Saraki on Senate presidency: Majority of APC, PDP senators will elect me, says APC leaders’ position on criteria ‘advisory’

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“Senators will elect their leaders and I strongly believe that majority of the PDP and APC senators will elect me as the Senate President of the Eighth Assembly. The position of APC leadership on criteria is merely advisory”.
That was the position of the Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment, Senator Bukola Saraki, when he appeared on Channels TV morning programme, Sunrise, on Thursday in Lagos.
Saraki, former Kwara State governor from 2003 to 2011, is a frontline contestant for Nigeria’s third most-powerful position on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
His father, the late Senator Olusola Saraki, was the Senate Leader in the Second Republic on the platform of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
Saraki, who was interviewed by Chamberlain Usoh and Suleiman Aledeh, also reeled out the qualities that endear him to fellow senators.
“There is nothing like party (APC) criteria. The rule of the Senate is very clear on who can contest for Senate leadership. We have been discussing at the party level but the party position is advisory. It looks as if we are used to the way things were done in the past but now, things must change. The times we are in are different so, senators must elect their leaders.
“Merit should be one of the main factors and I have got the merit. We expect things to be done better. There must be a change. We won’t be sentimental at all. We will focus more on capacity and merit. My colleagues as supporting me because I will give purposeful leadership. Ranking gives you the opportunity to compete. There is nothing like ‘the most ranking senator’. It has no meaning.
“What is key to everybody now is that we must make Nigeria work and only the best candidate will make Nigeria work. I also have the support of party leadership.”
Saraki also declared that if any candidate is foisted ‘from outside’, there will be crisis.
“Since 1999, it has shown that the only time you have stability in the Upper Chamber is when you allow Senators elect their leaders. Look at Ken Nnamani, look at David Mark. Mark has been there for two terms because he is the choice of senators. Once senators elect their own leaders, they will buy into that leadership.
“I have those leadership qualities. I have the capacity. I am a bridge builder across party lines. I am also the most experienced. I have been governor for two terms, also Chairman of Governors’ Forum. In this election, I have the support of incoming and new senators.
“And you know, about 75 per cent of the senators are new. Everybody will vote. So, I am talking to APC and PDP senators and they have assured me of their support because you will be President of 109 senators, including yourself.”
He promised that he would not let his colleagues down when he is elected. “You know you are elected a senator for four years, not senate president for four years. Senate presidency is a one-day term because you don’t know what will happen tomorrow. If you don’t have the support of your colleagues, you are gone”.
He also promised, as Senate president, to focus more on issues bordering on taxation, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), good governance, Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and Budget. “We will be more open on issues of oversight so that we can serve Nigerians better”.
Speaking on the 46 bills passed into law on Wednesday within 10 minutes, he urged Nigerians to look at the issue more from the merit of the laws such as Whistle-Blower Protection Bill, Anti-Rape Bill and others.
“We should focus more on the bills themselves, whether they are good for national development. The House of Representatives had already passed them before we did on Wednesday. These are good bills that will help our development. You can pass good bills in record time. We should also focus on the good sides of the bills. The comments from Nigerians are okay. The bills are equally okay.
“If you are talking of the timing, I agree with you but we should also look at the laws. They can be amended later but I strongly believe there should be some level of confidence in the system. There is value in what has been done. There are still many bills not passed. The Eighth Assembly will look into that.”
On President Muhammadu Buhari, he expressed optimism that he would deliver dividends of democracy to Nigerians. “He has already told us that no cabal will hijack him, that he will serve all Nigerians. I know him very well. Once he says something, he will do it. The controversy on his asset declaration is not necessary because it is work in progress”
Saraki also declared that the economy must be diversified into agriculture for the country to work. “It is not as if the policies are not there. It is the political will to execute them. How can we develop our local production if we still allow people to import rice? A disciplined government under Buhari will never allow that.
“I have been Chief Executive of a state. Once people know that you are disciplined, they will sit up. How could you allow briefcase-carrying individuals to bring in petroleum products? People who don’t have depot, no filling stations, no experience in that sector. They have no business importing petrol. We need to review the policy”.

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