Tambuwal: Democracy imperiled

Hon Tambuwal

Ali M. Ali

Let me begin by congratulating the Super Eagles for scaling to the round of 16 in the current World Cup. The players gave a good account of themselves in yesterday’s 3-2 loss to Argentina. But for the respect the Eagles gave the Argentines, the match could have ended a draw. I hope when we meet France in the knock out stage, we will be as passionate and a little less respectful of the French.

On Monday, the siege by the Army on us, ordinary Nigerians mired into the ground by the Emperor shoes reached absurd levels. On that day, brave soldiers fearlessly subjected Tambuwal’s Staff car to a thorough search. Reminded that it was the Speaker’s car, the soldiers reacted courageously by saying that they were merely obeying orders from ‘above’. I take it that the “above” must be the President or his vice.It can’t, certainly, be from the Senate President or any of the Service Chiefs.

I have no quarrel with the search. The Speaker too, seems not to have a quarrel with that. His statement yesterday that he was not above the law confirms that. I however, quarrel with the intent. This is clearly a continuation of the war on elements who chose not to ‘toe the line’ of certain interests represented by a presidential cabal. Our democracy is in great danger. To say it is imperiled, it is to be charitable.

Aminu Waziri Tambuwal is not an ordinary Nigerian. He is the Speaker of the House of Representatives. That bears repeating. In the national order of Precedence, an elegant name for ‘perking’, the not so ‘young’ man is No. 4.

In a nation of over 140 million, Tambuwal is certainly not a ‘regular Joe’. His office rightfully elevated him to this height (silly not Golan). As the Igbos would say, when a young man washes his hands clean, he will eat with kings. Tambuwal has washed his hands very clean.

Consider if you may, this. He trained as a lawyer. Now he is a politician. In both training and practice, he has shown remarkable competence. He is 48 years old. The same age with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain. Just 5 years younger than America’s Obama. He is 20 years older than Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sebastian Kurz who will be 28 in August 2014.Minus his office razzmatazz, he is accomplished all right. His peers in the legal profession are Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs). This roughly translates to ‘professorship’. As a person, he is, indeed, consummate. As a politician, he is even more adept.In the last three odd years since he became first among equals, he has navigated the treacherous political waters with the grace and ease of a ballerina. Make no mistake about this. To swim in the shark infested political waters of the lower chamber will require the dexterity and skills of a dozen Michael Phelps.

Phelps was the American swimmer who won more medals in a single Olympics than several African countries put together. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics for instance, he won 8 gold medals, five of which were in individual events. He repeated a similar feat four years later in London in 2012 albeit on a lesser scale. He won 4 gold and 2 silver.These feats however, are insufficient to equip a politician to swim in the verminous waters of Reps politics.

I am, like most politics reporters, truly confounded, as to how he manages an ordinarily rambunctious chamber populated by, mostly, lackeys and surrogates of tin-footed godfathers. Some legislators are known not to have a mind of their own except that of the godfather. They fall in the category of ‘how high do I jump, my dear godfather’ when asked to jump for no reason other than to satisfy the commercial and political interests of the master puppeteer.

I hazard a guess. The Speaker is extra-ordinary. All Nigerians informed enough to know the difference between men and mice are familiar with the story of Tambuwal’s journey to Speakership. It is one of defiance. It is also one of labyrinthine networking. From the convoluted alliances and pacts, Tambuwal’s organizational dexterities manifested early. The story is still being told of how he defied the godfathers of his party, the PDP, and asserted the independence of the lower chamber to sign post his leadership.

A little over three years, the PDP zoned the Office of the Speaker to the Southwest. Latching unto a loophole in his party’s healthy disrespect for rules, Team Tambuwal, consisting of ‘renegade’ PDP elements and opposition legislators rebelled against the godfathers and chose, instead, the current No. 4 from the North-west as Speaker.

It is the first time since the dawn of the return of the civilian rule that Nos 2,3 and 4 are all from the North. Yet it is Tambuwal who has demonstrated genuine passion for democracy insisting on accountability and the separation of powers.

The Senate, I must say, may have a brilliant and well-rounded President in David Mark. But when it comes to democracy, the retired soldier has consistently protected the current regime more than he has done for democracy. Mark has, over time, exhibited great sagacity in leading the Senate but when it comes to protecting democracy, he has fallen short, choosing instead, to side with an inept establishment that is systematically destroying the systems and institutions that shaped and brought Mark to prominence.

For washing his hands clean, Tambuwal should be eating with royals like the Senate President. From the looks of things, I am skeptical if he is dining with ‘kings’.If he is eating with them, he must be doing that super secretly and super discreetly. Imagine a very long spoon, covering the distance of your location to the airport as the ladle with which he dines with them.

In Jonathan’s Nigeria, there are no kings. Only Emperors abound. Presently only one superintends over the rest of us-Goodluck Jonathan. He is a clever one. He does his infringements almost imperceptibly. Having done that serially on some opposition elements especially governors, I am convinced that our democracy is dangerously imperiled. And the danger is posed not by insecurity but by an emperor who thinks of self all the time and imagines dissenters are enemies. Time for all of us to reclaim our country and send the pretenders packing via the ballot.


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