Leadership - The president of the Senate, Abubakar Bukola Saraki has described the emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu as the deputy Senate president of the 8th Senate as painful and regrettable, saying no true party member would want to share his position with a member of other parties.
Blaming the absence of some All Progressives Congress (APC) senators at the inauguration session on that fateful day for the election of Ekweremadu, he added that all through the period when he and his team were strategising for his election to the Senate president’s seat, not even for once did they anticipate that a Senator from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will emerge as his deputy.
Speaking with some Senate correspondents yesterday, Saraki said it is not true that he entered into any pact with the PDP to sacrifice the deputy Senate slot for PDP’s support. “Never in our wildest imagination did we envisage that some senators would not be present on the day of the inauguration.
“In my own view, and in the view of some of those who worked closely with me, I worked hard for my election, I had direct contact with every single senator, one on one. Weeks leading to the election I did not rely on anybody. I worked hard; both in our party, the APC and out of it.
“I approached every senator, I talked to them…we built confidence, not only in the APC, but, also, in the PDP. I talked to them. That was why I laugh when people said I had a deal with Ekweremadu or I had a hand in the emergence of Ekweremadu.
“I didn’t need any deal to win. I had penetrated…There was no deal; I didn’t need any deal in the first place. I had worked hard such that every body who was a senator, I campaigned hard and canvassed for their votes and won their confidence.
“At one of the meetings held at Transcorp Hilton which Senator Godswill Akpabio co-chaired with Senator Ibrahim Gobir and a few others, which had both APC and PDP members, at that meeting, if you heard most of them there, the position they took was that ‘this is the Senate president they want.’
Across party lines, they believed in me that this is the Senate president that can lead us. There was no deal.
“Sometimes, I wonder how some of our colleagues found themselves at the ICC. If it had been a case that the CNA (clerk of the National Assembly) had made an announcement that the event had been postponed or it was no longer holding, plus, the invitation, it would have been different. I’m sure some are asking now,what really happened,” Saraki said.
Speaking further, he said “First of all, the PDP senators had announced to the public that they were supporting me without even meeting me because in their own meeting, the majority had decided to vote for me. In their own interest, strategically, they decided that, look, this is a fait accompli because 30 of their own senators were going to vote for this man anyway and the remaining felt it was better to join.
It wasn’t until 2:00am that they called us to tell us their decision. With regards to the deputy, when they told us that they had a candidate, we, too, told them we had a candidate for deputy Senate president in the person of Senator Ali Ndume. After our own meeting, it was our thinking that it was after the election of the Senate president that the two groups in APC would meet and we would agree on a candidate. We never in our imagination thought they would not turn up. By the time we got there, we were only 24 while the PDP was more than 40. In an election, there’s no way they would not have defeated us and that was what happened. And now, when people say it was a deal, I say that if the CNA had started the procedure in the House of Representatives first, and moved to the Senate thereafter, today, we, the APC, would have had a deputy Senate president.
“It is unfortunate that we have a PDP man as deputy Senate President. It is painful. It is painful for any APC member because when we went through the struggle, that was not what we signed for. But it has happened; but it is unfortunate and it is not fair to put the blame on one side because it is a combination of errors and miscalculations that led us to have, it that morning; some senators at another place instead of being here. So, to suggest that it was out of a desperate act to emerge is what I reject completely and those who followed the events would know that I didn’t have that deal to emerge, ” he said.
The Senate president also disclosed that he never shunned the invitation of the party to a meeting on the inauguration day, contrary to reports.
He explained that he got wind of plans to abduct him and keep him away from the National Assembly premises so that he will not be able to stand for election so he made plans to sneak into the complex early and was not with his phones till later that day.
“First of all, as regards the meeting (at ICC), on the morning of the inauguration, I didn’t finish meeting until 4:00 of that day and I had got information that efforts would likely be made to make sure that I didn’t get access into the chambers.
“So, as early as 4:00am and 5:00am, I had made contingency plans that I must get into the National Assembly because the plan before was that senators-elect should go to the Transcorp Hilton Hotel around 8:00 am and 9:00am to proceed to the National Assembly.
“But I was advised that it would not be safe or secure for me to do that because some people made sure…if I didn’t get into the chambers, it would t be possible for me too be nominated, for the nomination to be seconded and for me to accept the nomination.
“I can tell you today that I was in the National Assembly Complex as early as 6:00 in the morning and I stayed in a car in the car park, from 6:00 in the morning till quarter to 10:00am. This is the truth. I stayed there and I was there with no communication whatsoever.
“So, anybody who said they spoke to me to go to ICC was not true because I didn’t even know what was going on. All I was monitoring was how people were arriving the complex.
“It was at quarter to 10:00 that I got information that the clerk to the National Assembly had entered the chamber. So, I got out of the small car I was inside, stretched myself and put on my Babariga because I didn’t have it on before then.
“I walked from the car park into the chambers…That was why some of you would have seen that I looked very tired on that morning,” Saraki said.