Erring party, undisciplined lawmakers

Erring party, undisciplined lawmakers
December 30 11:13 2015

By PIUS OBANSA

The crisis currently rocking the All Progressive Congress (APC) caucus in the National Assembly can best be described as a crisis of greed, ambition, tardiness and treachery. Nigeria is not new to crises in the legislative arm of government. As a matter of fact, since the advent of the fourth republic, the National Assembly has always had a shaky start. It is however unfortunate that for the umpteenth time, the in- fighting, imbroglio and chaos are not about one health bill or any debate on  insurgency, corruption, power or environment. Nigerian politicians keep on disgracing their countrymen and fighting  like motor park touts over issues that have to do with ego, inordinate ambition and selfishness. They earn ludicrous amount of money, throw chairs in the chambers over personal matters  and when they are in the mood, they proceed on silly recesses. The fate of the long- suffering people of Nigeria does not appear in their routine at all. This brings back the debate on whether we can afford to sustain  that 469- member National Assembly of rogues. But that’s an issue for another day.

Guided by the notion that the rule of law also presupposes respect for the independence of each arm of government under the doctrine of separation of powers, President Muhammadu   Buhari had stated that he had no preferred candidate for principal officers of the National Assembly. The President expressly stated that he could work with anyone who is eventually elected by members of the National Assembly as its principal and presiding officers. In line with that solemn pledge, President Buhari stayed out of the election  and even sent a letter to the clerk of the National Assembly , mandating him to inaugurate the assembly in his absence.

While one cannot fault the President’s decision to stay aloof, some observers believe he should have tried to control things from behind the scene to avoid the embarrassing situation the party has now found itself.  Well, for me, the President cannot be blamed because he had the whole country as his immediate constituency to think about and his decision to allow other party leaders exercise their discretion may be the best. But the party as an organization got it all wrong from the beginning and  kept on making one mistake after another.

APC leaders actually behaved like learners. They were not sure on what to do at the beginning. They should have made a firm decision on zoning and invite all warring members to toe the line of give and take. But the arrogance of some party leaders who believe they can always sit in the comfort of their living rooms and decide who gets what and how, is the root cause of the present crisis. If there was a quick and early decision on zoning formula, every APC senator and representative would have fallen in line while aggrieved ones would have been compensated with other offers. All the party needed to do was to zone the positions first and allow the lawmakers to decide the specific people to push forward at the level of zonal caucuses rather than dictating specific individuals to the lawmakers.

Bukola Saraki, Senate President and Yakubu Dogara, Speaker House of Representatives

Bukola Saraki, Senate President and Yakubu Dogara, Speaker House of Representatives

The party’s decision to do an open mock election was indeed a disaster. In fact many of us who had  thought APC was made up brilliant and politically – sagacious strategists were made to look foolish. The way and manner the party had organized an efficient campaign which dusted a powerful ruling party for the first time in the history of the country had made some of us over- rate the party and assumed they will also do well in taking basic decisions as a ruling party but we were so wrong.

One, the mock election wasn’t necessary because it was seen by the Saraki/Dogara group  as an attempt to foist some candidates on the lawmakers. Two, the sham mock election was actually the mistake PDP was waiting and hoping APC would make before deciding its next line of action. And when APC made the mistake of announcing to the world that it had chosen Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajamiala as National Assembly leaders, the PDP quickly moved in and started strategizing on how to make the the candidates lose out to Saraki and Dogara. Of course the PDP blood in the two candidates made it easy for the opposition to decide on them. The bottom line of this argument is that the mock election exposed the tracks of the ruling party.

Again,  the fact  that the  Saraki/Dogara group shunned the mock election was supposed to give the APC hierarchy some concern. In fact, the party’s reconciliatory apparatus should have moved into action immediately Saraki and Dogara announced that they will still contest for the positions inspite of the outcome of the mock election. But the party slept off and was thinking threats to lawmakers who were planning to support Saraki and and Dogara would solve any problem.

If the decision to organize the mock election in that manner was an obvious blunder, the fixing of a meeting at the International Conference Centre on the day of inauguration of the National Assembly was a schoolboy error which a student learning politics at elementary level should not even make. Even Audu Ogbeh said in an interview that the person who took the decision to fix a meeting on the day was a learner. Again, as soon as pro- APC lawmakers and the party leaders got to the ICC and didn’t see any of the Saraki/ Dogara group, they should have sensed danger and quickly mobilized to storm the National Assembly. This would have at least stopped the emergence of a PDP lawmaker, Sen Ike Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President.

The emergence of Bukola Saraki, Yakubu Dogara and their respective deputies against the party’s  position was bad enough but the fact that Ekweremadu retained his position was a hit below the belt for the party.

It was a bloodied nose for the APC. Like a jilted lover and a disappointed father, leaders of the APC have not been able to come out of this self-inflicted nightmare.

Saraki and Dogara having defied the party to clinch their coveted prices, decided to inflict more injuries on the party by disregarding its choices of principal officers. For the Senate,  it went unchallenged but the House of Representative  members insisted that the speaker must respect the decision of the party and they created a rather shameful and disgraceful scenery in the green chamber.

Its unfortunate that Saraki and Dogara are not ready to be magnanimous in victory neither are APC leaders ready to be gracious in defeat and Nigeria is at a crossroad.

Leaders of the APC are busy playing the blame game when they should be seen to be mending fences between the waring factions. One would’ve expected Saraki and Dogara having  gotten what they wanted, like prodigal sons, crawl back to the party and amend their ways, both men will have none of that. The leadership  of the APC after losing out to Saraki and Dogara, instead of amending their choices of principal officers to reflect federal character, decided to still stick to them, thereby seeking to shortchange  other zones of the country.

How can the APC leadership insist on giving the two key, principal offices in the House to the same southwest  and northeast zones which had already taken the positions of Speaker and Deputy Speaker? Yes the party is supreme but if the party  must be respected by the rest of Nigerians, it must be consistent, firm and decisive. The party must work with certain rules and obey certain traditions, principles and conventions.  It must not allow itself to be hijacked by some individual interests. If the party must earn the respect of all and sundry, it must not allow some people hide behind it to push through their inordinate ambition and selfish agenda. There is no law that says Femi

Gbajabiamila’s must become House Leader if he fails to become Speaker while there is no rule that says Yakubu Dogara group must insist on its  winner/ takes- all attitude.

President Buhari can not afford to fold his hands and allow the mistake of his party men consume his presidency. He must as a matter of urgency call all the factions for a meeting and settle them amicably. He must be seen as the unbiased arbiter, as a father and a leader of the party. He must apply both stick and the carrot where and when necessary. Both Saraki and Dogara must come down from their high horses, they must be told to respect the leadership of the party or they will be shown the way out because party supremacy is key to the survival of our democracy. The leaders of the party must realise that politics is about consensus, compromise and finding middle ground, politics is about managing conflicts and making decisive and tough decisions and as the ruling party, they must take responsibility for what transpired in the National  Assembly and also see the upheavals as part of their learning  curve.