The absence of President Muhammadu Buhari at the emergency meeting of All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers on Tuesday was one of the many talking points of the election of principal officers of the 8th national assembly.
The meeting was convened to address the move of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to endorse Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara for the posts of senate president and speaker – against Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila, APC’s official candidates.
Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary of APC, issued notice of the meeting very early on Tuesday morning, saying: “The president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari will address all senators and house of representatives elect of the All Progressives Congress at 9 am this morning Tuesday the 9th of June at the International Conference Centre Abuja. All concerned must endeavour to attend this meeting.”
Though APC legislators from both chambers of the assembly alongside party chieftains arrived the venue in due time, Buhari did not turn up.
But the reason for Buhari’s absence at the meeting has now been revealed. Shehu Garba, senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, told Channels Television that Buhari was about leaving for the meeting when he discovered that the inauguration of the senate had commenced.
“The president was about setting out when television stations started showing the programme live; the process had begun, so there was no point going ahead,” Shehu said.
“The president wanted to attend the meeting in order to show support for the party but once the programme had begun, the point had been lost.”
Shehu dismissed the notion that lawmakers who missed the election at the senate could be angry with the president.
“They didn’t choose to be absent, they chose to obey the party and show respect for the president. Fifty-one APC senators decided to answer the call of party and their president,” he said.
The senators were at the ICC when Bukola Saraki, the new senate president, was returned unopposed.
Ahmed Yerima, former governor of Zamfara state, had nominated Saraki and Dino Melaye from Kogi state, seconded the nomination.
The clerk called for additional nomination and there was none, putting Saraki at an advantage over Lawan.