Saraki also told newsmen in Abuja yesterday, how he crammed his six-footer frame into a small car and hid in the National Assembly Car Park for at least four hours on inauguration day.
Reacting to allegations that he disobeyed the party, directing members-elect of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to go to the International Conference Centre (ICC) for a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at 9:00am on the same day, Saraki insisted that he never got any message to that effect.
His words: “First of all, as regards the meeting (at ICC), on the morning of the inauguration, I didn’t finish meeting until 4:00 am of that day and I had got information that efforts would likely be made to make sure that I didn’t get access into the chambers.
“So, as early as 4:00am and 5:00am, I had made contingency plans that I must get into the National Assembly because the plan before was that Senators-elect should go to the Transcorp Hilton Hotel around 8:00clock and 9:00am to proceed to the National Assembly.
“But I was advised that it would not be safe or secure for me to do that because some people made sure…if I didn’t get into the chambers, it would not be possible for me to be nominated, for the nomination to be seconded and for me to accept the nomination.
“I can tell you today that I was in the National Assembly Complex as early as 6:00 in the morning and I stayed in a car in the Car Park, from 6:00 in the morning till quarter to 10:00am. This is the truth. I stayed there and I was there with no communication whatsoever.
“So, anybody who said they spoke to me to go to the ICC was not honest because I didn’t even know what was going on. All I was monitoring was how people were arriving the complex.
“It was at quarter to 10:00 that I got information that the Clerk to the National Assembly had entered the chamber. So, I got out of the small car I was sitting inside, stretched myself and put on my Babariga because I didn’t have it on before then.
“I walked from the car park into the chambers. That was why some of you would have seen that I looked very tired that morning.
“Even when I was in the chambers, I didn’t know what had transpired earlier on. The only thing I observed was that it appeared that some of our senators were not in the chamber, but the fact that my colleagues arrived in batches, I had the opinion that they were on the way and by 10:00am, the programme started.
“Before I knew it, my election had come and gone. Even my people were worried. It was only when I got into the chambers that they were relieved.”
The Senate President also dismissed insinuations that he entered into a pact with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Rather, he said, it was the absence of APC Senators in the chamber that ensured the emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu as his deputy.
“Never in our wildest imagination did we envisage that some senators would not be present on the day of the inauguration,” Saraki said.
Giving further explanation, Saraki said: “In my own view, and in the view of some of those who worked closely with me, I worked hard for my election. I had direct contact with every single senator, one-on-one in the weeks leading to the election; I did not rely on anybody. I worked hard – both in our party, the APC and outside it.
“I approached every senator, I talked to them, we built confidence, not only in the APC, but also, in the PDP. That was why I laughed when people said I had a deal with Ekweremadu or I had a hand in the emergence of Ekweremadu.
“I didn’t need any deal to win. I had penetrated…There was no deal; I didn’t need any deal in the first place. I had worked hard such that everybody who was a senator, I campaigned hard and canvassed for their votes and won their confidence.
“At one of the meetings held at Transcorp Hilton, which Senator Godswill Akpabio co-chaired with Senator Ibrahim Gobir and a few others, we had both APC and PDP members. At that meeting, if you heard most of them there, the position they took was that ‘this is the Senate President they want.’
“Across party lines, that day they believed in me, that this is the Senate President that can lead us…there was no deal. Sometimes, I wonder how some of our colleagues found themselves at the ICC…If it had been a case of whereby the Clerk of the National Assembly had made an announcement that the event had been postponed or it was no longer holding, plus, the invitation…I’m sure some are asking now, what really happened?”
Saraki reiterated that the PDP Senate caucus had already given him their support and so, there was no need to go into any deal with Ekweremadu.
“First of all, the PDP Senators had announced to the public that they were supporting me without even meeting me because in their own meeting, majority had decided to vote for me.
“In their own interest, strategically, they decided that, ‘look, this is a fait accompli because 30 of their own senators were going to vote for this man anyway and the remaining felt it was better to join.
“It wasn’t until 2:00am that they called us to tell us their decision. With regards to the deputy, when they told us that they had a candidate, we, too, told them we had a candidate for Deputy Senate President in the person of Senator Ali Ndume!
“After our own meeting, it was our thinking that it was after the election of the Senate President that the two groups in APC would meet and we would agree on a candidate.
“We never in our imagination thought they would not turn up. By the time we got there, we were only 24 while the PDP was more than 40.
“In an election, there’s no way they would not have defeated us and that was what happened. And now, when people say it was a deal, I say that if the CNA had started the procedure in the House of Representatives first, and moved tothe Senate thereafter, today, we, the APC, would have had a deputy Senate President.”
Saraki further noted: “It is unfortunate that we have a PDP man as deputy Senate President. It is painful. It is painful for any APC member because when we had been through the struggle. That was not what we signed for. But it has happened; but it is unfortunate and it is not fair to put the blame on one side because it is a combination of errors and miscalculations that led us to have, in that morning, some senators at another place instead of being there.
“So, to suggest that it was out of a desperate act to emerge is what I reject completely and those who followed the events would know that I didn’t have that deal to emerge.”