Apparently disturbed by the intrigues surrounding the proposed election budget for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which may likely decide the fate of their reelection in the 2019 polls, some All Progressives Congress (APC) Senators want their resumption delayed.

The development, which is evidently culminating in a panic among the APC lawmakers, LEADERSHIP gathered, might become a clog in the wheel of efforts by the presidency to get the National Assembly to reconvene as early as possible to consider and approve INEC’s budget for the forthcoming general polls.

These set of APC Senators who are said to be having it rough with their state governors are running from pillar to post to ensure that the Red Chamber does not reconvene till after the APC primaries for Senate and House of Representatives have been held and their fate determined.

Dependable sources in the APC caucus in the Senate told our correspondent that the development may work against the speedy consideration of the election budget for INEC and security pending before the National Assembly.

The APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the presidency had reportedly promised the APC lawmakers automatic return ticket as reward for loyalty in the aftermath of the gale of defections that blew across the governing party recently.

Some APC Senators who separately spoke to LEADERSHIP in confidence over the weekend said they wouldn’t want the upper chamber to reconvene before the APC primaries because they may not have anything with which to bargain for the automatic return tickets they were assured by the party leadership.

They said the body language and certain pronouncements of their state governors are, till this moment, still running in conflict with the position of the presidency and the APC leadership over automatic return tickets as reward for APC Senators that didn’t defect.

The lawmakers who did not want their names in print vowed that despite the assurances the presidency got during the Sallah period on the passage of INEC election budget, the Senate may not reconvene for now, even if the reports of the joint committees on INEC, Interior and Appropriation are ready or not.

Giving credence to the position of the lawmakers is the Sallah homage Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central, APC) on Thursday paid President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura, Katsina State, where he thanked him for intervening in the crisis facing the APC in Kaduna State.

Senator Sani who spoke to journalists after a closed door meeting with the president said they deliberated on issues bordering on strengthening the APC through resolution of all internal strife in the party.

“I’m here to assure him of my own wholehearted support to the success of his administration and his return to office for second term. Those were the basic issues that we discussed with him and other issues that border on the need to strengthen our party, the need to end all internal strife and also the need to put heads, hearts and hands together for the success of his administration and also for the success of the party”, Sani stated.

The Senator stated that his decision to remain in the APC was not because his grievances against the party leadership in Kaduna state had been addressed, but because of the intervention of President Buhari and the national leadership of the party.

called on all aggrieved members of the APC in the National Assembly to put aside parochial interests and join hands with the party in promoting national interest for the general good of all citizens.

On whether he has been assured of automatic ticket to seek re-election in 2019, Sani who said he is not so keen about automatic ticket acknowledged that the party had pledged to reward loyalty.

He, however, stressed that due process must be followed in the process of rewarding members for their loyalty to the party.

The lawmaker said, “I think the party had made it very clear and known to each and every person that there will be reward for loyalty but in every sense of the word, due process of the party needs to be followed

“And as far as we are concerned, what matters most to us is not simply about automatic ticket but about the peaceful and transparent conduct of the 2019 election and also the very need for us as a people and as a nation to know that the fate of the country is on our hands.

“There is the need for us to keep aside all sectional, ethnic and religious differences for the progress of this country and going by the very fact that the President has intervened and chairman of the party has intervened – all family squabbles would certainly come to an end”.

On what to expect from the Joint Committee on INEC sitting tomorrow, one of the Senators who spoke with our correspondent said there may still be stalemate if INEC fails to do the needful.

He said, “All over the world where democracy is in practice, the legislatures are lobbied to pass some controversial laws. They (legislatures) are like tongues, fleshy, delicate and boneless but surrounded and supported by bony jaws and the teeth.

“If INEC likes, let it continue looking short of what to do. INEC needs that N189 billion more than the presidency, APC and the rest of Nigerians. Those rancorous arguments were just a stage drama to push the commission to do what is expected.

“The drama will continue and it would even be greater and assume bigger dimension by the time the National Assembly reconvene to consider the joint committees’ reports”.

Another of the APC Senators also said, “The mandatory reward for party loyalty is what keeps a party waxing stronger and build it from strength to strength.

“The inherent use-and-dump approach of the APC is the cause of disloyalty among some members of the party, leading to defections and disaffection here and there.

One of the lawmakers said, “Most of our state governors are laws onto themselves. They don’t seem bound by whatever the party or the presidency direct or say, just as nothing the two entities could be applying to control them.

“But we will ensure that we sustain the stalemate or impasse to push the party or presidency to prevail on the state governors to guarantee our return tickets. If that is not done, then we should all be prepared to pay the price together”.

On July 26 this year, the APC was said to have promised automatic tickets to Senators and members of the House of Representatives who remained in the party and rejected overtures from the opposition ahead of the 2019 elections.

It was reported that the decision was taken in the meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and the lawmakers at the presidential villa to prevent further defection of Senators to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The lawmakers, especially those who have been having running battles with their state governors, said they did not intend to leave the party but that they were forced to do so by their state governors.

Chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay, had said the federal government can invoke the doctrine of necessity to fund the 2019 elections if the National Assembly fails to appropriate funds for that purpose.

It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had asked the federal lawmakers to approve N242 billion for the polls shortly before they embarked on their annual recess on July 24.

Although they are expected to reconvene on September 25, the relevant committees have already begun work on the president’s request.

In a statement on Wednesday, Sagay said if elections are not held, there will be a collapse of the country’s democracy.

He said, “The failure or refusal by the national assembly to approve funds for the 2019 election will constitute a sabotage of our democracy, of which the constitution is the embodiment,” the statement read.

“If elections are not held, it will mean the collapse of our democracy, leading to chaos and anarchy. The question that arises is simple. Which is more critical to democracy and the survival of Nigeria: Is it (one) the power of the national assembly to approve budgets or (two) the survival of democracy and Nigeria itself?

“If the survival of democracy is more important and fundamental to Nigeria’s existence, then failure to approve the budget for elections will trigger the doctrine of necessity, thus compelling the funding of election without the approval of the national assembly.

“It is simply a question of the survival of democracy and the continued existence of Nigeria. The power of approval of budget is just a single item in the whole of the constitution.

“On the contrary, elections and democracy which they support constitute what the whole constitution is about. Therefore, the overriding necessity and imperative of elections and democracy simply override the power of national assembly.

“If the National Assembly refuses or fails to approve the budget for election, the doctrine of necessity will validate the provision of the funds without the national assembly’s approval.

APC Disowns Fake Registration Website

Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday distanced itself from an online membership registration website, apcregistration.com, describing it as fake.

The party further clarified that its ongoing membership registration exercise has nothing to do with the website.

In a statement signed by its acting national publicity secretary, Mr Yekini Nabena, the party urged the public to disregard the site.

The statement made available to LEADERSHIP noted: “We alert our supporters, members and indeed the general public to a purported membership registration website of the All Progressives Congress (APC)– apcregistration.com.

“The website which is trending on social media is unauthorised and a scam. Our internal investigation has revealed that the fake website is sponsored by one of the main opposition political parties in its desperate and criminal plot to harvest APC members ahead of the 2019 General Elections.

“We have deliberately not named the political party and hereby call on relevant security agencies to urgently investigate the website and its sponsors.”

Nabena further urged APC supporters and members to take advantage of the ongoing continuous nationwide membership registration exercise in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory to regularise their membership to enable the party issue them permanent membership cards.

…Sweeps Imo Council Polls

Also, the ruling APC has won all the local government chairmanship elections held on Saturday in Imo State.

The party also won 640 out of the 645 councillorship seats while the Redemption Peoples Party, Accord Party, KOWA, the Young Progressives Party and Rebuild Nigeria Party won one councillorship seat apiece.

However, elections were inconclusive in Oguta, Isu, Isiala Mbano, Aboh Mbaise and Owerri North local councils.

The state chairman of the Imo State Independent Electoral Commission (ISIEC), Ethelbert Ibebuchi, who announced the results, said that 13 political parties fielded candidates for the council elections.

According to him, the commission provided a level playing ground for all the political parties and their candidates.

The ISIEC chairman also disclosed that the commission would establish an Election Tribunal for adjudication of disputes arising from the conduct of the council polls.

He commended the governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, for his support to the commission in carrying out the exercise.

Meanwhile, Governor Okorocha has commended ISIEC for the successful conduct of the local government election.

He noted that the Commission had shown that it had the capacity to conduct credible,  free and fair elections.

The governor also congratulated Imo people for coming out in their large numbers to exercise their franchise in the election and for also ensuring peace throughout the period the election lasted.

He added that it was a good omen that there was no report of any hitch or trouble in any local government or community where the election took place.

Okorocha equally felicitated with the leaders and members of APC in the state for the unity of purpose among them and the high spirit they displayed in the election, just as he commended other political parties that participated in the election for contributing to the strengthening of the nation’s democracy, assuring them that they would be carried along in the scheme of things.