The lawmaker representing Oyo South Senatorial District, Senator Adesoji Akanbi, tells Sunday Punch about his relationship with Governor Abiola Ajimobi, defections in the Senate, some senators’ meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, and other issues
Why did you protest the inclusion of your name in the list of 15 senators who defected to other political parties on Tuesday?
Sincerely, I have never been part of the defectors. If you trace my antecedents to the chamber from the beginning of the 8th Senate, you will clearly see that I have been a loyalist of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. That has been like that from Day 1. I can never be part of anything against Buhari, Osinbajo, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and my party, the APC.
Why have you chosen to remain in the APC at a time when many members are alleging injustice and are dumping the party?
It is about choice, vision and the school of thought I belong to. It is about orientation, politically too. There will always be crisis in a political arena but there is a way to manage it and remain focused. I should not be worried about the current situation. I should be looking at the future. I know that I have a bright future in my state as a progressive. My political journey so far has proven that I am a very progressive person. I started my political career in the early 90’s with the Social Democratic Party; from the SDP to the National Democratic Coalition and Afenifere; from Afenifere to Alliance for Democracy; from AD to Action Congress, which later became Action Congress of Nigeria; and from ACN to the APC. You can see my political journey that I have been a progressive all through.
There are reports that you have a frosty relationship with Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State on the affairs of the APC in the state, which Senator Monsurat Sunmonu representing Oyo-South has also alluded to. What is the issue about?
No, it is not true. I don’t have any frosty relationship with my governor. Funnily, people don’t understand my relationship with Governor Ajimobi. My relationship with him is beyond politics. He is my family member. He is my uncle and we have a family relationship.
Ajimobi is reported to be eyeing the senatorial seat you are currently occupying. Are you aware of that?
To me, that is speculation. I can assure you that there is no way one can contest election without declaration. We should all wait.
The crisis in the APC in Oyo State was said to have been caused by the last congresses of APC in the state. Are you saying that the differences have been reconciled?
Adesoji Akanbi is a member of the APC in Oyo State. He is the senator representing Oyo South. He belongs to the solid structure of the progressives in Oyo State.
There has been confusion of numbers since the defections on Tuesday. Who has the majority in the Senate now between the APC and the PDP?
We held a press conference – the APC caucus – immediately after the plenary and you could see the list of APC members. On the list, we in the APC are 53. PDP has 49. The All Progressives Grand Alliance should be two and ADC should be two or three.
The APC caucus listed some senators who have yet to formally inform the Senate about their defection. What about the rule that a defection must be declared on the floor of the chamber?
First of all, a letter needs to be written to the Senate and read on the floor of the chamber. But the onus is on the Senate President to read it to members. The only thing a senator can do is to write, they cannot force the Senate President to read it on the floor.
What is now the status of members like Senators Hope Uzodinma, Fatimah Raji-Rasaki, Sunny Ogbuoji and Stella Oduah who fall in this category?
On Tuesday after the defections were announced and the APC caucus addressed journalists, that question was asked and Senator Hope Uzodinma replied that the onus of reading his letter was on the Senate President. That is the best he can do. He cannot read the letter by himself on the floor of the house, it is not allowed. The presiding officer is the Senate President.
How are you sure that all those you have counted as APC senators have followed due process in their defections?
Sincerely, they claimed so. Hope however came out openly to say that he had written a letter. Others claimed so.
What was the meeting between President Buhari and APC senators on Wednesday night all about?
It was more like an informal meeting, a meeting between the President, the party and the Senate caucus. He is trying to revive the relationship within the shortest period. Within the remaining time there could be a smooth running of the affairs. It is so unfortunate that most of the time, we, the APC lawmakers, are not given direction. It is unfair for a lot of people to claim that we are wining and dining with the opposition. Yes, it is possible because there is no leadership that pilots the affairs of the executive and the legislature.
What was the conclusion at the meeting?
The take-home was that everybody needed to be ready – both the party, the APC senators and Mr. President – for a cordial relationship.
There were reports on Tuesday that there was a plot to sack the leadership of the Senate, the reason why an attempt was made to seize the two presiding officers before the day’s plenary. Were you aware of such a plan?
That was a rumour. Right now, it does not seem feasible.
The numbers are now close. We now have 53 against 49. That is not enough to sack anybody. Two-thirds will be needed to remove the leadership the and neither APC nor the PDP has the numbers. But with simple majority, whatever comes from the executive can scale through.
What is next for you politically; are you contesting the governorship of Oyo or returning to the Senate?
Wait and watch me in the next two, three or four weeks. I will let the whole world know what I’m going to do next.