Senator Yahaya Abdullahi represents Kebbi North in the Senate. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the retired pioneer permanent secretary in the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs says that Atiku Abubakar’s emergence as the PDP presidential flag bearer favours APC.
APC picked Mr. President as a consensus candidate. What happened to other aspirants?
The party did not stop others from contesting the presidency but somehow all those who would have contested with him had already left to the other party. So most of those who stayed behind are those who have confidence in the leadership of the president. They believe that the president is the only person who has the capacity and the winning streak to win the next elections. The previous two contestants which were Atiku Abubakar and Kwankwaso had already left to the PDP. Another person would have been Okorocha but he also decided to abandon his ambition until Mr. President has completed his two terms. Those who remain chose not to contest against the president.
Some of the APC-controlled states had problems with their primaries…
Yes! Those were states that had internal problems. The one in Zamfara is about the position the governor took by anointing one single aspirant against eight others and insisted that the primary election must be done in an indirect way, which means that the party structure will determines who the candidate is but the national executives of the party under Oshiomhole had a different arrangement. They wanted a level playing ground for everybody. Even then the governor wanted to control the process but the party resisted. In Kaduna, the case is different because there has been no love lost between the senators and the governor in the state. Particularly, the governor was irked by the earlier party position where it gave automatic ticket to Shehu Sani. Remember Hunkuyi had already left to the PDP, so he wasn’t in contention. Shehu Sani was the bone of contention. But I believes that the problems will be solved since there is still time.
Some Senators failed in their bid to secure their party tickets. What does it portends for the legislature in Nigeria?
Well not many lost their primaries. The party has placed loyalty as a reward for some persons. Each state will be looked at in terms of its peculiarity. There are cases where some Senators may lose their position because the governors want to come to the Senate. There are also others whereby Senators left the senate position and are going for governorship. It’s politics, there must be give and take. It all depends on how people work out their differences.
Talking about governors coming to the Senate, Nigerians are worried that the Senate is becoming a kind of retirement home for governors. Does this bother you?
That is one problem, but what can you do about it? The constitution does not prevent them from coming to the Senate. Since there is no law against it, nobody can do anything about it. Unless a law is put in place in the future, this will continue to be the case. It has its positive side and negative side. The positive side is that these are people who have experience with governance because of how they handle their state Houses of Assembly. Some of them might have been Senators before they became governors. So, the kind of cumulative experience they have could come to bear on the way the Senate operates. Unfortunately the flip side of it is that, they can constitute themselves into a powerful clique in the Senate and prevent the Senate from operating unless their own interest is protected. We have seen how thess things happen particularly in the 8th Senate. The next Senate might be worse unless the governors come with a clean mind and want to work with other senators, forgetting the kind of privileges they have had and want to really legislate for the entire country.
Most Nigerians thought the APC will carry out its threat and remove the Senate President immediately the Senate resumed from vacation. Have they come to accept the current situation?
The issue is that, it’s not the question of removing the senate president, it is political morality we are talking about. There is nowhere in the world where a minority party controls the National Assembly. Unfortunately these leaders chose not to look at the morality angle. They now rely on constitutional provision which talks on removal of presiding officers. That particular provision is talking about removal under normal circumstance but this one is not normal. It was not envisaged by the constitution. So what is the political astuteness and fairness for people who left a party that brought them to office and joined a minority party, yet still come and claim that they have to provide leadership as a minority to a majority? Unless they want to tell us that it is a new democracy like during the Jonathan era where 16 was greater than 19. We don’t want to go into any brinkmanship, we just want to appeal to their moral firmament to respect the major principles of democracy.
The principles say that, majority rules and minority have their say but they have to allow the majority to have their way. It is democracy and my question is, are they truly democrats? When democrats in the US lost their majority in the House of Representatives, Nancy Palossi left, without anybody telling her. She became a minority leader even though the president wanted her to remained there. That is what we expect to happen. So as a responsible legislature, we don’t want any kind of trouble to come to governance. We don’t want a situation where the Senate will not do what Nigerians sent them to do.
But we will continue to remind the leaders that they are operating against the same democratic principles that brought them to power, that same principle they are touting. But since they say they want to eat their cake and have it, then let them continue. We will not instigate anything but continue to do what will make government run smoothly. We will also continue to remind them of the political morality they are violating by their continuous stay on their seats.
Atiku Abubakar is the presidential candidate of the PDP. What does this portends for your party, APC?
No problem, Atiku is not a stranger on Nigerian political scene. He has been there since the military regime till date. He has been part of the Yar’Adua political struggle. It is an advantage to have somebody like Atiku because he has a background that is known. An unknown candidate would give us much more problems because he can make claims which we cannot dispute since he has no experience to show. But Atiku has left a long trail of political issues over the years. Anything he says, we will have something to counter it. I don’t think it is anything to worry about. In fact it is the best arrangement that can come to us.
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