The governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) may have had their way against the wishes of the members of the National Assembly over the summon issued to President Muhammadu Buhari by the lawmakers on the degenerating security situation across the country.
At a Tuesday night meeting between the governors and the party’s caucus in the National Assembly l, those in attendance argued for hours on reasons for and against the appearance of the president before the house.
PREMIUM TIMES was briefed on the deliberations at the meeting by multiple sources present.
The governors were led to the meeting by their chairman, who doubles as the governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu. Also in attendance were both Senate President Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
The Governor of Katsina State, Bello Masari, who was also a speaker of the House of Representatives, was accorded the opportunity to speak to the lawmakers on the likely consequences of the president’s appearance before the lawmakers.
Apart from their fear that the state houses of assembly may want to take the opportunity to “harass” the governors by seeking frequent appearances, they also claimed that they had obtained an intelligence report that indicated that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members were planning to embarrass the president.
The governors took turns to explain the likely consequences of such development on the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and the ruling party.
Canvassing the governors’ position, Mr Masari said as a former lawmaker and speaker of the lower chamber, exposing the president to opposition’s attack could be damaging to the image of the party and the party members.
The governors also spoke about party supremacy, insisting that the decision of the party at its National Executive Council meeting held earlier in the day was to discourage the president from addressing the lawmakers.
One of the governors from the North Central states spoke about the public knowledge of their meetings and cited the earlier report by PREMIUM TIMES. The governor said the contents of the meetings with the president at the villa and other places, have been reported by the newspaper.
He, therefore, cautioned the members in attendance against sabotaging the interest of the party.
They, therefore, appealed to the lawmakers to heed their request by cancelling the address of the president which had already been scheduled for Thursday.
Senate President backs governors
Meanwhile, the President of the Senate, Mr Lawan, who was apparently the only senator in attendance at the meeting, was reported to have supported the position of the governors.
In what some lawmakers described as a surprising position, Mr Lawan was said to have supported the idea of party supremacy, saying the conclusion of the NEC must be supported by all.
It would be recalled that unlike the lower chamber, the position of the Senate on the violent killing of 43 rice farmers in Zabarmari, a community in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State, was the removal of the service chiefs.
But it was the third time the lawmakers were demanding the removal of the service chiefs over the rising insecurity in the country, yet the president has stuck to his guns.
Angry lawmakers counter governors’ position
Despite the hushed voices of the majority of lawmakers for fear of being stripped of their return tickets by the governors, some of them rose to counter the governors’ position.
The lawmakers said they doubted the intelligence that suggested the possible embarrassment of the president by the opposition lawmakers, querying why the president was not embarrassed during the budget presentation.
They said members of the ruling party are in the majority and were capable of staving off any attempt to rubbish the president.
One of the lawmakers also reportedly accused the governors of flaunting party supremacy to suit their agenda, saying the same governors worked against the candidate of the party during the governorship election in Edo State.
The lawmaker, who is from the South-South region, said the governors were not sincere with their plans, and urged his colleagues to stand together to defend the interest of Nigerians.
The lawmakers from the north were angrier, saying they could no longer visit their constituencies without fear of being mobbed.
They said to see their families, they now stay in hotels in neighbouring states, and that hiding can no longer save them from the people they represent.
One of the lawmakers said the appearance of the president would offer the administration and the party the opportunity to list their efforts at addressing the issues of governance, challenges being faced and the need for the support of Nigerians.
The lawmaker cited the State of the Nation address before the parliamentarians by American Presidents, saying such culture should be emulated in Nigeria.
Gbajabiamila keeps mum
Apparently for fear of being accused of being used against the president, the speaker of the house of representatives, Mr Gbajabiamila, refused to make a categorical statement throughout the period the meeting lasted, our sources said.
According to multiple sources, the speaker’s major participation at the meeting was in the recognition of his colleagues to speak on the matter.
A source told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Gbajabiamila also did not want to further escalate the tensed relationship between his political “godfather” and former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu.
As of the time of rounding off the meeting at about midnight on Tuesday, the governors and the lawmakers could not conclusively arrive at any logical conclusion.
However, the governors resolved to repeat their position to the President, and appealed to the lawmakers to support the party in protecting the President against possible harassment by the opposition.
It is, therefore, not certain that the president would address the joint session of the National Assembly on Thursday as earlier scheduled.
In their reaction to the November 28 gruesome murder of mostly rice farmers in Zabarmari, Borno State, members of the green chamber on December 1, endorsed a motion of urgent national importance by a representative, Satomi Ahmed.
The motion sought the appearance of the president at the parliament over the killings and the general insecurity in the country.
The attack on the farmers, in particular, by the insurgents had sparked outrage on social media with many Nigerians calling for the resignation of both the service chiefs and the President Buhari.
The development is also linked to the renewed protests by young Nigerians across some states, who have demanded resignation of both the President and the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Less than a week after the summon, the president agreed to address the joint session of the two chambers on the matter.
PREMIUM TIMES had on Monday reported the confirmation by the presidency and the choice of Thursday for the address.
The presidential spokesperon, Garba Shehu responded to the enquiry by PREMIUM TIMES through a terse message that simply confirmed the president’s readiness to speak to the parliament. Mr Gbajabiamila also confirmed the development to journalists, but said the date would be announced later.
But the governors have risen against the request by the parliament, citing various reasons.