As former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, clocks 70 today, he has narrated his political journey, while declaring that his removal as Senate President saved his life.
You will clock 70 on Friday. How will you describe your journey so far?
I must be grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to witness my 70th birthday with good health and love of family and loved ones. The journey of last 70 years was not as smooth as it ought to be, but God was involved and that was why I made tremendous success in my endeavours. I was privileged to serve this country as a local government chairman, member of House of Representatives and Senate President.
It was a privilege that God gave me, which I’m eternally grateful for. Many fellow politicians try all they could to drag me down, but they couldn’t erase what God has written. It is unfortunate that people jump from one church to another in search of prayers for self discovery and they forget that only God can reveal one’s purpose on earth, but it will take serious search and studies to discover that.
How interesting or otherwise was your journey to political relevance?
My political journey was an interesting one. I contested election into positions I occupied. Remember that there is no small election. In the first place, all these positions were elective positions, not appointive and it goes through the same process. You are not alone in the contest. Many others are desirous of the position. It was all keen competition. Going back to my earlier reaction, God intervened in my own case. But generally speaking, there is nobody who contested election that won’t be anxious of the outcome.
I was a member of House of Representatives until the late Head of State, Sani Abacha, sacked the government of Ernest Shonekan and, by extension, dissolved all the democratic positions. The next option was to become a councilor. I was appointed supervisory councilor for education. My colleagues then were like, how would you come from that Olympian height to become a councilor, but it was divinely arranged. The bottom line was that I became a senator and rose to the position of Senate President.
In spite of the tough times in the Senate, you recorded tremendous success in the management of legislative affairs. What was the secret?
I asked for God’s wisdom and knowledge, and it was made available to me. Another thing is that I never take decision until I seek God’s guidance. In addition to that, I show love and kindness to people, and that made it easier for me to put them to work for me. Many people are surprised and tempted to doubt that I am 70. I must thanked former President Olusegun Obasanjo. God used him to save my life a few years ago when he was the President.
God showed favour and orchestrated plans for me to leave the Senate President seat. People thought I was impeached but I was never impeached. I resigned willingly. God asked me to resign in the heat of leadership controversy in the Senate so I can alive today. Obansanjo used the Senate as his personal property. He had his people who danced to him for whatever and that weakened the Senate.
You said that exiting that position kept you alive. Were there known threats?
There was none at all. I would have been the first President of the Senate to die on active service. My health deteriorated that time because of over labour because we were there to work and satisfy Nigerians. Then there was no time to do other things that make life easier and sweet. I worked to point that I felt like dropping dead. Nobody threatened me. It was just time to go.
How fulfilled do you feel at 70, in politics and beyond politics?
At 70, I give God the glory. Politically speaking, it registered my name in the book of records. Politics in Nigeria is a very rough venture and unpredictable. It is a deadly game to consumed many lives and none of that happened to me. So, it beholds on anyone that reached my political height to give God the glory. I am so happy and I feel very much fulfilled that I did my best even though it probably wouldn’t have been the best. I did my best and for the reason that I resigned. Of course, the difference between why I resigned and what is happening now is that mine was politically motivated. It had to do with the third term issue. If the third term issue did not arise at that time, chances are that I would have been there to complete my tenure. But whether I would have completed my tenure, based on what I said about my health, is a different thing. My creator reminded me that I put you there and it’s time to quit. He said to me, I can make you complete your tenure, with or without all these allegations, but if you continue, you will die on active service.
What was your relationship with Obasanjo, as regards the third term bid?
I had cordial working relationship with Obasanjo, but I wasn’t doing his bidding as people thought. If, indeed, I was doing his bidding, I would have facilitated the third term bid but that didn’t happen. There were pressures from strong quarters but I had already made up my mind. I was also lucky to have secure the support and backing of good number of senators. We had differences afterwards, but we have reconciled. I have forgiven him for the simple fact that he saved my life. God used him to save my life. But he thought he harmed me. If not I wouldn’t have been alive to celebrate my 70th birthday.
Many Nigerians believe that your successor botched the third term plot. How correct or otherwise are they?
I don’t want to go into details. You can ask former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, when the third term was botched. He was not a senator then but he was aware of what transpired. But if I were to give you a direct answer, I probably would be deriding certain authorities, my friends and my colleagues. But we know ourselves. Some were double agents in that project. Money was flowing around and some will take for and take against. But the only thing I want to say is that God again used me to save those who are for and against because there could have been national crisis and deaths could have been recorded. Money changed hands, but God used me to settle the score.
As Gowon would say, no victor, no vanquished. My address that day put end on the issue and the baby and the bathe water were thrown away. Many senators would have vomited the money they collected. I sacrificed my life to save the Senate and those who collected money. I rejected N250 million bribe that was offered to me by some people that I won’t like to mention. Rejection of that bribe cost my friendship with the facilitator. We kept malice for over a year before we reconciled.
Does your position justify Jega’s statement about National Assembly members?
I don’t know the bases for such statement from the former INEC Chairman. But he should know that we know his worth before he became INEC chairman and his worth today. So he should quit pointing finger as the remaining four fingers are pointing at him. That’s just the only way I want to answer that question. God will save us.
We just celebrated 19 years of unbroken democracy. Would you say we are on the right track?
Yes, we are. All these things happening now happened in our role model nations. It’s a matter of time. It is a teething problem that we will overcome with time. We might not be making speedy progress but there is a gradual departure from what it used to be. As we speak, corruption is still in our system till tomorrow. Before now, some constituencies will not allow anybody for more than one term in the legislature, but we have senators like David Mark, James Manager and a few other members of House of Reps who have spent close to 20 years in the Senate. It is a sign of progress but we ought to do more. It is unfortunate that the only two lucrative industries in Nigeria today are the church and politics. Anyone that can interpret the Bible very well stands a very good chance of owning a private jet.
The institution of legislation should be strengthened. The only bad tendency now is the issue of governors trying to populate the Senate in particular. If care is not taken, in the next 30 years, maybe every senator will be a former governor.
Why is it a bad development?
That’s a good question. It is bad in the sense that those ex-governors, majority of them did not get there on a clean slate. They used their political powers to install themselves. I hope that will change in future. You will be shocked that most legislators don’t have good knowledge of Nigerian history. Our political process was built to favour people with deep pocket. That is why governors that completed their tenure heads straight for the Senate, whereas they have more than enough money which they could probably use to establish an industry and create jobs. They will keep it and head for the Senate. And governors, their forum is very tough. They are just like the military. They don’t go against themselves.
What is your assessment of Buhari’s three years in office.
There is a difference between democracy and governance. Our democracy is going through a natural phase. But governance is completely a different kettle of fish. In a situation where government cannot provide security, in a situation where government cannot create jobs, in a situation where government does not know what nationhood is all about, you cannot tie that down to democracy. Our democracy is growing. If not, you would not have had the Senate President from the APC and his Deputy from the opposition party. That is democracy. But when it comes to governance, what you don’t have, you can’t give
What are the chances of your party in 2019 elections?
Our chances are very bright in 2019 because Nigerians have tasted APC and PDP could be the judge. However, politics is no mathematics. Anything can happen. APC’s perceived failure does not translate into victory for PDP. So, we have to do a lot of work and we have started with apology to Nigerians and I’m sure Nigerians have accepted. We must have made mistakes, but that could not be compared to calamity that befell Nigerians in 2015. With our 16 years of experience we know where we went wrong. I don’t want to go too much into details. The so-called fight against corruption is not real and nobody is above the law. We heard the president saying something about power, which he said received $16 billion attention from previous administrations.
What do you wish at 70?
If it were possible, I will not commit sins.
Do you have regrets?
My regrets bother on commitment of sins. There are so many things that if I’m given the opportunity again, I will not do the same way because I now know better. So, I pray again to God to forgive me my sins and to Nigerians, those that I offended on my way up, now that I’m down, they should please forgive me.