The Senator representing Kwara Central, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has declared that the Senate President, David Mark betrayed the All Progressives Congress senators on his decision to go ahead with the confirmation of Musliu Obanikoro as a minister.
The senator, who stated this during an interview with journalists in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital yesterday, claimed that Mark reneged on an earlier agreement he had with other lawmakers on the confirmation of Obanikoro.
According to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, senators had during an executive session agreed to defer the issue of Obanikoro to allow concerned senators particularly in the APC to reach an amicable solution on the controversies that surrounded the then nominee.
Saraki recalled that APC senators had arrived the chamber last week with that agreement in mind but were disappointed that the Senate President Mark went straight to the confirmation stage for Obanikoro instead of making room for reviewing the opposition against the nomination.
The former governor of Kwara State also defended the decision of his colleagues to walk out on the confirmation, saying it was an attempt to register their protest against what they considered as wrong for the sake of posterity.
“Well I think what happened was unfortunate. I believe that, in the Senate, the National Assembly, there are many courts- the court of the law and the court of public opinion and we all represent constituencies.
“I believe in a scenario where the three senators, it has always been the practice, have an objection to the candidate and I believe we are all there because we represent the people. We are not there on our own. We must be concerned with that.
“At the same time, I agree that somebody is innocent until proven guilty. But I believe the right thing the Senate President should have done is, we should have tarried a bit and we should not rush on the issue.
“I remember a week ago, after coming out of the executive session, we agreed then that we only take the first four nominees and that we would give one week for further consultation and then we would come back and review. The only person we are reviewing is Senator Obanikoro.
“But when we came in that day, if you notice, I was trying to make him (Senate President) know that this is not what we agreed on. We agreed the last time that we would come back and review the situation. So instead of reviewing the situation, we are now going straight to start the screening processes which is reneging on what we agreed on.
“Point number two is that it was clear that the House was divided and the Senate should not be partisan. We should look at the interest of the country in the decisions we take, not the political party that we belong. It is clear that there was controversy on this nominee and I think the right thing to do is we should have stepped it down while further consultations were done to satisfy those who say that Senator Obanikoro has done certain thing.
“But by going ahead and disregarding the rule and also the new development that we saw was also the court case that was initiated where somebody has taken Senator Obanikoro and Senator Mark to court. Again, one of our rules, 53 (5) says once there is litigation, it is not for discussion.
“I even remember at a time most of us wanted to cross over (to APC), it was this same section that the Senate President came up with and said he could not discuss it. The excuse he gave us was that he had not been served. I think a Senator has got up and Senators are honourable people, a Senator has told all of us that there is a court case.
“I think that should be good enough, in the interest of, again, uniting the Senate and ensuring that we take collective decisions. We’re not supposed to take partisan decisions and also the public opinion on this matter, the best position would have been to defer it.
“One of the issues of our party also especially those from Lagos state is that the urgency to have him back as Minister, maybe the fear was that what they did in Ekiti, they want them to do it in Lagos on election day. I think if they have deferred it till after the election, brought the issue back again, had further consultations, there might be a way that would have shown the statesmanship of the senate.
“I think it was not a correct decision to have taken in the kind of what people expect of Senate. For us in the APC, we have spoken, we are minority in the Senate but our walking out was to say that, you can take the decision, let history judge us that we are not part of that decision, that’s the issue. It is not that we cannot recognise him, once he’s been confirmed by the Senate, we are bound by that but the record shows your position on the matter”, Saraki explained.
The ex-governor also described as futile efforts the reported alleged disbursement of money to the Peoples Democratic Party in Kwara State purportedly to woo voters, saying he had instructed his followers to collect the money and see it as part of their own share of the national cake.