Upon the inauguration of the President Buhari’s Administration on May 29, 2015, it was clear that the incoming regime was set for the proclamation of the National Assembly to enable effective and smooth take-off of the new regime. Expectedly, there were political intrigues among members of the different political parties with a view to ensuring peaceful commencement of sittings at the two Chambers of the National Assembly.
It would be recalled that prior to the inauguration of the National Assembly, the National Chairman of All Peoples Congress (APC), Chief John K. Odigie-Oyegun and party leaders, summoned all the legislators elected under APC to a meeting where some views and interests were brought to bear in the selection of some preferred individuals to emerge as leaders of both the Senate and House of Representatives. Based on the conviction and/or threat of what was said to be the party directive, two contentious groups emerged among the APC law-makers even before the June 9, 2015 inauguration. Every effort to reconcile their differences did not (and has not till date) yielded the desired result. While one group is aligning with “the directive of the party”, the other group is contending for the “independence of the hallow chambers to save it from perceived external influence”. This development has made the two Chambers a “house of commotion” since the inception of the 8th National Assembly.
While the dichotomy lasts, political observers and commentators have severally opined that some APC leaders are greedy and should thread softly in order not to destroy the nascent regime. Unfortunately, some other analysts have made the resolution of the on-going quagmire difficult by their ethnic-inclined comments and subtle threats to Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Rt. Honourable Yakubu Dogara’s Group. The Lawan/Gbajabiamila Group’s decision to have a meeting with their party leaders at the International Conference Centre, have been identified as golden opportunity for the Sakari/Dogara Group to have their way at the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly. It was truly a masterstroke which dust is still unsettling to the Lawan/Gbajabiamila Group. The accusation of sell-out by this group against the incumbent leaders of the National Assembly and their refusal to swallow the bitter pill, have continued to polarise the National Assembly.
The intrigues at the National Assembly, though not unexpected in view of some tendencies within the ruling political party, are capable of slowing down the process of governance. It is also a complete departure of Thomas Jefferson’s views on leadership and political calling. Rather than the blame game from different directions, promoters of the unhealthy political quagmire must not forget that Nigeria is bigger than any individual interest. When the former Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal defected from PDP on whose platform he became a Lawmaker cum Speaker to APC, he was applauded by those who instigated his action against PDP. People did not talk about justice all through his occupation of the exalted Speakership position. All agitations by PDP for Speaker Tambuwal to vacate his office were rebuffed while APC took advantage of that singular decision to harvest members at the National Assembly. That precedence where a member of the minority party in the House of Representatives sat and functioned as the Speaker, no matter the circumstance, cannot easily be washed away from our political emancipation in Nigeria. Therefore, the emergence of new leadership of the National Assembly should be seen as part of the change Nigerians yearned for and supportive of collaborative governance.
The principles of separation of power should be more realistic and practicable at all the three tiers of government. State Governors should not selfishly try to replicate what they do in their Houses of Assembly at the National Assembly by insisting that the party’s position for the leadership of the National Assembly is sacrosanct. The crises at the National Assembly could be a ploy to arm-twist Mr. President to accept their belief which, from all intents and purposes, is at variance with the President’s position that he “belong to everybody and to nobody” and that he was ready to work with whoever emerge as leaders of the National Assembly. President Buhari is for every Nigerian and should not be forced to belong to one Nigerian.
According to R.W. Emerson, “a man’s action is only a picture book of his creed”. Therefore the on-going quagmire among APC members at the National Assembly, ostensibly supported by the APC State Governors, is a pointer to this postulation. We are living witnesses to the political dynamics at the State level where some Governors have made themselves indispensible leaders whose words are laws in determining the leaders of the House of Assembly in their State. By their body language, it is apparent that any candidate anointed by the Governors will automatically emerged on the floor of the House. When I heard some Governors saying that the party is supreme hence its position should be upheld by the National Assembly, I perceived insincerity, inconsistency and self-centred egoism in the interplays. I am not too sure that a sitting Governor would allow the State Chairman of his party to overshadow his influence on who emerge as leaders of the second arm of the presidential system of government in their States.
One is tempted to think that what the Governors lost by the refusal of Mr. President to allow them nominate Ministers for him, they want to get it through the backdoor at the National Assembly. They are now playing the ostrich game on Mr. President whose military manoeuvring experience certainly outplace their best strategy. The interplays at the National Assembly is already too complex for APC to upturn existing leadership structure. APC should be grateful to Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara for averting what would have been a total alienation of APC legislators from occupying the two most important positions in the National Assembly. In all, our nascent democracy is growing and we should be patient enough to encourage it maturity.
The embarrassing developments at the National Assembly, if not swiftly and appropriately addressed by those concerned, will adversely affect the ability of the National Assembly to play its law-making roles to this administration. What is more disturbing is the inherent and arrogance display of egoistic tendencies by the instigators of the quagmire. I wonder when Nigerians will emulate characters in developed democracies of the world who would for the sake of his country subjugate personal interest for the overall interest of the country. Selfishness is a greed which outcome does no good for common wellbeing of the majority. It is just too early in the day for Lawmakers to be struggling for the mace. Our politicians should stop overheating the polity and allow President Buhari constitute his Government bearing in mind that the days of electioneering campaigns and ambivalence are over, at least, for now.
The APC legislators should stop this tension at the National Assembly which is a distraction to President Buhari’s determination to succeed. Individual interests and tendencies to indirectly control the National Assembly should not create disaffection that is now threatening the smooth take-off of the new Administration. As it is now, it is becoming more doubtful when the President would form his cabinet. Even if the ministerial nominees list is ready now, the transmission to the Senate had to be delayed until all skirmishes are sorted out and the Red Chamber ready to receive the list of nominees from the President.
The manner some of our legislators openly fight themselves in the Chambers because of political interest, clearly reminds us that “great men are not always wise” (Job 32:9). A wise man would normally display noble behaviour irrespective of how contentious the issues affecting him are. Those disgracing themselves must not forget that their election by the masses is for decent representation in law-making for good governance and not to behave like area-boys, no matter the provocation. This obvious show of shame is ridiculing our democracy. Opportunity of second chance is, however, there for them to shield their swords, engage in meaningful dialogue and support the incumbent leaders of the National Assembly to succeed. Failure to embrace peace and discharge their statutory functions should attract Mr. President’s sledge hammer to save his reputation among the teeming population who are already getting agitated, apprehensive and becoming remorseful for voting APC into power.
Following the ambivalence orchestrated by unwillingness of APC stalwarts to allow peace reign, both Chambers of the National Assembly have adjourned sitting to 21st July, 2015. By implication, the effective commencement of serious discharge of their legislative functions, have been further delayed against the expectations of our teeming populace. This is no doubt frustrating to the Executive arm of government who should be very anxious to settle down for governance, knowing very well that Nigerians can be impatient towards delayed or non-performance.
I wish to align with the National Publicity Secretary of APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed that APC has achieved what PDP could not achieve all through her sixteen (16) years in government. The erudite spokesman only recently submitted that APC has achieved huge success in quelling Boko Haram by the various international visits of Mr. President to Chad, Niger, Britain and attendance of G7 meeting where Nigeria was advised to forward her need assessment for effective collaborative roles in the fight against Boko Haram. It is on record that for sixteen (16) years, the National Assembly never had it so rough and tumbles. Never mind, there are learning curves for a more purposeful leadership in both Chambers of the National Assembly Complex.
It is expected that the ruling political party will put its house in order to amicably resolve noticeable differences among its members to bridge what is already distancing the National Assembly from playing its statutory roles. The APC legislators must individually live above board; realise that national interest transcends personal bigotry no matter the interest of any political leader involved. Those who are fighting and throwing stones at the National Assembly against the primary purpose of their representations of the people, have a history awaiting them. Your guess on the implications of our shameful actions is as good as mine!
Eigbiluese, a public affairs commentator writes from Abuja