- Lai Mohammed has described Bukola Saraki's emergence as Senate president as APC number one problem
- The minister said Saraki's defection did not come as a surprise to members of the ruling APC
- According to Mohammed, Saraki's defection came later than expected
The minister of information, culture and tourism, Lai Mohammed, has said that the defection of the Senate president, Bukola Saraki, from the ruling All progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did not come as a surprise for members of the party.
Mohammed said virtually no member of the ruling party was taken aback by the defection of the number three man in Nigeria to the opposition.
Speaking in an interview with Tribune, Mohammed said he thinks Saraki's defection came later than expected.
Mohammed said: "I don’t think anybody who has been a close watcher or observer of this political landscape should be taken aback by the defections. I think that it even came so late, we shouldn’t be surprised. A Yoruba adage says, ‘If we build a house on spittle, the first fog will demolish it’. The foundation for what you see today was laid the day the Senate President forced himself on the party as Senate President."
The minister said Saraki defiled the wishes of party members by aligning with members of the opposition to become a Senate president, an alignment which gave them an offer they could not refuse.
"I can’t quite remember the number but in a situation whereby almost the entire 40 plus senators in PDP voted for him, he needed only a minority from the APC. We were all waiting for Mr. President to come and address us on this issue at the International Conference Centre, when when it was announced that he (Bukola) had emerged as the Senate President," Mohammed said.
He noted that the ruling party from the incident that took place on that day knew it had two major problems.
"From that day, we know we had two problems. Number one we had a Senate President who imposed himself on the party; and to make it worse, as an insurance, he arranged for an opposition person to be deputy Senate president, and that makes it impossible for us to remove him. ‘If you remove me, you are going to have a PDP Senate president’.
I think from that day, we had a problem. I think this is not a surprise at all. Of course you could see the behaviour of the National Assembly since then. We have a National Assembly in which we had a clear majority in both houses but which treated the executive with contempt and which actually slowed down the work of government.
In 2016, 2017 and 2018, our budgets were delayed. We can understand 2015 budget because we came in, in the middle of the year, but 2016, 2017, the earliest we got our budgets was June.
Key appointments, nominations and confirmations for key organisations that could move the government forward like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), like the Nigerial Deposit Insurance Corporation, were delayed. Really, it couldn’t had been worse if the PDP had a majority in the National Assembly.
Some are also blaming the APC for its refusal to zone those positions before and after the elections were won and lost. Some believe that those who are members of the APC today arranged with former Speaker Aminu Tambuwal to go against the party’s decision in 2011. You should have expected what happened in 2015.
It is not exactly the same thing. In 2011, there were two aspirants from the PDP. Each of them knew that they needed the opposition to emerge.
So, the kind of horse-trading that took place in 2011 is normal in any democracy since the party did not succeed in getting one candidate. Now, when they approached us, we looked at the offer and we believed that the other party didn’t do as much. What we did in 2011 in helping him to come to power was a normal thing in democracy because once you don’t have absolute majority, you would need the support of the other smaller parties. And in 2011, we were the biggest minority in the House of Representatives," Mohammed said.
He also said that the difference between the case of Saraki's defection and that of Aminu Tambuwal to APC then was that the latter did not destroy his party in the process.
"That is the difference. I don’t know what took place in PDP then. In our own case, we tried to get all parties together. We called meetings which were boycotted by their group, and at the end of the day, when we realised this thing was getting so bad, Mr. President was to address all of us.
We were waiting for Mr President to come with majority of our Senators there when it was announced. So it is not the same thing," the minister noted.
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Meanwhile, NAIJ.com previously reported that the Senate president had met with a former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, at his home in Sango Ota, Ogun state.
Saraki said he visited the former president to make up for his absence at the formal inauguration of the presidential library held last year.
The Senate president however declined to comment on the crisis rocking the National Assembly when asked questions about it by the journalists.
Nigeria Latest News: Here's What Saraki and Tambuwal's Defection Means for the APC | NAIJ.com TV