An argument between two All Progressives Congress Senators, Kabiru Marafa and Tayo Alasoadura, degenerated into a physical combat on Tuesday as a last minute attempt by the party’s caucus in the Senate to select the principal officers ended in a stalemate.
The meeting of the caucus was convened in Abuja by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to unite members of his group, the Like Minds Senators and those loyal to Senator Ahmad Lawan, the Senate Unity Forum.
The meeting was also aimed at arriving at a common position on the selection of principal officers.
Trouble was said to have started immediately after Saraki had delivered his speech and urged his colleagues to dissolve into zonal caucuses to produce their representatives for the posts of Senate Leader, the Deputy Senate Leader, the Chief Whip and the Deputy Whip.
It was at that stage that Senator Suleiman Hunkunyi, got angry on hearing Saraki’s call on members to dissolve into zonal caucuses.
Hunkunyi disagreed openly with Saraki on the issue and insisted that the meeting should rather ratify the names already sent to his (Saraki) office by the APC leadership on Tuesday.
According to him, the party had forwarded a letter which recommended Senator Ahmad Lawan as Senate Leader; George Akume as deputy leader; Olusola Adeyeye as Chief Whip; and Abu Ibrahim as deputy whip.
The action of the Kaduna State-born senator infuriated some of his colleagues in the Saraki camp, who disagreed with the list allegedly sent by the APC Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun. They maintained that the Senate caucuses would determine their representatives.
During the commotion, Tayo Alasoadura, an APC senator faulted the choice of Adeyeye and wondered why the party did not choose Senator Ajayi Boroffice, who, according to him, is also qualified for the position.
It was at that stage that Marafa, who felt that the Like Minds senators were trying to scuttle the party’s position , reacted angrily to the opinion expressed by Alasoadura.
Marafa pushed Alasoadura.
It took the intervention of Senator Rafiu Ibrahim and others to prevent Marafa and Alasoadura from further fighting each other.
Both Marafa and Alasoadura could not be reached for their comments but Ibrahim who was one of the senators that settled the quarrel, confirmed that the altercation was fallout of the disagreement during the meeting.
He, however, said that the matter was being amicably resolved.
The meeting ended abruptly with the APC senators dissolving into their various zonal caucuses to perfect the selection process. This also ended in a stalemate as of the time of filing this report.
However, one of our correspondents learnt that the pro-Saraki senators had produced a list containing the names of Senator Ali Ndume as Senate Leader; Ahmed Sani – Yerima, as deputy leader; Olusola Adeyeye as Chief Whip; and Francis Alimikhena, as deputy whip.
Speaking with journalists, Senator Abu Ibrahim said the aim of the meeting was to reconcile the Unity Forum and the Like Minds groups whose members had not met since the inauguration of the Eighth Senate.
He said, “One should expect this misunderstanding because the two groups are meeting today(Tuesday). The meeting should have been allowed to ratify the party’s position and it is absolutely wrong for some people to say we are responsible for that.
“The party has always been responsible for that since I have been coming to the Senate; this is the first time, ..It is always the party that gives the other positions.
“What some of us are saying is that we have no power to zone in that meeting, it’s the party that should take that responsibility. As far as I am concerned, this was never done.
“I was a principal officer in the last Senate; the party gave our names and that’s how I became a principal officer.
“This issue will be sorted out in the next 24 hours. The party needs to wield the big stick against anybody who has gone against its directive.
Also, Hunkuyi, who allegedly caused the commotion maintained that the leadership of the party should decide on who occupied the four positions in the Senate.
He said, “An attempt here to do otherwise is the cause of this rancour. We were just coming from the national headquarters of the party and we were aware that the leadership of the APC is doing all it can do to curb part of what should not have happened in this chamber now.
“We were coming from the national headquarters of the party. They are not aware. The meeting broke up without achieving its desired objectives. There is no way it can achieve any result.”
Senator Ibrahim Danbaba said he did not hear exactly what Alasoadura said because “I just came around and met the rowdy situation.”
He said, “There were two groups before the election and we all agreed that now there should be no faction within the APC. You know we had the Like Minds and we had what you call the Unity Forum.
“Virtually most of us were around until around 11.30pm yesterday (Monday) when the former leader of the Unity Forum, Senator Barnabas Gemade came to say that there was need for the meeting to be postponed till today(Tuesday) and that was the reason why that meeting was put to 2pm today.
“On the floor of the Senate Chambers, the President of the Senate made an announcement to say that all the APC senators were supposed to meet at Room 301 by 2pm and in line with that arrangement that was made yesterday, and what was reinforced today on the floor of the Senate by the Senate President, we all assembled for the meeting.
“About 40 of us were around. Until towards the tail end of the meeting, when the likes of Senator (Hunkuyi), who just finished making statements came into the meeting.”
“ But the APC insisted on Lawan as the majority leader; George Akume as his deputy and Adeyeye as chief whip.
It was gathered that the problem was compounded when the party dropped Alimikhena for a senator from the North-West, Abu Ibrahim.
Investigations showed that the North-West caucus had rejected the post of deputy chief whip and the choice of Ibrahim.
A senator, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said, “Saraki’s proposal almost sail through, except for Lawan’s case.
“But the insistence of the party on having the principal officers from the Lawan group compounded the problem. The North-West has rejected chief whip.
“If Akume is picked as deputy senate leader, that means the senate president and deputy senate leaders are from the North-Central. The South-South has been dropped.”