•Speaks on impeachment threat to President Buhari, Muslim-Muslim ticket, Obi-dent movement

By Peter Duru, Makurdi

Sen. Orker Jev  represents Benue North West Senatorial District in the National Assembly. In the interview he reveals the number of Senators who endorsed the impeachment move against the President, what would happen at the end of the six weeks notice, why insurgency has festered in the north despite the funds budgeted to fight the menace, the threat it poses to the successful conduct of the 2023 elections and more. Excerpt:

Before the Senate went on recess, PDP Senators and other opposition senators including some from the APC issued a six-week impeachment notice on the president over the lingering insecurity in the country, asking him to tackle the menace headlong or face impeachment. But on the floor the Senate President stood against the move, saying it was not discussed at the Executive Session. What actual happened in your Executive Session that very day?

We went into Executive Session, and you know that Executive Session is closed to cameras and members of the public and even the staff. So I cannot reveal everything that went on there, but what I can reveal here is that there was just one person that objected to impeachment. Everybody across party lines was not happy with what is going on.

Now everybody had agreed overtime that insecurity is the number one problem we have in this country but at the time we were speaking it had come into the nation’s capital. There are some representatives that we heard never go to their constituencies again because of insecurity in those areas. Now it has come to the nation’s capital so where are you going to run to? So the whole thing was driven home to everybody; and you had people who for three years plus were hardcore supporters of the president, not just in the APC, but hardcore supporters who stood for him. And I always cite the example of Senator Bukalchuwa, as we speak he is still a member of the APC.

The assault on the capital is the tipping point for almost everybody inclusive of those who are hardcore supporters of the President. Several other issues were discussed at the Session but that was the number one issue. I can reveal to you that like when I appeared before channel TV, the anchor of the programme told me that to balance it he had invited the APC but no Senator was prepared to come and defend the president on that programme. He even said it on air.

Radio Nigeria invited me the following day and when I got up in the morning preparing to go for the programme, I saw a text message that had been sent to me saying unfortunately they were calling off the programmers because as a station of the Federal Government they wanted to balance it but nobody was prepared to come from the other side.

So it wasn’t good that I appeared from this side and nobody came from the other side, so they called it off. Nobody is happy with what is happening now. Nobody is ready to stick out there necks to defend the indefensible. And so we decided that maybe that would nudge the conscience of the president and his team, if we decide that we are going to impeach the President. Some of us, even as an opposition person, I don’t seriously expect that the president will be impeached. But we thought, the Tiv people have a saying which when translated says, ‘there is no decent way of crying.’ So it is our cry to the president to do something about insecurity. So let’s hope that within the six weeks he would wake up.

I think Governor Ortom should be given an apology. In saner climes that is what they would have done because he sounded the alarm about what is happening. He said it should not be a surprise that one day these people would attempt to enter the Villa. He was abused, called names. This is today the situation that we have. These people are threatening to kidnap the president.

They attacked the convoy of the president, the most protected man in Nigeria today. And with what they are doing in Abuja, the Minister has directed that school’s should be closed, especially those on the outskirts. Universities are closing because of the threat of attack by these people. And so, some were saying we should give notice of impeachment immediately but majority of us said let’s give the opportunity, maybe if they hear about the move, maybe they will wake up. That was why we gave the six weeks. Let’s see what will happen within the time.

And if nothing happens?

Impeachment is the option that we are seriously considering from my vantage position. It’s not just a threat, though some of us should expect that the president should sit up and do it. Whether he succeeds or not is a different matter but the truth of the matter is that it is a constitutional option.

Some are of the opinion that the Senate is coming a bit late with the impeachment thing. The opinion is that you ought to have done it two or three years back. Nigerians are saying you resorted to it because you now feel unsafe in Abuja. How do you respond to that?

The way Nigeria is configured, tribalism is a factor, religion is a factor, ethnicity, all sorts of cleavages are there including politics and survival which is not limited to our environment here. Anywhere in the world politicians would always be politicians. In America that we copied, politicians and their survival is always factored into their calculations. I have been following American policies for a long time. I am assuring you that some of those vociferous defenders of the President today, if we had started the impeachment even before the party primaries, they wouldn’t be part of it. They would be thinking that even though they are not happy, if they come out clearly, the President will come in the way of their getting their re-election ticket. But some how now the primaries have taken place, those who have gotten their tickets have them. And those who did not get their tickets have lost out. So everybody is free to talk their mind and be realistic.

Another reason is that, if you remember, the 8th Assembly was seen as combative to the presidency. I was the chairman of Rules and Business Committee in the House of Representatives and we passed more than 300 bills. This was an unprecedented record in the annals of the National Assembly, not up to 50 of them was signed into law. Now the leadership devised to take a different approach. Some of us were not too happy with that. But I started to see that it has its own advantages. Some of those bills that we passed that were rejected by the same President, immediately we passed them he signs them into law.

Because he takes the 9th National Assembly as a friendly Assembly. So anything they do he signs it into law. So the advantages for that approach is there. They call us rubber stamp assembly, compliant senate and all that, but it has its own uses. So anything the president brought, this assembly went along with it; just so that he won’t be accusing us of impeding the programme and development of his own administration. And we did all of that at the risk of our collective name and integrity.

We cooperated with them, so if we cooperated and yet nothing came out of it, you cannot not blame us for not doing that earlier. Because the idea was cooperate, and if you cooperate and the lives of our people are better secured, protected and the welfare of the people is better served we shouldn’t be ashamed if that was the end result. Unfortunately in spite of all our best effort, that has not happened. So you cannot blame us.

Why do you think insurgency and insecurity have festered in the north despite all that have been budgeted to fight the menace?

I don’t know but I can only speculate, and I do not want to speculate when it comes to such matters but I think there is a lack of political will. If you go to the north, particularly the North East where Boko Haram is thriving, the security agencies have stationed drone, some that would fly for 48 hours non stop before they are brought down for recharging. And the question is, if that is the case, how come these Boko Haram people will come sometimes take, two, three, four hours to operate and there is no response? why is that? I am left wondering myself. If you ask me for the answer I’ll say I don’t know. And our military are some of the best anywhere, if not in the world at least in Africa. Because anywhere we go we excel. So the thing is that they get information and give it to those who are supposed to take decision and there is no political will to actually go after them. I don’t know.

As a Senator are you not worried that the lingering insecurity could affect the conduct of the 2023 election?

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has continued to reassure us that the 2023 elections would hold. But I have heard many stakeholders questioning whether the election can hold. If the terrorists and bandit are as audacious as they are now, threatening to kidnap the President and attacking the Guards Brigade, those who are supposed to protect the president, attacking military checkpoints, if they are not repelled, I share the sentiments and the views of those who are saying that the 2023 election is threatened. But it all goes down to what the National Assembly has said. The President has to rise up. You cannot have the presidential spokesman saying the presidency has done its best. If the president has done his best and we are still experiencing this security challenges, it means that we are in trouble, there is no hope. So I share the views of those who are saying that the if things don’t improve the next election will be threatened.

What’s you take on the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC?

I think it’s a suicide pack. Because people cite Abiola in 1993 when he had a Muslim running mate. We are years away from Abiola’s time. The question I ask is supposing it was a Christian-Christian ticket, would they be saying the same thing? Why did Tinubu even bring a Muslim? People fail to ask that question. Because if he brings a Christian from the North the Muslims will not vote for him. That means that religion is a big factor. It’s the consideration of religion that he brought a Muslim and not a Christian. If he brought a Christian, the Muslims who are in the majority in the northern will not vote for him. And you sit and deceive yourself that religion is not a factor in today’s Nigeria? How come the Christians within that party are rising against it? It is a factor.

Babachir Lawal is a long time associate of Tinubu. When we were in the ACN anytime we went for meetings, Babachir would always be sitting next to Tinubu. They have been long time associates. But he turned against him because of that decision. So religion is a big big factor. Let nobody deceive themselves. Supposing you brought a Christian-Christian you think the Muslims would stand up to clap for you? Why do we pretend that religion is not a factor in this country. It is, even those who say they are Christians and don’t even go to church for a whole year, you will offend their sensibilities when you make it look like oh Christians in the north are not competent. But I must say I like what I’m hearing from my vantage position, it’s sweet music to my ears when they are tearing at each other.

Are you not worried about the swelling popularity of the Labour Party Presidential candidate, which they have tagged the Obi-dient Movement?

I don’t take any scenario for granted. I work as if it is going to overwhelm me. Though realistically it is not as it seems because from my experience as a politician on that election day, if you do not have the structures do you know what will happen, some of the people that are shouting obi-dient obi-dient they are the ones that would be collecting money from the major political parties, and you will hear them saying ‘ it is food that we are looking for’ because they are not committed.

This Obi-dient Movement is a laud testimony that people are not happy with the status quo. And they wish that something will come but that alone will not win an election. That is my sincere take. That alone will not win an election, especially in an election that has the whole of Nigeria as one constituency. You can win in some places. In my federal constituency which has one local government you can pull that off it may not be so in the entire country.

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