In this interview, National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, speaks about the crisis of defection rocking his party, stressing that the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who led the defectors, acted for selfish reasons. NIYI BELLO, Abuja Bureau Chief, reports.
Why Saraki defected from 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, but 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 taking advantage of the provisions of 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, 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 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 and 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.
Implications of ceding sensitive positions to opposition
By trading away sensitive and strategic committees to opposition, 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.
Even the media have repeatedly in editorial columns drawn attention to the way that the Senate, under Bukola Saraki, has managed the Upper Chamber in a way that issues have been raised as to whose interest the senators are serving. For reference, look at various commentaries and editorials on electronic media over the past three and half years of Saraki's leadership in the Senate.
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 would 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 raining season such that those aspects of infrastructure such as roads, for example, cannot really be constructed during raining 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 and 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 will be completely re-written and so grossly distorted as to make far more provisions for recurrent expenditure such that there is very little left for capital project without which the Nigeria 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 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 will 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, haven 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.
Saraki's defection as an illegality
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 was dwindling. 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.
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.
Allegation of persecution
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 fordefecting. Again, it has nothing to do with the Nigerian project and nothing to do with Kwara 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 armed robbery.
Then lastly, in support of my thesis that Saraki has never acted with the Nigeria 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 in 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 counterparts in the House of Representatives was also simultaneously reading the names of those who have defected?