Senators’ vote meant to spite Buhari — Marafa

Spokesperson for the Senate Unity Forum, Senator Kabir Marafa, in this interview with SUNDAY ABORISADE, alleged that his colleagues passed a vote of confidence in Dr. Bukola Saraki’s senate leadership in order to spite President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress leadership

Will the vote of confidence passed in Senator Bukola Saraki’s leadership of the senate end the lingering crisis in the upper chamber?

I honestly don’t understand the meaning of the vote of confidence passed by the 81 senators. I don’t know where the idea came from and why it was done at that time. However, to my mind and I may be wrong, my own interpretation of it is that it was done to spite Mr President and possibly, our party, the All Progressives Congress. The only reason why such a thing could be done at that time is because during the National Executive Committee meeting of the party, the President directed that party supremacy should be respected. With the benefit of hindsight, I know that the party wrote a letter to the senate president requesting him to read on the floor of the senate, names of four prominent party members who are senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the party’s leaders in the senate. But the senate president, in his wisdom, refused, saying his hands were tied and instead he went ahead to read some names that we did not know where they came from. The list he read was from unknown and unrecognised zonal caucuses which to me, are nonexistent. We know the political parties. We know who their leaders are; no matter how small a political party is. Political parties are recognised duly by the constitution to the extent that the constitution says that nobody can assume any elective position without belonging to a political party and without being sponsored by that political party to contest. That is to say that the Nigerian Constitution absolutely recognises political parties. Our rules say that a majority or a minority leader should be appointed or named from a political party that has more or less number of senators as the case may be. I don’t think that this argument can be twisted to mean some people can sit down in a corner and say that we are the ones that can nominate from that political party when that political party is there and its leadership is also there. This is one of the issues that generated a lot of controversies in the senate and I am one of the people that feel and believe that the senate president, with due respect to him, was misled.

There are arguments that the vote of confidence has some political undertones. What is your reaction to this?

From the outset, with due respect to members of the Peoples Democratic Party, and members of the APC in the senate, I want to say that the PDP is playing real politics with the issue of the vote of confidence and I don’t blame them. Maybe if I were in their position, I would do the same. Those that I really pity are my fellow APC members who are playing along with them because this is our God-given time. Opposition in Nigeria suffered for 16 years and watched how the PDP ruled us. In the senate, it was a case of winners take all throughout that period. All the leadership belonged to the PDP and no member of the opposition had the slightest courage to attempt to contest as a presiding officer. The leadership of the party did everything they wanted. They allocated committees to their members without any regard to certain zones. Take for example, the South-West, during the just concluded 7th Senate, had only chairmanship of Grade C or Grade D committees. There was no Grade A committee chairman among them at all. But take the South-East and South-South for instance, they had more than 10 very powerful committees each. Take Enugu State alone, the state produced the deputy senate president who was the chairman of the Constitution Review Committee, chairman of the board of the Nigeria Institute for Legislative Studies, the state also produced the chairman of Committee on Communication and also chairman of the Committee on Works. Virtually all the senators in Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Abia, Imo states and so on were members of powerful committees at the detriment of other geopolitical zones. The simple reason they gave then was that we were following the rules of the senate and that was what the rule said. They said for anybody to be appointed as a presiding officer or principal officer, or to the headship of committees or even as a delegate anywhere, the senate would be guided by the ranking rules. The rule was applied to suppress us. We felt that there was need to have rules to guide a gathering like this one otherwise it would become a lawless gathering. Thus, all we had to do was to perform well so that our people could return us so that when we come back, we will begin to enjoy what others enjoyed when we were new. But suddenly we are now seeing a situation where these rules are being abused. Suddenly they are now telling us that constitution overrides these rules when they are actually the architects of the rules. What we have done in this 8th Senate will keep hunting the senate from today and the people who sabotaged the rules would be hunted by it many years to come and their pay day will come one day.

Are you not worried that some members of the Senate Unity Forum have dumped the struggle and are already pitching tent with the pro-Saraki group?

Personally, I am not bothered by numbers anymore because we are not fighting this course simply because we are members of the SUF that contested the position of senate president and lost. Whatever happened on June 9, a leadership emerged by whatever name you want to call it. There is a leadership and as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I must be able to respect the laws of Nigeria if I am aggrieved, the laws provided for me means and ways of addressing my grievances which I have done. Nobody can say that there was no election. Thus, for now, there was an election and results were announced and there are people that were announced as leaders. We must respect them. What we are saying now is that, there are some lapses, some abuses on our laws and we are saying that as senators, we must live by example and be the ones to respect our own laws first before we call on others to respect our own institution. We should not be the ones that will sabotage and abuse our own laws only to come out and tell other people to obey the laws of the federation or even respect our own institution. We are fighting for the system and demanding the need to play according to the rules so that at the end, the system will be stronger. A situation whereby we bend our rules anyhow, just to suit purposes is really unparliamentarily and unacceptable to Nigeria and I don’t need a large number of people to fight the cause. I will do my job and say whatever is wrong. I don’t care I could even be ruled out of order 20 times in a day. I take solace in the fact that Nigerians are watching, documenting and appreciative of what I am doing. I know that one day, even if I am in my grave, these issues will come back again, they will resurface and people will discuss them and history will say Senator Marafa said certain things on a particular date but was ruled out of order. God spare our lives, we will all see the repercussion of what we are doing in the 9th Senate. The contest will be very fierce because it is now open to 109 Senators, no more ranking because you cannot have your cake and eat it.

On the floor of the senate on Tuesday, you called for the nullification of all activities carried out in the senate from June 9 apart from the proclamation. Why these fresh demands?

The activities of the senate on the June 9 stand because they were covered by the proclamation of Mr President which states that the proceedings of the chamber shall start by 10:00am. But all other activities of the senate from the time but not limited to the oath of office, is a nullity because it was not done within the time frame. The activities of the senate on June 23 and 24 are equally a nullity. The rule book regulates the proceedings of the chamber. This book brings about law and order in this chamber. This is the book that stipulates the dos and don’ts.

Order 13 ( 1 ) (contained in the earlier amendments) states that on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays except the second and third Fridays of the month, committee meetings are to hold between 9:00am and 12 noon.

Order 13 ( 2 ) states that on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the senate shall meet at 2pm and unless previously adjourned, it shall sit until 6pm . A substantive motion has to be moved by the leader of the senate or a senator acting in that capacity that the senate be adjourned, by 6pm. The deputy senate president has said that the senate rules has come in effect and that for it to be amended, will have to follow order 110 based on the provisions of the rule.

Order 3 (2) states that nomination of senators to serve as presiding officers and appointment of principal officers and other offices of the senate or on any parliamentary delegation shall be in accordance with the ranking of senators.

The nominations made by the PDP are not in accordance with the ranking and are therefore null and void.

I have said everything about all the abuse of privileges in the senate and it is now left for Nigerians to judge. On June 24 I drew the attention of the whole senate to the fact that a new set of rules had been introduced to the senate and that I didn’t know where they came from, because we never amended the 2011 version. But our deputy senate president said each senate comes with a new set of rules and that the one given to us after inauguration was meant for the 8th Senate. Now, for anybody to amend the 2015 version again, he has to follow order 110 (1-5). I did remind the senate president that it is stated in order 13 (2) that the senate will sit from 2:00pm to 6:00pm, but suddenly, they told us that it was an error. The next thing was that they started distributing another rule book which corrected the error. What this means is that they are printing this book at will. If there is anything they don’t like in it, they will just print and say that the earlier one was an error. These are some of the issues that I am talking about and which would have repercussion on the 9th Senate. We have two new rules within two months. Which one are we going to work with now? We don’t know.

Copyright PUNCH.

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