National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in this interview with select journalists speaks on some national issues including the gale of defections rocking his party. MUYIWA OYINLOLA was there
How do you react to the allegations made by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, over the issues that made him to leave the APC?
It is important we address some of the issues he canvassed so that the public is not misled into turning villains to heroes and twisting the facts that are really no secret to the Nigeria public. But, it is important that we help the public to refresh their memories and arrive at their own individual judgment.
First, the Senate President raised the issue of the fact that he has always acted not on the basis of his own personal interest; that he has always acted on the basis of national interest. The truth is, it is doubtful if the Senate President has ever acted either in the national interest nor in the interest of his own political party before his defection recently.
Without going back to ancient history, suffice to start by looking at how in the first instance Senator Bukola Saraki became the President of the Senate. He decided, clearly against the party’s position to enter into a deal with the opposition PDP and got a faction of the PDP and taking advantage of the provisions in the Constitution to side with him while the majority of the APC senators were having a meeting at the International Conference Center in order to resolve the issue of leadership of the Senate and other principal officers of the Senate that are expected to be produced by the ruling party with majority senators in the Senate. Because he had put his personal interest over and above the interest of the party, when he went into alliance with the PDP and he conceded the position of Deputy Senate President to the opposition in order to obtain the support of the opposition for him, Senator Saraki to become the Senate President.
So, for the first time in our democratic history in Nigeria, we had a situation where the APC has the majority in the Senate, the Senate went on to elect a PDP person as Deputy Senate President. This action alone portrays Senator Saraki for who he is; his personal interest comes before any other interest, including the national interest, including the interest of his political party. Haven gone into this unholy alliance with the opposition and mortgaged the right of the ruling party, he proceeded to appoint opposition senators to head strategic committees whose activities can affect either for good or for bad, the workings of the government and relationship between the government and the legislature.
What is your take on his defection?
There is nothing for me to add to the illegality of this action and the false foundation that the Senate President tried to lay. I rather submit totally to the illuminating submission of Mr. Femi Falana, SAN. He has spoken extensively on the illegality of Senator Saraki’s action. Whether in terms of purporting that there is a faction in a political party or basing his decision to encourage defection on the basis of his own imagined faction in his party that is unknown to law.
Again, those ones did not portray him as someone who is concerned about sustaining democracy. Because sustaining democracy also requires total submission to the rule of law. And, as he has seen, if the rule of law is compromised and Nigeria is reduced to a Banana Republic, where it is survival of the fittest, he probably will not be the strongest guy in town to cling onto that office. So, each time he takes action that constitutes a breach of the Constitution, he is by his own action undermining the foundation and weakening the fabrics of our own democracy.
However, upon his illegal defection, which he has to do hurriedly, because the number of senators who he was playing on their fears that they will not be able to return to the Senate or that if they return they will be heading to prison if President Buhari is re-elected. So, he had a situation whereby about 36 senators, who were on his list to defect, but consequent upon our election and our assumption of office, we took pre-emptive step to reassure those senators. Many of you would not have witnessed the fact that the first meeting we had, a day after the convention, Sunday 24th June, 2018, the first person we met was Senator Bukola Saraki, to try to listen to whatever his grievances are and this I did in company of the Vice President.
At least he was able to confess to that when I tried to listen to negotiable or verifiable grievances. But however, his real grievances are not negotiable. Which is about ambition, about values, and conflicting values of him as a person and the values of the APC. However, when he defected, however illegal his action was, he went to Ilorin to tell Ilorin people part of the truth, when he said that among other things that he was leaving for two major reasons. Number one was that, he alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari gave out over two hundred juicy jobs without allocating some juicy jobs to him. And, he chose to speak for the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, that even Dogara also was not given juicy positions.
Is there anything wrong in speaking for the Speaker?
Again, I would have thought that not being a union leader, it is not for him to speak for the Speaker. The Speaker is well capable of speaking for himself. That is aside the key issue which was that he lamented that he was not given a share of the so-called 200 juicy positions. I asked, giving Senator Bukola Saraki, Senate President juicy position, does that coincide with Nigeria’s public interest?Those that coincide with the interest of the people of Kwara State or the interest of the people of Senator Saraki’s senatorial district. At no time did he refer to the interest of his own constituency or the interest of Nigerians.
The second reason he gave was that he was being persecuted
Again, even that, the alleged persecution of his person, not persecution of his people. Again, he never pretended that any of these actions have to do with the good people of Nigeria, they have to do with his person, to the extent that he alleged personal persecution of his person, not that of Kwara State people, or the people of his constituency or Nigerians.
But, I think the Governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Abdulfatar Ahmed was more explicit in corroborating Senator Saraki’s claim, when he said that he, as a governor and Senator Saraki as Senate President, were being linked to armed robbery cases as part of their reason for defecting. Again, nothing to do with the Nigerian project, nothing to do with Kwara State people. However, what is the truth, as he linked the Senate President to armed robbery? Was it the Federal Government or arrested armed robbers? It was armed robbers who were arrested that alleged that the weapons with which they carried out their heinous crime, including the killing of about 35 indigenes of Kwara State, somewhere in Offa, that those weapons were procured for them by the Senate President. They made that allegation according to police report which is now known everywhere, so it is not a secret to be declassified. He has not denied knowledge of these people since some of them were captured in camera in his entourage when he went ironically to pay condolence visit to the survival of those people who were murdered. So, if armed robbers linked the name of the Senate President to robbery, is the Federal Government or the APC to be blamed? As reporters, you know that when armed robbery suspects, in this case it was armed robbery and mass murder. A crime that led to the killing of 35 persons cannot be dismissed by wave of hand. And, in any jurisdiction, when your name is linked to such heinous crime, people don’t clap for you, it is the duty of the police or security agencies to investigate the allegations to establish whether or not they are valid or invalid, and the extent to which you are implicated.
So, if he was linked to armed robbery, that cannot be an offence caused by the All Progressives Congress or of the government. And, he has not denied he does not know those people. The best defense I heard, the one that was published, was that the armed robbers themselves also agreed that Saraki did not ask them to use the weapon for armed robbery. But, whether he asked them to do so or not, the point I am making is that it was the armed robbers and not the APC or government that linked him with arm robbery.
How do you react to the alleged plot to impeach him?
He also made unsubstantiated allegation to the effect that the event of last Tuesday, that it was an attempt to carry out an illegal impeachment. How can a presiding officer arrive at that conclusion that there was a plan to carry our an illegal impeachment. Until an action takes place how can you determine the status? If the act of impeachment is unlawful then you can probably understand where he is coming from. But, the truth is that it is lawful to impeach any one including the President of the Senate, including the Deputy President of the Senate, if the number required to do so is present. So, he cannot preempt that. As they say, you don’t have to be a pathological liar to understand this general saying that once you start with one lie you would need series of lies to support that one lie. I don’t want to use the word lies to characterize the action or the statements of the Senate President. Let us look at the facts, from their own statement they said they were aware that the Senate President was illegally going to be impeached and therefore they mobilized thugs, mobilized their journalists, cameramen and video to the Senate building. They had told the world that they had adjourned till 25th of September, meanwhile about 15 PDP senators were in the Senate and for effect they imported hundreds of thugs that molested one or two of our members that were sighted in the premises. And, in order to expose the lie, I ask you as defenders of democracy, did you find any APC senator in the Senate? So, if APC senators were not in the Senate and it was PDP senators that were in the Senate, what is the basis of the false claim that there was an attempt to carry out an illegal impeachment. In any case Saraki is not going to be the first Senate President to be impeached and I doubt if he is going to be the last.
But, definitely he will be impeached according to law and according to democratic norms. The only way Senator Saraki can avoid impeachment is for him to do what is honorable which again leads to the issue of character. We saw Senator Godswill Akpabio who was the PDP leader in the Senate, once he made up his mind to leave the PDP, even before announcing his defection, as a man of honour he informed the PDP he had resigned his position as Minority Leader. So, Senator Saraki has demonstrated neither character nor being a man of honour. He cannot, like I told him to his face the last time we had a meeting, I said, you came to APC as a senator and it is on our platform that you became Senate President. Once you made up your mind to leave, the best thing for you to do is to resign as senate President. Of course, if he does not resign as Senate President, he will be impeached according to law. Not by thuggery or anything that is undemocratic. He cannot sustain a minority rule in the Senate and that is what is hurting him as we speak. They have about 48 senators, we have 53 senators. So, how can 48 senators preside over 53 senators. He is returning us back to the PDP era that 16 governors were more than 19 governors. That is the era Saraki is taking us to and incidentally he belongs to that club and to that club he has returned. So, we can see directly where he is going, he simply cannot change his color at old age.
Let me conclude by saying that when I say the Senate President will be impeached, he will be impeached according to the law. And, the constitution is clear on how a presiding officer can be impeached. And, because several impeachments have taken place both on former Senate presidents and former Speakers, we are not about to witness what has never happened before; we have enough precedence to all back on. I have looked at the Nigerian Constitution. It does not say that an impeachment, once mooted is by itself illegal. Until it is done and you looked at how it is done, you cannot arrive at a conclusion whether the process was lawful or unlawful. Only a hardened criminal will allege that one is an arm robber even without seeing him with a stolen goods or anybody complaining that his house has been burgled by the person. So, how can we be accused of planning an illegal impeachment when the impeachment has not commenced. But, if he thinks that by doing that he is going to preempt the APC from having him impeached, he is deceiving himself. I think Saraki’s time is over. The way he has manipulated the politics of Kwara State, he fails to understand that the Nigeria national project is far more complicated and it is not at his mercy or the mercy of his own dynasty. So, he will not only be impeached, we will work hard to have him defeated as a senator in his own senatorial zone, come 2019, by the people of Kwara State, who are fed up with Saraki and who are fed up with Bukola. And, I ask you to go and check the result of the elections that made him a senator, you will find that President Muhammadu Buhari got more votes from Kwara Central than Senator Saraki got for himself. So, he cannot purport or claim that the votes that the APC got in his senatorial zone was because of him, they were inspite of him. Which is why his leaving is of no political consequences as far as electoral issues are concerned and I stand by that.
We tried to talk to him out of conviction that as a presiding officer, there are rules of engagement and we don’t want him to get so emotional as to conduct himself in a manner that is offensive to those rules of engagement that presiding officers anywhere in the world are expected to observe. Let me summarize by saying that the Senate President has never put Nigeria’s national interest first. The Senate President has never put his party’s interest first, the Senate President at all times, since he became Senate President has always from day one, put his personal interest over and above any other consideration, whether national or party.
What is your take on the allegation by the Senate President that the present administration of President Buhari has a government within the government?
The person who alleged has the burden of proof. You people should have asked him and that is why I want the media to be more interrogative than you seem to do. When he says that he should not go away with it. It’s for him to prove it. You don’t ask me to prove allegation made by another person. And, because he is number three citizen, what he says, he ought to explain it transparently, that is honour, that is character. Those are obligations that are associated with you when you have to occupy that office and make that kind of statement. .
From what you said sir, are you saying that the APC has also lost confidence in the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara even though he has not announced his defection?
No, I have absolute confidence in Rt. Hon.Yakubu Dogara. I said something earlier, I said it was Senator Saraki, he did not only complain he was not given juicy appointment, but that Rt. Hon. Dogara was also not given. And, I wondered allowed, whether Saraki thought that Dogara was not capable of speaking for himself, after all he is the Speaker. So, if those were the views of Rt. Hon. Dogara, it was not for Saraki to parrot. Hon. Dogara is capable any day of speaking for himself. The point I tried to make is that Saraki wants to drag everybody along with him. The All Progressives Congress (APC) as a party and myself as chairman, we have confidence in Hon. Dogara. I have had very very useful conversation with him, we have had couple of meetings, he has shared with me in trust, his concerns that has to do with issues in Bauchi State, and I have taken steps to address those issues to the best of my ability. And, I have shared with him that I am excited that we are getting very positive results. So, Hon. Dogara has no problem with the APC. And, he did not do anything similar to what Senator Saraki did. He emerged as Speaker and he also ensured as a patriot that an APC member emerged as Deputy Speaker. He was not so desperate to mortgage that position to PDP in order to cling on as Speaker. He knew the difference between personal interest and party interest.
Are you not worried that a couple of governors have left the party?
No. I am concerned that some of them had to leave and I had conversation with some of them. But the truth is that there are categories of grievances. There are grievances that are negotiable, you can discuss them and it can be resolved. But if you have certain expectation or certain ambition, it is difficult to negotiate that ambition. Ambition is none negotiable. I have my personal respect for Governor Aminu Tambuwal, he knows my views about the actions he has taken and I will leave it at that.
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