President Muhammadu Buhari has resisted fresh moves by the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, to formally meet with him, SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt.
An official in the Presidency who confided in one of our correspondents on Saturday said the President and the Senate President had only met once since the latter’s emergence as the leader of the senate.
The official said all efforts by Saraki to have another meeting with the president, after the party’s National Executive Council meeting penultimate Friday, were rebuffed by Buhari.
The reliable source said the president of the Senate had at different times reached out to people to help him persuade Buhari to grant him audience.
Saraki had defied the All Progressives Congress to contest for the position of the senate president on June and emerged victorious after a controversial election that excluded a sizeable number of senators. The APC had endorsed Senator Ahmed Lawan as its candidate for the senate presidency.
The government official who spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH 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.”
Also speaking to SUNDAY PUNCH, a highly placed party official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, told one of our correspondents that the handshake between the President 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.”
Asked whether or not the President might change 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. During a telephone interview on Saturday, Olaniyonu said Buhari had repeatedly told Nigerians that he believed in the independence of the parliament.
He explained that Buhari had had cause to formally communicate with on “state issues” and that they exchanged warm pleasantries at the APC NEC meeting 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 explained that Saraki and Buhari had been having regular official communication and that such would continue because the Senate would have to approve all appointments made by the President.
Asked why the President had met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, without meeting with Saraki up till now, Olaniyonu answered that he was not aware of the Buhari-Dogara meeting.
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. “
Also, the spokesperson for the pro-Saraki Senators of Like Minds, Dino Melaye, told one of our correspondents on Saturday that Saraki and Buhari met and had fruitful deliberation at the NEC meeting of the APC.
“The President and the Senate President met at the NEC meeting. We are all awaiting the outcome of the peace moves initiated at the meeting. For now, there is no cause for concern,” he said.
When contacted, the Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina declined comments.