A member of the Senate Unity Forum, a group within the All Progressives Congress senators in the red chamber, Senator Kabir Marafa, in this interview with LEKE BAIYEWU, explains how Senator Ali Ndume was removed as the Majority Leader and the next move by the caucus
Why did the Senate APC caucus change its leadership on Wednesday?
When we reconvened at the 8th Assembly, you all know what happened. There was leadership tussle; we had the Like Minds Senators and the Senate Unity Forum, where Senator Ahmed Lawan contested on the SUF platform and Senator Bukola Saraki contested on the LMS. Like we all know, it is God who gives leadership and God gave it to Senator Bukola Saraki and that brought some friction between the two camps of the same APC.
Naturally, when there is such a crisis, the next port of call is the parents — in this case, we all know who the parents of all politicians The President, and the leader of the party. We rushed to the party and said this was what happened. The party, after looking at the whole scenario and all that happened, said since he (Saraki) had taken this one (Senate President), the remaining four positions, that is, the Senate Leader, Deputy Senate Leader, Chief Whip and the Deputy Chief Whip, should be ceded to the SUF faction of the APC caucus in order to bring the caucus together. But as fate would have it, the LMS faction didn’t see it that way that time. That was what led to all the crisis. We in the SUF felt that it was disobedience (by the LMS faction) to the party.
From that time till today, anybody who wishes APC well had this at the back of their minds and all hands had been on deck to ensure that the crisis is resolved. So, pressure had been mounting on all the APC senators, on the need for us to come together but we (SUF) insisted that the only way we could come together was when we all respect our party because it was the party that brought us into this place (Senate) because elections are held on the basis of the party, not individuals. If the party says this thing belongs to us (SUF), we want you to give it to us. What you have seen today is just a result of all the pressure mounting over time.
Why did the caucus meet on Monday and how did it arrive at the decision to change its leadership?
Our rule says that once you become anything, the only way you can be removed is through constitutional means. Now, since there was a nomination, the only way we can reverse it is to follow the rules. Our Standing Rules, precisely Order 32(6), spells out how leadership can be removed — leadership, not presiding officers; presiding officers have the rules that specify how they can be removed. Order 32(6) spells it out that any party can change its leadership, provided it has the majority (to take the decision). You need to have the majority to effect the change.
Ndume said he was not aware of the whole process. How did the caucus hatch the plan without his knowledge?
With due respect to him, the law didn’t say someone must know or everybody must know. Order 32(g)(IV) says, ‘After due notice of the Senate, each party has the right to change its leader or whip provided that the change is made by a majority of the senators of a party in the Senate.’ That is all it says. It didn’t say we have to notify him or her or anybody; just notify the Senate. And that was what the Senate President (Bukola Saraki) did. It (the decision) has the signatures of people (at the meeting). It can be used to establish the fact that the majority took the decision. If you don’t have the majority and you are questioning why you were removed, I will protest too.
With this move, can you now say that the APC has forgiven Saraki for hijacking the leadership of the Senate from the party?
I am not an official of the APC, so I don’t think it is fair for you to ask me that question; you should ask the APC leadership that question. But as a party member, I feel it can be taken for granted because the party said it by itself; it wrote a letter (saying) that we have accepted you but we want you to do this. So, if he does that, automatically, it shows that he’s been forgiven.
If there is anything now, the remaining problem is about what we do with our Deputy Senate President — my leader and my boss. I will tell him that he should exploit the provision of our Constitution — Section 68(g) — that says when there is a rift in a political party, members can defect to another party. Let me use the opportunity to call on my leader and my boss, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, to please defect to the APC and that will seal the whole thing and there will never be a problem since we will become one. That is the only seat we are contesting because the seat belongs to us and, Ekweremadu, is from the Peoples Democratic Party. Now, if he just defect to our party, shikenah! (That’s all.) Everything becomes one.
Is your next move for Ekweremadu’s seat?
I am telling you that he has the opportunity now. Let him just defect. The beauty of any political party is the people. If you can join us, join us. We want more people. Instead of moving against his seat, let him join us.
What if he refuses to join the APC?
He will! I am using this medium now to tell him to please join the APC. It is when he says he is not joining (the party) that you can come back to say Ike has refused to join the APC, what are you going to do? I am using this medium now to call on Ike to join APC.
He has the golden opportunity: Senator Ahmed Makarfi and Senator Ali Modu Sheriff have successfully to our delight, caused a division in the PDP. We are always praying that their power tussle will continue. While I pray for Makarfi to have the upper hand, I am also praying for Sheriff to have the power and ability to sustain the fight, so that we (APC) will be taking the senators one by one.
The Constitution says once there is a division (in a political party), senators can defect. Let all well-meaning APC members and even people who are sympathetic to the APC, let Ike (Ekweremadu) — instead of moving against his seat, which I don’t want to do because he was my leader in the 6th and 7th Assembly and now in the 8th Assembly — use this golden opportunity to defect to the APC and the party will become one in the Senate. Then, I can tell you that the Senate will be stable and there won’t be any friction. The little (issue) we can then have may be due to human nature. You never can say that you will gather people and they will not disagree.
Many people believe that Ndume was removed due to the issue surrounding the nomination of the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, by President Muhammadu Buhari.
I have told you what the reason is but you’re now alleging something else. What is the Magu issue?
Was Ndume not sacked because of his reaction to the way the Senate rejected Magu’s nomination?
I don’t know about that but let me tell you something: there is no way I, Kabir Marafa, will oppose anything the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria brings to the floor of the Senate. So, if you are saying it is because of that (Magu), do you think people like us in the SUF will oppose him? Nobody will, definitely. So, that is out of the question. As far as I am concerned, I am telling you that there is nothing like that because I am not opposed to Magu — I make bold to say that. Why then will I support any move against anyone who supports Magu?
Having said that, I think we should desist from this politics of tribalism, sectionalism or ethnicity. If you say it is because of Magu, you should have asked why he (Ndume) is supporting Magu that way. I supported Magu even though Magu is not from my place (state). We should be seen as senators of Nigeria than to be supporting you, regardless of where we come from. I don’t want that issue to be raised because it will raise a lot of sentiments against us. But I can tell you that I supported Magu and I will support anything the President brings. Henceforth, you will see the APC and say, ‘this is what we have been missing.’ Henceforth, you will see that the two groups (SUF and LMS) will be liquidated and you will not hear anything like, Like Minds or Unity Forum; it is going to be APC. Whatever the President brings, we are going to support it. If we have any grouse or misgivings, we will go and sit down with our President and our party, trash issues and come out well. We have seen how they did it in the Peoples Democratic Party when we were in the minority. We don’t want issues like (staging) walkouts; we don’t want PDP to stage another walkout. Let us just take Ekweremadu’s seat and we will leave them with the rest. (Punchng.com)