By Steve Oni, Ilorin
Former Acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Kawu Baraje, has declared that the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, remains the only politician that can unite Nigeria.
He added that Saraki has what Nigerians are looking for in a true and pragmatic leader.
Baraje spoke with newsmen on the sideline of the graduation activities of his Baraje Centre for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Ilorin, Kwara state.
He argued that Saraki had twice stepped down his presidential ambition in 2011 and 2015 to support former President Goodluck Jonathan and President Muhammad Buhari and today “has what it takes to unite Nigeria.”
He warned those seeking to impeach the Senate President to desist from ‘playing God’, having tried their hands at least thrice to reach that goal without success.
He said the decision by the Saraki group to be less combative in the war of attrition that has engulfed the political space must not be misconstrued for lack of boldness or what to say.
He said: “Saraki has been trying on being the President since 2011; if you remember he withdrew for then candidate Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 and he also withdrew for the current President, Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 so for anyone with that ambition nothing is wrong to come forward to aspire.
“Today he is the only candidate that can unite this country because the present situation we are in this country today unless we get a candidate who can unite us then we are in serious jeopardy”.
He said Kwarans will support the ambition because ‘we have been supporting other candidates for long and so this will be the time to support our own’.
He warned the All Progressives Congress (APC) against using ‘Gestapo’ method to impeach Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekeremadu but rather agree that having failed thrice to get them out of the seat; they need to submit to the will of God.
He alleged that some powerful people within the APC were profiting from the war between the National Assembly and the Presidency, hence their constant subtle moves to ensure absence of peace between the two arms of government.
“As a politician you need to have a mind that is alive; I read the constitution and on impeachment the law is very clear that it is only two third of the senators and not two third of members present that can decide on the issue. Some of us are not trained to talk more but the fact that we don’t talk doesn’t mean we know less; people are saying many things on this issue that is really an insult to our collective sensibilities.
“Some of us have experienced leading political parties and we have gone through this kind of situation before and we know that resolving it is not by Gestapo method or just talking anyhow; we know that the conflict between the executive and national assembly has continued unabated because some people are making profit from it and so they don’t want it to cease. It is better to avoid using Gestapo method to remove Saraki because there is nowhere in the constitution that says the party with the majority must produce the Senate President; the law says the senators will produce their own president not the party. If that is incorrect let them bring it pout to the world to see.”
On how Saraki became the Senate President, Baraje said he was the one who led the negotiation with the PDP senators and stakeholders the night before the election and that he personally drove Saraki to the national Assembly complex in the wee hours of the day after discovering the PDP would have ousted the APC from the race.
“We had 48 PDP senators in the chamber, and only nine APC senators when Saraki stood up to contest the seat; if that day the PDP had wanted to have the Senate Presidency, they would have gotten it because the constitution says only senators will elect their leader and not the party.
“Because of our own experience in politics, we went to the PDP the night before the election to campaign across parties for Saraki and those of them still alive will bear witness to what I’m saying . it was there they told us they (PDP) wanted to produce the Senate President but on seeing out team and after listening to us; they agreed to step down. Some governors and senators persuaded the man to step down. But they gave us a condition which was that they would produce the Deputy President.
“Saraki said no; that it was a party affair but I was the one who said, ‘yes, we agree’. I said that because I knew that we needed the PDP to win the race. The others were looking at me and wondering why I did that and when we got outside they were blaming me but I stood on the matter and said we would go and discuss with our party about the offer.
“I told our party, but I also told them that we could avoid the deal by making sure that our senators were in the majority in the chamber during the election so that we could use that as excuse for the PDP. But we didn’t know that our own party had other plans and it was later I learnt that they had been called to a meeting outside the chamber, to be addressed by the President.
“I called the personal assistant to the President to know what was happening and he told me that the President had gone upstairs and would not be coming down till about 11am. I asked if he was not aware of the meeting the President had called with the senators and the man drew blank; he said he was not sure. I then called the Clerk of the Assembly and he said he was going to go ahead with the election that morning because he had not secured any order to the contrary.
“That was when I called Saraki and asked him to come out; I took him to the Assembly that early morning to await what would happen. Later I got to know that the then Inspector General of Police was driving senators back from the Assembly and I called him and asked why. He said it was because the President wanted to meet with them. I asked if he had clarified that information and that was when he too realised what was happening and he started allowing the senators in.
“I called one party elder from the south to ask where they were and he told me they were expecting the meeting to start. I asked him, as party leader have you crosschecked that information? That was when he too woke up. The question is who authorised that meeting? If the president was not in the know that means it was treasonable. But because we are more matured we didn’t make any noise about it. Wait for me when I come out with my facts.”