*Says he had no deal with PDP
By Henry Umoru, Abuja
17 days after his election, Senator Bukola Saraki, yesterday, opened up on the controversial poll, saying those in opposition to him planned to abduct him to prevent him from emerging as Senate President.
Saraki disclosed that, on Tuesday, June 9, Senate inauguration day, following information he got of the abduction plot to keep him off the National Assembly, he altered his schedule by arriving the parliament car park at 6am, stayed in his car and then trekked at quarter to 10am into the chamber.
He dismissed the insinuation that for him to win, he entered into a pact with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Senator Ike Ekweremadu to be produced as his deputy, just as he stressed that the absence of All Progressives Congress, APC, senators in the chamber paved the way for the emergence of Ekweremadu.
The Senate President, who noted that the emergence of Ekweremadu will make things difficult for him, said, “Never in our wildest imagination did we envisage that some senators would not be present on the day of the inauguration.”
Speaking with journalists, in Abuja, Saraki insisted that he never got any message to attend a meeting at the International Conference Centre (ICC) with President Muhammadu Buhari on the Senate inauguration day. “First of all, as regards the meeting (at ICC), on the morning of the inauguration, I didn’t finish at a meeting until 4:00am of that day and I had got information that efforts would likely be made to make sure that I didn’t get access into the chamber”, he said.
The Senate President narrated further: “So, as early as 4:00am and 5:00am, I had made contingency plans that I must get into the National Assembly because the plan before was that senators-elect should go to Transcorp Hilton Hotel around 8:00clock and 9:00am to proceed to the National Assembly.
“But I was advised that it would not be safe or it would not be secure for me to do that because if some people made sure I didn’t get into the chamber, it would not be possible for me to be nominated, for the nomination to be seconded and for me to accept the nomination.
“I can tell you today that I was in the National Assembly Complex as early as 6:00 in the morning and I stayed in a car in the car park till quarter to 10:00am. That is the truth. I stayed there and I was there with no communication whatsoever.
“So, anybody who said he spoke to me to go to the ICC was not being truthful because I didn’t even know what was going on. All I was monitoring was how people were arriving the complex.
“I walked from the car park into the chamber. That was why some of you would have seen that I looked very tired that morning.“It was just before 10:00 that I got information that the Clerk to the National Assembly had entered the chamber. So, I got out of the small car I was inside, stretched myself and put on my Babariga because I didn’t have it on before then.
“Even when I was in the chamber, I didn’t know what had transpired earlier. The only thing I observed was that it appeared that some of our senators were not in the chamber, but because the fact that my colleagues arrived in batches, I had the opinion that they were on the way and, by 10:00am, the programme started.
“Before I knew it, my election had come and gone. Even my people were worried; it was only when I got into the chamber that they were relieved.”
Speaking on the emergence of Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President, Saraki said, “In my own view, and, in the view of some of those who worked closely with me, I worked hard for my election. I had direct contact with every single senator, one on one; weeks leading to the election, I did not rely on anybody. I worked hard; both in our party, the APC and out of it.
“I approached every senator, I talked to them, we built confidence, not only in the APC, but, also, in the PDP. I talked to them. That was why I laughed when people said I had a deal with Ekweremadu or I had a hand in the emergence of Ekweremadu.
“I didn’t need any deal to win. I had penetrated, there was no deal; I didn’t need any deal in the first place. I had worked hard such that everybody who was a Senator, I campaigned hard and canvassed for their votes and won their confidence.
“At one of the meetings held at Transcorp Hilton which Senator Godswill Akpabio co-chaired with Senator Ibrahim Gobir and a few others, which had both APC and PDP members, if you heard most of them there, the position they took was that ‘this is the Senate President they want.’
“Across party lines, that day they believed in me and that this is the Senate President that can lead us, there was no deal.
“Sometimes, I wonder how some of our colleagues found themselves at the ICC. If it had been a case that the Clerk of the National Assembly had made an announcement and the event had been postponed or it was no longer holding, plus, the invitation, I’m sure some are asking now, what really happened?
“First of all, the PDP senators had announced to the public that they were supporting me without even meeting me because, in their own meeting, majority had decided to vote for me.
“In their own interest, strategically, they decided that, `look, this is a fait accompli’ because 30 of their own senators were going to vote for this man anyway and the remaining felt it was better to join.
“It wasn’t until 2:00am that they called us to tell us their decision . With regards to the deputy, when they told us that they had a candidate, we, too, told them we had a candidate for Deputy Senate President in the person of Senator Ali Ndume!
“After our own meeting, it was our thinking that it was after the election of the Senate President that the two groups in APC would meet and we would agree on a candidate. We never in our imagination thought they would not turn up. By the time we got there, we were only 24 while the PDP was more than 40.
“In an election, there’s no way they would not have defeated us and that was what happened? And now, when people say it was a deal, I say that if the CNA had started the procedure in the House of Representatives first, and moved to the Senate, thereafter, today, we, the APC, would have had a deputy Senate President.”
Speaking further on the election of Ekweremadu, the Senate President said: “It is unfortunate that we have a PDP man as deputy Senate President. It is painful. It is painful for every APC member because when we went through the struggle, that was not what we signed for. But it has happened; but it is unfortunate and it is not fair to put the blame on one side because it is a combination of errors and miscalculations that led us to have, that morning, some Senators were at another place instead of being there.
“So, to suggest that it was out of a desperate act to emerge, is what I reject completely and those who followed the events would know that I didn’t have that deal to emerge.”
When asked to speak on his rumoured ambition for 2019 presidency, Saraki noted that there were enough challenges confronting the country and not 2019, adding that those talking about the election at the moment could be described as irresponsible.