As the corruption crisis takes its toll,
Wabara, Senate President, resigns
• As Senate receives EFCC report • Oyofo says he is vindicated
By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi
and Paul Mumeh (Abuja)
Senate President Adolphus Wabara is expected to formally tender his letter of resignation on April 5 over the N55 million bribe which Aso Rock confirmed was offered legislators by former Education Minister, Fabian Osuji
The report submitted to the Upper House on Tuesday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) indicted Wabara and his colleagues.
Wabara is the third Senate President in the Fourth Republic to end his tenure abruptly. He is going the way of Evan Enwerem and the late Chuba Okadigbo who, like him, left the exalted post falling from grace.
Enwerem had to quit because of the dust raised over his questionable credentials. Okadigbo’s departure had to do with alleged improper financial dealings.
Feelers from the Senate said Wabara resigned on Tuesday evening and that his resignation letter was taken to the Presidency by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Chairman, Ahmadu Ali.
However, Wabara’s spokesman, Henry Ugbolue, insisted that this is not true. He spoke in a telephone interview after President Olusegun Obasanjo’s broadcast.
Ugbolue said: “I am not aware that he has resigned. If he has to do that, it has to be on the floor of the Senate, and as you are aware, the Senate has adjourned”.
Reacting to the news, former Senate Chief Whip, Victor Kassim Oyofo, said what has happened to Wabara “is the work of God and the righteous has been vindicated”.
He had cursed Wabara a fortnight ago for “an unprovoked hatred”.
It was reliably learnt that by Tuesday afternoon Wabara had been overwhelmed by the volume of evidence against him in the EFCC report and had offered to resign on April 5.
Before then, a series of meetings had been held within and outside the National Assembly complex to deliberate the matter.
They began Monday night when information filtered in that the Presidency had asked Wabara to state his position on the issue, a development his colleagues saw as signaling the end of his tenure as number three citizen.
The meetings continued on Tuesday morning as different caucuses met to decide his fate and that of the Senate after him.
The arrival of the Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa with the EFCC report confirmed speculations that Wabara was in far more trouble than his aides had thought. Unusually, the report was addressed to Senate Leader, Dalhatu Tafida, and not to Wabara or his Deputy, Ibrahim Mantu.
Before the report came, the Senate had been in a tense, three-hour executive session where Wabara was drilled by his colleagues.
He reportedly admitted collecting money, and 90 per cent of his colleagues asked him to resign.
A source said only Senator Jonathan Zwingina and Senate spokesman, Tawar Wada, pleaded on his behalf. “It was clear from his speech that the man was already reading his valedictory speech, urging his colleagues to be careful during the Easter celebrations”, he said.
There and then, the idea of setting up a probe panel was mooted. But the majority of senators were against setting up an ad-hoc committee because most members of such committee are said to be “hawks” not favourably disposed to Wabara.
The Chairman of an ad-hoc committee, if one had been set up, would have been Senator David Mark. He heads the Group of 86 senators who moved against Wabara last year for alleged misappropriation of Senate funds.
Senate Principal officers reportedly met at the NICON Noga Hotel, Abuja where Wabara was asked to take the honourable option of resigning. He was said to have declined.
At the Senate, shortly before the plenary session, Ali joined the PDP caucus in a meeting which lasted for about 30 minutes.
Later in the evening, he came back to the National Assembly premises and moved straight to Wabara’s office, accompanied by Mantu, Ita-Giwa and some senators.
It was at the meeting that Wabara reportedly agreed to resign, but he insisted that he was not going to hand over his resignation letter to the executive. Apparently coming under intense pressure, he was said to have told the team that he could only resign on the floor of the Senate.
However, he reportedly said that since the Senate is on Easter break, he would formally do so when it reconvenes on April 5.
Wabara’s aides were already packing files and personal belongings from his office on Tuesday evening.
Regardless of the evidence presented by the EFCC, Wada stated at a press briefing that Obasanjo’s statement on corruption is “his opinion. Allegations do not take precedence over judicial proof. If the President is accusing the National Assembly of wallowing in corruption, he should take them to court”.
But it was a different Wabara who appeared at the Senate on Tuesday. His visage was anything but happy. He intermittently wiped his face with a white handkerchief at the plenary session.
Attempts by the Senate press corps to ask him questions were unsuccessful. He looked straight ahead as he walked past.