A ranking Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senator representing Abia South Senatorial District, Enyinnaya Abaribe, says that Nigeria’s constitution permits opposition members to contest presiding officers’ seats in the federal parliament.
What is your reaction to Adams Oshiomhole’s statement about the-winner-takes-all stand in the leadership and sharing of committees in the 9th National Assembly?
I had cause at one time to advise Oshiomhole not to be so garrulous in his statements and I think he hasn’t learnt any lessons. You don’t choose for us or determine for us who becomes what in the Senate. I think because he has never been a member of the parliament, he just doesn’t want to take advice from those who have been in the National Assembly. The National Assembly is not where he was in Edo State where he ran roughshod over everybody. It’s not a State House of Assembly. This is the National Assembly of Nigeria and the choice of who becomes what with regard to committee assignment is a collegiate choice. It’s not a choice that is made by one person. Even the Senate President cannot sit down and say ‘I give you this ABCD’. It never happens. There is always a committee that is called the Selection Committee. The first thing that is done when the leadership emerges is that there will be a Selection Committee and that committee comprises people from both the majority parties and the minority parties and they will now choose people that will work within this milieu.
What if the leadership of the majority party heeds his advice?
When somebody from outside starts to make such insinuations, I think what he’s just doing is that he’s actually making life very difficult for whoever he is promoting. When somebody from the executive arm of government comes to tell the National Assembly what to do, all that you get is pushback. What we will now say is that we don’t want a Senate president that is going to be a wet rag for the executive. We wouldn’t want a Senate president that will just wake up and become an adjunct to the executive; someone that will be going to take orders from them. That is not even good for the country. It is not good for Adams Oshiomhole himself. What we have found out about people like him, who make such things, is that if tomorrow he runs into trouble, he runs to the Senate Committee on Ethics to save him from the executive.
We have seen it happen times without number, where people, who were in the executive before, boasting and saying all manner of things. But the day they are put under pressure, the next thing is that they write a petition asking public petitions to look into their matter. It is not in their interest to have a subservient Senate. No senator will support the Senate President that will be subservient to the executive. We are not going to give up our status as an arm of government to the executive.
The reason you have our type of democracy is to ensure one arm is a check on another arm; otherwise, we might, as well, all go home and let the executive be everything, including making laws for us. Our independence is hard-earned and lessons have been learnt, including what we went through in the last four years under this first term of the All Progressives Congress government. I do not think the APC government will also want to have the rancour that they went through in the last four years. Under such self-inflicted rancour, you are not going to get any work done. If you are unable to do that, what are you going to tell the Nigerian people? I don’t think Buhari’s legacy should be that he fought the National Assembly for eight years. History would not be kind to him. No matter what they say, the verdict of history is always very necessary for any man who claims to be a statesman. I don’t think that the APC should let their national chairman continue to be as small-minded as he is.
Going by Oshiomhole’s statement, do you foresee a repeat of the 2015 scenario, particularly in the emergence of presiding officers?
What you are telling me now is to do a forecast of the minds of those who are senators-elect. I don’t think we can make such a forecast. From the side of the Peoples Democratic Party, we are all together. And we have all resolved that we will vote for the person who best will protect our interests as minority members. If we have somebody whose interest will be to follow what Oshiomhole has done, which is to punish us for being a minority member, that person will never get our votes.
But does the PDP have the right to sponsor a candidate for the position of a Senate president?
Why can’t the PDP sponsor a candidate?
Will the PDP sponsor a candidate?
Well, I can say that all of us are consulting. It is not the APC only that is consulting; we are also consulting. We are asking questions; talking among ourselves and we are talking with the incoming APC members. Some of them are coming from the House of Representatives; they know what we all went through. Some of them are new but they also have the idea. Some have been governors; they also have an idea of what type of life they will face. Ask yourself a question. You come in as a former PDP governor and you hear Oshiomhole saying that you cannot be a chairman or you cannot be anything. Why would you now want to follow whoever Oshiomhole brings out?
Are you saying Oshiomhole is misleading the federal lawmakers-elect?
Oshiomhole is de-marketing his party and actually making the PDP members to think twice about whoever the APC is bringing up. This decision, as I said, will be done on the floor of the Senate. Like Senator Ali Ndume has earlier said, it is not constitutional for somebody to wake up and begin to talk to you from outside that he wants to determine what happens in an exclusive club where the person is not a member. Oshiomhole is not a member. Why would you want to dictate to club members? – Culled from Punch.