The crisis rocking the governing All Progressives Congress might be far from over if a report by SUNDAY PUNCH that President Muhammadu Buhari has resisted fresh moves by the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, to formally meet with him, is anything to go by.
The newspaper said since emerging president of the senate on June 9 in controversial circumstances, Messrs Buhari and Saraki have met only once.
Citing a Presidency source, SUNDAY PUNCH reported that all efforts by Saraki to have a private meeting with the president after the party’s National Executive Council meeting penultimate Friday, were rebuffed.
The source further stated that the senate president had at different times reached out to people to help him persuade President Buhari to grant him audience.
The government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, was quoted to have said, “The truth is that the President is still displeased with what transpired in the National Assembly, especially the Senate.
“Their encounter during the APC National Executive Council meeting, when they shook hands, was the first meeting between President Buhari and Saraki since he emerged as the President of the Senate.
“We are aware that Saraki has been going about begging people to assist him to plead with the President to meet with him. That was one of the reasons why he visited former President Obasanjo.
“I can tell you that the President is very pained by what happened. He felt that since he had been transparent with the party, everybody should play that way. But since Saraki took that path, the President was and he is still pained. Let us just hope that at the end of it all, they will be able to put the matter behind them”.
Another highly placed official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity to SUNDAY PUNCH due to the sensitivity of the issue, disclosed that the handshake between President Buhari and Saraki during the recent NEC meeting of the APC “was for journalists”.
He stated, “President Buhari is still upset because of what happened. If you read in-between the line his speech during our last NEC meeting, he reminded people who joined the party after it was formed not to rubbish the sacrifices made by party leaders.
“It was not for the fun of it that the President took time to go down the memory lane to trace the genesis of the APC.
“Although the President said he was prepared to work with anybody who emerged as leader in the National Assembly, he did not envisage a scenario where Saraki would emerge as the Senate President and Ike Ekweremadu, a member of the PDP, would emerge as the deputy president of the Senate”.
In response to a question if the president might be changing his mind anytime soon, the source said “Not until the governors, who were mandated by the NEC to resolve the matter in the National Assembly, bring the matter under control”.
When contacted, the Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, said there was no cause for alarm.
Speaking in a telephone interview on Saturday, Olaniyonu said Buhari had repeatedly told Nigerians that he believed in the independence of the legislative arm of government.
The media aide pointed out that Buhari had had cause to formally communicate with Saraki on “state issues” and that they exchanged warm pleasantries at the APC NEC meeting recently held in Abuja.
He said, “The president of a nation can have private discussions with the Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives anytime he likes.
“At the moment, President Buhari, probably wants the issue around the National Assembly leadership positions formally resolved before calling for such meetings. He has said that he would not involve himself in the affairs of the legislature and we should respect his views”.
Olaniyonu further disclosed that Saraki and Buhari had been having regular official correspondence and that such would continue because the Senate would have to approve all appointments made by the President.
Asked why President Buhari had met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, whose election too did not receive the blessing of the APC leadership, yet continued to shut out Saraki, Olaniyonu answered that he was not aware any meeting took place between the president and speaker.
He said, “I am not aware of that meeting you talked about. If the meeting had held, the picture taken afterwards would have been published in the dailies. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think there was anything like that”.