Implications of Saraki’s Defection on the Senate Presidency By Ehiwe O. Samuel

The political space of the Nigerian state shook to its foundation following the official defection of the Senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the most prominent opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party.

The defection which has aroused several speculations following the suspense that gritted the long consultation of Saraki before his eventual defection, came as a rude shock to the APC leadership.

The National chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole has consistently called on Saraki to resign his position as president of the senate because, the PDP, his new party, is minority in the house.

The big question is, do you really need to be in the party with majority in the senate to be a senate president? Is that what the law says?

The answer to these questions is cooling off in the constitution. Let me take you there! Oh, but before then, lets analyse the majority issue in the senate.

With Saraki’s defection, the APC now has 52 senators while the PDP’s ranks have swollen to 51. However, with the recent defection of Senator Godswill Akpabio from the PDP to the APC on the 8th of August 2018, the number has again changed. What this means is that when the senate resumes plenary in September, the APC will still be the majority party in the upper legislative chamber—albeit a very slim majority (All things been equal). Politics is indeed a game of numbers!

This is not the first time the leadership of the national assembly will headed by a lawmaker in the minority party. In the 2nd Republic, the Speaker of the House of Representatives was Edwin Ume-Ezeoke of the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP). The NPP was not the governing party at the time. The governing party was Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s NPN. In the 7th assembly, Aminu Tambuwal continued to serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives even after dumping the PDP for the APC.

Under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, there is nothing wrong with Saraki retaining his position as president of the Senate, even as a member of the minority party in the hallowed red chambers.
According to Section 50 (1) (a) of the 1999 constitution as amended:

“A President and Deputy President of the Senate shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.”

The above section doesn’t bar lawmakers from the minority political party in parliament from seeking the position of senate president. The fact they the leadership of the National assembly has always been members of the party with majority is merely a tradition borne out of political patronage.

The law also does not say that a senate president who becomes a member of the minority party should relinquish that position (it could not have said or implied that).

Section 50 (2) of the Constitution reads that:

“The President or Deputy President of the Senate or the Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall vacate his office:
a) If he ceases to be a member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives otherwise than by reason of a dissolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives; or
b) When the House of which he was a member first sits after any dissolution of that House; or
c) If removed from office by a resolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of the House.

The above provisions of the constitution are to clear. It does not require an explanation. It follows therefore that Saraki can remain President of the senate when the house reconvenes, unless he’s impeached by two thirds majority of lawmakers. And with the number on APC’s side, this can only be attained if senators from the PDP lend the governing party a chunk of senators (I do not see this happening).

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