APC & NASS Leadership Election: A Beckon to Instability.
Democracy returned to Nigeria in 1999 with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the President of the country, after a prolonged military rule. Various forms of instability were witnessed in the polity including the National Assembly. One of the causes of these instabilities as it related to the legislature is what Dr. Chuba Okadigbo referred to as the Banana Peel. Okadigbo used the concept of banana peel to caution his successor, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim. According to Okadigbo, only the initiated would find the banana peel by the side of the elevated seat of the Senate President. He remarked that several public officers have stepped on the proverbial banana peel and slipped off. He regretted that the true autonomy of the National Assembly was struggling to find its feet in a slippery national political environment. It is worthy of mention that from 1999 to 2007, the concept of banana peel remained a recurrent decimal in our national political discourse given the spate of impeachment of the leadership in the Nigerian National Assembly within that period.
However, in the doctrine of the separation of powers, not all know that the legislature is the most superior arm of the government basically because it is the engine room of any functional democracy. In all ages, political philosophers, extant and modern, such as Aristotle, Polybius, Marcus Tallitus Cicero, Marcillo of Padua, Jean Bodin, James Harrington, John Locke, Charles Montesque, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton etc have discussed exhaustively on the nature of democracy and the significance of the independence of the legislature for effective checks and balances. But as in all cases with Nigeria, things must be placed upside down.
Any person who has been a legislator or has followed the affairs of the legislature knows how objectionable the foul miasma of an executive tyranny is perceived by the lawmakers or each time the executive arm of the government tries to render the legislature powerless through the imposition of a complaisant leadership. In 1999, Okadigbo had garnered over 65 signatories from the PDP senators as the most acceptable candidate to lead the Senate. The candidacy of Okadigbo did not meet the approval of former President Obasanjo who preferred Dr. Evan(s) Enwerem as the Senate President. At the same time, the President preferred Alhaji Salisu Buhari as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Also in the PDP, it was imposition galore at the various leadership levels of the party. Based on the foregoing, Nigerians witnessed several impositions by the executive on one hand and depositions by the lawmakers on the other. Philosophically, any leadership contrived against the wishes of the group must of necessity collapse under the weight of it’s internal contradictions. As it turned out eventually, all the legislators that were imposed on the legislature as leaders stepped on the slippery banana peel and fell headlong. Hence, Obasanjo’s eight years had a turn-over of Evans Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo, Anyim Pius Anyim, Adolphus Nwabara and Ken Nnamani in the Senate; and Salisu Buhari, Ghali N’Abba, Aminu Bello Maisari, Patricia Etteh (Mrs.), Dimeji Bankole in the House of Representatives.
Any student of political history knows that since the 1688 Glorious Revolution that established the supremacy of the parliament over the Crown in England, the imposition of pliant leadership on the legislature is often resisted; except of course where the victim has very low resistance. President Goodluck Jonathan regime tried to no avail to impose Hon. Mulikat Adeola-Akande as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The members of the House not only rejected the Akande executive option but found in Aminu Waziri Tambuwal the symbol of their legislative consciousness.
The then Action Congress party led by Chief Bola Tinubu defied the PDP zoning arrangement, mobilized all available resources against Akande and smiled home with Tambuwal as the Speaker of the House. Former President Goodluck Jonathan must have drawn some lessons from the Obasanjo regime and made a significant progress by avoiding the awful instigation of impeachment crises in the legislature. This is a quantum leap away from the anachronistic and primitive assertion of authority over the legislature by the executive.
On June 9, 2015, the National Assembly in their wisdom or lack of it, elected their leadership in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, superintended by the Clerk of the National Assembly, a seasoned technocrat. Senators Bukola Saraki of the All Peoples Congress APC) and Ike Ekweremadu of PDP were duly elected and sworn in as the Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively; and in the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara and Yusuf Lasun were duly elected and sworn in as the Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively. This drew the ire of the APC and an undemocratic epistle that their preferred candidates should be allowed to lead the National Assembly. Quel domage
The imposition of candidates on the legislature by the executive during the Obasanjo regime was considered a hangover of several years of military rule in Nigeria, more so the Obasanjo profile as a retired general of the Nigerian army. For the All Progressive Congress to reinvent the wheel of imposition on the legislature, many years after, is not only backpedalling and an indication of a poor grasp of history but a beckon to instability.
It runs contrary to the grain of reason, the fundamentals and nuances of power for the APC to delude itself that the opposition PDP with 49 senators against the 59 APC senators will swallow the Bola Tinubu bait, hook, line and sinker. Such preoccupation smacks of political immaturity. It is important to inform that there is a fundamental difference between the legislature in the parliamentary system on one hand and the legislature in a presidential system on the other. In the latter, the influence of the party on the law-maker is very tenuous with the legislator enjoying various degrees of freedom.
Furthermore, commonsense should inform the APC that for the party to drive their affairs through the legislature, there must be peace in the Senate. An insignificant difference of ten senators cannot guarantee them the overriding majority expected to pull through their policies except if of course, peace reigns in the Senate. It restates the obvious that in any election between Saraki and Lawan, the former with the support of PDP will continue to win.
I have read several positions or views on the emergence of Saraki as the Senate President including the ones expressed by some retired military officers, bishops, business men, etc; but every opinion is a function of the knowledge available to the individual especially in a society that the legislature has suffered various forms of institutional casualty.
The Deputy President of the Senate Dr. Ike Ekweremadu,CFR has demonstrated commitment, uprightness, selfless service and patriotism at various levels of the Nigerian project. On the occasion of his reception in Enugu shortly after the inauguration of the 8th National Assembly, he used the anecdote of self destruction to offer advice to the APC. According to Ekweremadu: A mad man met a king at his sumptuous dinner; but the king tried sending the mad man away on account of his inability to conduct himself to table etiquette. But the mad man smiled and informed the king that he would not be the first to contravene the rules of the table. To his greatest surprise, the king took a portion of the foo- foo, dipped it into the soup and threw it outside as a libation to the gods. The king further took a weighty fish from the soup and again threw it outside for the gods. The mad man, in emulation of the king, pounced on the food and followed the same pattern of throwing to the gods, the wind and then to his mouth.
Ekweremadu used the paradox of self destruction to inform the APC that the PDP is prepared to collaborate with the APC in the passage of bills and the task of service delivery to Nigerians, so long as they do not first engage in frivolities and self destruction. The adamantine insistence by the APC on the reversal of the National Assembly leadership is far beyond adventure and an exercise in futility. For several years, the tributaries of APC have dwelt in the moorings of confrontation and have continued the swing even when the environment has long changed. It brings to question their preparedness for the much touted ‘change’.
Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia, a former member of the Old Enugu State House of Assembly, is in the Department of Political Science, Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu.