By Ifeanyi Nwoko
Dr Bukola Saraki, President of the Senate, said the 8th Senate surmounted the turbulence that characterised its affairs due to cooperation and unity among the members.
He recalled that the crisis in the red chamber began immediately after its inauguration, with his emergence as president of the senate, with Ike Ekweremadu, A Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member, as his deputy.
Saraki stated this when he featured at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja, and said in spite of the crisis, the senate had recorded unprecedented success.
He said that though President, he was only “first among equals’’ and as such, he ensured that every member of the chamber was carried along in all the plans of the senate.
He said that in spite of the distractions from court cases and wanton allegations, the senate ensured that it remained focused on the agenda it drafted prepared for itself.
“From day one we had an agenda, a legislative agenda.
“It will be interesting for you to get a copy of that agenda and look at those promises that we made; you will see that some of the things we have been doing are not by chance.
“It is like somebody who is working through a document and he is ticking it and that is why. We have been organised, we have been focused, because we had an agenda.
“Our agenda is that the senate will be addressing the economy – that we championed made-in-Nigeria was not by chance; it was part of our agenda.
“We said to ourselves, what can make Nigeria’s economy grow, people are spending so much on importation, why don’t we try and save that.
“Government spends about N1.3 trillion on importation, why doesn’t it spend that on locally-produced goods? So, let us pass a bill that any MDA, before it goes to buy a foreign good must see that there is no local alternative.
“If we do that, it means that that N1.3 trillion will be spent inwards. We are talking of infrastructure, it is these laws.
“Railway law has been there for more than 50 years, nobody has reviewed it until we came.
“Ports, inland revenue and now, we are talking about PIB. These are economy-based issues.
“With Ease-of-doing-Business rule, we are passing bills that will allow Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to get credits without having landed property.
“We are improving on credit, to allow banks lend to small scale businesses.
“It is because we have been focused, determined and strong-willed and not distracted. Sometimes, I see that all the noise is distraction,” he said.
He attested to having won the unanimous support of his colleagues though at the beginning there were divisions even within his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Saraki added that members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were also cooperating, supporting the agenda that will grow the economy and better the country.
“I will humbly say that I have been able to win the support of all my colleagues, I have been able to win their confidence, because the way I occupied leadership is that it is `we’, not `me’.
“That is why many people misunderstand this place and say it is the President of the Senate that has done that, but most of the things are done collectively.
“I am just first among equals. It is not like the executive where you can fire a minister or commissioner; it doesn’t work like that here, I cannot fire Olusola Adeyeye, for instance.
“If you understand that, you will win their confidence. I will say that 99 per cent of the Senate is going in one direction and that is what we have been able to achieve. And who gains for that, the country.
“This is why, for example, the Constitution amendment, we could do it.
“You will know that even on the day of the Constitution amendment, we did not sit for two hours because some senators refused and said there was something funny and they delayed us for two hours.
“But when we sat and I addressed them and told them that I was not here to protect anyone’s agenda, that I am here for all of us, then we sat and achieved all of that,’’ he said.
Saraki added that when “we wanted to do the Petroleum Industry Bill, some senators stood up and said `no, this governance bill has nothing to do with host community, my people will not be happy’.
“I gave them my word, saying `pass this governance one for me, I promise you I will bring the host community’s’.
“Those in the PDP are also working with us; when there are national issues we call them and tell them `don’t bring issue of party here, let’s think of Nigeria’ and that is what we have been able to achieve.”
Saraki cautioned Nigerians to be wary of those who try to discredit the senate, pointing out that most of them were doing so out of selfish interest.
He said that most of those championing negative campaign against the National Assembly were those whose selfish interests of taking control of the legislative arm failed.
He added that some of them had resorted to disparaging the assembly.
Saraki, therefore, called on Nigerians not to join in weakening “the key institution of democracy which is the national assembly’’.
“Most of those noises are not in the interest of Nigeria, they are personal agenda.
“People who wanted a certain person to emerge as Senate President or Speaker of the House and they have not got it are saying `since we cannot win the battle for the National Assembly lets distract them’.