Sunday 26 July 2015

How Saraki Lost Opportunity To Quench Senate Fire - And For Those Who Think That Tinubu's Star Can Be Dimmed They Are Deceiving Themselves.

I believe very much in the party supremacy and the rule of law otherwise I have no business being in the senate.

As much as I respect the views and choices of my other colleagues, we must also recognise the fact that politics is fluid. When we started, it was healthy to have brothers to compete for a post, someone would emerge winner. The issue of zoning came up but it wasn't resolved and even up until now, it remains a speculation that some governors recommended that the senate presidency must go to a particular zone, but it was neither mentioned nor confirmed up till now. So it was still healthy to have two people from different zones competing for a post.

At a point, both zones agreed that there must be a mock election. Before the mock election, everyone was strategizing to see that his or her group emerged winner. There are about four of them competing for the position. In order for the Senate Unity Forum, which I belong to have the cutting edge, we entered into coalition and agreements that took us extensive meetings. Eventually, we agreed on Senators Ahmed Lawan and George Akume, as Senate president and deputy president respectively. And we were ready for the mock election, which was being touted by the other group, the Like minds.

On the day of the mock election, the party leadership and those who were to conduct the elections were present so also was the Senate Unity Forum, but the other group refused to show up, however the election went as scheduled because there were 59 APC Senators and 36 were seated. All the 36 Senators present were pro-Lawan/Akume. If the others were present, there would still have been a clear winner.

The election took place and was won unopposed by the Lawan group. That same night, the other group issued a press release stating that it would wait till the day of proclamation. What our party was trying to do was to come out with one single candidate because of the close chase of the minority PDP with 48 senators. That margin was not too comfortable. If we come out with two candidates against their one candidate, they would have won in a senate where we have the majority.

All entreaties to make them see reasons that we should come together, accept the way forward and see what could be done especially in the sharing of principal officers and committee members, failed and they decided to go the whole hog.

In order to mitigate that stance from both sides, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo opted to intervene and a meeting was called for the following day and it was relayed to everybody all in a bid to reconcile before the day of proclamation, five members were selected from each group to form the reconciliatory committee. I was in one of the groups. We had meetings till the following day. At a point there was stalemate, not knowing that they already had an alliance with the PDP and were merely using delay tactics.

Before 7am, another alert came out that the president had arrived and would want to meet with all of us before we go for the election and we all went to the International Conference Centre (ICC) in Abuja to meet the President. All our party leaders and principal officers were there, only for somebody to inform us that the Senate had started the election.

The rest is history. I am on the side of due diligence, due process, supremacy of the party and discipline. Now, it didn't stop at that. When we conveyed, the party leadership, in its effort to prevent the crisis from escalating, insisted that the other Lawan group must be carried along. We have decided in line with the relevant provisions of the Senate rules, that on how the principal offices should be shared.

The APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun sent a letter reiterating the party's position to the Senate President, which he was supposed to read on the floor of the House. On that day which was of June 24, when the Senate conveyed, as a ranking Senator, I knew the process of the day's order. Immediately I noticed that the Senate president did not read the letter from the party chairman, I called his attention to Order 15 under Privileges, he called me and gave me the floor to speak.

I put him on notice about Order 15 and that I will be joining 28(1) 29(1) 30(1) 31(4). I asked if I should read and he gave me the go ahead. And I read through everything. And I said, God may have put you there, but you need to do the right thing and this is the time and the right thing to do, right now is for you to announce the content of the letter written by our party leadership and signed by the party chairman in order to solve the leadership crisis in this Senate.

He (Saraki) overruled me and the vibration of his action went round the whole world. Nobody expected it. Had he adopted my position, the problem threatening the Senate would have been over by now, by that he would have demonstrated that he is a true democrat, a statesman and a man that would stand for discipline and supremacy of the party that put him there but he failed to do so.

Senator Kabir Marafa stood up and drew the Senate president's attention to the fraud in the Senate Rules, the rule on ranking and the various changes that he made that was not to the knowledge of the serving senators who were in the 7th session. Again he (Saraki) overruled him. Of course there are procedures and processes in our country. We have not come this long to be called a banana republic.

Implications of the Senate crisis

We have to thank God that the crisis came up at this early stage which now gave us enough time to address it. Right now, everybody is waiting for the resumption of the Senate. The Senate President, Senator Bola Saraki, has said that by the time we resume, everything would have been resolved, stressing that this is a political family.

Ray of hope in the air

Well, let us hope this will come to pass, but there was another issue raised based on the same fraudulent amendment that all committees would be shared equally among zones. There was no time this was discussed in the Seventh Assembly of the Senate. It's like trying to destroy the system. We are talking about democracy, about politics. There must be spoils of war. Why didn't they do this when the PDP was in the majority? I am feeling that this time around, the PDP agitating for this has gone beyond its bounds, even the Senate President.

It is all in the name of trying not to make the system works, because it didn't work for them but they will fail. The indication that they will fail is the action taken by President Muhammadu Buhari in the sacking of the Service Chiefs and the immediate appointment of new ones in acting capacity.

Nigeria in 2020

I can assure you that by the end of the first term of President Buhari, Nigerians would start asking themselves why they didn't take Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (a national leader of APC) serious when 10 years ago he gave us the blueprint on how to move Nigeria forward and become great in comity of nations.

That blueprint is already on ground and has produced Buhari. That blueprint will bring economic rejuvenation in a manner that the economy of Nigeria will be restructured.

That blueprint will create jobs for Nigerians, particularly for the youths. It will put agriculture in the forefront, not the paper agriculture we witnessed.

My venture into politics and encounter with Tinubu

I had known former governor of Lagos, Bola Ahmed Tinubu while we were in the United States. I was in Lagos, but he, through the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) crisis, had gone out of the country. The only politician we were looking at in Lagos then was Funsho Williams. Everybody was saying that he would be the next governor. But when Tinubu came back, I started shifting my allegiance to him. I told my friend, Chief Babatunde Daramola, about my interest in Tinubu and how he encouraged me to go into politics. I told him that wherever Tinubu is in politics whenever he comes back, that is where I am going to be. So when it was decided that Tinubu was going to run, I said he would emerge as the next governor of Lagos State, but my friend disagreed saying it was Williams.

I thank God for giving me the opportunity to work with Tinubu. Some of us learnt a lot from him. In the 30 years that I can remember vividly what politics is, I have not seen a Nigerian that has expended so much energy, resources, intellectual capability and capacity to free his people as Tinubu. I am not talking about South West alone. Whoever is saying Tinubu is a regional leader is just being mischievous. He has demonstrated statesmanship, leadership at the highest level, such that could be compared to any leader that has fought to free his people and give them freedom in any part of the world.

For those who think that Tinubu's star can be dimmed at this period, they are deceiving themselves.

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