A former Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Gbenga Aluko, has asked the Senate not to clear a ministerial nominee, Musiliu Obanikoro, following his alleged participation in the Ekiti election rigging audio tape so as to preserve the integrity of the Senate, which he (Obanikoro) was a member.
In a letter to the Senate President, David Mark, the former senator, who also asked Mr. Obanikoro to withdraw his nomination, said should he (Obanikoro) fail to do so, the Senate leadership should meet and advise President Goodluck Jonathan against his nomination.
Copies of the letter dated February 15, were also sent to the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekwerewmadu, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, Chief Whip, Bello Gwarzo and Minority Leader, George Akume.
Mr. Obanikoro, a former minister of state for defence, was recently nominated alongside six others for ministerial positions.
Before he resigned as minister to run for the governorship primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos State last year, Mr. Obanikoro, had allegedly participated in a meeting where the rigging of the June 21 governorship election in Ekiti State, was plotted.
Also at the meeting held in Ado-Ekiti on June 20, were the Minister of Police Affairs, Jelili Adesiyan, his predecessor, Caleb Olukolade, a former PDP governorship candidate in Osun State, Iyiola Omisore, and a military commander, Aliyu Momoh, and Governor Ayo Fayose, who was then the PDP governorship candidate in Ekiti.
Although some of them admitted the meeting held, they insisted that the agenda was not to rig the Ekiti election.
Mr. Obanikoro, however, said no such meeting held even though the audio recorded released by one Sagir Koli, an army captain, revealed his voice.
On Wednesday, the Senate, for the second time in a week, deferred the clearance of Mr. Obanikoro as minister after members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, vowed to block the nomination.
“I would have expected Senator Obanikoro to relieve himself of the impending controversy in the Senate surrounding his nomination and screening, by voluntarily stepping down, while he tries to absolve himself from culpability, possibly through the courts,” Mr. Aluko said.
“However, if he doesn’t follow this path of honour, for the sake of the Senate as an institution and bastion of democracy, I will advise that you, as Senate President, along with other principal officers, meet with Mr. President and advise him to withdraw the nomination of Senator Obanikoro in order to save the integrity of our institution.
“It will be awkward for Senators to attack a former Senator and Ambassador during a nomination screening process. This will be tantamount to a situation of ‘dog eat dog’. It is your responsibility as Senate President to prevent this and save the National Assembly. If the Senate cannot tell Senator Obanikoro to “Bow and Go” then he should not come for screening.”
Mr. Aluko, who was a senator between 1999 and 2003, noted that as it is with most controversies, people were already divided as to who was telling the truth about the tape.
He said unfortunately, since Mr. Koli produced the tape with the voices of Mr. Obanikoro and others, most Nigerians who heard it believed the contents, as against the explanation offered by him (Obanikoro) and others.
Mr. Aluko said, “The content of the audio tape, if proven true, is very damning to all the participants at the purported meeting”.
Mr. Aluko, who was an aspirant in the Ekiti State governorship election last year, wondered if the Senate would clear Mr. Obanikoro in the midst of the controversy over the audio tape which allegedly exposed the meeting.
Stating that though he was not rushing to judgment as to the authenticity or otherwise of the audio tape, Mr. Aluko wondered if the Senate would in all honesty ignore the sensitivities surrounding the leakage of the tape.
He also wondered if the Senate would prevent Senators, PDP, APC, and others, from questioning the integrity of Mr. Obanikoro and others during screening in the light of the tape or ignore the position of a large section of the House of Representatives in the matter as well as the electorate during the electioneering period.
He also asked if the upper legislative chamber would ask the former minister Mr. Obanikoro to “Bow and Go” without impacting negatively on the integrity of the Senate and National Assembly.