By Bashir Adefaka
Senator Sefiu Adegboyenga Kaka, a former Deputy Governor of Ogun State, was a member of the Seventh Senate. The senator, who clocked 65 on May 14, told Sunday Vanguard that appointments into political offices on the part of the federal executive, without carrying people that worked for the victory of the party along, was responsible for most of the challenges that the APC is currently facing. He also spoke on what he described as elements of the PDP in the APC-controlled National Assembly as a major challenge to the party and national progress.
As a member of the Seventh Senate, what would you say about the attitude so far of the Senate to the Federal Government?
First and foremost, I believe it will be unfair for anybody to ask me to compare the Seventh Senate to the Eighth Senate. The reason is simple, though I am very proud to be a member of the Seventh Senate, we completed four years. The South-South just about completing the second year. So, if you want to compare two things, you have to place them on the same level except you want to use one as control. Even if you are using one as control, you will be able to do comparison after the second one has completed the same period of time.
So, I believe that we should give them the benefit of doubt to complete their four years before we start comparing. And if we must compare, the electorate, who freely gave their mandate to the Seventh Senate members and those of the Eighth Senate, are in a better position to do the comparison, not me.
What I was trying to know is that, looking at the threats that had come from Senate President Bukola Saraki to the executive which some people interprete as trying to frustrate the government’s fight against corruption, were you to be there, would be comfortable considering the type of person you are?
Excuse me! Whoever is the Senate President is not to blame.
Who then is to blame?
Okay, look at it this way, just like you have people in the executive, people in the legislature, in the judiciary and people in every sphere of our lives that are corrupt, I am sure you won’t say your son, who has just got employment with a bank, should not go there because most of the directors in banks are corrupt and they are running the banks aground or that you are not going to make transactions in banking halls on the account that the directors of the banks are corrupt.
Continue to have the kind of Senate that Nigerians are calling to be scrapped for frustrating their development and moving forward?
It is the system that should have institutions that would prevent the anomalies. The same institution that we are talking about allows all these characters to emerge.
In the first instance, there was a time that if you didn’t have tax clearance, you could not contest election. At another time, INEC was allowed to act on security reports to prevent people from contesting. But all these are now waived.
Are you saying that INEC should have prevented this from happening?
Not necessarily INEC. If the system had made provisions for screening and not leaving everything to the party, some of these characters couldn’t have emerged.
Mind you, in the Senate, we have 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives. They are supposed to be equal representatives of their various constituencies. What is spice for some people may be poison for others. So, in some constituencies, they may have values that would make sure their best emerges. In other constituencies, they may bother less about values.
I don’t want to mention names; we have a prisoner that just returned and, of course, the whole community said; “Yes, go on. You are the one and the only one.” So, in that community, he (the prisoner) is the best. Whereas, in another constituency, that act of going to prison alone is enough to stigmatise and then prevent him from ever showing up in the public, talk less of contesting election again. So, it varies.
With what is happening in the National Assembly, you are individually there to represent your own people. You know what values you are bringing into the Senate or to whichever chamber you find yourself and you know the minimum expectation of your own people. So, if you are in a pluralistic Assembly and one is misbehaving and is acceptable to his own people, you cannot remove him or say because of him you are not going to serve your own people.
Beyond that, we have a party that is controlling the executive also controlling the National Assembly.
And you don’t think that it is about some members of the party in control appearing in the toga of the governing party but actually acting the script of the opposition?
The governing party failed ab initio in their responsibilities. They may give excuse that they were incapacitated by the executive and the legislative powers but they have surrendered their power for possible or anticipated patronage. If not, the party is supposed to be supreme. The parties supposed to whip the executive members, including Mr. President, and the legislative arm, including Mr. Senate President and the Speaker, into line, once they go against what the party set out to achieve. And that was the reason why some of us are feeling bad.
If some of you are feeling bad, it means you have a solution in mind. What suggestion do you have?
Yes. We are feeling bad because we should be conversant with contemporary history, especially the recent history. When Baba Awolowo was the Premier of Western Region, in his wisdom and the wisdom of the party, they combined the chairmanship with the leadership of the ruling party, that is, you had singular control; ditto at the state level, ditto at the local government level.
Where then did things go wrong?
With the advent of the NPN, National Party of Nigeria, they decided to separate the Awolowo arrangement of merging-chairman with the leadership of the ruling party and, after the separation, politicians realized that with the executive in power, they had unlimited room for patronage. For a wise one, all he needed to do was to buy over the chairman alone or the chairman and the secretary and render the party useless. And that is what has been happening.
That is why it was possible under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Mr. President to remove not one, not two, not three chairmen of the party unilaterally.
It is the same thing that is happening now because the party has become lame duck such that if has any power at all, it could have been facilitating what is called parliamentary caucus meetings where things are ironed out before getting to the Senate or any of the chambers. But they fail in their duty either out of deference to the President or because they are looking anticipatorily for patronage, which may never come. Meanwhile, they subjugated themselves and we are having this mess.
When you are in control the executive and the legislature, it is the party’s working committee and the chairman that should bring the executive and the legislature together. Any appointment, any issue of national public interest would have been ironed out at parliamentary caucus meeting, so that when it gets to the chambers, they will simply use their majority to overrun the minority. And then the minority will only have their say while the majority will have their way with ease. But they fail in their responsibility as a party.
Remember that the party does not have the powers of the armed forces. How does it achieve that?
Yes, this can work if the executive submit themselves to the control of the party. But when they refuse to do so, naturally the legislature will take a cue and they will also refuse to submit to the party. At the end of the day, the centre cannot hold.
Automatically it means you are on the side of those calling on the President to use his full powers to deal with the Senate?
How can the President use his power? Which power is he going to use? He should subsume himself under the party. He is not greater than the party because the party produced him and the party produced the legislators. There is no way they can be greater than the party. But they have rendered the party impotent such that they cannot even bark not to talk of biting. You hear that the party National Working Committee was meeting with the National Assembly for the first time in nearly two years. And still you will see them sneaking in and out trying to see the President. They are not asserting themselves and they are not living up to expectation.
None of the parties can rightly be called a party. A Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman, his wife was made an Ambassador. Another one came and his wife got ticket to contest for the Senate. When that happened, they were compromised and once you are compromised, you will be doing things that are antithetical to the progress of the party.
We have to go back to the root of the problem. What you are seeing are just the symptoms. The real cause of all that is happening is what I have just analysed.
Could that be the reason an exco member of the APC called Prof. Itse Sagay and of the government of the party, calling Itse Sagey and other executive members to order without saying a word about the attitude of the Senate?
If you look at what is happening holistically, you will find that we have different bed- fellows coming together from different political entities to form the APC. After forming it, with the different backgrounds they came from, one would have expected some sort of synergy but that one is not the case. So, right now, everybody is struggling for power. We have CPC, we have ACN, we have ANPP, we have a section of APGA and we have a section of PDP.
So, whether you like it or not, it was so easy for the PDP elements in the National Assembly to align with the Senate President and the Speaker who happen to be from that PDP. So we have, on the surface, an APC-controlled National Assembly but, in reality, it is PDP-controlled because some other members that are core APC in there, you can no longer be sure whether they still remain there or they have changed allegiance to the PDP caucus.
So, it is the non-blending of all those tendencies that is still tearing the whole thing apart. To worsen matters, you have a situation like, ‘if you Tarka me, I Dabo you’ (you do me, I do you). When the executive decided to go the parochial way then, the legislature will hold on to what they have. In the process for nomination into the federal cabinet, why did government defer to the governors? Any nonentity brought forward by the governor without Mr. President knowing him, he accepted him and put him in the cabinet. Otherwise, how can the party not be carried along in how officers of the government formed by the party are selected? So, everybody is holding on to what he has because all of those that worked for the party’s successes are not being carried along.
All those who worked for the party cannot say that are directly benefiting. And those who did not work for the party are indirectly benefiting either by proxy through the governors or through the inner caucus. Whereas, there is need for transparency and, mind you, corruption is not only stealing or misappropriation of funds, where you carry out injustice, of whatever shade, is also corruption.
The President is blamed for many of those problems as people say he refused to take action when he is supposed to play party politics. Going by your submission, are you on the same page with those who hold that view? And was the President’s wife right when she said her husband did not know many of those he appointed?
The President’s wife was absolutely right. Even before the inauguration of the ministers, I said exactly what the President’s wife said. I said that I was expecting Mr. President, in six months, to fish out those that were smuggled in and replace them or he brings them to more appropriate places. So, when the President’s wife spoke, she spoke the mind of many people.
But I am not going to blame Mr. President. If Mr. President is there, it will be more honourable for the party executive to attempt to whip Mr. President and other members of the executive and legislature to order. Let them defy the party’s order so that the whole world will know that the party has done its own bit. But they surrender their power to the executive and the executive and the executive do not think that they (the party) should even wield the power. After getting the power through nook or crook, they did not even know how to apply it. Otherwise, they would have used the party to whip everybody to order but they cannot do it because, if you must come to equity, you must come with clean hands. If the executive is doing something that is not normal, they cannot claim the right to whip the legislature to order.
Can we have an example of what the executive have done that is not normal?
We all heard of the lopsided selection of political offices, which the generality of Nigerians were counting for Mr. President. And despite the fact that they were lopsided, they still continue to do it with impunity. And after doing that now you want to poke-nose into what is happening in the legislature? If has said, “Okay from your area, governor what do you have? Legislators, what do you have? After all you all contributed to the emergence of the government.”
Had they (legislature) had input, nothing would get to their desk that they would turn back. There would be no lamentation. Everyone would be happy. For being there when a decision has been made, you are already part and parcel of the decision even if it is not acceptable to you. But by the time they and other leaders are annihilated, then, you are causing trouble.