By David Odama
Senator Abubakar Sodangi was a three term senator who served between 1999 and 2011 where he represented Nasarawa West Senatorial District.
In this interview, the human rights advocate and lawyer speaks on issues pertaining to his stay in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and contemporary issues. Excerpts:
You have been unusually quiet. What is wrong?
I have not been silent, I am a human rights advocate who does not want to see the right of people being trampled upon, both old, young, rich or poor. I am always on the social media, and other fora I found myself.
Like, I said I have been very active in the constituency I belong. As I speak to you, I have been very much involved in the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) activities. I have been fully active in the African Bar Association that was born in Abuja-Nigeria during the regime of late Abacha.
I will also like to remind you that I am the current chairman of Nigerian Forum of the African Bar Association, every country has a chairman of the Forum who is more of deputy.
Wranglings in the National Assembly
It may also interest you to know that the next African Bar Association Conference will be holding in Nigeria and the Governor of Rivers State who is also a lawyer has graciously accepted to host the Conference. So, some of these engagements have been occupying me.
People like you were expected to mediate in the crisis in the National Assembly, but you didn’t. Why?
I will not agree with you that I have detached myself from the happenings in the National Assembly. I will start by telling you that I have been observing with dismay the wrangling in the National Assembly especially the Senate. Why I have not been relating much with each of the two arms is that some us tried to offer advice on some issues before the 8th Assembly but, the relationship between those of us outside now with those still serving seems not too coordinal. A situation where you are seen as coming to beg for money or seeking for favours from your colleagues is largely responsible for our staying away from some of the happenings in the NASS.
Let me go directly to your question, of course when the 8th Senate came on board, don’t forget that the APC were going to have the majority but the party did not help matters.
I am a politician who believes in the supremacy of the political party. You don’t run for a post independently; you must come through a political party. In this 8th Assembly, the party did not help maters, they left the members loosely to do whatever they wanted.
Mr. President, with great humility, did not help matters. He said publicly that he would not interfere on who became the Senate President or Speaker.
But this could not have stopped the APC to come out to say this is where we are.
I was in Abuja on the day they were to be inaugurated. They said all members of the National Assembly should convene at the International Conference Center to be guided on whom to elect.
The wise ones among them ignored the invitation which showed disrespect to party supremacy.
What are the causes of the crisis now in the PDP?
Yes I have been a staunch member of the party. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to correct the party hierarchy at all levels. There has never been a true leadership in the party since its inception. Impunity, godfatherism, insincerity, favouritism, nepotism are the things troubling the party.
This is one of the reasons you see the party having two factions even as an opposition party. There is Sheriff faction and the Makarfi faction; there is no fear of God in PDP. I cannot be where the leadership of the party from the grass roots can only be put in place through hand picking.
An opposition party such as the PDP should not be engrossed in crisis as it is witnessing now. They have not seen the need to drop their ways of doing things wrongly. The courts are also not helping matters. A high court in Port-Harcourt said the PDP should hold their convention and that the police should provide cover, another court in Abuja gave another judgment!
All those parading themselves as party leaders are not true leaders of the party. In PDP, everything is monetized, nothing goes for nothing. I hope they will learn their lesson that where there is no vibrant opposition, there will be no democracy. PDP has failed and they are still failing. I hope they will wake up from their selfishness.
Does that mean you have abandoned the party?
I am out of PDP. I have divorced the party, I will never go back to the party again. For over a year, I stayed without a party until I joined APC where all my people said I should be because things are done rightly there.
I went to APC when I realized that in Nasarawa State things were being done rightly because APC is in control. All tribes in Nasarawa state are in APC. At the national level, APC is in majority that is why Buhari is there. Almakura was sent out of PDP because of impunity two months to the election.
Ali Akwe Doma made him to leave PDP to CPC where he was given the ticket and he won the election. I challenge any person from PDP on all the issues I have raised to come out.
The administration of Mr. President wouldn’t have come at a better time than now that we are in recession brought about by corruption and impunity. We must advocate that, Nigerians in public office should know also that it is not business as usual.
But people in the state are claiming that Governor Almakura is not doing anything?
What is democracy? Everybody can say what they like. That is what they are even saying about President Buhari who cannot change Nigeria alone. Ask yourself what is expected of the Governor to give to the people of Nasarawa who elected him.
Foundation of governance
When he came on board what did he meet? Last week I was in Lafia. I congratulated the past governors who laid solid foundation of governance in Nasarawa State. Abdullahi Adamu who is now a senator did the much he could.
If you talk about education in Nasarawa State, he took it from where the military administration of Ibrahim of blessed memory and Bala Mande started and stopped. Ali Akwe Doma came with his style of leadership.
Governor Tanko Almakura has brought infrastructural development in terms of school development in every local government and ward. Even a blind man going round will know that he has taken the state educationally to another level.
Almakura said education is not only for the able one, even the disabled persons.
Given the expectation that the governorship would be coming to Nasarawa West in 2019, would you be vying for the office?
It is not also correct that I Senator Abubakar Sodangi de- camped from PDP where there is no justice to APC to contest for guber seat. I never contemplated that and I challenge any body that says it is not true. People will say Sodangi is just making a political statement, but will I go and contest in the moon? They have been coming and asking me to contest and I have been saying no. No has been my answer. I am not in APC with any political ambition.
I have not come to compound any problems in APC. They have their own peculiar problems.
That is why I say I remain in APC and am a loyalist. I do not want to be seen as a person who has come with more problems.
And finally any right thinking Nigerian and Politicians of his worth if you really want to serve your people at the Federal level. This is not the right time to say I want to go for this office.