Joseph Waku was the senator representing Benue North West District between 1999 and 2003. In this telephone interview with Premium Times’ Festus Owete, Mr Waku narrated how the Senate mace was taken away to an undisclosed location by a former Senate President, Chuba Okadigbo, at the peak of a crisis in the chamber.
PT: I recall that when you were in the Senate, the mace once disappeared. The then Senate President, Chuba Okadigbo, reportedly took the mace to his home town in Anambra Senate to hide. What happened?
Waku: In that case, there was no breakage. We took it, it was not stolen. It was during our vacation. We were on vacation. It was during Obj’s (President Olusegun Obasanjo) time and it was during a crisis. There was a plan to remove Okadigbo and we got wind of it and adjourned and took the mace. But the then deputy senate president, Haruna Abubakar, attempted to reconvene the Senate. They went and arranged for a fake mace but we intercepted it. Haruna wanted to preside as acting senate president.
PT: So where exactly was it kept because there was a report that he took it to Ogbunike, his home town?
Waku: I won’t tell you where it was kept. He (Okadigbo) said in an interview that the mace was on vacation because the Senate was on vacation and that it was in Ogbunike. We knew that the mace had not crossed Nyanya. I was in charge of monitoring where it was kept.
PT: Where was it kept?
Waku: I say I won’t tell you. I will say that in the book I am writing. What happened today is that the mace was kidnapped. We did not come with another mace. They (Haruna Abubakar and supporters) attempted to sneak in another mace but we intercepted it.
PT: A senator, Ovie Omo-Agege, has been arrested for allegedly being behind today’s incident. He was in the chamber. Can a senator go to the chamber when he is on suspension?
Waku: No. He can only stay in the office. He can go to his office but not the chamber.
PT: What does this portend for our democracy? Do you see it as a threat to our democracy?
Waku: It is not just our democracy but also our security. The person behind this should be brought to book. That (National Assembly) is an institution. It is an attempted coup. He should be tried for treason. The mace is the symbol of authority of the and the Senate President is the chairman of the National Assembly. So it is an attempted coup and should be treated as such.
PT: I recall that you were suspended from the Senate for allegedly calling for a coup to topple Obasanjo. During your suspension, did you have access to the chamber?
Waku: Yes, I was suspended for one week to allow for investigation. The investigation exonerated me. As a disciplined human being I did not go to the chamber. You are not allowed to do that but you are allowed to go to your office. As a distinguished senator, you are suspended from official duties and not that you should stop being a senator. On the allegation, my suspension was rescinded when the report of the investigation came out and indeed that was what made me the most focused and popular senator in Nigeria. You remember I received standing ovation from my colleagues.
PT: You described what happened today as a coup. Don’t you also see what you and those in the Okadigbo camp did also as a coup?
Waku: No, it was not a coup. There was an adjournment. We were on recess and the senate president can decide to keep the mace.