…Says Fallout of APC’s Direct Primaries Not Out of Place and Not Out of Hand
… Assures that Atiku’s Emergence as PDP Presidential Candidate Does Not Constitute Threat to APC
….Gives Reasons Why Buhari Will Win 2019 Election
Lawmaker representing Borno South at the National Assembly, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume is a no-nonsense Senator who does not shy away from speaking his mind irrespective of whose ox is gored.
In this explosive and thought provoking interview with Sundiata Post Assistant News Editor, Chibuike Nwabuko, Senator Ndume among other things, reveals how Dr. Bukola Saraki will be removed as Senate President and when the removal will be effected.
Come along with me!
Qstn: As APC stakeholder, what is your reaction to the outcome of the APC primaries across the country and what is your reaction to the newly introduced direct primaries?
Well it is normal that when you have primaries even with small political parties, there is bound to be disagreement here and there. This is because politics is all about interest even in smaller parties. Even the newly registered small political parties like SDP, Labour Party, ADC you hear some disagreements after the primaries not to talk about the big political parties like APC and PDP.
So it is not the disagreement that matters, it is the ability of the parties that disagree to agree and that is part of politics. So the issue of APC primaries and fallout is not out of place and it is not out of hand. We have a capable chairman of the party under the able leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and he is working tirelessly to see that most of these crises are resolved and I think so far so good. And we thank God we are within time and still have time to resolve most of these problems even though, for example, the presidency and the National Assembly list must be submitted by tomorrow (Thursday) by INEC, we still have up to 24 hours or thereabout to do that.
As for governors and that of the State House of Assembly, the new date as was announced by INEC yesterday (Tuesday) was 2nd November. So most of the crisis is coming from the gubernatorial and state Houses of Assembly and few from the national assembly which has been resolved. You can’t say it’s 100 percent but what is left is not a big deal to be taken care of as we get along. Don’t forget that we also have a window for substitutions, so where there is need for that, that window can be exploited to take care of certain interest but this crisis is not abnormal, it’s normal.
And the second part of your question is direct primary, yes I am a supporter and advocate of direct primary. That gives every party member sense of belonging and chance to decide who is going to be their flag bearer. The only challenge we have in the APC which the party is trying hard to be ahead in deepening democracy is that of our membership registration which honestly made it impossible in some states for direct primaries to be conducted. But the party is working round the clock in that regard to make sure that those that have registered, already we have registration of a little over 15 million Nigerians and to issue cards to those ones is a little challenge, but the party is working on and I understand they are working on making sure that every party member gets Permanent Membership Card (PMC) by the end of the year.
That will make it easy for the party to conduct its primaries using direct method. As I said, that will give the party members an opportunity to participate in electing their flag bearer. I have been advocating for direct primaries for a long time. I am 100 percent in support of it because democracy is ‘government of the people by the people and for the people’. And it should not be exclusive, it should not discriminate, it should allow every party member to participate. But in my state for example, because of lack of comprehensive and up to date membership registration, we could not use the direct primary we have to resort to indirect.
Secondly we had challenges too in terms of still the leftover of the black spot of insurgency we suffered in their hands, so we don’t want to gather people in large number in one place for the security risk. So we have to be careful with that so we agreed that it’s safer to use the indirect primary after all those delegates were elected by the party members to represent them and we conducted our primaries and it has been relatively peaceful and we are out of that. So that is my position about direct primary and I am very much in support of it.
Qstn: Sir when are we changing the leadership of the senate?
Well I don’t know, but that is always on the table but I don’t know when the leadership change will be effected as I said but I personally express my opinion; as a person I will not be sitting down there with the minority presiding over the majority. When I was a minority leader, I relinquished my position when I changed party, it is automatic. Akpabio did the same when he decamped to APC he could not have said he will retain his position as a minority leader when he is with the APC that has the majority. So as I said, we are in a cease fire period because we all agreed that we have matters of urgent national importance before the senate that we have to get them done and place them as our priority instead of who is the senate president. After all the senate president, if not for the abuse of the gavel, is first among equal. I have always been saying that the senate president is just a presiding officer. The problem we are having is that the senate president is trying to be the senators’ president which is not the right thing. He’s supposed to be senate president -once you are a senate president you lose some of your rights and privileges, even lose your voting right until it’s the time but our own system is a bit difference. People abuse process and try to take advantage of it, so we see how it goes. The tenure of every presiding officer in the national assembly is one day, though if Saraki survives more days fine, but his tenure as far as we are concerned is every day.
QSTN: You talked about cease fire for national interest…
Cuts In: Yes because we cannot be fighting about senate president which anyone us 109 can be and is just one among equal. So we should place the issues for which our people voted for us before our personal interest, that is to say who is leading or who presides over the senate. In the American system, the vice president is the senate president. He does not seat down there every day. The senate president (the Vice President) normally comes to preside when there is a voting on a critical issue. Otherwise they have what they call the senate president protempo and then the majority leader; they run the business of the senate because the Vice President is designated by their constitution as the senate president. So it is only in the third world or the Nigerian situation where the senate president is so powerful, otherwise the senate president of America you don’t hear about him. It is not a big deal about the speaker; he is just one among equal presiding over the business of the senate or the House of Representatives.
But in Nigeria, the case from top down, government is so personalized and privatized that the person is the position. Senate President is not supposed to be anybody better than any senator. We are all senators. So if we are three we are all equal, three senators from each state whether the state is big or small, whether the state is large as Kano or small as Bayelsa – you have three senators.
My own senatorial district is more than Bayelsa State, Bayelsa has 8 local governments I have 9 local governments and Senator Kabiru Gaya has 19 local governments as his senatorial district. So you see and somebody in Nasarawa has 2 local governments, even in Gombe, Goje has 2 local governments- my senatorial district is 4 times larger than his own. So we are one among equals.
QSTN: Distinguished, you said Saraki will be removed for change of party. It would be argued that it has happened before and heaven did not fall so…
Cuts In: No no no, it has happened under different circumstance. When the people agree that you will preside over them it’s a different thing but when people refused that you will preside over them, it’s also a different thing. We are not agreeing that he should preside over us. Our party said he should not preside over us.
QSTN: Sir we are talking about constitutional provision of 73 senators to impeaching him, can APC muster such number?
No, you see, we are not impeaching him, we are removing him.
Qstn: What is the difference between impeachment and removal?
ANS: When you want to impeach somebody you serve him with his offences, isn’t it? When you want to remove somebody you just say you don’t like him there and anybody can seat there.
Qstn: Is it a lawful process?
ANS: Yes it’s lawful. If majority of the people pass vote of no confidence on Saraki how will he preside?
Qstn: Does APC have the number to do that?
Ans: Yes we have the majority.
Qstn: With the fallout of the APC primary?
ANS: Yes now with even the primaries that is why now, you are so interested with this but we will see how we cross the river but we don’t need to impeach him but we can remove him.
QSTN: But removing him you have to go through the constitutional provision.
ANS: The constitution says that if you want to impeach the president you have to get two-third, but we are not impeaching him we are removing him. I was removed as majority leader with simple majority. Some people just signed a piece of paper and they said they have passed vote of no confidence in me and I left. So if majority of the senate say they don’t have confidence in Saraki as the senate president, how can he continue. I am asking you a question and you have not answered me- if the simple majority says they don’t have confidence in you do you need to be impeached? No why are you doing corner-corner now, answer me now.So if 54 of us or more out of 109 senators say they have passed vote of no confidence on the leadership of Saraki, how can he continue? Does he need to be impeached? Does the law say you must get two-third before you pass vote of no confidence on anybody?
QSTN: When you talked about impeachment…
Cuts In: No I have never talked about impeachment, I have always talked about removing him.
QSTN: I didn’t know that is what you mean.
Cuts In: But I have just told you now. For Impeachment you must service list of offences, serve you, set up committee, the committee will now come and vote and two-third must vote for your impeachment that is not the case.
QSTN: Now that you have said you have ceased fire for national interest and you have just about 6 months to go, do we take it that …
Cuts In: Now let me tell you my personal position. My interest is this country and people I represent. As long as the president of the senate will not take advantage of the gavel to sabotage or antagonize this government, I don’t have problem with him, but once they take advantage of the gavel or the position to frustrate President Muhammadu Buhari or the APC policies that want to move Nigeria forward, then we fight. But if the president supports the policies, programs of this government, then we have no wahala but there will be wahala if the senate president takes advantage of his position to frustrate or sabotage or antagonize this government. We will not seat down there and watch this senate president taken advantage of his position to embarrass or to frustrate this government.
But if the senate is doing what it’s supposed to do constitutionally and that is legislation purely, non-partisan, then I don’t have problem with anybody. All my problems with Saraki have never been personal. It has been on issues or policies that I disagree and like I said before, he got it wrong whether it’s because he’s a former governor where they run the state like their personal estate and he wants to carry that to the senate and we have fought it. We fought it and he now understands that you can’t be senators’ president because that is not what you were elected to be. We elected him to be the senate president and the Senate president is somebody who has no position but the position of the senate. No vote and no opinion outside his personal opinion. In the senate he presides over 108 of us, it is only when we tie on issue -54 on each side, then he has to cast his vote in other to break the tie.
That is how it is supposed to be and now he understands it so that is why you see on our resumption, we agreed and we are expeditiously working in the interest of the country by passing those items that are of urgent national importance and I think in this two weeks we have done much.
QSTN: How do you define what happened in the chamber on Wednesday?
Ans: It was normal, I apologized, we fought. We disagreed to agree, so it’s normal.
QSTN: Fighting over ordinary seating arrangement, it shows that the relationship is not cordial.
Cuts In: No it is cordial…you want to exaggerate it. Don’t forget that Akpabio is just recently from the PDP, that is just party. Parties are not built on ideologies like our parties or different manifestoes- it is more or less a platform. I was in PDP one time, I moved to ANPP from there to PDP before election time. So that movement is normal and disagreement is also normal but I think, I can say that PDP people are used to making trouble so they hardly learn. So we always remind them that if you make trouble, we are ready for you and I think today (Wednesday) was one of those days that we had to show them that if na trouble we can give you trouble.
QSTN: So when you were in PDP you were making trouble
Laughs… ehm it was circumstance that made me go to PDP and I was virtually on sabbatical there. I don’t belong to PDP by my nature so I was just in PDP on sabbatical leave.
QSTN: Sir you just said that Saraki has no voice and no vote, how can he then sabotage the decision that is taken in the floor of the senate. Secondly, in view of what you said that the senate has done enough in the past two weeks of resumption, is that not enough to drop the removal of Saraki.
ANS: I talked about removal of Saraki, change of leadership and reconstituting of the senate. You know as it is now, it is more of aberration where the minority is the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President is also a minority then you have a majority leader from another party – that one is wrong. But as I said, for now, because of the matters before the senate that have to be addressed, we are concentrating on that and when we are done from that, then we go back to the business of fighting.
QSTN: Sir how do you define the emergence of Atiku, does his emergence constitute a threat?
ANS: Atiku has been there now for a long time, so he has never been a threat and don’t think he can be a threat now. And let me tell you, Nigerians do not easily forget. We cannot easily forget the mismanagement of this country by the PDP for 16 years. We can never forget the position PDP took us from 1999 when they came into power to 2015 when Nigerians unanimously voted them out. And they went there and realized that really they have bastardized Nigeria and apologized to Nigerians. They have not changed their name, they are still PDP. A leopard never changes its skin and even if a wolf wears clothes, he is still a wolf. Nigerians know that. My people (Hausa) used to say that if snake bite you once when you see a rope, you better run. So leave PDP if Nigerians see anything like PDP, they will run. Let me tell you, I interact with the common man than you. My people now even like me for two reasons.
One is because they think I represent them well but most importantly when I go to my place they say, we like you because you are supporting Buhari. My constituent has benefited more this time that before. There was never a time during the PDP tenure that I was able to write to a government that my people that are internally displaced need fertilizer in their farm and they give me. But this time 20 trucks of fertilizer was allocated to me and we distributed those 12 trucks that is 12,000 bags of fertilizers free to the people it has never been done before now. Right now, we are in the process of distributing N2.1 billion under the Anchors-borrowers program where an average average farmer will get N250,000 to farm I hectre of land. Last year I was in Hajj before in the PDP government, 80% of those that go for hajj are PDP party members or party thugs sponsored by government, this government came and stopped that. Then last year, 80% of the pilgrims from Kebbi, North west in general and part of north east are farmers who were able to afford to perform their religious obligation because the anchor- borrower programs availed them some money and they went to hajj. Look my brother, as a press man, go to the village and shout that you will not vote for Buhari but you have to wear helmet and bullet proof, no they don’t have gun but they will use stick cane and stone and all sorts of things to chase you out of the place. Look my brother, that is not even the case, go to Wuse market here, remember Charlie boy tried that, he went there and they chased him out. These are small small people, this government that go like the vice president will personally go to the market and ask whether the N10,000 that is given to small traders got to them and they answer in affirmative and you are talking about PDP where you have a conglomeration of thieves and corrupt people.
But let me tell you, God is always with the person that is honest and truthful and he has the people’s interest at heart. Buhari has no personal interest only the interest of Nigeria and he has said it several times. You cannot accuse President Muhammadu Buhari of having any personal interest other than interest of Nigeria. What kind of person can you get that will be better than Muhammadu Buhari that has no personal interest than the interest of the country. You cant say this is his friend that he enriched. You can take advantage of the president, which is proper in every government..
QSTN: Is that why they said he is not in charge?
ANS: No, no not that he is not in charge, who is the president?
QSTN: They say Cabals
Cuts In: No, you can say those surrounding the president are taking advantage, even you can do that if I become president, so it is normal. You will be in the frontline before other pressmen that I don’t know and you will keep them behind. It is natural. Example will I go and deal with other online media I don’t know? No. Because I have known you and we have been together when there was nothing. In America this is not an issue, the issue is whether people are doing their job. I think we should thank God for giving us this kind of president that is stabilizing things. First of all a leader must stand on a strong moral ground. Atiku does not have. I think the next election is going to be between corruption and integrity and Nigerians will have to decide