How do you foresee the survival of democracy with the recent crisis in the upper chamber?
The evolution of democracy all over the world involves all sorts of conflicts, but once there are conflicts resolution mechanisms in place, we will get them over. For instance, this is not the first time that this thing has happened in the chamber. If you could remember in 1999, there was such a conflict, following the election of late Chief Evans Enwerem against late Chief Chuba Okadigbo as the preferred candidate of some senators and some interest group within the ruling PDP. I remember at some time, the leadership of the House of Representatives and the National Assembly as a whole distanced itself from the leadership of Enwerem. We can all recall how leadership of the House of Representatives went through all sorts of trials and challenges in the past. So, all I am saying is that democracy always evolves through all sorts of manners. If you look at Japan, South Korea and Western Europe, sometimes they (legislators) even throw chairs at themselves but as wise men, they deploy their conflicts resolution mechanisms and easily reconcile their differences. When we had our own fight at the House of Representatives, which I apologised to Nigerians, it took us only two weeks to resolve our own internal differences. And if you look at it, generally, there is no way conflict in politics could be avoided because the two chambers comprises of all sort of Nigerians, cutting across ethnic groups, gender, talents, skills, professionalism and other qualities. If you look at the House of Representatives where I come from, there are journalists, ex-service men, and professionals with different background. So, sometimes at the beginning of getting to know ourselves through conversations, there is bound to be clashes of interest and opinions because of our individual perceptions. So, I believe it is the same with the Senate. But I can tell you that for this particular crisis at the upper chamber, there is need for the party to intervene and address the problem. APC is capable of coming up with short, medium and long term solutions of addressing the problem.
But this particular crisis appears to be a legal one, how can the party address a legal matter?
I am not referring to the legal aspect of the crisis, I mean the political aspect of it because the perception expressed by some members of that chamber is in the realm of politics. So, that is the aspect I think the party can come in and address. And for the legal aspect of it, I am not mandated to comment on it. So, all I am saying is that if there is any perceived political issue, the party is in the best position to address it.
With recent development in the upper chamber, how do you think the relationship between the executive and legislative arms of government will look like in the future?
I believe it will be smooth because these are all transition issues. The executive arm of government is trying to settle down just like the two chambers of the National Assembly are all struggling to settle down. But my happiness is that there is very strong consensus between the two arms of government to deliver the electoral promises that have been made. Particularly in the case of the executive, their own programme is very clear-the restoration of security in the country, especially in the North-east, end kidnapping, robbery and other issues in other parts of the country; anti-corruption fight and employment generation. Sure, the relationship between the executive and the legislative arms of government is going to improve remarkably. We all know that the executive is the change sponsor and we, at the parliament, are the champions of the change. In other words, the executives are the change agents responsible for diffusing this process to ensure that the change goes down to states and local government levels. So, we are aware that it is the Presidency that drives the political agenda, and then we support and oversight it and make sure that there is compliance by both elected office holders and appointees. But, generally, all we want is to assist in building a secure and strong country.
In your own opinion, does the recent crisis at the upper chamber have any link to the circumstances that led to the emergence of Senator Saraki as Senate president?
I am not sure because if you go by the history or pronouncements of actors in the executive arm of government, like Mr. President, he said he could work with anybody. He didn’t bother who emerged as Senate president. If you take our own case at the House of Representatives, we were the ones that actually pressurised the president to intervene in our dispute and when he spent nearly 30 minutes with us, and gave us insights into a few things, and appealed to our sense of patriotism and consciousness, we resolved our difference. The credit goes to the speaker because he was the one who, after wider consultations with groups and individuals, built a consensus formula that carries all parties along within the House. So, that is why I tend to separate the executive from this particular dispute, but we rely on the party to clarify and douse whatever suspicion anybody may have on this matter.