National Assembly/Presidency Face-Off: Dogara to mediate as Magu remains stumbling block

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor

After multiple talks between Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and the leaders of the National Assembly, the relationship between the two arms of government has been narrowed down to what becomes of Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, multiple sources have affirmed.

President Muhammadu Buhari; Saraki, Senate President and Dogara, Speaker

While the Senate is said to be insisting on Magu being removed, Osinbajo is said to be insisting on his retention. Following the talks – some held in deep secrecy –  Sunday  Vanguard learnt yesterday that Speaker Yakubu Dogara, who has not been too trenchant against Magu, has been appointed as mediator between the two parties.

Dogara it was learnt, is to help navigate the political and legal circumstances of the continued retention of Magu in the EFCC.

However, senators pushing for the removal of Magu were at the weekend confident that they were set to overwhelm the acting president in his support for Magu.

This was especially after last Tuesday’s visit of the acting president to President Muhammadu Buhari during which it was learnt that support for Magu from the president was also slipping.

Before Osinbajo met Buhari, it was learnt that three top officials of the Federal Government were there waiting for him in the ante room to his bewilderment.

Among them were two ministers and the head of a powerful but non-uniformed security service.

The acting president was reported to have spent the majority of his about one hour in the president’s abode interacting with the three men who were said to have come earlier with briefs on issues about the working of the presidency while the president had been away.

One high-level source revealed that the impression the president sought to pass over was that the EFCC had in his absence been working to disarm the perceived interests of members of the cabal.

The president’s mandate to the acting president, a source said, was to project the interests of a united presidency.

“With the Senate pushing him on Magu and support for Magu slipping even in the president’s inner circle, I don’t see how Magu can survive,” a confident Senate source revealed last week.

Osinbajo’s capacity to hold on to Magu,  Sunday  Vanguard further learnt, has been weakened by his desire to make a success of his brief as acting president.

“The acting president knows that he can only succeed if he has the support of the National Assembly and he now knows that he cannot have Magu and have the Senate at the same time,” a source privy to the developments told  Sunday  Vanguard.

At the heart of the Senate’s objections to Magu is the fact that his nomination for the EFCC top job was twice turned down by the Senate partly on account of an unflattering security report articulated by the Department of State Services, DSS.

However, the proposal of some in the presidency and particularly the Acting President that Magu does not need Senate confirmation in line with the thinking of some in the legal community who draw inspiration from Section 171 of the Constitution has also angered the Senate.

It was upon that fury that the Senate two weeks ago refused to consider the nomination of Mr. Lanre Gbajabiamila for the position of director-general of the National Lottery Commission, NLC.

Besides the standoff over nominations,  Sunday  Vanguard understands that Osinbajo has been brought to understand that having a pitched battle with the Senate in the face of the apparent booby traps laid for him by some in the presidency, identified as the cabal, may not do him any good.

It was upon that realisation that Osinbajo started reaching out to the Senate for peace, leading to the first secret meeting with Saraki penultimate week. However, that meeting was eventually leaked, allegedly by some fifth columnists in the presidency who did not want the acting president to make a headway.

Besides the issue of appointments, the acting president is bound to engage the National Assembly in his desire to secure external financing for Federal Government projects.

Whereas the National Assembly has, in the past almost always endorsed the applications, the legislators are sounding out warnings that they will not simply endorse anything that comes from Osinbajo while the standoff over Magu lasts.

It was in the face of the seeming deadlock Speaker Yakubu Dogara was delegated to act as a mediator and break the deadlock.

Dogara’s appointment follows the fact that though the House has issues with the presidency, they are not as intractable as those between the latter and the Senate.

Still, Osinbajo appears to be enjoying an uncommon goodwill from majority of  Nigerians who see in him a clear departure from the manifest lethargic presidency.

However, the goodwill of Nigerians may wane if, for whatever reason, it becomes apparent  that the wheel of governance begins to grind to a halt, not  withstanding where the cog is thrown from.

This is because the perception being ingrained in the  consciousness of Nigerians is that the Acting President is not producing the type of vibes he produced earlier in the year when President Buhari went on his first medical vacation in 2017.

There are those who believe that part of the deliberate distraction is the face off between the presidency and national assembly.

Yet, others insist that the presidency needs monitoring, without prejudice to whatever real or imagined short comings of the National Assembly.

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