The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, has said that that Senate president Bukola Saraki must vacate the position of Senate president as a matter of honour. In this interview with Channels Television, Oshiomhole speaks about his experience as the party’s leader and what the APC is doing to unseat Saraki, among other issues.
Read the excerpt from the interview…
Your transition from a state governor to national chairman of the ruling party, how has it been so far for you?
I think it’s been quite exciting. In fact, I have seen it all. I know what the vision was, and I know what our mission was informing the APC, and I know the basic ideology of the party that it is founded on the principles of progressives’ politics. In other words, we are proud to be different from the conservative forces and then, we were also clear that to be different means we have to be membership driven, membership-based, people oriented, and we will work in a way that puts the Nigerian people first, as a party if we win.
And if you go through our manifestos, you will find out that broadly speaking; the party is a left-wing party – broad-left. That is not to say we were not conscious of the fact that there were some conservative elements who also join at various levels. So, since becoming the chairman, I didn’t need one to sit me down to educate me about ‘you know what this party is about, these are the Dos, these are the Don’ts.’ I was aware of the issues and like many other party leaders, I was troubled that after the initial cohesion of the party, beginning with the pioneering efforts of our first interim chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, former governor of Osun State, who laid what obviously is an enviable solid foundation. I was clear about what the challenges were, where I think we had gotten it wrong and what we needed to do differently not to reinvent, just to remind us of the basic agenda to provide leadership for the party in a way that will give everybody a sense of belonging and give the party members a sense of ownership and a sense of participation.
On the events that have attended these movements, why does it seem as if the APC and particularly yourself, you seem to be hammering on the case of Dr. Bukola Saraki as Senate President?
As we speak, I remain convinced that Saraki must, I use the word ‘must’ vacate the position of Senate President as a matter of honour.
Not as a matter of law?
Wait, he will have to vacate as a matter of honour. If he does not choose the path of hounour, he will be democratically removed as the President of the Senate because you are emphasising law; I am emphasising logic and political morality, plus law. You know I came from a background where as a young unionist, I went through trade union history. What is lawful may be completely immoral and society survive only when it is committed to strong ethical standards. Because the law itself as interpreted by judges can best give you judgment, it may not translate to justice. And for the society to be stable, there must be a commitment not only to the rule of law but strong ethics, including natural laws of fairness.
It is unacceptable in any democracy, including the one that we all proudly claim that we have borrowed from America; it is unacceptable for a minority party to provide leadership to govern the majority. Now as we speak APC has 57 senators, PDP has 49 senators. Assuming without conceding that the other two parties namely APGA and ADC choose to align with the opposition, they will still be less than 57; they might just become 51 or 52. There is no way you will have a parliament in which a minority provides the leadership. You know when it suits us we compare Nigeria, when it doesn’t we look for other excuses. Those newspaper lawyers, they are not judges. And I can see a lot of too many people who are commentators and analysts without the appropriate depth, even on the subject of which they are commenting on. When I say Saraki will be democratically removed, he will be lawfully removed. People say how? They choose to detain themselves with the assumption of the fact that we have 57 members means we cannot impeach the Senate President.
Because it requires two-thirds?
He (Saraki) himself knows more than that and then they go lavishly, constituting themselves into television judges and newspaper supreme courts. Look at the extant provision in the relevant sections of the Constitution, it is very clear. It says to impeach a President or a Vice President, a Governor or a Deputy Governor, you need, in the words of the Constitution, ‘two-third of ALL the members’; ALL, the word ‘ALL’ has to be emphasised. The same Constitution goes down to say, however, to impeach a Senate President, a Deputy Senate President, a Speaker, a Deputy Speaker; you need ‘two-third of members’. My brother, if the Constitution meant to say the same thing, it will use exactly the same language. Why did it emphasise ALL in the case of presidents and governors? Now, the issue before us is to allow a competent court to sit down and see whether it would have been the intention of the Constitution when it chooses to use the word ALL, all members for the purpose of presidents and others and use members for another purpose.
Now, if the intention was the same, the wording will be the same. Now, Senator Saraki knows the difference and that is why putting his own interest before, over, and above national interest, he hurriedly adjourned the Senate upon that illegal act of allowing people to decamp even when there was no faction. Knowing that he cannot retain, he hurriedly adjourned the Senate without considering the issue of the supplementary budget for INEC, the virement to move money away from recurrent expenditure into the capital project, and to approve the foreign loans upon which the budget that they have approved can only be executed. He knew that he can’t survive and that is why he did that and then adjourned the House without obeying the laydown calendar which the House was committed to, and which is no secret to anyone. Unfortunately, Speaker (Yakubu) Dogara chose to also put Saraki’s interest over and above national interest and also hurriedly adjourned the House of Representatives. And the result is that today, we face a huge danger if we continue to allow this aberration to stand in a situation in which INEC will not have the money or if they will get it, they might get it too late to be able to procure a lot of the items they need which they do not buy off the shelf to place order on time so that those items, equipment or whatever they are provided to enable them to conduct free and fair elections come 2019.
So let me repeat, Saraki cannot and APC will not allow him to impose minority rule and I ask you a member of the Fourth Estate of the Realm whether those who find it convenient to quote the law are going to revise the universal definition of democracy? It says that in a genuine democracy, the minority can continue to have their say, however loud, however militant, however, the majority must have their way. This is a law far more superior to whatever some lawmakers may put; that universal law which does not vary between nation states. It doesn’t vary between ethnic groups that the majority may have their way, but minority must be allowed to have their say. PDP will continue to have their say on the floor of the National Assembly, but they cannot as a minority preside over APC majority. Saraki has a choice, obey the ethics of democracy or be removed as Senate President, or be impeached. I remain committed to that.
I believe if it was the intention of the Nigerian electorate to have the minority to have the Senate, or the National Assembly to be superintended over by the minority, they will not have voted for APC to have the majority in the Senate and majority in the House of Representatives. Now the other thing people point to is that (Governor Aminu) Tambuwal did it, interestingly that is a fact of life that we can’t deny. However, check the facts, when Speaker Tambuwal did it, he worked so hard that for some time, PDP became the minority in the House of Representatives. He worked hard to take as many House of Representatives members along with him that PDP temporarily became the minority in the House before they started fighting back.
They fought back, and in spite of the fact that they became majority, he retained the speakership.
If Tambuwal did it and got away with it and PDP slept on their right, APC under my leadership will not sleep on our right. I didn’t come to perpetuate the status quo, I am not a traditional ruler who celebrates preservation of culture and tradition; who speaks to how great grandfathers were doing certain things which must be preserved. I am a change agent and the philosophy of my party is change. Our democracy cannot grow, we must preserve what is good in it and change what is bad in it.