‘Vote Of Confidence On Senate Leadership May Be To Spite The President, APC’
Senator Kabir Marafa, the APC senator from Zamfara State and strong member of Unity Forum speaks on the vote of confidence passed on the Senate leadership and others.
confidence in the Senate leadership on Tuesday?
Let me start by saying that I really do not understand what that means. Where it was coming from and why it was done at that time. However, to my mind, I might be wrong but my own interpretation of that is that it was done to spite may be Mr. President and possibly the party.
This is because the only reason such a thing could be done at that time was because the President directed during the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party that party supremacy should be respected. And with the benefit of hindsight, I know the party wrote a letter to the Senate President requesting him to read on the floor of the Senate, names of most prominent party members and Senators of the Federal Republic as the party leaders in the Senate, to which in the wisdom of the Senate President, he refused, saying his hands were tied.
He also went ahead to read some names that we did not know where they came from. We know the political parties, we know who the leaders of the political parties are, all of them, no matter how small the party is.
Political parties are recognized duly by the Constitution to the extent that it says that nobody can assume any elective position without belonging to a political party and without being sponsored by that political party to contest for that elective position. That is to say that Nigerian Constitution absolutely recognises political parties. Our Rules states that a majority or minority leader should be appointed or named from a political party that has more or less number of Senators as the case may be. I do not think this argument can be twisted to mean that some people can sit down in a corner and say ‘we are the ones that can nominate for a political party’ when that political party is there and its leadership is there. So, this is one of the issues that generated a lot of controversy in the Senate and I was one of the people who felt that the Senate President, with due respect to him, was misled.
Are you surprised that the confidence vote was sponsored by an opposition senator?
The threats and the problems you are seeing are real. From the onset, I think PDP is playing politics with this. But I do not blame them; maybe I would have done the same if I were in their position. Those that I pity are our APC members because this is our God-given time. Opposition in Nigeria suffered for 16 years under whatever name you call them.
We watched how PDP ruled us for 16 years and narrowing it to the Senate, how they carried the day, they had everything. All leadership positions belonged to the PDP and nobody had slightest courage to say he was going to contest for any of the leadership positions. They did everything they wanted, allocated committees to their members without regard to these zones we are now talking about. Take the South West for instance, during the just concluded 7th Senate, they had only four Chairman of Committees. I do not know how the grading was done, but I believe it was only grade B or C that was given to them. There was no A at all. They had Committees on Ethics, Science and Technology, Capital Market and one other. That was what the entire South West got. But take South East and South-South for instance, they had more than 10 Committees each and these where powerful committees.
Take Enugu State alone, they had the Deputy Senate President who was the chairman of Constitution Review Committee, Chairman, Board of National Institute of Legislative Studies (NILS), they had Communications, they had Works and Housing and when you go to Bayelsa, the three Senators were chairmen, so also Rivers State. You have it all over the place and the simple reason we were given time was “we were following the rules of the Senate and this is what the rules of the Senate said – that for anybody to be appointed or elected as presiding officer or appointed as headship of committee or head of delegation anywhere, the Senate would be guided by the rules”. The rules went further to state what ranking means – That Senators are graded based on how many times they have come back to the Senate. Secondly, Senators coming from the House of Representatives take the second position, then Senators coming for the first time. Those were the rules that were applied on us. Not that some of the Senators were better than us, but we felt that yes, we needed some rules to guide a gathering like this otherwise it becomes a lawless gathering.
So, if they said you are not ranking, all you needed to do was try and perform well so that your people can return you to the Senate and when you come back, you begin to enjoy those privileges that your colleagues enjoyed when you were new and some other Senators would learn from you too. Suddenly, we are coming to abuse all these laws. We have thrown them into the dustbin and started bringing Constitution and saying that the Constitution overrides these rules. You have forgotten that you were the architects of these rules and suddenly, you remember there was the Constitution. This thing we have done in the 8th Senate will keep hunting this Senate from now and only God knows when it will end. The people that sabotaged these things would inevitably be hunted by it and their payday would come one day.
Are you not bothered that the Unity Forum is being depleted by the day?
I am not bordered anymore. The reason is that we are not fighting the course we are fighting today because we are members of the Unity Forum that contested for the converted seat of the Senate President and lost. Whatever happened on June 9, leadership emerged. By whatever name you call it, there is a leadership and as a Senator, I must be able to respect the laws of Nigeria.
If I am aggrieved, the laws provided for me means and ways of addressing my grievances which I have done. You cannot say there was no election. There was an election and results were announced and there were people that were announced as leaders and we must respect them. But what we are saying is that there were some lapses, there were some abuses on our laws and we are saying that as Senators, we must live by example. We must be the ones to respect our own laws first before we call on others to respect our institutions.
We should not be the ones that would sabotage, denigrate and abuse our own laws. And then we come and tell others to obey the laws of the country. We are fighting for the system. We are saying that we should play by the rules so that at the end, the system will be stronger. A situation where we bend our rules left, right and centre just to suit our purposes is highly unacceptable to Nigerians and that is what we are fighting. I do not need any number of Senators to be able to do that. I will do my job and I would say whatever is wrong. I can be ruled out of Order 20 times a day I do not care. I take solace in the fact that Nigerians are watching, documenting and are appreciative of what I am doing and one day, even if I am in my grave, these issues would surface and people would discuss them and history will say that Senator Marafa on so, so, so dates said so, so, so things and he was ruled out of Order and today.
Let us pray that God spare our lives by the 9th Senate, you will see the repercussion of what we have done today, it will come up and I am not wishing the Senate bad but the contest would be more fierce and it would be opened to the 109 Senators because the ranking rules are gone. After all you cannot eat your cake and have it. You cannot come up tomorrow with another rules that say we have to follow ranking. Anybody that has the economic means can come up and say he wants to be the Senate President.