Senator Yisa Braimoh represented Edo North in the Senate from 2007 to 2011 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and was vice chairman of the Committee on Culture, Tourism and National Orientation. In this interview with select journalists, he speaks on recent rumblings in the Senate and the National Conference among others. Excerpts:
How would you assess the current politics in the Senate where some former governors have been throwing their weights behind an agenda to upset the PDP majority and the leadership of David Mark?
I have long, before now, expressed serious concern at the rate at which sitting governors, who, in a bid to negotiate their exit from office at the threshold of their constitutionally prescribed two terms of eight years, have gravitated to the Senate for refuge.
The trend, from all indications, will continue and will certainly not augur well for the Senate which is seen as an enclave of equals with the Senate President as first among equals. Once these governors have made up their minds to go to the Senate, it does not matter whether the incumbent senators they seek to replace are doing well and deserving of re-election.
They mobilize state machinery to clinch the party ticket and also to win in the general election. Now, the experience has been that these former governors in the senate do not contribute to the progress of legislative activities; but rather, they have constituted themselves into some power cult with which they have caused political unease in the Senate. This has been the sad narrative in the past ten months or thereabout, particularly since the advent of the All Progressives Congress (APC) through the merger of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), with legislators jostling and threatening to defect from the PDP to the APC.
In the Senate, three former governors who served on the PDP platform-two from North Central and one from North East zones-have been holding the Senate to ransom, and giving the leadership sleepless nights. They have also become consequential â€œcaucusâ€ leaders in the Upper Chamber irrespective of political party affiliations. The mentality of these former governors is such that they still imagine themselves as being in a position to bark out instructions and manipulate their followers.
They do not want to recognize the fact that the Senate is different from the fiefdoms into which governors have converted their states.
At the moment there are about 18 serving governors who are finishing their second term who are jostling for the 8th Senate in 2015. The implication of this is that in 2015, about 25 former governors may be in the Senate with their gubernatorial tendencies and dispositions.
My fear is that they may transform into Gubernatorial Senatorsâ€™ Forum, seek to take over the leadership of the Upper Chamber and use the platform, at their whims and pleasure, to seek to sway political powers in Nigeria like the Governorsâ€™ Forum has been doing.
How can it be a threat to the stability of the Senate?
Anything that threatens the leadership of the Senate threatens the stability of the institution of the Senate especially when you have a leadership that is a binding force in the Senate. Consider the present leadership under David Mark: sharply focused, consistent and persistent as far as observing the standing rules is concerned. He has demonstrated legerdemain in running the affairs of the Upper House.
Mark has been able to clear the Office of the Senate President of banana peels. He cannot be faulted on those general matters of administration and legislative acumen.
But I consider the planned defection of some senators from PDP to APC as masterminded by two former governors from the North Central zone and another one from the North East zone as one of the first steps in the direction of upsetting the leadership of the senate.
Their calculations were that if they defected and were able to secure the majority seats in the Senate, they would effect a change in the senate leadership. This is the political nuisance that I am against. Serving and former members of the Senate should work together to put down these shenanigans.
They should not be allowed to destabilize the Senate with their ill-gotten wealth, with which they would be ready, at all times, to influence and control voting patterns on motions and executive bills.
If they are not stopped now and the trend continues in 2015 through to 2019 and 2023, I can only say: God save Nigeria.
You are from the South-south zone. What is your position on the National Conference?
The National Conference has come at a right time. There is the necessity for our people, ethnic nationalities, groups, et al, to talk and that is what the President Goodluck Jonathan administration has made possible.
End of the exercise
I expect that the conference will discuss everything under the sun save the unity of Nigeria, which the government had already listed as a no-go area; and that at the end of the exercise, the outcome will conduce to the emergence of a better Nigeria.
Is the Southern region ready to present a unified position at the conference against the backdrop of the resolution at Southern Leadersâ€™ Summit that held recently in Calabar ahead of the conference?
I think it is high time the Southern region began to speak with one voice. Even at the level of South-south geo-political zone, there should be unison of position on issues that affect the zone. And to achieve this, we should not dissipate energy and resources in pushing a plethora of groups. We should work towards having one group so that we can effectively speak with one voice.
At the Calabar meeting, the issue of harmonizing the positions of the South-South Peoples Assembly and the Southern Leadersâ€™ Forum came up.
I sincerely believe that we should not be talking about unifying positions; rather, we should be talking of unifying the groups into one so that we can have one leadership. Once we have one leadership, we will be able to speak with one voice.