Excerpts of an address by national chairman of the All Progressives Congress, ADAMS OSHIOMHOLE, at a press conference in Abuja last week
Basically, to respond to some of the issues raised by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, at the press conference he addressed two days ago. It is important we addressed 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 Nigerian public. But it is important that we help the public to refresh their memories and arrive at their own individual judgement.
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 or 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 Centre 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, which, whereas 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. Having 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. Senator Saraki did that in order to continue to protect himself against the wish of his party as Senate President. Again, that shows that the only thing that was always constant in the mind of Senator Saraki was how to cling on to power even if it means at the expense of his party or even of the country, and I will speak to that.
You do not need to be a political activist or a partisan politician to appreciate that, in an election year, every government around the world will do everything possible to ensure that it is seen to be working for the people of the country. So, like any other, the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigerians expected that it will do everything possible this year to make up for lost time in terms of budget implementation and addressing critical infrastructures without which sustainable development is impossible.
The Senate under Saraki chose instead to delay the budget up to the end of the first half of the year, to coincide with the period of the rainy season such that those aspect of infrastructure such as roads, for example, cannot really be constructed during rainy season. These were not errors of the head on the part of Senator Saraki’s leadership. They were clearly designed to frustrate the capacity of President Buhari’s government to address physical infrastructural deficit without which the ordinary man in the street cannot feel the impact of governance. Again, I want to plead that I am not about to reveal anything. On receipt of the budget by Mr. President, after going through it, Mr. President cried out that the budget that was handed over to him by the National Assembly under the leadership of the Senate President was a clear distortion of the well-thought-out budget proposal that was submitted to the National Assembly. Whereas Mr. President appreciates that the National Assembly could make some alterations in the budget, he did not expect that the budget would be completely rewritten and so grossly distorted as to make far more provisions for recurrent expenditure such that there is very little left for capital projects without which the Nigerian people cannot benefit from governance. And the President said this budget would be difficult to implement. You have all heard the stories of budget padding and no budget padding, but on this occasion I would rather not delve into those.
So, when I say that the Senate President has never put Nigeria first, I support this statement by the deliberate delay of the budget and the deliberate manipulation of provisions in the budget in a way that it would compromise the commitment of the government to address critical infrastructure. It is by now not a secret that as, Senate President, he conspired with others to try to create a sense of division within the ruling party, having failed to truncate the convention, where they assembled a couple of people who were neither delegates nor contestants for any of the offices at the convention to purport
to have formed a political party. There is nothing for me to add to the illegality of this action and the false foundation that the Senate President tried to lay. However, upon his illegal defection, which he had to do hurriedly, because the number of senators who he was playing on their fears that they would not be able to return to the Senate or that if they return they would be heading to prison if President Buhari is relected. 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 steps 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, June 24, 2018, the first person we met was Senator Bukola Saraki, to try to listen to whatever his grievances were 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, among other things, that he was leaving for two major reasons. Number one was that he alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari gave out over 200 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. 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? Does 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 Abdulfatah Ahmed, was more explicit in corroborating Senator Saraki’s claim, when he said 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. They made that allegation according to police report, which is now known everywhere, so it is not a secret to be declassified.
In support of my thesis that the Senate President has never acted with the Nigerian national interest in view, my final submission is the way in which he adjourned the Senate about two weeks ago. The Senate calendar is not a secret to the presiding officer of the Senate. The Senate calendar that was known was that the Senate was going to adjourn on a Thursday. By Tuesday morning or Monday night, Senator Saraki used his guest house, wrote out names of senators with provisions meant for signatories, for senators to decamp to the PDP from the APC. Happily, some of the senators present refused to sign. And that was what frustrated his calculation that by the time he was done, he was going to turn APC into a minority party in the Senate. For careful observers, is it a coincidence that as the Senate President was reading defections, his counterpart in the House of Representatives was also simultaneously reading the names of those who defected. So, there was a coordination for defection day. But happily, the pre-emptive steps we have taken to address those with genuine grievances frustrated their number such that from 36, he could not get more than 14 senators to decamp. This was on a Tuesday, the calendar of the Senate stated that they were going to adjourn on a Thursday. So, between Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the Senate was expected, like I confirmed from the Senate Leader, to look into the supplementary budget for INEC. What INEC requirement are not equipment you buy from the shelf. You must order them and make allowance for the manufacturers to produce them. You don’t buy them the way you buy a pack of cigarettes from the shelf. So, time is of the essence.
However, the Senate under Saraki’s directive adjourned without considering the matter that was before it, including the budget for INEC. Now, if Senator Saraki adjourned the Senate ahead of schedule to resume towards the end of party nominations, can that act be said to coincide with the national interest? If you decide to frustrate the INEC by denying it the funding that it requires, can you be said to be a defender of democracy? If INEC don’t get their funds and, therefore, are unable to conduct a credible election, would that not lead to further serious consequences for our democratic process and our democratic environment?
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 office arrive to that conclusion that there was a plan to carry out 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 characterise 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 mobilised thugs, their journalists, cameramen and video to the Senate building. They had told the world that they had adjourned till September 25. 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?
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.
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 look at how it is done, you cannot arrive at a conclusion whether the process was lawful or unlawful. I think Saraki’s time is over. The way he has manipulated the politics of Kwara State, he fails to understand that the Nigerian national project is far more complicated and it is not at his mercy or the mercy of his own dynasty.