Former President of the Senate, Senator Adolphus Wabara and acting Secretary of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), in this interview, spoke on how he was given N250 million to support the third term ambition of then President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The former Number 2 citizen, who clocked 70 on Friday, added that his travails saved his life.
Your tenure as Senate President was cut short by your resignation. Looking back, how do you feel about the events that led to that decision?
It is not only in death that you say the Lord giveth and He taketh. Even positions, He gives you the positions and takes them. I keep telling people that if God had not used Obasanjo to do what he did to me through the national broadcast, I wouldn’t be alive today. So God had to make me exit that position to save my life. My God showed it to me that I should leave the position, so I resigned.
God showed it to you in the heat of the controversy…?
Yes. God showed it to me in the heat of the controversy that I should just leave. I was, at the risk of being immodest, powerful enough as Senate President to hold on to the Senate and close the Senate for about two weeks. Some senators then came banging on the doors of the Senate, saying that we should resist. But note that then the Senate was at the whims and caprices of the President, he had his boys, he had his people who danced to him for whatever. But spiritually, it was time to go.
You said that exiting that position kept you alive, were there threats?
No, there was none at all, but I would have been the first President of the Senate to die on active service. I knew how my health deteriorated that period because of the work. We were not sleeping till about 5 am, because of the work. These days I see some people occupy the position and still find time to do one thing or the other. If I have something doing, I put my all into it. I worked to a point that I felt like dropping. That is why I said if I had continued I would have dropped dead.
The stress was much because we were there to satisfy all senators.
But it is surprising that Obasanjo came after you because many people thought you were doing his bidding…
If indeed I was doing his bidding, he would have secured a third term. It was discussed. But you see, people with military background have a way of recruiting their own people. Maybe if I had military background, I would have understood when I was approached on the issue of third term.
They spoke in parables but I had made up my mind as a democrat. My answer to him when we were discussing all those things was “how can”? But we are now friends.
You have forgiven him?
I have forgiven him for the simple fact that he saved my life. He thought he harmed me but God used him to save my life. Without what happened I wouldn’t have been here today celebrating 70 years of age. I thank him for what he did and without him I wouldn’t have been Senate President. But somehow he ended up destroying what he built.
Many Nigerians believe that your successor botched the third term. Would you say they are correct?
No. And I don’t want to go into details. If I’m to give you a direct answer, I probably would be deriding certain authorities, my friends and my colleagues. But we know ourselves. Some were double agents in that project. Money was flowing around and some will take for and take against. But the only thing I want to say is that God again used me to save those who were for and against because there could have been a national crisis and deaths would have been recorded. Money changed hands, but God used me to settle the score.
My address that day put an end to the issue and the baby and the bath water were thrown away. Many senators would have vomited the money they collected. I sacrificed my life to save the Senate and those who collected. I rejected a N250 million bribe that was offered to me the night before I spoke on the third term by some people that I won’t like to mention. Rejection of that bribe destroyed my friendship with the facilitator. We kept malice for over a year.
You have been a member of House of Representatives, a councillor, senator and Senate President, how would you describe the journey?
It wasn’t a smooth ride at all but generally speaking, it was divine. Everybody has his or her destiny, the fact that nobody can interpret his or her destiny causes people to jump from one church to the other and some people combine all kinds of things in search of destiny. So, I will advise that no one should be in a hurry looking for what the future holds for him or her, because everyone has his/her destiny. But in answer your question, whatever I have been, I give God the glory.
How fulfilled do you feel at 70?
At 70 I give God the glory. I never thought I could get here. You know politics is a rough business. Many people died in the process, through assassinations. So I give God the glory that nothing of such happened to me. I am so happy and I feel very fulfilled.
We just celebrated 19 years of unbroken democracy. Would you say we are on the right track?
Yes we are. All these things we are experiencing happened in our role model nations. It’s a matter of time. It is teething problem that we will overcome with time. We might not be making speedy progress but there is a gradual departure from what it used to be. As we speak, corruption is still in our system.
Before now, some constituencies were not allowing people to have more than one term in the legislature but now we have people who have spent close to 20 years in the Senate. It is a sign of progress but we ought to do more. You see, four years in the legislature is nothing and we have seen some people in American Congress staying up to 30 years. The only bad tendency now is the issue of governors trying to populate the Senate. If care is not taken, in the next 30 years, maybe every Senator will be a former governor.
Why is that a bad development?
It is bad in the sense that those ex-governors, majority of them did not get there on a clean slate. They used their political powers to install themselves. I hope that will change in future. You will be shocked that most legislators don’t have good knowledge of Nigeria’s history. Our political process was built to favour people with deep pocket. That is why governors that completed their tenure head straight to the Senate. Whereas they have more than enough money which they could probably have used to establish an industry and create jobs, they keep it and head to the Senate.
What is your assessment of Buhari’s three years in office?
There is a difference between democracy and governance. Our democracy is going through a natural phase. But governance is completely a different kettle of fish. In a situation where government cannot provide security, in a situation where government cannot create jobs, in a situation where government does not know what nationhood is all about, you cannot tie that down to democracy. Our democracy is growing. If not, you would not have had the Senate President from the APC and his Deputy from the opposition party. That is democracy. But when it comes to governance, what you don’t have, you can’t give. I’ve never seen, even in faraway America where we borrow leaf from, that since the inception of this government, everybody in the cabinet is perfect; even those who cannot perform. So, it just shows that the man at the helm of the affairs does not know what he is doing.
What are the chances of your party in 2019 elections?
Our chances are very bright because Nigerians have tasted APC and PDP, so they will be the judge. However, politics is no mathematics, anything can happen. APC’s perceived failure does not translate into automatic victory for PDP. So, we have to do a lot of work. We have started with the apology to Nigerians and I’m sure Nigerians have accepted it. We must have made mistakes but that cannot be compared to the calamity that befell Nigerians in 2015. With our 16 years of experience we know where we went wrong. I don’t want to go into details.
How do you describe the fight against corruption?
All these so called fight against corruption are not real and nobody is above the law. If the government wants to fight corruption, then it should go after all those who have looted the country’s treasury not a select group of persons.
Do you have any regret at 70?
There are so many things that if I’m given the opportunity again, I will not do it the same way because I now know better. So, I pray again to God to forgive me my sins and to Nigerians, those that I offended on my way up, now that I’m down, they should please forgive me. – Daily Trust.