Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
These are eventful times in Nigeria especially in the polity. I refrain from using the word ‘interesting’ for, what is happening is no comedy at all. Politicians are fond of saying that all is fair in politics and that politics is about (self) interest. Politics confers on you the opportunity to wield authority and allocate resources. So, the goal of politics should be to do the ‘greatest good to the greatest number of people’. The last time our politics was suffused with eventful occurrences in our recent political history precisely in this 4th Republic was during former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s time when we had a gale of governorship impeachments engineered by the ruling party itself against its own. Then the ruling party controlled virtually everything both the state Government Houses, the state assemblies and the National Assembly. Then we did not have a loud opposition as such but a ‘strong’ leader that was fully in charge and whom it is said, many of his party members dared not look in the eye. He chose who became Senate president and literally dispensed them at will. There were also the intrigues in the National Assembly over the so-called ‘Third Term’ agenda.
Umar Yar’Adua’s time was not as eventful because of his rather short tenure, except that it led to the proclamation of the ‘doctrine of necessity’ by a National Assembly that surprisingly rose to the occasion, resulting now to a constitutional amendment that sets limits for succession of their principals by a vice president/ governor in emergencies like death. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s era was also less eventful save for the fact the then opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN) surreptitiously thwarted the ruling party’s choice for Speaker of the House of Representatives – a female by the way (Hon. Monsurat) – enabling another PDP contestant to so emerge instead (former Speaker Tambuwal, now Sokoto governor). There was also towards the end of his term, the famous defection of five ruling party governors and some lawmakers to the amalgamated opposition party, the APC. Nevertheless, as seemingly weak as former president Jonathan was, he was still able to keep the national assembly in check somehow as they still largely toed his and the party’s line. In brief there had been relative stability in the National Assembly with both executive and legislative arms of government working hand in hand and largely following same path.
Now the National Assembly is sharply divided down the line, exacerbated by the recent public carpet crossings, with two distinct groups emerging, each apparently pulling in different directions. One led by Senate president, Bukola Saraki and the other, the ‘Parliamentary Group’ headed by Senator Abdullahi Adamu.
We are now being told that the National Assembly is an independent body that should call its own shots and check the “excesses” of the executive in the true sense of democracy. We now have a national assembly where its head, the senate leader as the number three citizen of the country is not always seen with the president at public functions as used to be the case and should be the norm; a national assembly in which the senate president can elect which event to attend with Mr. President; a national assembly that is seemingly working at cross purposes with the executive and the party – party members opposing their own party; a national assembly in which its majority members cannot be controlled by the president nor the party’s chairman; a national assembly that is making the president with his executive authority look like a lame duck; a national assembly whose leader as Senate president, the number three leader in the country, after the president and his vice, feels he is being haunted and hounded by the presidency, believing rightly that in a presidential system as ours where the president exercises executive powers, nothing can happen without the president’s knowledge and consent; a national assembly whose leader is convinced that the executive wants to ridicule and shame him by putting him in the dock and levelling serious charges against him via its agencies.
We now have a senate president who is supported in this view by many lawmakers and who together with his supporters is bent on wriggling himself out of the quagmire by all means, even if it means ‘dining with the devil’ so to speak. Really testy times await the National Assembly when it resumes from its long, two months recess, especially as Saraki has hinted at his defection in words and deeds. Can he still morally remain Senate president should he quit the ruling APC on which basis he ostensibly got the Seat? Both groups in the National Assembly should be strategising on how to deal with this rather anomalous situation it should happen. They are both led by people with some pedigree behind them. Senator Adamu who heads the parliamentary group that opposes Saraki, gave his reason for spearheading the group thus, “ You are an APC man, your party has got a national mandate and you have a president and you are still working by the day, every one day against the president, Muhammadu Buhari, It is a betrayal”.
Both Saraki and Adamu are leaders in their own rights. They are both former governors and former chairmen of the Governors’ Forum, Senator Adamu having been its pioneer chairman. Saraki is from a political dynasty of sort, built by his father, Oloye Saraki. Whereas the senate president learnt his political skills in the comfort of his father’s political feet and fountain, Senator Adamu garnered his political experience by navigating through the murky, reality political waters dating back from the erstwhile Benue-Plateau region to the old Plateau State and now Nasarawa State, being the state’s first democratically elected governor. The political battles he has had to fight over these long years have fortified him and moulded him into a political strategist of no mean repute. He is an avid reader and a good student of international and world affairs with friends across geo political divides and able to speak and understand a little of other Nigerian languages other than his native Hausa and Afor languages. The cap fits him to restore unity in the National Assembly as Senate President after this apparently chaotic Senate.