation’s number one citizen. Pulse hasn’t been able to independently verify those claims.
Osinbajo takes a walk with presiding officers of legislature and past leaders.
Presidency sources have also told Pulse that Saraki has been holding meetings with the Aso Villa cabal as he seeks to realise his ambition of overseeing Nigeria’s affairs; with Buhari becoming increasingly incapacitated and holed up in a London apartment.
At least one member of the Buhari cabal, Isah Funtua, has held meetings with Saraki, Pulse was told.
However, added yet another presidency source, Funtua has been barred from accessing the Villa by Buhari owing to his capacity for mischief and his propensity for leaking privileged information to the media.
Sen Abaribe and Deputy Senate president Ike Ekweremadu.
Abubakar Sadiq Usman who is a member of the Buhari media organisation, says Funtua has since become a persona non grata within the Buhari inner circle.
“There is disquiet in the inner circle of President Buhari as one of his strong men, Samaila Isah Funtua has allegedly betrayed the president”, Usman said.
Usman added that: “Alhaji Funtua is said to have serially engaged in several activities that amount to a complete breach of trust the president reposed in him.
“As someone who has unfettered access to the villa, Alhaji Funtua is alleged to have used this to curry undue favour from everyone available.
“He is alleged to have been engaged in this kind of activity since Buhari became president, one reason why his access to the villa was cut last year.
Buhari and Osinbajo meet with parliamentary leaders.
“Apart from using his influence to curry favour, Alhaji Funtua is also alleged to be engaging in acts that portray the president in bad light”, Usman said.
Online news platform, Sahara Reporters also alleges that Saraki has been holding nocturnal meetings with members of the cabal with one goal in mind–oust Osinbajo.
According to Sahara Reporters, “The cabal behind president Buhari met extensively with Bukola Saraki in Saudi Arabia on how to stop Osinbajo from becoming president.
“They opted to “impeach” Buhari and Osinbajo altogether and let Saraki take over as president. Or bring president Buhari back home in whatever condition and use his presence to stall any move to have Osinbajo become full president.
“Bukola Saraki met with Isah Funtua in Saudi Arabia; with Funtua acting on behalf of the cabal.
“Since returning to Abuja, Isah Funtua has met nocturnally with several key northerners, asking them to rally around Saraki”.
Buhari, Magu and Saraki.
While working on this story, Pulse reached out to Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu who is Special Adviser on media to the senate president, for a reaction to some of these allegations, insinuations and reports.
However, calls placed to Olaniyonu’s mobile were neither answered nor returned. An email sent to Olaniyonu had also not been replied at the time of filing this story.
Olubukola Abubakar Saraki, 54, served as Governor of the north central State of Kwara between 2003 and 2011.
Saraki also has a knack for winning battles.
Aside winning his case at the CCT for alleged false declaration of assets, Saraki has also won battles against his late Dad Olusola Saraki, his sister Gbemisola Saraki-Fowora (who he succeeded in the senate), Goodluck Jonathan who meddled in the affairs of the Governors’ forum while Saraki was chairman of the pressure group and the PDP hierarchy from where he joined the governing APC.
To emerge senate president, Saraki outwitted and outsmarted the APC top brass–he wasn’t his party’s handpicked choice for the position of senate president.
Political pundits say the suave Saraki now has his sights firmly set on Aso Rock. His admirers are putting money on him claiming more scalps on his way to realising a lifelong dream.