The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has opened up on the intrigues that trailed his election as the President of the 8th Senate at inauguration on June 9, and the circumstances that led to the emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu (PDP, Enugu West), as Deputy Senate President.
Saraki, in an interview with newsmen in Abuja, yesterday, disclosed that there were plans to abduct him in order to make him unavailable to stand for election that day. He also declared that he never got any message to go to the International Conference Centre (ICC) for a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on the day as well.
He said: “First of all, as regards the meeting (at ICC), on the morning of the inauguration, I didn’t finish meeting until 4:00 in the morning of that day, and I had got information that efforts would likely be made to make sure that I didn’t get access into the chambers. “So, as early as 4:00am and 5:00am, I had made contingency plans that I must get into the National Assembly because the plan before was that Senators-elect should go to the Transcorp Hilton Hotel around 8:00clock and 9:00am to proceed to the National Assembly. “But I was advised that it would not be safe or secure for me to do that because some people made sure that if I didn’t get into the chambers, it wouldn’t be possible for me to be nominated, for the nomination to be seconded and for me to accept the nomination.
“I can tell you today that I was in the National Assembly Complex as early as 6:00 in the morning and I stayed in a car in the car park, from 6:00 in the morning till a quarter to 10:00am. This is the truth. I stayed there and I was there with no communication whatsoever. “So, anybody who said they spoke to me to go the ICC was not (saying) the truth because I didn’t even know what was going on. All I was monitoring was how people arrive the Complex.
“It was at a quarter to 10:00 I got information that the Clerk to the National Assembly had entered the chamber. So, I got out of the small car I was inside, stretched myself and put on my Babariga because I didn’t have it on before then. “I walked from the car park into the chambers…That was why some of you would have seen that I looked very tired that morning.
“Even when I was in the chambers, I didn’t know what had transpired earlier on. The only thing I observed was that it appeared that some of our Senators were not in the chamber. But the fact that my colleagues arrived in batches, I had the opinion that they were on the way and by 10:00am, the programme started. “Before I knew it, my election had come and gone. Even my people were worried and it was only when I got into the chambers that they were relieved.” The Senate President also dismissed insinuations that for him to win, he had to enter into a pact with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He reiterated that rather, it was the absence of APC Senators in the chamber that ensured the emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu as his deputy.
His words: “Never in our wildest imagination did we envisage that some Senators would not be present on the day of the inauguration. In my own view, and in the view of some of those who worked closely with me, I worked hard for my election, I had direct contact with every single Senator, one on one; weeks leading to the election. I did not rely on anybody. I worked hard; both in our party, the APC and out of it. “I approached every Senator, I talked to them…we built confidence, not only in the APC, but, also, in the PDP. I talked to them. That was why I laugh when people said I had a deal with Ekweremadu or I had a hand in the emergence of Ekweremadu.
“I didn’t need any deal to win. I had penetrated…There was no deal; I didn’t need any deal in the first place. I had worked hard such that everybody who was a Senator, I campaigned hard and canvassed for their votes and won their confidence. “At one of the meetings held at Transcorp Hilton which Senator Godswill Akpabio co-chaired with Senator Ibrahim Gobir and a few others, which had both APC and PDP members, if you heard most of them there, the position they took was that ‘this is the Senate President they want.’
“Across party lines, they believe in me and that this is the Senate President that can lead us. There was no deal.
“Sometimes, I wonder how some of our colleagues found themselves at the ICC. If the CNA had made an announcement that the event had been postponed or it was no longer holding, plus, the invitation…I’m sure some are asking now, what really happened?”
He explained further that the support the PDP Senators gave to him before, during and even after the election now, should be understood by all watchers of politics , going by the statement they issued even before the inauguration cum election that day, saying : “First of all, the PDP Senators had announced to the public that they were supporting me without even meeting me because in their own meeting, majority had decided to vote for me.
“In their own interest, strategically, the decided that, look, this is a fait accompli because 30 of their own senators were going to vote for this man anyway and the remaining felt it was better to join. “It wasn’t until 2:00am that they called us to tell us their decision. With regards to the deputy, when they told us that they had a candidate, we, too, told them we had a candidate for Deputy Senate President in the person of Senator Ali Ndume. After our own meeting, it was our thinking that it was after the election of the Senate President that the two groups in APC would meet and we would agree on a candidate.
“We never in our imagination thought they would not turn up. By the time we got there, we were only 24 while the PDP was more than 40. In an election, there’s no way they would not have defeated us and that was what happened? And now, when people say it was a deal, I say that if the CNA had started the procedure in the House of Representatives first, and moved to the Senate thereafter, today, we, the APC, would have had a deputy Senate President.”
Saraki noted that:”It is unfortunate that we have a PDP man as Deputy Senate President. It is painful. It is painful for any APC member because we went through the struggle. That was not what we signed for. But it has happened; but it is unfortunate and it is not fair to put the blame on one side because it is a combination of errors and miscalculations that led us to have, in that morning, some Senators at another place instead of being there. “So, to suggest that it was out of a desperate act to emerge is what I reject completely and those who followed the events would know that I didn’t have that deal to emerge.”