•Tinubu asked Saraki to become Senate President
•Gbajabiamila was against Dogara becoming ‘His’ Deputy Speaker
By Soni Daniel and Emmanuel Aziken
Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal the immediate past speaker of the House of Representatives became the second person in the Fourth Republic to spend a full term of four years as Speaker of the House. He also became the first person in that office to defect from the party on which he was elected. Following his stint, he became governor of Sokoto State.
In this interview with the Vanguard team of Ochereomme Nnanna, Soni Daniel and Emmanuel Aziken, he for the first time speaks on the intrigues that shadowed his political dealings with the All Progressives Congress, APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as Senate President, Yakubu Dogara as Speaker of the House and why he left the APC to the People’s Democratic Party. He affirms that Muhammadu Buhari that crusaded for free and fair election four years ago is not the same in Aso Rock and puts election manager, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu on the spot that posterity would judge his actions. Excerpts:
What were the undercurrents that led to the formation of the new government in 2015?
From the onset, we began to have our disagreements. On the one hand, some people were saying that we should allow members of the National Assembly to go and elect members of the National Assembly on their own unhindered, but some party members were saying no, that they should be guided and they midwifed a process whereby Senator Ahmad Lawan would be Senate President and Femi Gbajabiamila would be Speaker, but we disagreed.
Now, check the high-level appointments of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. Himself came from the old CPC, VP, from the ACN, the then SGF (Babachir Lawal), from the CPC and the current one (Boss Mustapha) from the ACN. If you look at the ministers outside Amaechi who else do you have from the New PDP? Check! Not even the one from Kano or the one from Sokoto or the one from Adamawa! And these were states that were initially, nPDP. Check, Kwara, Lai Mohammed from ACN. All of these ministers came from states where the nPDP delivered but were denied ministerial appointments.
So, if not for the effort to bring Saraki and Dogara, the nPDP bloc would not have been considered for any reasonable appointment in Buhari’s administration.
Even in developed democracies where you have coalitions to form government, you normally sit down to ensure that you have inclusivity and that you carry everybody along.
In the Second Republic, you saw the NPN and NPP form the government.
You opposed the emergence of Mrs. Aisha Abubakar as the ministerial nominee from Sokoto State. Why?
Yes, we did.
So, what made you change your mind?
It was not changing of the mind. We called a meeting of stakeholders of the then APC who said we should go and deliver their message to President Buhari – Wamakko and myself. We met him, and he pleaded and appealed to us that we should go back and meet them (stakeholders) that he has done it and cannot go back on it.
So, we came back and managed the situation. Meanwhile, she was PDP and from my constituency. Her younger brother, the same father and same mother, contested for the seat I left in the House of Representatives on the platform of PDP.
What could have led to the situation that you won an election, but extraneous forces who contested against you formed the government?
What happened is becoming clearer to Nigerians today.
Why did the president cave in?
I think the question should be directed to him and you can see that in virtually all the states of the federation. Most of the governors were not consulted.
Despite reports that Asiwaju Tinubu helped you to become Speaker, you did not help Femi Gbajabiamila, his nominee to replace you. Why?
Let me tell you if you want to know; truly, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu supported me to become the Speaker of the House of Representatives using the ACN bloc in the House of Representatives. If you go today and dig out the records and subtract the number of ACN members that supported me and give it to Mulikat, she couldn’t have won. Go and do the mathematics.
I got the majority of the PDP; I got CPC, I got ANPP. Assuming that you go and take out the entire number of ACN members who supported me…and I am not saying that they didn’t support me; I am grateful, and I will remain eternally grateful, but I am giving you an idea of what happened.
Tinubu didn’t come out of the blues to say that he was supporting me. We sat down over four times for me to convince him on the viability of that project. We did the mathematics; he is a smart politician. He saw clearly that we were going to make it even without his support. We did the mathematics, he knows, he is alive. I am not lying.
Initially, he had given his blessings through Abike Dabiri and Jumoke Okoya-Thomas to Mulikat, but by the time we sat down and did the mathematics, he realised that he was going on a wild goose chase. So, he supported me, and I am grateful.
But you see, in politics, we had that understanding. We worked together for this country, the support he gave me, I am grateful. Till today in my political relationship with Bola Tinubu, he had never given me one naira; but that is not what is between him and I. It was a political transaction and not financial, a purely political transaction, purely political engagement, political project that had a lifespan. When my tenure was expiring and as a leader in APC whether anyone liked it or not because I was number four at that time, and when Bola Tinubu was working towards bringing Femi, he never called me, quote me!
I initiated a meeting with Bola Tinubu on my own volition with Gov. Abdulaziz Yari; we went to him ‘this thing you are doing, you are not talking to us?’ He said I am sorry and that was when he “realised” that he needed to talk to us in his interest in Femi becoming Speaker.
So, we sat down, and we agreed to sit down again, but he didn’t call us back until when it was getting late, and I initiated a meeting with him in Lagos. I flew with some serving members of the House of Representatives and some incoming members of the House to Lagos and had a four-hour meeting with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Before we started, we intreated into an inner room and told members of the House of Representatives to tell him the truth between themselves and God Almighty if there should be election who would win between Femi and Dogara.
They took their turns, and including those close to him, they told him that if we should go into a free and fair process, that Dogara would win.
When we retreated, I said: “Asiwaju, you have heard from my colleagues, but let me ask you what made you feel that you needed not to talk to me or invite me to come and discuss with me how someone should come and take over from me?”
He said: “Aminu, I am sorry, I am sorry it was an oversight.” So, I said: Ökay, you have heard, what do you want? You want Femi as Speaker?” He said yes. I said: “Okay, I am not opposed to it, but let me tell you, we need to pair Femi and Dogara together as Speaker and Deputy Speaker. If you want Femi, I can support Femi, he is my friend, but we have to make sure that Dogara is on the ticket as Deputy Speaker.
We went back and forth, back and forth and we agreed. He said to me: “Aminu, is that the deal?” I said “that is the deal. I will go back and talk to Dogara.”
We discussed about Senate President, and he said no, Bukola has not spoken to him, he has not done this and that.
I said “no, Bukola has been to you three times and on each of those three times, he had briefed me, and you know how close Bukola and I are, so Asiwaju don’t tell me that.”
I said to him: “You have spoken to an emir in the North for about 45 minutes that you want to take your pound of flesh because Bukola didn’t support you to become Vice-President and that he should not get Senate President.” He said: ‘Ah, how did you get to know?’ I told him the emir told me; you don’t know how close I am to that emir.
So, I said: “Asiwaju; I know what the game is. We had insisted that Bola Tinubu should not be running mate to Buhari. Buhari had already caved in, and we said that with Muslim-Muslim ticket, we could not win and that was my first offence. That was my first offence with Tinubu, not this House of Representatives politics.
That was also the offence by Bukola, offence by Yari.
Was Rotimi also involved?
Rotimi wanted it for himself. And that was my offence against him which is a different matter.
So, I pleaded and pleaded and it got to the point that I left where I was seated and knelt before Asiwaju and held his knees and said ‘Asiwaju, I am begging you, I am appealing on behalf of Bukola, please forgive him for whatever sins.’ He said, “Aminu, go back and sit down.” I told him we can resolve this issue and he said how?
I said, “if you agree, Bukola can become Deputy Senate President,” he said no, no.
Deputy to who?
To Ahmad Lawan. I said I could go and talk to Bukola. And I told him my reasons why I was supporting Bukola. I said outside my relationship with him (Saraki), I said in my presence, in the presence of God, in your study, you encouraged Bukola to go and become senator so that he could become Senate President. In my presence, only three of us with God! You Asiwaju, you did that.
Two, I know his capacity, and we are very close, and I know he can provide leadership.
Three, the governor I am taking over from is supporting Bukola, do you want me to start fighting him by going to support someone else? And there were some other factors.
I told him these are the reasons. Let me have something to go back with, let’s talk to Bukola let him take Deputy Senate President to Lawan, let Femi be Speaker, let Dogara be Deputy Speaker. We spent four hours in his office in Lagos.
He gave me an indication that he had agreed but that Bukola should come and see him. I went and told Bukola, go and see Asiwaju.
Few weeks later, they came up with their mock primaries. When they said there was going to be mock primaries, the next thing I saw was that mock primaries had been held and Monguno had stepped down for Femi and that they had paired. And that George Akume and Ahmad Lawan had formed a ticket. This was in clear contradiction of the agreement. He (Tinubu) is alive!
Meanwhile, I had called Dogara and told him of my conversation with Asiwaju and that in the interest of peace, I want you to make the sacrifice and that in any case, you are still growing. You cannot say Deputy Speaker is too small for you. Dogara didn’t argue with me; he said okay.
I called Femi; I told Femi Gbajabiamila that this was my conversation with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu that you are going to pair with Dogara and he said why should I bring Dogara to come and become Deputy Speaker! Femi told me that!
I said what is your problem? I said, “Femi, you know in terms of relationship with members that you are not good, you need somebody who can do that for you. Let him do it, and we argued back and forth. And we had discussed that Monguno should be chairman of House Committee on Appropriation. Femi is alive. I said do you agree? He said okay. I first discussed with Femi then Dogara then I invited Monguno.
I said: “Monguno, you know I can’t even call your name because you had been to this House in 1992/93 with my senior brother, I call him senior brother. I said between you and your God, can you defeat either Femi or Dogara in this contest? He said no. I said then why are you in the contest, and he said that there are some factors blah, blah, blah. I said will you accept my intervention for either of them to be Speaker and the other deputy and you accept chairman of appropriation? He said yes and that I should go ahead.
I said no I would not go ahead but go and discuss with your people, you have supporters within and outside the National Assembly, go and discuss with them and come back. He never did.
Little did I know that when I left Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s place, somebody from the North-East had gone to tell him not to accept Dogara, that the Kanuri want to have the Deputy Speakership and Monguno is Kanuri.
This I later came to know, and that was what informed the shift in the understanding I had with Asiwaju. So, it is not as if I stabbed him (Tinubu) as the public is being made to believe. We had an understanding.
So, when I saw it, I called Dogara and said it is like God has decided to make you the Speaker because I had done the mathematics and it is only for us to talk to four or five persons, and you will make it, and that was what happened.
So, it is not as if I betrayed Asiwaju Tinubu. He knows, he is alive. Let him swear by the Koran if that was not what happened.
After the formation of the Buhari government and following insinuations that Tinubu himself had been sidelined, did the two of you ever sit down to deliberate on the issue?
I visited Asiwaju in his house in Abuja in the first Ramadan, and I told him I was there to greet him. Of course, he was hot, and I told him that I was not there to discuss politics and I refused. Every effort by him to crack me to make me discuss politics, I told him no, that you are my elder, this is Ramadan, I am here to greet you.
Was he happy?
Eventually, he saw me off, we had some conversation, and he saw me off, and we were laughing and smiling, you understand!
Was he happy with the Buhari administration?
I am not his spokesperson; I cannot speak for him.
Dogara is a Christian from the Northern minority, and his choice was unusual. What quality projected him to break such ethnic and religious cleavages to emerge Speaker?
His openness, his friendship with virtually everybody.
You supported him despite the fact that he did not support your emergence as Speaker?
I supported him because I knew he could do the job. It is not about me. It is about this country. That is why I said I joined the APC because things were not going the right way. There was a derailment in the government of Jonathan, and we needed to take back our country.
When they said I should not run for president, I pulled back. When I ran in PDP now and came second, I am working with the party to make sure that we have a better government in place.
For me, it is not about Aminu Waziri Tambuwal. When the six governors came to talk to me not to leave APC, I told them that I had reason for leaving PDP; there were objectives. Tell me, which of them has been achieved? Is it insecurity, is it fight against corruption, is it the economy? Is it unemployment? What are the indices?
Many were surprised that the PDP presidential primaries did not implode the party? What happened?
I will take you to the formation of APC four years ago and leaving APC back to PDP. It is not about myself; it is about this country. It is about good governance. Any person that can provide that, I am ready to work with that person. We went for primaries, and we lost the primaries to Atiku, and before then we gave our word to the party that since we were interested in running for the presidency for the simple reason that individually, we could do better than Buhari, that whoever wins, we will support.
It is true that at a time it looked like we were cruising to victory, but the God factor came in.
So how did the God factor come in?
I can’t describe it!
Was it the generals that intervened?
God can use anything. So, God factor came in, and as a believer in God, I said it is not about me, it is about how best we can have someone that can turn around things and make Nigeria a greater nation.
That was exactly what I said in 2014, and it is still my position as at today. I am supporting Atiku Abubakar 100 per cent.
One of the reasons the president gave for vetoing the Electoral Act was that it was against the ECOWAS protocol which frowns at amendments close to elections. But you were Speaker when the Electoral Act was amended just before the election. So what do you say to that?
The president’s reason is laidback. Amendments were done while I was Speaker and not only once.
President Muhammadu Buhari of today is not interested in free and fair election. APC is looking for a shortcut to get back to Aso Rock, and they are doing everything humanly possible to take us back from the gains of 2015 in improving our electoral system, and they are desperate.
How is PDP responding to this development?
We are responding by going to the people; we have been campaigning. We will insist that votes must count, it is not negotiable. The fact that they are interested in rigging which is obvious, does not mean that there should not be a free and fair election. We are insisting on free and fair election, and we are reminding Prof. Mahmood Yakubu that there will be a day that he will cease to be INEC chairman and he has a family, he has a history, he has a future.