The leadership of the National Assembly was told to subvert legislative processes to ensure passage of the third term bid, Nasir El Rufai, a former Minister for the Federal Capital Territory, has disclosed in his new book, The Accidental Public Servant.
The book, launched in Abuja on Thursday, is already raising loads of dark dust in many quarters of the political divide, and has great potential of denting the political fortunes of many actors like the former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, who was roundly characterized in unflattering terms as a political opportunist, a captain of corruption, a disloyal and manipulative team member.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, leadership and President Olusegun Obasanjo put pressure on then Senate President, Ken Nnamani, and then House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Masari, not to allow electronic voting over the tenure elongation proposals in their respective chambers. Rather they were asked to invite voice votes, and just declare the measure passed. Mr. Nnamani said that if he tried to rule contrary to the wishes of his colleagues he was unlikely to leave his seat either alive or as Senate president.
In one meeting, then party chairman, Amadu Ali, said the electronic counters in the National Assembly would be disabled a day before the vote. Mr. Masari was said to have responded that the House would need to do a division on such a controversial matter, affirming that neither voice votes nor a show of hand would suffice.
Mr. Ali, a loyalist of Mr. Obasanjo, is currently jostling to be the Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees.
Mr. Obasanjo and the party leaders were also worried that the live telecast of the proceedings would discourage many senators from endorsing third term. Mr. Nnamani was asked to stop the telecast, but the Senate President said it was the decision of the Senate that he could not reverse it except the Senate entertained and passed a motion to the contrary.
Mr. El Rufai was one of Mr. Obasanjo’s closest aides when the latter was in office as president. His book also dents claims by Mr. Obasanjo that he never wanted or lobbied for a third term.
Anenih, the project manager
Former works minister Tony Anenih, described in the book as the project manager of the third term bid, offered to get Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, then a Senator from Edo, to move a motion asking for the live telecast to cease. Although Mr. Osunbor caused the motion to be placed on the order paper a motion of urgent national importance, he fell sick and was hospitalised on the day he was to move it; so the live telecast continued.
Mr. Anenih had assured Mr. Obasanjo that 85 senators and 260 members of the House of Representatives were backing the third term bid. Mr. Obasanjo was in disbelief when his key allies in the Senate said no more than 37 names were in the bag. In the House, 152 of the 360 members, led by Usman Bugaje, had already pledged to withdraw from deliberations once third term is mentioned, thus denying the House, the numbers required to validly pass the amendment.
Confronted with the alternative figures showing rather feeble legislative support, Mr. Anenih attributed the discrepancy in the numbers to the fact that the bribe monies were yet to be distributed, arguing that support would be bigger and firmer afterwards.
When Mr. Obasanjo finally asked Mr. Masari about the strength of support for third term, the Speaker bluntly told the President that not even one-third of the House will support it.
The third term bid was killed on live television when senators declined to refer it to a committee for second reading.