There were indications on Friday that members of the Senate Unity Forum had started wooing senators loyal to the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki.
Saturday PUNCH reliably gathered that the move was part of fresh efforts to change the leadership of the Senate.
The group comprises senators, who were opposed to the emergence of Saraki as senate president.
It was learnt that the SUF members, who contacted the pro-Saraki senators, hinged their argument on the ongoing trial of the Senate President at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
It was gathered that the group might have succeeded in securing the support of 12 pro-Saraki senators, mainly the Peoples Democratic Party members.
Investigations showed that the anti-Saraki group sought the support of the senate president’s loyalists because it had become obvious that the senate president could not be removed without the support of some senators that were sympathetic to him.
At the inauguration of the Senate on June 6, 57 out of 109 senators were reported to have voted for Saraki.
However, members of the SUF, who were supporting Senator Ahmed Lawan were at a meeting with the party leaders when the election was held.
Investigations revealed that some of the senators who supported Lawan’s bid had allegedly met with some All Progressives Congress leaders on the need to remove Saraki.
It was gathered that they started meeting with the leaders shortly after the Senate went on recess.
Specifically, a member of the group, who spoke with our correspondents on conditions of anonymity, explained that series of meetings had been held with APC leaders like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and Chief Bisi Akande.
A member of the group from the South-West geopolitical zone, who also craved anonymity, confirmed to one of our correspondents that the SUF members had started reaching out to their colleagues who had joined the camp of Saraki.
He expressed optimism that the group would be able to muster enough support from other senators to get the required 73 members needed to oust the senate president.
He said, “We know that getting the required figure to carry out an impeachment at the moment would be a herculean task but honestly we hope to achieve it very soon. Already there has been a serious move to get our former party members who are with Saraki now back to our camp.
“I can also confirm to you that we have the support of about 12 Peoples Democratic Party senators who are ready to support any move against Saraki. Don’t forget that some ranking PDP senators are still aggrieved over the emergence of freshers as their principal officers.”
Further checks by one of our correspondents also revealed that some of the APC leaders who met with the SUF members had asked the anti – Saraki senators to work on some influential PDP senators who could get their colleagues to support their course.
A source said, “I am not in Abuja now, we shall resume on Monday. I don’t have specific information at the moment but what I can assure you of is that our leaders have said that it is fight to finish.
“We learnt that the like minds senators are already working on some of their supporters in the PDP camp to reject the ministerial list by refusing to screen them but we are also ready for them. I won’t disclose our strategy for now.”
One of our correspondents further learnt that the SUF were also working on a political solution to execute its agenda since it would be difficult for its members to dangle financial inducements to their colleagues because of the anti – corruption posture of the Buhari administration.
One of them confided in one of our correspondents that Saraki might want to save his face from the impending embarrassment at the end of the CCT trial by opting to step aside.
He said, “We know that he might want to give conditions like a settlement of his CCT case out of court, withdrawing of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission charges against his wife and an end to his former manager’s trial for alleged fraud at the Société Générale Bank. We could help him in this regard to have a soft landing and avoid disgrace. “
Senate spokesperson, who is also a die-hard supporter of Saraki, Senator Dino Melaye, did not pick his call when contacted for comments on Thursday
Also efforts to get reaction of the SUF’s spokesperson, Senator Kabiru Marafa, did not succeed as calls to his mobile telephone did not go through.
Also some senators contacted across the two camps, declined official comments but a PDP senator from the South-South geopolitical zone, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “We are watching events as they unfold. I won’t say more than that.”
The source explained off the record that since the trial of the senate president centered on corrupt enrichment as a public officer, the SUF would appeal to the conscience of Nigerians and the international community to prevail on Saraki to step aside and clear himself of the allegations preferred against him by the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Part of the strategy, the source added, would include sponsoring of a motion by a member of the group to draw the attention of the red chamber to the trial of Saraki and plead with him to safe himself from unnecessary distraction by stepping aside for adequate concentration at the tribunal.
He said, “Nigerians should not see the on-going trial of the senate president as a witch-hunt, rather, they should rather try and find out whether it was true that he included a multi – million dollar property he bought in 2006 as part of his assets as of 2003.
“We should stop playing politics with everything in this country. The mantra of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is anti – corruption and it will not be proper to have a morally deficient person presiding over the affairs of the legislature being a critical arm of government.
“The prosecution counsel had promised to shock Nigerians with the revelations of witnesses who had testified against the senate president at the CCT. The implication of this is that all the charges were not fabricated or invented to spite him. He should therefore go and face his trial. “
Attempts to get the reactions of the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed as well as that of the party’s National Leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, were unsuccessful.
The National Chairman of the party could not be reached as calls to his mobile telephone indicated that it was switched off.
Repeated calls to the mobile telephone numbers of Mohammed and Tinubu’s Spokesperson, Mr. Sunday Dare, were neither picked nor returned.
A response to text messages sent to them was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report at 8:45pm.
A pro-Saraki senator confided in one of our correspondents that the seat of the Senate President was not threatened because the Code of Conduct Tribunal had no jurisdiction to try Senator Bukola Saraki for any criminal offence.
He said, “The idea that members of the SUF are reaching out to pro-Saraki senators in the senate does not arise because majority of the members of the upper chamber had freely elected their presiding officers and would not be in a hurry to remove them because of any politically motivated trial by a tribunal which lacks jurisdiction to do so.
“Nobody can impeach or arrest the Senate President, and the lawyers are there to argue out the competence or otherwise of the CCT to try the case preferred against him. More than 80 senators had signed a document with which they unanimously passed a vote of confidence on their president.
“No senator had approached any of us on any issue of impeachment because they know the answer already. They cannot get 73 senators to impeach the Senate President. They are playing games and we are also ready for them. “
Attempts to speak with Senators Dino Melaye, Eyinnaya Abaribe, Hope Uzodinma, James Manager, Mao Ohuabunwa, Ali Ndume, and Bala Ibn Na’Allah, to get their views on the development failed as they neither picked their calls not react to text messages sent to them.
The phone of the Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Publicity, Alhaji Yusuph Olaniyonu, was also switched off when one of our correspondents dialed his number on Friday evening.