• ‘I will publish my passport to disprove claim I presided over Senate President impeachment meeting’
BY SIMON EBEGBULEM
The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, met with the APC caucuses in the Senate and the House of Representatives, last Tuesday, stressing the need for them to compel Senate President Bukola Saraki to reconvene the National Assembly so that bills bordering on the welfare of Nigerians, including the budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2019 elections, are treated. Oshiomhole, who addressed the lawmakers, including Senator Godswill Akpabio, who recently defected to the APC from the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), stressed the need for the lawmakers to reconvene just as he cited reasons Saraki must resign or risk impeachment.
The party Chair commended the APC lawmakers for remaining steadfast in a period he described as tempting moments, said the party’s recent victory in Bauchi, Katsina and Kogi bye-elections had further reinvigorated it despite the defection of some members to the PDP. “Our victory in these elections is an indication that the Nigerian people are with us and very supportive of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. I said this meeting is historic because this is the first time we are having our National Assembly members under one roof to have a conversation about the party. The election of these three lawmakers, a week or two after the drama of defections, is the tonic we need to reassure us that the Nigerian people are with us. These are very very tempting moments but as believers, those who have faith will overcome temptation and after the storm the weather will be clearer”, he said.
On the defections from the ruling party at the federal level, Oshiomhole stated, “I have said before now that people always say they don’t know the difference between the APC and the PDP, but I want to say that, with time, the difference will be clear. I had wondered aloud how we are going to be able to sustain a political party which ought to be built and formed on the basis of shared ideas, shared values, shared commitment, how we could have a political party in which we have the far right, the far left, the communist, the fascist, obviously it is just a matter of time that water will find its level. Those who don’t fit into the ideas that bind us together as a progressive party, it is just a matter of time that they will fall off. And those who believe in it will stay and those who are not yet in it will move in. I believe this is beginning to happen and, over time, our party will be stronger for it”.
‘Saraki manipulating the media’
He went on, “The purpose of today’s meeting can be categorized into two. The first is for us to meet and let the world know that we now have 56 APC senators, that is more than half, a simple majority of the entire numbers of the Senate. Our party is still in charge in terms of commitment, in terms of the resolve to keep faith with the Nigerian people. In the House of Representatives, similarly we have an overwhelming majority. Out of a total of 360, we have 196 members of the House of Representatives. Apart from that, we have 22 governors out of 36.
“Second, it is now increasingly clear that those who have attempted political suicide are haunted by their own actions; even when their shadows are chasing them, they will insist that it is APC that is chasing them. Yesterday morning, I traveled to the UK and I saw some stories to the effect that I was presiding over a meeting at Aso Drive. This is the handiwork of those social media warriors, and those who have murdered sleep politically have chosen to hire young people, social media guys to post all kinds of untruth and create confusion. Fake news is beginning to be the order of the day just to create confusion. I got a little worried when otherwise reputable media houses also joined on the basis of unverifiable facts, got carried away by those who have vested interests to report without minimum effort to establish the facts. They alleged that I presided over a meeting with senators last night. I will not ask them to retract the news. The way to discredit any media is to put out the truth because the power of the pen is potent. Fortunately, I was not around and, therefore, I could not have participated in any meeting at Aso Drive. I also saw screaming headlines in some newspapers today that ‘Oshiomhole met with senators in their quest to remove the Senate President’. I will publish my departure boarding pass and the return boarding pass and my passport and then challenge these media houses.
“One of the media houses reported lavishly how Senator Saraki raised the alarm that APC senators wanted to impeach him (referring to the siege on the National Assembly by the DSS). And this same media house showed PDP senators sitting at the National Assembly last Tuesday. The meaning is that whatever happened in the National Assembly could only have been done by those who were present in the National Assembly that day, and they happened to be senators elected on PDP platform as led by Saraki and PDP House of Reps members. Yet they are the same people who adjourned the House and they also were present on the same day. So any media, any analyst or columnist cannot but interrogate Saraki on how is it that they were the ones present on that very day? These same people reported Senator Ben Bruce as saying that Senator Akpabio was at the Senate the very day PDP senators invaded that place. Meanwhile, Senator Akpabio was in Uyo, not anywhere in Abuja. Ben Bruce chose to lie generously against a fellow senator. We need to speak to this because democracy is now at the mercy of those who have chosen to be purveyors of untruth or falsehood. Whenever they rear their heads, they have to be exposed about who they are.
“I believe that the Senate President thinks that whatever way he is doing it, manipulating reports, hiring faceless commentators, paying social media experts to dish out lies and misinforming the people, that he can change the real narrative, democracy taught us that the minority has a right to have their say but majority must have their way. This is the universal truth. So if we have 56 senators and they have 49, I insist that 49 senators cannot preside over the affairs of a house in which the APC has 56 senators. And I ask them to tell us anywhere in the world where the minority rules over the majority. Often times, we take flight to America to understudy the American presidential system of government. Once you lose the majority, you step down and hand over and all of these stories about illegality or illegal impeachment, let me restate that, and I do so on behalf of our party, I also know that it is the wish of all our senators that we cannot be subjected to minority rule in the Senate.
Therefore, whether it is convenient for Senator Saraki or not, the truth is, whether by morality or by law or by convention, he can only avoid impeachment by toeing the path of honour, step down so that APC can take over the leadership of the Senate. Senator Saraki as President of the Senate will be lawfully and democratically impeached. It will not be illegally done, it will be done according to law, it will be done according to tradition and those lawyers who have chosen to sit as judges, we need to remind them that lawyers are best officers of the court, they do not constitute the court. So when Senator Saraki is lawfully impeached and democratically impeached, they will be free to go to anywhere they want to go to and canvass the legality or the illegality of the act. It does not lie in their mouth to pronounce the finality as if they constitute the judicial arm of government. And I am also happy that, just recently, in the ruling of the Court of Appeal when the APC went to court to challenge the bill that was under consideration in the National Assembly on the order of election, the court held that, based on the principle of separation of powers, the court cannot stop the legislature from exercising its independence. To all those people who are wasting their time believing that they can go and file dubious cases in court therefore, the Senate can exercise their fundamental right to determine their leadership.
“This morning, I saw that some people went to court to stop the Senate President from being impeached. That will be an exercise in futility because the court cannot impose on the Senate who leads them.
‘Why NASS must reconvene’
“We have many very important issues which require the National Assembly to deliberate on, those issues that were pending when the two presiding officers hurriedly adjourned without exhausting the calendar. The National Assembly was due to adjourn on Thursday but in the wisdom of the presiding officers they chose to adjourn on Tuesday. The result is that we have serious pending issues that require deliberations by the National Assembly. They include the issue of approval of foreign loans without which this year’s budget cannot perform, the issue of the supplementary appropriation for INEC and virement for the budget without which INEC’s capacity to conduct elections in 2019 will be in jeopardy. I want to appeal to all our senators and members of the House of Representatives that your commitment to the Nigerian project, your commitment to the sustenance of democracy, your commitment to ensuring that the promises made by the APC are themselves enough to compel you to do anything you can do lawfully to get the National Assembly reconvene so that these and other weighty national issues will be deliberated upon and appropriate decisions reached, so that Nigeria government is not shut down. If we do not take such steps and to the extent that government cannot spend money that has not been appropriated, we now face the risk of government shutdown. As members of the governing party, we will do what will prevent government shutdown that will be injurious to our national interest and of course injurious to Nigerians”.
Speaking also at the occasion, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yusuf Sulaiman Lasun, and the Majority Leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, assured that the APC caucus in the House would ensure that the National Assembly reconvenes so as to push the agenda of the party.
On his part, the Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawan, congratulated fellow APC lawmakers “for remaining steadfast, for being there for this party when it needed you most”.
Lawan added, “We have been yearning for the National Assembly to reconvene. We are insisting that the National Assembly reconvenes and reconvenes quickly so that we pass the budget request of Mr President for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to start preparations for the 2019 general elections. We also need to pass the request for the Federal Government to collect loans from foreign countries which will be the only basis for the funding for our capital projects. Not to do that will amount to sabotage because we are in a critical time. If we don’t pass the budget request, it serves the PDP very well but it does not serve us at all. It negates what we stand for and of course could spark a constitutional crisis if INEC is not able to conduct elections in 2019. So we insist that the National Assembly reconvenes immediately”.