Abu Ibrahim represents Katsina South in the Senate on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), in this interview with journalists, he explains how the All Progressives Congress (APC) can avert crisis in election of who becomes the President of 9th Senate, our correspondent, Ikechukwu Okaforadi was there for Peoples Daily.
Controversy has continued to trail the forthcoming election for those who will lead the 9th Senate, some senators have threatened to go against the choice of APC, what is your feeling about this trend?
First of all, we have to remind ourselves that it is a political party which gives an individual the ticket to participate in an election. Once such a ticket is given, it is the caucus of the party in the National Assembly that will determine the emergence of candidate that eventually becomes the leader of the Senate through voting. Specifically, the party decides which zone should produce candidate for the position and when such decision is taken, every member must abide by that decision. No one can come out of caucus meeting’s voting to say he would not accept the decision of the party on such election process. As a loyal party member anyone who dares the party’s decision and come out to connive with PDP to truncate the decision of the party will be expelled from the party. As a matter of fact, if the party gives a ticket to an individual and he/she is assisted with resources to contest and win election, the person must naturally obey the rules of the party at all times. In democracy, once you choose a party, you must abide by the rules of that party at all times or else you leave. There will be no need for individuals who disobey the party decision to remain in such a party. That is an act of indiscipline which no party should condone.
Do you think that APC should think of reaching out to PDP with a view to convince their Senators to support the chosen candidate of the ruling party for Senate President?
You see, there is no need to reach out to the opposition minority members because APC, as a party, has a clear majority to decide straight away who should become Senate President. PDP, as a party, played this game for the whole sixteen years when it was in power between 1999 and 2015. All the PDP members, who are now making noise against APC today, including Senators Abaribe, James Manager, Ekweremadu and the likes, know the rules of this game. It is sheer mischief, greed and a great insult for any PDP member to now claim that every member in the National Assembly has a right to contest. This is not done anywhere in the world. Not in U.K, U.S.A or anywhere else. David Mark was Senate President between 2007 and 2015 when his party was in power and the majority party in Senate, nobody from the opposition parties contested along with him. Now they think numerical strength does not matter again but it did when they were the majority. What an absurdity. The leadership of the National Assembly now belongs exclusively to APC in the two chambers because the party has a clear majority and does not have to consult the opposition members in order to pick its principal officers. It is never done anywhere in the world and it will not be done this time around. The minority leadership in the National Assembly is there for the PDP to choose their leaders. No one is interfering with them in choosing their leadership. No one from APC will go there and contest to be a member, so why should anyone from PDP want to contest for majority leadership position? Well, it happened the last time in 2015 when Senator Ekweremadu insidiously contested the position of the Deputy Senate President. He clearly undermined the APC in that exercise but this time around no one can try that and succeed. That dishonest event took us by surprise in 2015 and we have learnt our lessons not to allow it this time. PDP members will always want to reap where they did not sow. In the past they were able to get away with it but they can’t succeed this time around.
Sir, the fear is that National Assembly may become a rubber stamp to the President and the APC executive if leadership is imposed on members?
Anyone claiming that fear is clearly playing politics with this issue. I can give an example here. David Mark, as the then Senate President, had confronted President Jonathan on Maina, when the Senate called him several times but he refused to honour the invitation. So at a meeting of the Senate leadership we agreed that if the then President should not stop giving cover or protection to Maina, the Senate would not give his government further support and exactly that was what David Mark presented to President Jonathan. Let me tell you, when it comes to independence of National Assembly, we would jealously guard our independence and protect it.
Are you saying that if Ahmed Lawal becomes Senate President, the independence of National Assembly cannot be in danger, because he is seen to be very close to President Muhammadu Buhari?
That fear is not tenable. Indeed we need someone who has good relationship with the President to lead the Senate so that we can move faster in our development strides and not someone who is in constant conflict with the Presidency. Look at the parliamentary system of government in U.K, the Prime Minister is a member of the parliament and sits with the Legislators to work out government policies and implementations. Similarly, in U.S., the Senate President is the Vice- President, yet they can disagree when the need arises. To me, it is good this issue of electing Senate President has come out so clearly so that grievances can be aired and decision taken before inauguration of the next parliament. But let me emphasize here that I have accepted the decision of the party on this issue of Senate leadership. Nobody, I repeat, nobody, because of selfish interest will connive with opposition members to deny APC its right to choose the leadership of NASS. Anyone who tries it will lose his membership of the party.
The party went through a very bad experience in 2015 and would not want a repeat of that this time around. Our own party members connived with PDP to concede the position of Deputy Senate President to PDP. This has never been done throughout my period in the Senate within the past three decades. The party has now taken steps to stop such treachery. The party is right to have taken a strong position before the election so that it cannot be hijacked by any selfish individual. There must be discipline in the conduct of our political activities so that democracy can grow in the country.