President Muhammadu Buhari’s quest to retain tenancy of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa beyond 2019 may literally walk a tightrope following widening rift between him and the duo of Senator Bukola Saraki and Rt.Hon. Yakubu Dogara, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.
As heads of the two arms of the legislative chambers, Saraki and Dogara have, in the past few months squared up against the Presidency; a development that played no mean role in the delay that characterised the signing of the 2018 Appropriation Bill into Law by President Buhari on Wednesday. President Muhammadu Buhari Following the inputs of the federal parliaments into the appropriation bill, the President was expected to put pen to paper on the all-important document penultimate Wednesday, only for the signing to be postponed because of the unavailability of the heads of the parliamentary chambers. Saturday Vanguard gathered that while Saraki initially left for Saudi Arabia for the lesser Hajj; he changed destination to Russia, leading a delegation of Nigerian Senators to Russia on a three-day parliamentary visit. According to Saraki on his Twitter Handle, the visit to Russia was intended at “deepening legislative best practices and further strengthening the relationship between both countries.” On his part, Dogara has been at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), attending an executive leadership course. As a result, neither Saraki nor Dogara was present at the budget signing but were nonetheless represented by the Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Álla and the Chief Whip of the House, Ado Dogowa respectively. But a Presidency source and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) told this medium in confidence that the absence of the two leaders was not unconnected with the “ongoing problem that is yet to be resolved.” According to him, members of the APC, including Saraki and Dogara ought to throw their weight behind President Buhari, stressing that their “seemingly indifference is not good for the President’s ambition.” He said: “They are members of the APC but are they on the same page with the party? I don’t want to sound an alarm but these are leaders with a good number of followers. The question here is: Are they for us or against us? I can’t understand their absence at the budget signing by Mr. President and as far as I know; their absence is an indication that all is not well. At the end, the party and of course, the 2019 re-election bid of Mr. President may be the victim of this disorder,” he said. Although, no law provides for the physical presence of the heads of the legislative chambers to be present at budget signing, it has become customary for leaders of both arms of National Assembly, Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning and a handful of cabinet members to witness same since the return to democracy in 1999. In Dogara’s home state of Bauchi, the Speaker and Governor Mohammed Abubakar are locked in battle for the control of the party. Expectedly, Buhari has pitched his tent with the governor, leaving Dogara in the cold. Both Saraki and Dogara are currently weighing their options ahead of the 2019 general elections and with the PDP’s Contact and Integration Committee reaching out to the duo for a possible defection back into its fold, the fear thus expressed is not out of place. As it were, rejoining the PDP is not as easy as it seems as the demand for the control of party structures in their respective states may cause fresh trouble for the leading opposition party and its quest to oust the ruling party in the next general election.