Senator Bassey spoke against the siege laid to the residences of the Senate President and Deputy Senate President, calling on the police to investigate the incidents.
Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Senator Gershom Bassey is the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources, Upstream. He represents Cross River South in the Senate.
He said the July 24th defection that happened at the National Assembly was good for democracy. He also spoke against the siege laid to the residences of the senate President and Deputy Senate President, calling on the Police hierarchy to investigate the incidents.
He also explains why he made donation to the Muslim community in Calabar which has generated controversy.
What is your reaction to the defection that took place at the National Assembly?
I think it is a good thing for our country. Clearly the APC government has not done very well, by its own admission. A lot of its promises have not been kept, in fact all its cardinal promises in terms of corruption, security and economy which were the cardinal points, none of them have been met. It is as if the APC is at sea, it is confused, the ideas are not there or if the ideas are there, they are finding it very difficult to even implement the ideas. Of course that and coupled with the things our colleagues told us they were experiencing in the party are enough grounds for them to exercise their basic constitutional rights of freedom of association. They have decided to associate with us instead
of the APC, it is to be commended. Defection is healthy for democracy and reinforces our constitutional rights and freedoms.
Twenty four hours after the defection, we read that some of your colleagues made u-turn, what does that mean for democracy?
Nobody went back. In fact when you look at our votes and proceedings, Senator Soji Akanbi’s name was never among those that defected, so his name was not reflected on that day. Secondly, Senator Lanre Tejuoso said he was leaving the APC but he was not joining any party and that he would make up his mind at a later date. So, he was never a member of the PDP. So, as far as I am concerned nothing has happened to controvert what took place on the floor.
The APC senators met with Mr. President on Tuesday, what is the implication of the visit on your party?
Nothing! They have met with their party leader, our president so that is normal. And having suffered the kind of mass defection that they suffered, I’m sure they went to go and boost their morale. It is ok.
This running battle between the executive and National Assembly, what does it portends for 2019 election? And what will you tell Mr. President should you have opportunity to meet him?
There is no running battle as far as I am concerned, the executive and the legislature are doing their work. Of course our constitution is set up in such a way that there are checks and balances and in the cause of exercising those checks and balances, there will be friction now and again and that is envisaged by the constitution.
As a Senator I will tell him to listen to the National Assembly because we are his partners in progress and not his enemies or enemies of the country, we all want what is best for the country. A lot of the time, we see things in a more dispassionate way because we are more close to the people than the executive. I will say to a large extent, he should listen to some of the advice we offer, some of the motions, some of the issues that come out from the National Assembly. I think they will help the executive a great deal.
The Special Assistant on National Assembly matters to the president is appealing to you lawmakers to return from your recess to consider the supplementary budget for the 2019 elections, what’s your take on that?
Well, he should have said that before we went on break. For me I don’t have a problem with that, anything to move the country forward I’m all for it. But I think that is up to the leadership of National Assembly.
What’s your take on the planned change of name by your party?
I have no problem with that. The PDP of today is different from the PDP of four years ago. We have evolved, we are more transparent, and we are an improved version of the PDP that was in existence four years ago. So if to accommodate other likeminded democrats in Nigeria, we need to adjust of course we will do that. I was at the NEC meeting the other day and we have already taken that position, a committee has been set up to look into that. So I think for most of us in the PDP, we have no objections to that, anything that will move our country forward is what we will embrace.
Nigerians continue to demonstrate that PDP is the party they are looking up to ahead of 2019. It shows that the PDP is sincere in its alliance with other parties. I’m all for it and commend the leadership.
So many people have expressed fears that with the present leadership of INEC, 2019 election may not be credible, free and fair, what is your take especially with the outcome of the Ekiti election?
Nothing to fear, is INEC not made up of Nigerians? I have confidence in them. Well, I continue to hope for free and fair elections, it is my hope that INEC can be impartial. But beyond hope I think we have new amendments to our electoral law, which we just passed last week in the National Assembly in order to guarantee by law that those elections are free and fair, in terms of the processes. And I hope that Mr. President will sign those amendments into law as soon as possible because it is important that our elections are free, fair and seen to be free and fair.
What’s your reaction to the siege laid to the houses of the two principals of the Senate?
Well, I condemn that in its entirety, I want to call on the Police authority to immediately set up an investigation team so as to know what happened at the senate President’s house and the Deputy Senate President’s house. The police have come out to say that they were not involved in it; at least the Police hierarchy has said they are not involved in it but we saw with our own eyes that the policemen surrounded those houses. So, if they were not involved in it, then who assigned those policemen we saw? So, it is important that all Nigerians know exactly what had happened in terms of why there was deployment of policemen, police vehicles to the two houses, blocking and even intercepting the senate President’s convoy. We need to know what happened.
What is your rating of the Buhari’s APC government?
I don’t like to give a verdict because we are still in a four year tenure but if after half time you are 20 goals down, it will be very difficult for you to come back and win the match. So I think that is the situation we have with the APC government. Like I said earlier, they made many promises, last time somebody talked about so many promises they made well over 40 pre-election promises that were made, they have not been able to keep any. Even when you take the major promises, security, corruption, and economic growth, they have not kept any. So, the people are five zero down at least we are in the final quarter of the game, I don’t see how they can win it.
READ ALSO: Buhari meets 43 APC senators on way forward
The Presidency has alleged that those fighting or criticising the federal government are those with corruption cases, what is your take?
I don’t like that word fighting. That is just talk. Are you saying the people in Benue State who have security issues are people with corruption cases? Common let’s get serious. There are serious genuine criticisms. Are you saying that people at Amnesty International are people with corruption cases? Serious credible organisations, you could leave the politicians, credible organisations, people who are apolitical are criticising this government today not because they hate them but because they are not delivering. So, I think they should listen to some of these criticisms if it still wants to recover by 2019, the government should listen and take these criticisms very seriously.
Why is your donation of mosque in Calabar to Muslim community generating so much controversy?
My constituency is pre-dominantly Christians but there are few Muslims who are in the minority and I believe as I said in my campaign that my tenure as a Senator will be inclusive without discriminating against anybody. I consider everybody as part of my constituency. So, whenever any section comes to me with a problem, I will always try to attend to those problems and my people in Ward 1 in Calabar South came to me and said that they have a project they were involved in and they asked for support I said I will support them and I supported them. I did that regardless of religious affiliation. I have tried to support all members of my constituency.
I have also made donations to some Churches, the last one we made was recent when my wife represented me at the Presbyterian Women’s Conference and she made a donation of N1 million and prior to that we made a donation of N250,000 at the Fathers Day Celebration in Duke Town. The one my wife went for was the Women Presbytery because I was invited to two Fathers Day occasion, the second one was in Abuja at the First Abuja Parish, we also made a donation of I think N200,000 and this we do whenever we are called upon to contribute.
Do you suspect the opposition to be behind the criticisms?
No I don’t. But it is good for us to have clarity in a lot of issues. Recently, in the country there has been a lot of polarisation between the faiths especially with all issues going on in the country. So I think as leaders, our role is to try and bring people together and not to tear them apart.