- Gets Babangida’s backing for presidency
By Laleye Dipo in Minna
Senate President Bukola Saraki said yesterday that the All Progressives Congress (APC) could not remove him as Senate president, insisting that he would not step down from the exalted legislative position until his term runs out.
Saraki spoke in Minna, the capital of Niger State, during a visit to former military President Ibrahim Babangida, saying the ruling party does not possess the number to force him out of office.
The Senate president, whose confidence had perhaps been buoyed by the backing he received from the former military president for his presidential ambition, told Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stakeholders at its secretariat in the state capital that the party was in the majority in the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
“They know that we are in the majority, and whatever they want to do, they know that they don’t have the number,” he said, adding, “One thing is clear, I will not sacrifice the interest of the country for my personal interest, and in the last three years as a Senate president, I have demonstrated that my interest is second to that of national interest, I will not step down from the Senate presidency.”
The National Chairman of APC, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, has repeatedly asked Saraki to step down as Senate president following his defection to the PDP.
A suit on the issue had also been filed in the Federal High Court Abuja.
Saraki also dismissed the call by the APC for the National Assembly to reconvene for the purpose of removing him, describing it as unnecessary and explained that since the Senate was properly adjourned, it would reconvene as scheduled after its annual break.
He said, “We did not adjourn the Senate in the dark, there was a procedure, where at the end of the session there was a vote and it was seconded that we should go on annual recess.
“So it wasn’t anything done in the secret, everybody was there. It is not that some few people met somewhere and took the decision.
“Everybody participated and everybody took the decision that we should adjourn for a normal annual recess.
“The date that we agreed to resume is the same date that we resumed last year and the year before, so there is nothing abnormal about the Senate adjournment.”
Saraki said that his plan was for Nigeria to be a country rooted in the rule of law and democratic process, adding, “I am happy that even they that started making the noise have now agreed that they will follow the rule of law and due process.
“What is important to me is to ensure the autonomy of the three arms of government, to allow rule of law, to ensure that we respect the democratic process.”
The PDP presidential aspirant reiterated his commitment to upholding the principle of separation of power and rule of law, adding that he would always fight for what is right.
Commenting on the political situation in his Kwara State homestead, Saraki described those opposing him as visiting politicians to the state.
He said, “The interesting thing about Kwara politics is that majority of the politicians are transit politicians who come to seek the people’s votes when it is six months to every election.
“They are not with the people, after the election they will go away and then they will come back six months to election and immediately after election they will go away, that has always been their pattern of politics and the people of Kwara are not stupid, they know those who are with them, they know those who care for them.”
He had earlier told the PDP stakeholders that he was in the presidential race because “the country needs a president that can unite everybody; the country needs a leader where all Nigerians will have sense of belonging; the country needs a youthful president; the country needs a president that understands how the executive and legislature should work together, not in an environment where there is no harmony.”
The Senate president paid a courtesy visit to former military president at his uphill residence before departing for Jos, the Plateau State capital.
During the visit, Babangida threw his weight behind Saraki’s 2019 presidential bid.
The former military president said his decision to support the Senate president was because his (Saraki’s) late father, Chief Olusola Saraki, was supportive of him and his administration.
“It is my turn to do what your father did to me,” he said, adding that he would treat the PDP presidential hopeful as his son.
According to Babangida, “I will rightly observe that you are my son, for coming to pay a courtesy visit.
“I remember when I was still in office, I spoke with your father, Oloye Saraki, who was always providing advises on a number of things about this country.
“He always made himself available to me, to give advises and encouragement, which will move the country forward. Your visit today is historical, now it is your time and turn to come to me and I will do just that.”
While commending Saraki’s strategies, Babangida said, “You mentioned three things that are very dear to us as military, and we fought to get them, to preserve them. They are unity of the country, the security of lives and property, and economic development.
“The security of the people and the well being of the ordinary man are the right objectives for campaign and leadership for this country.”
Babangida praised Saraki for his resilience as the leader of the upper chamber of the National Assembly, adding, “You have been able to hold the Senate together for these years. I commend you, you have my support for these three reasons you have itemised and I hope the people will listen to you.”