By Fred Itua
SENATOR Kabiru Marafa is a serving Senator from Zamfara State. He has been in the news for weeks over the lingering leadership crisis in the Senate. In this interview, Marafa opened up on the ongoing moves by the divided All Progressives Congress (APC) Senators to reconcile their members. He also spoke on the agreements reached so far by the two factions, Like Minds and Unity Forum.
Can you give us an idea of what transpired in the reconciliation meeting among APC Senators?
This problem in the National Assembly has been on since our resumption. It started as a crisis of leadership and then went to illegalities and so on. Last week from the North-west came up with the idea of uniting the APC caucus in the Senate. They looked at all the pros and cons and how the people of Nigeria stood very firm to elect this government of change into office. The gap between APC and the PDP in the National Assembly is small. It actually gives us reasons for concerns. So, the leaders tasked themselves to see how the two factions of APC can come together. Senator Aliyu Wammakko spearheaded it and consulted some of our colleagues in the Like Minds group. He found them in agreement with his thinking. They now called our leaders in the Unity Forum. They called Abu Ibrahim, Ahmad Lawan, Gemade and others. At the end of the day, it was agreed that a five man committee be set up to look at the cause of the separation and how things can be amended. This basically led to the meeting.
Two weeks ago, precisely on Wednesday, these committees were set up. From our side, we had Abu Ibrahim, Ahmad Lawan, myself, Ashafa and one other who were nominated from the Unity Forum. From their own side, they had Senator Wammakko, Danjuma Goje, Kabiru Gaya, Ahmed Yerima and Adamu Aliero. We sat for two days, brainstormed, agreed and at the end of the day, we came out with a three point agenda. We felt if they are agreed upon, the APC caucus in the National Assembly can now become one. Number one issue is the illegality of our committees. We said we must bring the committees in tune with the Standing Orders of the Senate. That was because we contested, but they won. We lost and we had no reason to complain. If you are asking us to come together, we can ask you for fairness. Our members in the Unity Forum were sidelined. Number three is the issue of leadership and how it affects our party. President Muhammadu Buhari talked about party supremacy and how we must obey.
These were the three issues that were deliberated upon. We had a meeting last Tuesday. Number one item in the list was agreed upon. We agreed that we will amend the rules to accommodates all committees of the Senate. Number two on the agenda was also agreed upon. That is the issue of committees, with a view to giving the committees what they deserve. We are continuing with number three and we are saying how the Senate can comply with the directive of the party. We said we are going to do this. We have a government in place and we are Senators elected with that government. We are under the same canopy. We have a moral duty to support our government, president and our party. These are the key elements of what transpired. We are in agreement with our leaders and we will come together as one set of people.
What has been the position of Like Mind Senators on the three issues if leadership?
We are taking them one by one. We have sat for almost four days. The first thing was the need for us to come together. We argued and debated. We agreed that it is in the best interest of APC for its Senators to work together. Now, after agreement, what are those things that separate us? That was how we came up with these three point agenda.
Does that mean the crisis in the Senate will be over soon if these conditions are met? There is the belief that this meeting was convened because APC Senators are scared that the PDP might take over the Senate…
Nothing is impossible in the midst of chaos. Even in your family, once you are disunited, anything can happen to you. If the meeting was called out of fear, it is not unfounded. Let us look at the crisis. We need to understand these things. Most of the things we have been seeing happening in the Senate were as a result of the APC, of adherence to the Standing Rules. Let us be fair. People are at liberty to mix up things. That is why I always tell people to look at my message and not the messenger. I am from the Unity Forum and I belong to the group that lost the leadership battle. That does not mean that anything I say is against the Senate President. Look at what I say. If it has substance, take it. If it lacks substance, leave it. On all the accounts that I stood up to speak in Senate, I always buttressed my points with either the Constitution or the Standing Orders. Does it mean that because we lost out, we cannot speak the truth? If you contest and lose, it does not mean that you have lost your right to speak the truth. Like the issue of committees, I even went to court with some of my colleagues. It had got nothing to do with Like Minds or the Unity Forum. I am a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
As part of the peace moves, will the case in court be withdrawn?
That depends. Like in the case of the illegalities of the committees, what more will I do with pressing for the case? I am saying that what you did was wrong and you now agreed it was wrong and now we are ready to correct it, why will I go ahead with it? I will only go ahead if I have something personal. But I do not have anything personal at all. As far as I am concerned, if the committees are brought in line with our rules, I will pick my committees and I will start working. I have not been working with my committees. That is the essence.
What about the forgery case?
As for that, it is a different case entirely. There are two things here. People need to understand. You cannot subjudice what is in court for reconciliation. We are talking about legality and illegality. No matter how strong you are, peace is better than war. You will never know what can happen. A small thing can surprise you. One small ant in your trousers make you go crazy. I have never seen where people reject peace. This is not the first time we are embracing peace moves. There was a time, slightly after elections, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki wanted to meet with Unity Forum members. We said three people should be selected. At the end, he said he wanted one on one meeting with Ahmed Lawan. We all agreed and they had a meeting in Ahmad Lawan’s house and agreed on certain things. For some reasons, the agenda was not followed. We have always been open to negotiations. We were elected to serve the people. We know the sacrifice people made to bring this government into being. Anything that will make this government successful, I will support it. We are for it and we do everything to support it.
Does it also mean that the Unity Forum members have agreed to support Saraki as Senate President?
You see, people should have the fear of God. God is going to judge you by all the favours he has done to you. Sometimes, people do things to sell their papers. If you look at the title and the body of the story you are referring to, they do not tally. I think it is unfortunate. I have nothing to hide. All of us agreed that we needed to let go this fight since we were voted on the same platform. We all agreed to support Mr. President in his drive to fight corruption in this country. He needs all the needed support.
Who were you referring to then to support?
I was referring to President Muhammadu Buhari. What is happening to the President of the Senate in the CCT trial is personal. It is personal to him. I do not wish him bad. But I am not with him on it. We are not together. The crimes for which he is being tried were not committed when he was here in the National Assembly. It happened when he was the governor of Kwara State. I am not from Kwara State. As a Nigerian, if what they are alleging is true, I will want to see him go through trial. If they are not true, he should be discharged. Constitution says that you are innocent until proven guilty. The Supreme Court has said he should go and face his trial. I said then that at this point, the Senate President needed to resign. It is not mandatory. What I said was my personal opinion. He has chosen to stay put and face trial. I have never for one day called any press conference for him to resign. The constitution did not say that he should resign. What I said was that we should support the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I was not referring to the Senate President.