Yemi Adedeji, Abuja
The National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has met with the party’s caucus in the Senate to lobby the lawmakers to jettison their plan to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018.
The meeting was the second in the series between the NWC led by John Odigie-Oyegun, the chairman, and the Senate Caucus of the party since the inception of the Buhari administration in 2015.
The closed-door meeting started at 2.48 p.m. and lasted for about two and half hours.
At the opening session, which journalists were allowed to cover, Oyegun admitted that the NWC had not engaged the Senate Caucus as often as it should have.
Other than the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the 2018 budget was also discussed at the meeting, which had in attendance Oyegun, the National Vice Chairman (South) of the APC, Mr. Segun Oni, National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi, and other officials of the party.
The lawmakers had changed the sequencing of elections in the country for the National Assembly elections to be held first, before elections into the state Houses of Assembly and governorship on a separate day, while the presidential election would be conducted last, to complete the general election cycle.
The Senate Caucus was led by Senate President Bukola Saraki, Majority Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Ibn Na’Allah, and other senators.
Both parties resolved at the meeting to constitute a committee comprising officials from the executive, some state governors, representatives of the legislature, and some members of the party’s organs, whose mandate would be to reconcile and resolve issues whenever and wherever they arise at all levels.
Oyegun added that the 2019 general election would also be on the agenda, as the party prepares to field candidates for the polls.
“I don’t think I am here often enough. So it’s an opportunity to discuss issues in the polity. We are here to strategise on the best way to forge ahead,” Oyegun said.
While briefing newsmen after the meeting, the Senate Leader indicated that the Electoral Act Amendment Bill was one of the issues discussed.
“This is our government and we should not be fighting dirty in the public. We should be able to deal with it inside our rooms or houses.
“No political party can exist without problems, but what makes the difference is for the political party to be able to manage it. We are on top of the situation,”
“The amendment is a symptom of the not-so-friendly relationship between the executive and the legislative arms of government.
“It is only a symptom and the discussion centred on so many things including that override. We are coming to a situation where that can be resolved as soon as the committee is constituted this kind of issue can easily be addressed,” Lawan said.
The Senate Leader further dispelled reports of an impasse between both arms of government on the 2018 budget, saying the matter had been laid to rest.
“There is no impasse between the executive and the legislature as far as I am concerned. The budget issue has been laid to rest because the president, President Muhammadu Buhari, invited the National Assembly leadership and we had a discussion with the president.
“The issues that were halting the passage of the budget were discussed,” he said.
Speaking further, Lawan said senators at the meeting took turns to proffer suggestions on some of the issues bedevilling the party.
“Members remain committed to supporting the change agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari. The party is our main platform, and in my view, the party has done well by coming (to the Senate),” he said.
Lawan recalled that the president, through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, had issued a directive to the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government to resolve their budget issues with the National Assembly within one week.
“That issue was settled before this meeting. However, the party will be concerned and added its voice to it. But it was already a concluded case that the budget will be passed as quickly as we can,” he said.
Lawan further disclosed that the committee would be constituted as soon as possible to ensure that all groups in the party work together and harmoniously.
“Perhaps when you have everybody on the same page, then you will reduce the level of misunderstanding to the barest minimum. As politicians from time to time, we have disagreements but such disagreements should not be allowed to become a cog in the wheel of progress.
“The idea of bringing everyone to the table is so that everyone can be on the same page at the party level and at the National Assembly.
“So that all times, should there be any issue, whether it is from the executive or the legislature, it will be resolved,” Lawan explained.
The Electoral Act Amendment Bill was vetoed by the president, leading to lobbying and horse trading by both the pro – and anti-Buhari senators who were in support of either defeating the vote to override the veto or getting two-thirds of the vote required to pass it into law.
The amendment is expected to whittle down the bandwagon effects of presidential elections on other elections.