“He has been living on borrowed time and we are not going to be violent, but we are going to use democratic process to get him out of the way…”
Barely 48 hours after he declared formally to vie for the presidency in 2019 and about three weeks to the resumption of the Senate from recess, APC Senators opposed to the continued leadership of Senate President Bukola Saraki have launched fresh bid to unseat him when the upper chamber of the National Assembly reconvenes. Arrowhead of the push, Abdullahi Adamu, a former governor of Nasarawa state and incumbent Senator representing Nasarawa West Senatorial District, confirmed this in this interview with AIDOGHIE PAULINUS.
Having been with you from morning till now (8:45 a.m. till 4:46 p.m.), let me begin by asking you, how do you manage your crowd of supporters?
Well, Alhamdulillah! I thank you very much for coming. One has come a long way with this issue of being in public spot and trying to carry your people as much as you can, believing that politics as they say, is all local. So, from the beginning, I was opportune to know about this philosophy and I have tried to live with this philosophy. I have tried to be as close as I can to my people. Wherever I find myself in Nigeria, wherever I go, by weekends, everything being equal, I am back home unless there is a major event somewhere that I am invited to, that I have to entertain, otherwise, I will be home. Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I am home. There are little exceptions to the general rule of course. So, it has come a long way. I have been used to it, they know me, I know them, I appreciate them, they appreciate me and I don’t have problem managing their presence.
The Senate where you have really been at the forefront recently, people are asking, why the desperation about removing Saraki as Senate President?
It is not like there is desperation on our part. If there is any desperation, it is the Senate President. He is desperate to keep that position at all cost. We are in a democracy and you can never take away the fact that the concept of a democracy is that in its parliamentary space, the minority will always have their say, but at the end of the day, the majority will have their way. And what has happened is; the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, came to be the President of the Senate through very dubious means. Every honest Nigerian knows this, but somehow, he managed to have the followership of the APC, betrayed his party to strike a deal with the opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and they had their way all through.
The very day that he got elected, it is a notorious fact that they were only 54 senators out of 59 that were in the hallowed chamber. Not because they wanted to be absent, but because they got invited by the president who was supposed to do the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly. He had signed the proclamation earlier because he was out of the country and he was not quite sure whether he would be able to be present on the day of the proclamation or not. So, in order not to jeopardise the process, he signed the proclamation ahead of his return and so, they took advantage of that and the 54
members who were present, the others, particularly, members of the APC. The House of Reps and the Senate were at the International Conference Centre where they had been invited to meet the president who was trying to see if he could make peace and create some understanding amongst them because of the feud that was developing as to who becomes the leader of the Senate. So, they took advantage of our operations and 54 of them, about 20 or 22 members of the APC and the 30 or so members of the PDP that were present, purported to have elected the president. And when they saw that was done and he was sworn in, it would take two-third so to say in the normal situation to get him out of the way.
So, this is what he has been capitalising on; he has been living on borrowed time and we do know and we do believe that we are not going to be violent, but we are going to use democratic process, parliamentary process to get him out of the way because the PDP that he has now decided to leave APC to join, is now in minority. And he cannot be in a minority party and want at the same time to lead the Senate. It cannot happen!
People are still wondering why you are at the forefront of the crusade because you used to be with Saraki. How do you respond to this?
I don’t know what you mean by I used to be with Saraki. Normally, I am a peace lover and I had very good relationship with his late father, Olusola Saraki, of blessed memory. We were in the NPN (defunct National Party of Nigeria in the second republic) together. I was not his peer in terms of age, but I got on very well with him; a very amiable character, a shrewd politician and philanthropist of repute. I mean, he doesn’t have unbridled ambition. He wanted to be president, he couldn’t make the presidency, he accepted his fate and he was contented with being the Majority Leader in the Senate to the end. So, I came from that background and when Saraki was seeking the presidency of the Senate, first, because it had to come from North Central Zone, we started having a meeting together as to how we could make one of us from the North Central to take the President of the Senate, but somehow, because of the way and manner the contest was developing, I left his camp and I joined the camp of Ahmed Lawan. And the division between them persisted up till the day when this incidence of his teaming with the PDP to take the presidency happened.
Some members in the APC, I am one of them, who wanted to be sure that our government, the APC government, had a smooth take off; Was it in our interest to do the bidding of Saraki and company to create a crisis and if we are not careful, to abort the take-off of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government? So, we played along and with time, events started unfolding. His ambition started showing and he didn’t give a damn what his actions caused to the smooth flow of Buhari’s effort to govern. If anything, it became very clear that they wanted to sabotage, so to say, because anything that would put the government in good light, they made sure it did not follow the path of righteousness in that regard. And the administration kept having challenges from the Senate. The Senate became virtually the official opposition party so to say. Anything that comes from the president must be criticised, they believe that a measure of their maturity, the measure of their understanding of parliamentary responsibility is for us to present ourselves as if our maturity is measured by how much we oppose the executive to the extent that sometimes, we behave as if we are not part of this government and a mere one arm of the three arms of our government. So, there was never a time I would say I belonged to the same group, believing the same attitude to the government as Bukola Saraki and his supporters have been doing.
It is also said that you are opposing Saraki because you want the Federal Government to drop corruption charges against you. Is it true?
I don’t know if you are up to date. If you are up to date, you would have seen that only about two weeks ago, when Saraki himself opened his mouth to say that, I made it very clear. I presented facts. I don’t have any case whatsoever between me, the Federal Government, the EFCC or whoever. There is no case! Yes, the year 2010, I had issues with EFCC. I had a case in which I and about 12 other people were charged and sometime in the year 2016, precisely June 28, all the charges against me were dropped and I was discharged. So, it is mischief, it is trading in falsehood because sometimes, it pleases some of you that you continue to trade in the fact that; I don’t have any case. The court that tried me is there, the records are there, I presented to the media, the ruling of the court on the case and the order of the court duly signed by the presiding judge and the registry. So, ignorance alone is not an excuse. I can easily take any media house to court if anybody purports that I have a case between June 2016 and now. I could take the person to court. But having resisted the temptation to do so, but the facts are there. If people kept doing their job properly, they would have known that I don’t have any case. So, I am not doing it because I want any favour from Buhari’s government. I am doing what I am doing because I do sincerely support Buhari. I am not ashamed to support him, I am under oath to support him, I am under oath to support this government, be patriotic, to preserve and to protect the constitution. I am under oath to do this.
What do you have to say about Saraki’s allegation that you said terrible things about this government to him while on your way to Morocco?
That is rubbish! That is rubbish! That is rubbish!
Let’s assume that the APC succeeds in removing Saraki tomorrow as Senate President, who amongst you will you push forward as his successor?
Are you part of the ploy that wants us to divide ourselves, that wants us to fight for an office that is not yet vacant? So, I don’t cross bridges until I reach them. At the moment, the struggle is that of removing the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki. That is what is on now and not who becomes the Senate President. All the talk about who becomes is just an effort to divide us. It is diversionary and deliberately so.
Do you see any of the bigwigs in the PDP, starting from former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, as a threat to Buhari’s re-election?
Well, I respect every Nigerian’s ambition, both the real and the unrealistic ambitious politicians in the country. But it is their right to contest for any office they want. It is for Nigerians to elect them or to reject them. Quite a number of them are going to have the shock of their lives. They will be rejected by Nigerians as they have done before.
Nigerians are also saying that in a bid to impeach Saraki, the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, calls the APC senators to his residence and to his private office at will as if they are school boys. How do you respond to that?
That is a lie. If I go to my chairman’s house, I don’t see why that should be news. Which chairman, which party, does not receive members of his party in his residence or in his office? What is news about that?
As an individual, what does your political future hold?
My future is with God. I will do the best I can to give account of my mandate while I remain a senator. And what I do become or what I don’t become, is in the hands of God, not in my hands.
What is your take on the herdsmen killings in the country?
It is a bad moment for the country and it is bad for us. But the worst part of it is the fact that it has been politicised. People make cheap points out of peoples’ misfortune. They make fortune out of fellow countrymen and women’s misfortune and that is very, very unfortunate. It is terrible. I don’t like it. We shouldn’t have it in the first place, but it didn’t start with this administration. It started before Nigeria as we see it today, was amalgamated. There is nothing wrong with it. The only thing is that the scale has increased and the wanton killing has increased because both sides in the conflict are better armed today than they were 100 years ago or 50 years ago. So, we see a lot of this murderous behaviour on the part of both the farmers and the herdsmen and I am happy that the thing is scaling down now and I do hope that the Nigerian media will help as a people to ensure that we minimise negative reporting about these incidences; that we all stand to lose. If Nigeria gets a bad name, bad image, it robs on the Nigerian journalists as much as the Nigerian politicians. So, it is unfortunate that we have been through this. I mean, we have seen escalation in the past few years. Unfortunately like I said, a lot of politicians are capitalizing on these murky waters of farmers-herdsmen clashes and are making political capital out of it. It is unfortunate, but that is the nature of some of our so-called politicians that we have in this country.
In your heart of heart, do you think the president deserves a second term?
He more than deserve a second term. The president, in these three years, has applied himself to the job creditably. He has done more to develop Nigeria’s infrastructure to make for the good growth of the economy of the country. No administration I know of within my memory that has done as much as Buhari is doing in the last three years to enhance infrastructure, to enhance transportation for instance.
Go and see what is happening on the high seas with our ships; go and see what is happening on the rails. They are now coming back. Unlike when Obasanjo was president, the railway collapsed under his watch, he did nothing. The National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) collapsed under his watch, he did nothing. The government after him privatised NEPA as it was and until Buhari came on board, we still had problem with NEPA. The roads, take any major interstate, any road linking the geopolitical zones of the country; the roads linking states, interstate, highways and the rest of it. See what is being done; see what contracts have been awarded, see what works are now in office, see what payments have been made to creditors of government before Buhari came into office. I know some people get blinded for opposition sake with what Buhari is doing. Some people, very soon, don’t be surprised to hear people who couldn’t get their wives pregnant, will blame Buhari’s government for the failure of their wives to conceive.