By Stanley Azuakola
One of the ministerial nominees, Pastor Usani Usani Uguru, who got screened at the Senate on Tuesday made the process more difficult for himself following an utterance he made at a time when he felt he was most safe.
The pastor should have taken heed to Deuteronomy 29:18, “do not let your guard down, lest even now, today, someone gets sidetracked.” Uguru, who is the nominee from Cross River, came into the senate and was exchanging banters with the senators during the introductory segment, and then he let his guard down.
The nominee mentioned names of some senators whom he related with during the last election campaigns. Noticing that most of the senators he mentioned belonged to the APC, a PDP senator asked if he also interacted with PDP senators. “God forbid,” Uguru replied. With that tactless phrase, his screening process took a more severe turn as the PDP senators tried to make him trip.
Luckily for Uguru, he had the protection of Senate president Bukola Saraki and Senate leader, Ali Ndume.
Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio (PDP), was the first to come after Uguru. He raised a point of order and recalled that the nominee had previously served in a board under the PDP administration of Olusegun Obasanjo. Akpabio considered Uguru’s offhand comment to be derogatory.
“16 years of leadership of this nation cannot be God forbid. Mr. Senate president, I know that even you as governor benefited from the PDP for eight years. I also benefited from the PDP for eight years. It cannot be God forbid. I am going to be demanding an apology from the nominee,” Akpabio said.
As Akpabio’s comments were beginning to bring the heat on the nominee, Saraki calmly intervened and signalled to Uguru to apologise. “I am profoundly sorry,” Uguru said. The apology was accepted but it was not the last of the troubles for Uguru, who sounded lost and unsure after that incident.
Abia senator Enyinnaya Abaribe declared that the nominee did not submit his assets declaration papers along with his documents. He said the omission was a violation of senate rules and should disqualify the nominee.
Saraki once again explained that Uguru submitted his assets form, as did all the other nominees. He asked Abaribe to request for it if he needed to see it. Majority leader, Ndume, also explained that even if the form was not submitted, the nominee was still on solid ground because the 5th Schedule of the Nigerian Constitution says that a public office holder may submit his asset declaration papers before taking appointment, or within 30 days after taking office. Hence, he said, there was still time.
Another Abia senator, Mao Ohuabunwa, took on the nominee next. He pointed out that the nominee’s tax papers showed that he obtained his tax clearance certificates for three years in just one day on the 14th of this month.
The senator said the implication was that the nominee was not paying his tax as when due and as such, should be disqualified without delay.
Rather than considering the weighty allegation against the nominee, Senate president Saraki jumped to Uguru’s defence once again, overruling Ohuabunwa on a technicality and refusing to press the nominee over the tax issue.
After responding to questions on Youths and sports, solid minerals and his record of porting from party to party, Uguru was eventually asked to take a bow and go – the pastor who let his guard down and was saved by the senate president.