Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, representing Delta Central Senatorial District, is a member of the Parliamentary Support Group, a body of federal lawmakers loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari. He tells LEKE BAIYEWU about the call for Dr Bukola Saraki’s resignation as President of the Senate
Members of the Peoples Democratic Party in the National Assembly alleged that their All Progressives Congress counterparts planned to break into the Senate chamber on Tuesday to reconvene despite that the legislature is currently on recess. Did you have such plans?
Did you see any APC senator in the National Assembly complex? This question ought to be directed to the PDP members. They planned to invade the Senate, indeed the National Assembly, and they invaded the National Assembly. If you recall, the National Assembly is on recess but from the information that has now become public, as early as 6am on that day, over 25 PDP senators, with some of their PDP colleagues in the House of Representatives, invaded the National Assembly. The information we have now picked up is that in addition to these members, there were also thugs that were there. This move was meant to prevent the APC senators from going into the National Assembly.
Did you have the plan to be in the building?
The APC senators had no plan to be at the National Assembly. The only intention we had was to hold a caucus meeting, which indeed was held. It had nothing to do with the National Assembly premises and we were never on the premises. We have just been told now, from the information now in the public domain, that it was as a consequence of the presence of these PDP senators and the House of Representatives members who were not supposed to be within the premises, and the presence of the thugs who were at the National Assembly but who were not supposed to be there because they had no business there, that influenced the Department of State Services to deploy (operatives) to protect that property from invasion; an invasion by the PDP not by the APC because we had no business there and we didn’t go there.
If the DSS operatives were there to protect the building, why did the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo sack the Director General, Lawal Daura, over the operation?
That is a question you may have to direct to the government. I am not the acting President. I don’t know what information or intelligence he had or what facts were at his disposal that informed him to take that decision. However, the information that we have is that the PDP senators and their colleagues in the House of Representatives, invaded the National Assembly as early as 6am on Tuesday while we were on recess. While they were there, several thugs who had no business in the National Assembly were also there. And as a consequence of this, the DSS moved in to prevent them from causing damage that could lead to chaos in the National Assembly.
The Senate Majority Leader, Ahmad Lawan, on Monday, urged the APC senators to resume and tackle pressing national issues. Could your PDP colleagues have been wrong to have accused the APC of planning to forcefully sit and carry out some illegal actions?
The leader of the APC caucus appealed to the leadership of the National Assembly to reconvene for the purpose of passing the Independent National Electoral Commission’s supplementary budget. We all know that the 2019 elections are around the corner and the conduct and credibility of the polls will be in jeopardy if that budget is not passed. In fact, we will continue to request the Senate to reconvene for the purpose of passing that virement so that INEC can be properly funded for the election. I don’t see anything wrong with that. It is a request we made and it is a request we will continue to make.
What will the APC Senate caucus do, now that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has refused to resign after he defected to the PDP?
Our position is very clear. The moment Saraki defected from the APC to the minority party, he no longer has the moral, political and legal rights to remain as the Senate President. We have requested of him to step down. We have requested him to do the honourable thing, to do the needful by stepping down. It is a request we are going to continue to make and any opportunity we have, we are going to insist that he must step down.
Does the constitution stipulates that a member of the ruling or majority party should lead Senate?
When we get to that bridge we will deal with it. Saraki knows that he cannot continue to preside over that Senate. Nobody is usurping his right as a sitting senator but that right to continue to preside as the Senate President is what we are questioning. People need to understand that the Senate President seat is not a birthright of Saraki. Anybody from the majority party can aspire to become the Senate President.
I do not see why anytime the call is made that Saraki should step down, people now equate that call with an attack on democracy, as if Saraki is now synonymous with democracy. Indeed, he is not and he must step down. He cannot continue to preside over that Senate to the detriment of the party and the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
A former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Timi Frank and one of the senators who recently defected from the APC to the PDP, Rafiu Ibrahim, have alleged that each of you has been promised $400,000 and $1m respectively, to ensure Saraki’s removal. Is your call for his resignation financially induced?
That allegation is arrant nonsense and it is not worth the while to even dignify it with a response. I am going to stick to the same position. It is madness for anyone to say or insinuate that a senator of the Federal Republic is given money to do what is right. We believe it is right to ask Saraki to step down as the Senate President. Saraki does not have the birthright to remain as the Senate President; he was elected senator just like the other 108 senators. We can decide to elect him Senate President and we can also decide to remove him. For over three years that he has served as the Senate President, we are very dissatisfied. We believe that he is there to shut down this government. We believe he is there to push an agenda that will undermine the government of President Muhammadu Buhari; and for us in the APC, we have had enough of Saraki. We want him out.
Senator Godswill Akpabio has resigned as the Minority Leader and defected from the PDP to the APC. Is it true that his defection is part of plans to change the leadership of the Senate?
We are very excited that Akpabio has joined the APC caucus. We are going to continue the process of harvesting more members of the opposition who have come to the conclusion that the continued retention of Saraki is injurious not only to the Senate but also to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Also being a senator from the South-South, we are very excited by this addition. It is an addition that will galvanise the South-South and help us to win the geopolitical zone. We are very happy that he has joined our caucus and this addition has more or less erased the loss of 14 senators that went to the PDP.
Is it true that Akpabio was promised the Senate presidency for him to defect?
There is nothing like that. I am not privy to any of such discussions. You may pose that question to Akpabio. I am not his spokesman or mouthpiece. But I can tell you that Akpabio, just like any other senator, came over to the APC to assist in the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
Some senators who are against the removal of Saraki have gathered their signatures, are you also gathering anti-Saraki signatures?
Did you see the signatures of the so-called pro-Saraki senators that were collated?
Yes, it was made available to the public. Will yours be made public too?
They merely wrote the names of senators of the PDP extraction, they did not collate signatures; they are two different things.
But members of the African Democratic Congress were also on the list…
I am telling you that, that is not a collation of signatures; it was a collation of names. Saraki knows that he has lost the confidence of the majority of members in the Senate and you will be surprised by what will happen when the opportunity arises. He cannot survive this, trust me. You can take this to the bank. He cannot survive this. He must step down.
Is the number of the ‘majority’ you said up to two-thirds of members require by the constitution to unseat the Senate President?
We have the numbers to remove Saraki, which I can tell you. We have the requisite number to remove Saraki as Senate President.
A fellow member of the PSG, Senator Abu Ibrahim, recently said there would not be peace in the Senate until Saraki was no more the Senate President. Was that a fair comment by him?
Senator Abu Ibrahim is not a prophet of doom but can’t you see what is happening all over the place? Can’t you see crises all over the place? The only way we can have the peace, as envisaged by Senator Abu Ibrahim, is for Saraki to step down. People need to tell Saraki that he is not a monarch, he was elected by senators and the same senators who elected him did so at that time because he was an APC senator; he was not elected just because he was a senator. If you recall when he was elected, did you see any senator of the PDP extraction taking part in the election of the Senate President? No PDP senator contested that presidency because they knew that the position was reserved for the majority party, the APC. As we speak today, Saraki is no longer a member of the majority party, the APC. That is why it is only fair, wise, just and legal to ask him to do the needful, which is to step down. And he must step down.
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