The melodrama in Abuja, Nigeria's seat of power Tuesday morning was part of a grand plan by persons loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari to execute a 'coup' on the Senate leadership, multiple sources told PREMIUM TIMES.
Sources familiar with the plan provided PREMIUM TIMES with details of the operation that went awry.
Nigerians woke up Tuesday morning to the stories of siege on the residence of Nigeria's Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.
Mr Saraki later relieved the saga to his colleagues saying he escaped by the "intervention of the almighty God".
Hatching of the plot began Monday night with the police divulging content of a letter signed by the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, inviting Mr Saraki for questioning. Mr Saraki was invited in connection with Offa robbery which occurred in his state of Kwara in April.
Police had in the aftermath of the incidence alleged links between the suspected robbers and Mr Saraki.
An earlier invitation to Mr Saraki to appear before police investigators was suddenly withdrawn and a written explanation from the senate president demanded instead.
The letter on Monday said Mr Saraki was needed to clarify aspects of his statement. He was ordered to report to the police by 8 a.m. on Tuesday. Mr Saraki said the letter was delivered to his office at 8 p.m. on Monday.
However, as Mr Saraki's convoy purportedly planned to leave his house for the police's offices, a detachment of police personnel stopped the convoy from moving out of the street.
A security source knowledgeable about the actions of the police told PREMIUM TIMES the plan was for Mr Saraki to be arrested by the police at that point.
In what appeared more like a choreographed happenstance than a coincidence, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrived at the residence of Mr Ekweremadu around the same time.
A letter of invitation signed by EFCC's Head of Operations, Mohammed Abba, seen by PREMIUM TIMES requested Mr Ekweremadu to report to the EFCC by 10 a.m. Tuesday. The letter carried Tuesday's date of July 24.
The commission said it was inviting Mr Ekweremadu in connection with a case of "conspiracy, abuse of office and money laundering" which it claimed to be investigating.
"This commission is investigating the above mentioned case in which your name feature prominently and the need to obtain certain clarification from you become imperative," the letter partly reads.
THE MASTER PLAN
A government source the told our reporter that afraid that the Senate is bent on carrying on a mass defection plan, some loyalists of President Muhammadu Buhari in the red chamber sold the idea of taking over the Senate leadership to some officials of the government.
This was after spirited attempts to stop the exodus, by the new leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Buhari looked fruitless.
A plan was therefore hatched to create vacancy in the presiding post by taking out the two presiding officers from the Senate on the same day.
To achieve this, the police, which had kept mum on its investigation of the Offa incident for over a month, was mobilised to revisit the Offa robbery matter by inviting Mr Saraki and then detaining him pending execution of the take-over plan, the source disclosed.
EFCC was allegedly also primed to arrest Mr Ekweremadu, effectively leaving the Senate without a presiding officer.
Spokesperson of the Police, Jimoh Moshood and EFCC's Wilson Uwujaren were not available to clarify positions of their organisations in the imbroglio. While Mr Moshood did not respond to repeated calls placed by our reporter, Mr Uwujaren's phone was switched off.
The planners from the Senate, reportedly led by the Senate Majority Leader, Ahmed Lawan, planned to use the vacuum expected to be created to invoke Senate Rules to appoint Senate President pro-tempo, paving way to sacking the two principal officers.
Attempts to get Mr Lawan failed as his known telephone line was not going through. He also did not respond to a text message sent to him, as at the time of publishing this report.
HOW IT FAILED
A principal actor in the anti-Saraki camp of the Senate told PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday morning that the plan, which he described as the second attempt at taking over the Senate, after the mace theft saga, was thwarted on the altar of "hypocrisy".
He said a few senators led by Mr Lawan sidelined other loyalists of the president, including the Parliamentary Support Group, led by Abdullahi Adamu, in executing the latest plan.
"There is too much hypocrisy and selfishness. Those who planned it wanted to be the sole beneficiaries of the leadership change," the senator said, asking not to be named.
A decision among the senators on who succeeds Mr Saraki, in the event they succeeded, reportedly punctured the plan.
Two names were prominent: Mr Lawan, who was leading the putsch, and Ali Ndume, a former Senate Leader who was removed from his post and suspended allegedly at the instance of Mr Saraki.
A senator from the South-south told PREMIUM TIMES that presenting an "acceptable candidate" like Mr Ndume, who he described as a "friend of all" would have helped the cause of the Buhari loyalists.
Mr Ndume however claimed ignorance of the plan when contacted Tuesday afternoon.
"I just got back to Abuja last night. I cannot comment," He said.
"Some of us told them that it would be illogical and amount to insensitivity to take the Senate president slot to the North-east, the same zone as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
"And since the speaker [Yakubu Dogara] is very strong at the House pf Representatives and there is nothing we could do about him, the best thing was to keep the Senate President position in the North-Central," another APC senator explained.
The altercations over who takes the throne eventually led to the leakage of the plan by the Buhari loyalists to Mr Saraki who played a fast one.
Though PREMIUM TIMES is yet to get details of how Mr Saraki made it to the National Assembly despite the siege on his convoy, a source close to the senate president said Mr Saraki actually sold a dummy to the Police.
"He was not in the convoy. By the time they were holding the convoy at Lake Chad [Crescent] the SP was already at the National Assembly," an aide who spoke on anonymity said.
Another source informed PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Saraki stayed away from his house for the night, after hearing about the plan to take him away the next morning.
"Do you know that actually Saraki did not sleep in that house and that the convoy was a decoy? He just made the Police and all those trailing him to believe he was there," he said.
Mr Saraki later surfaced at the Senate where he presided over the plenary. Fifteen senators announced their decamping from the APC at the sitting. Mr Ekweremadu could not attend as he was holed up by the siege which was lifted only after the days Senate sitting ended.