Published On: Wed, Jun 26th, 2019

Lawan’s shaky takeoff: Tip-off on C’ttees composition

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By Ikechukwu Okaforadi

Senator Ahmad Lawan was recently elected to preside over the 9th session of the Senate. Being the choice candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), he defeated his rival, Ali Ndume with great ease.
With hindsight over the consistent disputes which characterized relationship between the 8th Senate and the executive arm of government, during the tenure of Senator Bukola Saraki, analysts agree that expectations are really very high on Lawan.
This is not just on the fact that he emerged the consensus candidate of the APC and even the Presidency, it is mostly given his very wide exposure both politically and academically, which is in addition to being the likable senator among his peers.
Moreover, Lawan has so far no scandal around him despite being in the parliament and having held sensitive positions, he also has PHD in one of the difficult fields of science; Remote Sensing/GeoInformation Science (GIS) from the prestigious University of Cranfield, United Kingdom.
With these in mind, one can begin to understand why all eyes are on the Senate President, who must not fail Nigerians, especially in this critical moment when Nigerians are expecting tangible legislative provisions that will change the face of events in Nigeria, socially and economically.
However, few days into his tenure as the Senate President, Lawan appears to have started with the wrong or ailing foot. He, unlike President Muhammadu Buhari, who usually take his time and luxury to form his cabinet, within days of his ascension, quickly began to put his team in place, as he appointed his Chief of Staff, Media Advisers and Administrative Aides.

Sadly, the few appointments made by Lawan has generated
heated controversies which observers say will remain a watershed in the history of the 9th session of the Senate. First was the appointment of Festus Adedayo, who shortly after his appointment, spoke callously about his new job.
Shortly after his appointment as Lawan’s publicist and image maker for the Nigerian parliament, some social media users launched sever criticisms against his choice by the Senate President. The argument was basically that Adedayo has been a severe critic of President Buhari and APC.
Responding to this criticism, and in order not to appear remorseful, Adedayo resorted to self defence and succeeded in convincing the world that he is not desperate about the job and that he was even compelled to take up the appointment.
According to him, “I have never been a politician. But if the politicians feel that it is their birthright, they can have the appointment; it is not a do or die thing for me at all. If I go there, I am going there to serve the country,” he said.
When asked if he has accepted the appointment, he said “As I talk to you, I am a student of the Law School and it is a certificate that I have sought to own all my life. So, for me to abandon it, is an issue that I am still battling.
“I have never done anything in my life other than in the media. I have been a reporter, features editor, opinion editor. The only affiliary thing I have done is to be a media adviser to two governors and in those respect, I did my job as a journalist and a professional.”
“The Senate President, I reckon, wanted me on the basis of my professionalism but if politicians feel it is theirs for keep, so be it,” he said.
“I do not have any apologies for the fact that I am not a politician. I never worked for any political party and I am not going to work for any political party. But I have an idea of what a good country needs. And I will always write about it all the days of my life.
“I did not canvass for the job. I did not lobby for the job. I did not ask for the job”, he explained. He added that should he accept the appointment, it “can never change anything.”
“One thing which I always did with my principals in government was to walk up to them and tell them the truth. If I take this appointment, I will continue in the same mode”, Festus was reported to have said.
This outburst by Adedayo forced Lawan to review the appointment, even as many described the review as a damage control or volta-face by the Senate President, who is receiving his first baptism of fire presiding the Senate.
In addition to this, just few days ago, another of his appointee, Olu Onemola, resigned his appointment as the Special Assistant to the Senate President on New Media. He cited similar reasons of political interference like the Adedayo, but unlike Adedayo, Olu Onemola served in the administration of the immediate past Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
Bearing this in mind, also on Monday, in what appears like an allusion that the gale of attacks on Lawan’s formation of his work team are instigated from the Presidency, the Aide to President Buhari on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, in her twitter handle: @Laurettar, twitted “Our youth are out and about this morning to continue the fumigation of the appointees at the National Assembly, 3 down. More to go.
Recall that during campaigns for the position of Senate President, Lawan’s opponents leveled the allegation of stooge against him, sequel to this argument, he was perceived by observers as being an installation of the APC leaders, Bola Tinubu and Adams Oshiomhole.
This explains why it is mostly believed that his few early appointments were based purely on the recommendations of the Tinubu and Oshiomhole structures, hence the attacks coming from those who perceive themselves as loyalists of President Buhari.
However one chooses to look at this recent development, one factor remained constant, and that fact is that the Senate President does not have a personal knowledge and relationship with those he has appointed, as most of them came through recommendation from his political allies.
From the arguments of political commentators, the bigger challenge before Lawan will certainly be how he is able to compose the standing committees of the Senate. Another is if he will be capable of navigating debates on controversial Bills lying before the parliament.
It is certainly expected not to be easy for Lawan, for many reasons. He is perceived uptill now as a stooge of the Presidency and the APC by the opposition PDP lawmakers. In addition, he now has a firebrand Senate Minority (opposition) Leader in the person of Enyinnaya Harcourt Abaribe.
Aggregation of these factors leave one with the conviction that for Lawan to dream of having a seamless reign as Senate President, he must first work hard to convince all key stakeholders that he has succeeded in extricating himself from the vested interests that brought him to majesty.
Soon, standing committees of the Senate will be composed, but how this is done will go a long way to determine if the 9th session of the senate will be peaceful or controversial.
The lobby over who takes over what juicy committee have commenced in earnest. Observers are of the view that, just like in the recent appointments, there will still be recommendations from extraneous factors.
However, the good thing is that about forty three senators returned from the 8th session and these are people whom the new Senate President has personal relationship with either at committee level or at plenary level.
Based on this, pundits think the senate president has a call to be more firm and resolute while constituting the standing committees and making other appointments. This is not the time to pander to irrelevant considerations, especially considering the very high expectation on Lawan’s Senate President.
One remarkable feature which makes President Buhari remarkably different from ex President Goodluck Jonathan is his strong mind. For four years, Buhari, despite huge public demands that most of his ministers, including service chiefs, are not up to the task assigned to them, has paid deaf ears to the calls, even when their tenures have expired, he still exercised his presidential prerogatives to extend their tenures, careless of whose ox is gored.
It is a sign of a man who controls his affairs, unlike Jonathan, who will sack a star minister because few disgruntled social commentators or Non-Government Organisation (NGO) take to the media to mount pressures.
This Buhari’s philosophy of who will condemn a man when the gods have not done so, is what Lawan must adopt at this critical time, especially to correct the impression going round that he will be a weak Senate President.
The point here is that though the APC and persons in the Presidency may want to intervene in the choice of who become chairman of what juicy committee, however, the capacity of the man on the saddle to stand solid in bringing to bear what he considers to be right and in the interest of democracy and Nigeria, remains the benchmark to compare his tenure and that of his predecessors on the scale of success. To whom much is given, much is certainly expected.

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