Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday said that the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, was only supporting President Muhammadu Buhari's re-election bid in 2019 in the hopes of achieving his own presidential ambition in 2023.
Saraki was reacting to a statement credited to Tinubu yesterday to the effect that he (Saraki) had defected from the APC to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) because he felt he could not achieve his pecuniary and political ambitions in the APC, a claim the Senate president strongly denied.
Saraki noted that he had so far avoided exchanging words with Tinubu out of respect, but that he had to speak out now in order to guard against the general public being misled to take such statements as fact, adding that his longstanding differences with Tinubu had always bordered on matters of principle and the need for national interest to take precedence over personal benefits.
He revealed that Tinubu had declared in one of their reconciliatory meetings that "he would rather 'support a Buhari on the hospital stretcher' to get a second term because, in 2023, power will shift to the South-west."
The Senate president described the reasons advanced by Tinubu for his defection as false and mischievous, adding that his main grouse with President Buhari was his contempt for the National Assembly.
In a statement signed by Saraki himself yesterday, he said that while he had all along pointed out the shortcomings in APC and President Muhammadu Buhari's administration in order to protect collective and national interest, Tinubu was ready to condone those inadequacies in the government for the sake of fulfilling and preserving his presidential ambition in 2023.
He said, "I have always restrained from joining issues in the media with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and this is based on my respect for him. However, I will not allow him to create a wrong, false and mischievous impression about the reasons for my decision to exit the APC and present his prejudice as facts for public consumption.
"I have been consistent in my complaints to all leaders of the APC, including Tinubu, that a situation where the National Assembly is not constructively engaged or carried along in key policy decisions, particularly those that will eventually require legislative approval, is not in the best interest of the nation.
"No genuine leader of the legislature will be comfortable that the Presidency will simply write a terse letter to the National Assembly on key issues which the federal legislature is expected to later deliberate upon and give its approval. The Buhari administration consistently treats the legislature with contempt and acts as if the lawmaking body should be an appendage of the Executive. To me, this is unacceptable.
"In the same way, I find it very objectionable that many stakeholders who worked strenuously to get the administration into office have now been excluded in the government and not consulted on key decisions as necessary and expected. In fact, some of them are treated as pariahs. A party that ignores justice, equity and inclusion as basic pre-conditions for peace, unity and stability cannot sustain its membership and leadership."
Saraki recalled his statement announcing his exit from the APC in which he emphasised that the decision to leave was imposed on him by 'certain elements and forces within the APC who have ensured that the minimum conditions for peace, cooperation, inclusion and a general sense of belonging did not exist.'
He added that the 'elements' had made sure that party principles required for a healthy functioning were deliberately violated.
Saraki accused Tinubu of being economical with the truth by taking sides with President Buhari now, rather than stating his findings during his reconciliatory efforts towards addressing his grievances and those of others.
The statement reads further, "Tinubu himself will recall that during the various meetings he had with me at the time he was pursuing reconciliation within the APC, I raised all the above issues. I can also vividly recall that he himself always expressed his displeasure with the style of the government and also mentioned that he had equally suffered disrespect from the same government which we all worked to put in office. I also made the point that whatever travails I have gone through in the last three years belong to the past and will not shape my decisions now and in the future.
"However, during those meetings, the point of disagreement between Tinubu and I is that while I expressed my worries that there is nothing on ground to assure me that the administrative style and attitude would change in the next four years in a manner that will enable us to deliver the positive changes we promised to our people, he (Tinubu) expressed a strong opinion that he would rather 'support a Buhari on the hospital stretcher' to get a second term because in 2023, power will shift to the South-west. This viewpoint of Tinubu's was not only expressed to me but to several of my colleagues.
"It is clear that while my own decision is based on protecting the collective national interest, Tinubu will rather live with the identified inadequacies of the government for the sake of fulfilling and preserving his presidential ambition in 2023. This new position of Tinubu has only demonstrated inconsistency -- particularly when one reviews his antecedents over the years."
The Senate president further recalled their differences in the build-up to the 2015 general elections, and accused Tinubu of peddling falsehood on the subject of his defection.
"Again, let me reiterate my position that my uncertain and complex relationship with Tinubu has been continually defined by the event of 2014 when myself and other leaders of the APC opposed the Muslim-Muslim ticket arrangement about to be foisted on the APC for the 2015 polls. It should be noted that he has not forgotten the fact that I took the bull by the horns and told him that in the interest of the country, he should accept the need for the party to present a balanced ticket for the 2015 general elections in terms of religion and geo-political zones. Since that time he has been very active plotting at every point to undermine me, both within and outside the National Assembly.
"It is a surprise to me that Asiwaju Tinubu is still peddling the falsehood about the fact that my defection is about automatic ticket and sharing of resources. Members of the public will recall that when the issue of my decision to quit APC came to the fore and many APC leaders were holding meetings with me, a newspaper owned by the same Tinubu published a false report about the promise of automatic tickets, oil blocks and other benefits. I immediately rebutted their claims and categorically stated that I never discussed any such personal and pecuniary benefits with anybody. My challenge that anybody who has contrary facts should come forward with them still remains open."
Saraki noted that democracy was a system that allowed people to freely make their choices and that he only exercised that right.
"It is my choice that I have decided to join others to present a viable alternative platform for Nigerians in the coming elections. Tinubu and leaders of the APC had better respect this decision or lawfully deal with it. As for me, Allah gives power to whom He wishes. Human beings can only aspire and strive to fulfil their aspirations."
Since his defection to the PDP last month, the Senate president has been under intense pressure from APC leaders and lawmakers to vacate his position since his party is now a minority in the upper chamber of the National Assembly, but he has vowed to stay on.