You have been in the spotlight recently. First you were removed as the Chairman of the Northern Senators Forum (NSF) and now one of your colleagues has accused you of plotting Saraki’s removal. Why do you think they are after you?
To be honest with you, why they are after me should be answered by those you perceived are after me. As far I’m concerned, I respect everybody in the senate. As far I’m concerned, I have never dreamt wanting the position of the senate president or any other principal officer of the senate. If I had wanted the senate presidency, I was free to contest for it, but I wasn’t and that was why I didn’t.
Yes, I may not have supported Saraki’s emergence as the senate president because I wasn’t part of the circumstances that produced him; but in order to make for peace, I was talked to and we decided to let the sleeping dog lie.
The leadership of the government, the presidency and the party didn’t fight when this thing happened under their watch, so I felt there was no point to fight to any ridiculous level. In this room that we are having this interview, people from outside the senate came wanting me to vie (for the Senate presidency) but I said no. In the end, people who wanted to make peace came and said we should give it a chance and we made it very possible to have peace and I have never changed my mind on that.
I have no problem with the senate president; I’m not looking for his seat but somehow he is a kind of guy who is operating by proxy, principle of proxy. You know he has errand boys who take it upon themselves to do the hatchet man’s. If there is anything that is going to happen and he feels it will be a bit hard to swallow, he will make sure he is not on the stage and he will have Ike Ekweremadu to do the dirty work for him.
The particular example you brought about NSF. This forum and the Southern Senators Forum (SSF) are informal fora. They are not in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and are not in the senate’s standing orders. NSF is an informal group. We meet on the basis that we have common interest as northerners, just as the southern senators meet. I became one with the exception of this Eighth Senate. I was not elected on the floor of the senate, nor do we do anything on the floor of the senate. We meet outside. I, as the chairman, will give notice of meeting and I don’t remember giving any notice for any meeting where the issue of my chairmanship was discussed; including my removal. But I felt I needed not to waste my precious time to begin to cry that I was removed as the chairman of the forum. Yes, I felt alright when I was made the chairman.
But if the senate president and his deputy have problems with me and they believe the best way to contain me is to arrange one of their boys to remove me as the chairman of the forum, no problem.
What about the issue of the N70m reportedly swallowed by a monkey?
In order to give a dog a bad name, they now went to say that they had N70m that I mismanaged or whatever. The NSF, to the best of my knowledge, has never had N70m, at least not during my tenure that they purported it was mismanaged. We inherited something in the region of N62m/N63m that was declared by the out gone secretary of the forum who happens to be the present Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan. I didn’t touch one kobo until when we were going to Katsina for the NSF retreat. When we were going, we got the same guys to sign for the transport fares.
Every senator that attended was paid N250, 000 as allowance for his two days and everyone also got N150, 000 for return ticket. They got these and they signed. The remaining money was returned to Abuja and was paid back into the account.
You know, when you talk of money, everybody’s attention will be attracted. They did this to get attention, but this is just garbage, and for the allegation, it is up to them to prove.
All these started when you protested the change in elections sequence. Is the battle over?
I believe as a senator, it is not over because they will transmit it to the president for assent, he can sign it and he may decide not to assent to it. Remember, on the floor of the senate, they are saying they will override him (the president) as if they are in a motor park. They said so freely as if they had a grudge against the president.
As a senator, I started talking to people who shared opinion with me on the passage of the bill. We are talking on it and yes, I have been holding meetings on it. I have a right of association, a fundamental right in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the fact that my position as a senator has not been taken away from me. There is no law that says that if a decision is taken on the floor of the senate, right or wrong, a senator has no right to talk to anybody outside the chamber on the matter; there is no such law.
So, I have decided to be having meetings here, I have been having the meetings and I will continue to have the meetings. The worst anybody can do is to suspend me, but they don’t have any authority over my membership of the senate.
What do you want to achieve with these meetings?
I’m waiting for that opportunity when this matter will require our attention again. If it comes in any form, we will assert our interest in any form. As I said, it is not over.
Before the passage of the amendment to the electoral act, how was your relationship with the senate president?
As far as I’m concerned, I don’t have anything against him. I’m not God. God made him President of the Senate. Whatever the circumstances that he followed, as a Muslim I believe that it was God that made him. It wouldn’t have been possible if God did not will it. As a faithful, I took it to be so and till date that’s my attitude to him, and he knows it.
What I do not accept is that as he always says, and as most people say when it is convenient for them, “Use good reasons to do bad things.”
People talk about strengthening institutions; I love the idea but I have a terrible allergy for people using public institutions to serve themselves instead of public good. And as long as I’m able, I will continue to protest this.
Today, they say I’m supporting Buhari; yes I do. Buhari is a person who is under oath as the president of this country and I’m under oath to support the president of my country as a senator. Yes, I can differ, but where I differ there are attitudes that I will adopt. I can’t reduce myself to some kind of garage boy, grandstanding in the senate.
One of your colleagues, Obinna Ogba, alleged that you want to destabilise the senate. Why sir?
I don’t have to go through the backdoor to do anything. I’m not after anybody’s seat and I’m not plotting to destabilise the senate.
Evidence has been tendered against you. What is it all about?
That’s not for today. They said so and it is part of their exhibit. I wasn’t in the senate on that day, but this is like what we call secondary evidence; but by the time I see it myself, I can use it as primary evidence if I have need for it. At the moment, my eyes are on the ball. I’m not in tune with the way and manner the amendment was done. It didn’t keep with the letters of the constitution and the senate rules.
Senator Ali Ndume that was referred to the ethics committee last year was suspended. Are you not afraid that same fate may befall you now that you have been referred to the same panel?
Afraid of what? I’m 72 years old. I did not buy it from the market and my father was a headmaster when I was born; so he knew how to keep records of the birth of his children. My birthday is not based on the reign of an emir or fire disaster or famine; the date I was born was recorded. If I’m suspended; that would not be the end of the world. I’m a professional, I can go back to engineering; I will feed. I can go back to the law profession. I’m a lawyer and I will feed.
Also, I can engage myself in farming, I’m a farmer and I will feed myself and others. I didn’t come to the senate because I had nothing doing, no. I came because my people wanted me to represent them. When I ended my tenure as governor, I left the stage completely until when my constituents came calling.
Like I keep saying, I didn’t inherit a political empire, I worked through the ladder to get to where I’m, and till tomorrow, I can answer my father’s name.
In case the president rejects the bill, can they get the required two third to override him?
I don’t want to ruin this thing on the pages of newspaper. I cross bridges when I reach them. Those who are doing all these, they know that’s not the last on the amendment. They haven’t seen the last yet. Just tell them that the last has not been heard on that amendment. By the grace of God, I have made a vow; I will not betray my party.