Season Of Secret, Closed Door Meetings

Meetings in secret and behind closed doors have become common these days in Nigeria. The media had had enough hot titles, though the political permutations and realignments for 2019 are not yet to be. Why such meetings are going on is simple. There are wars of interest amongst the political gladiators in Nigeria.

Relationships between them are frosty; the interest of the Nigerian populace mortgaged; the war on corruption sabotaged and the democratic institution in Nigeria is seemingly being overwhelmed. Because of all these, the top shots in Nigerian governance have opted to meet and see themselves in secret to strike deals for themselves or for the people.

Many cases that have nearly held governance to a halt are unresolved. There are forgery cases at the highest level. There are corruption cases; there are impunity cases and there are many ethno-religious collocations in national issues. In the senate leadership, in the house leadership, in the presidency, in the judiciary, the tussles to be on the threshold of power against all odds and norms are crushing. Some heads of government agencies claim superfluous rights to citizenship and freedom. At the level of the ruling party, the music is cacophonic. And as for the opposition party, things are falling far more apart. So the meetings have continued with some yielding no smiles for the nation’s progress.

However, democracy allows such struggle for the balancing between the executive and the legislature as both are created by the law. In Nigeria, the individualistic personal interests of powerful have often scuttled democratic processes and grounded conventional governance in its entirety. The 2017 budget proposal has not been passed five months after the President presented it to the National Assembly in December 2016. The Senate’s amendment of the Electoral Act and many other national issues that directly affect the people of Nigeria are hanging. The intricacies of personal relationships and political meanderings by top politicians are awesome indeed. The masses can go to hell.

In the nutshell, the senate has been angry with the alleged mishandling of matters involving it and top senior government officials particularly Comptroller General of Customs, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and acting chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who has been rejected twice by the senate. The acting EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu, is said to have a heap of repulsive documents against senior members of the National Assembly and others, though resisting compromise or tit for tat. The senate refused to approve the nomination of 27 Resident Electoral Commissioners for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in protest.

These worsening relationships pushed President Buhari to set up a committee to look into the causes particularly that between the two arms of government as hinted by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. The committee was chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo with all ministers who were once members of the National Assembly as the committee members, including special assistants to the President on National Assembly Matters and House of Representatives, Ita Enang and Samaila Kawu respectively.

Furthermore, President Buhari, in the move to mend fences with the lawmakers met separately, behind closed doors, with the Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara and the Senate President Bukola Saraki. He had earlier in the month met the security chiefs behind closed doors.

Both the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, were happy to have met with the president to discuss and resolve matters of “national interest”. Senator Saraki revealed that the president “engaged them very well”. He said activities of the National Assembly during the absence of the president were major points of discussion, including the 2017 budget, the economy, CBN, Euro bond, the issue of the ambassadorial list, the stability in the Niger Delta. He the senate will pass the budget in April. Diplomacy championed the meeting as if nothing of national interest was at risk.

But for Speaker Dogara, it was not in considerable order that the legislature should engage the executive in war of wit. According to him, the fight on issues of national interest and on behalf of the people was not out of order for the purpose of progress. He assured of one government because if the president fails, the National Assembly fails. “So it is in realization of this that we always extend the needed support to ensure that he succeeds, so that the government will be rated as a success,” he said.

The national working committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led by its chairman, John Oyegun, after about five hours closed-door meeting with the Senate Caucus, called for a ceasefire between the senate and the executive for sustainable development.

On the other hand, the senate caucus of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is seriously furious over perceived ‘technical exclusion’ from the scheme of things by President Buhari’s administration. The caucus, which met with the national working committee (NWC) led by the national chairman at the National Assembly, said that the party had offended them by failing to consult with them on critical issues of governance since APC took over power two years ago.

Some of the senators blamed Oyegun’s weak leadership of the party for not mustering the courage to speak the truth to Mr. President and called for his removal. The meeting was the first of its kind by the party and its caucus in the 8th Senate inaugurated on June 9, 2015. The lawmakers had complained bitterly that the government had failed to appoint boards of parastatals, as well as failed to fill existing vacancies in many of the agencies. That has made civil servants occupy many offices in acting capacities, thus negatively affecting governance. They also expressed anger over non-appointment of APC supporters to boards of parastatals and agencies.

Besides, some senators were said to have been unhappy with the Buhari-Saraki closed door meeting because they alleged that the burning issues were not thoroughly thrashed. It would be recalled that the senate wanted the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs, Col. Hameed Ali, to appear before it in full uniform of the agency on some allegations. Ali declined appearing in uniform. The senate passed a resolution that Ali is unfit to hold office and the battle line was thus drawn.

The holding of secret meetings, if for national interest, is not over because Nigerians are waiting for the positive results of such. Many Nigerians are confused over their daily fate as things continue to get harder. The greenback which is accused even by sachet water producers of being the cause of escalation in the prices of even local commodities is being controlled by the CBN, yet the Nigerian market remains a scaring place for the common Nigerian nowadays. Let there be real change, immediate palliatives for that matter.

Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail [email protected].

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Articles by Muhammad Ajah