By Ikechukwu Okaforadi.
The February 14 polls will clearly mark a watershed in the political equation of the National Assembly. Already, the current permutation, particularly in the House of Representatives, has given a clue to what fate may befall the parliament in few months to come.
Political analysts have severally hinted on the possible collapse of the umbrella in the upper chamber, and this seems inevitable given the high level of disenchantment among prominent faithful of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Nigerians in general.
The ward congresses recently conducted by the ruling party has exposed the wide cracks in the walls of PDP, especially between the leadership of the party and its elected members in the parliament.
Recall that after the congresses held in November, about 30 PDP senators failed in their quest to either clinch the party’s senatorial ticket or to secure the governorship tickets of their respective states.
Some of these senators are: Nkechi Nwogu, Uche Chukwumerije, Bello Tukure, Ita Enang, Helen Esuene, Aloysius Etok, Adamu Gumba, Clever Ikisipo, Heineken Lokpobiri, and Victor Ndoma-Egba.
Others are: Edesiri Aguariavwodo, Christopher Nwankwo, Paulinus Nwagwu, Ogbuoji Sunny, Odion Ugbesia, Ayogu Eze, Hope Uzodimma, Abdulazeez Usman, Sani Saleh, Nenadi Usman, Isa Galaudu, Mohammed Magoro, among others.
Since these senators lost their return bid to the Senate, it is clear that the tone of the ruling party in the Senate is no longer the same. Some of the vanquished lawmakers, including Banabas Gemade, Etah Enang, Helen Esuene, just to mention few, have ditched the umbrella for the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
In addition, a credible source in the Senate who did not wish to be mentioned, recently confided in Peoples Daily that more of PDP senators who lost out in the primaries have concluded plans to defect to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) when the Senate resumes on the 17th of February.
The source further pointed out that those senators remaining in the ruling party are only ‘carcasses’, who are now determined to veto the interest of PDP during plenary debates after the February elections.
Presently, the leadership of the Senate is now polarised, given the perceived refusal of President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure that some principal and ranking members of the upper chamber’s leadership are returned.
For instance, the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, Ayogu Eze, Etah Enang, who are one of the principal and ranking officers in the Senate, that lost out during the PDP ward congresses, are feeling abandoned by the President. They will therefore work against the interest of the party at the Senate plenary sessions as the lawmakers reconvene next month.
Those who are familiar with the way and manner debates are usually tele-guided in the Senate could attest to the fact that most of these senators mentioned above are strategic in determining the tempo and direction of debates.
However, with the current trend, the expectations are that there will be a sharp turnaround in the strategy of national discussion in the parliament, considering the high level of discontent among the PDP senators over how issues of national importance are usually sacrificed on the altar of partisanship.
For instance, while the 2013 budget was being debated, it was observed that a paltry sum of N2 billion was proposed for the rebuilding of the north east by the federal government.
In reaction to this, the Senator Representing Yobe North, Ahmed Lawan, vehemently urged his colleagues, irrespective of party affiliations, to stand up and oppose the proposal, but so many of the PDP lawmakers chose to be indifference, apparently to avoid incurring the party’s sanction.
Moreover, a lot of probe reports that should have benefitted Nigerians if implemented are now cooling off in the drawers of both the Senate President and the Speaker of House of Representatives. Such reports included the N931 billion subsidy scam probe, the privatisation probe, report of the Senate probe on the abuse of expatriate quota by foreign multinationals.
Others are the report of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Human Rights, on the plight of persons awaiting trial in Nigeria prisons, rejection of NYSC members by federal establishments, report on the deteriorating services by global system for mobile telecommunications (GSM) providers.
Also, the report on the economic growth and worsening inequality in Nigeria: A call for new approaches to poverty reduction, report on the plight of pensioners in Nigeria, report on the sale of oil bloc “OPL 245” to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, pension scam probe, among others.
Observers have suggested that the resumption of the Senate will usher in a defining moment in the legislative history of the seventh Senate. This will surely be hence every other outstanding issues would be treated based on its merit, other than party interest now.
The analysis is that by the time the upper chamber reconvenes on the 17th of February, the boys would have been separated from the men, and when this is done, the boys would react in a way never anticipated by the leadership of the party.
Given that Nigerians are facing the excruciating fangs of austerity measures emanating from the corrupt leadership style of the PDP, the Senate will need a change of posture if it is to enjoy the support of Nigerians.
The lawmakers are already aware that they have lost the solidarity of Nigerians due to their inability to address a lot of the challenges being faced by the masses. To this end, they would either revolutionize the current leadership, or risk the wrath of the poor masses.
Political pundits have penciled down infighting and weak leadership as the most observable factor which usually splits the cohesion of political parties. For instance, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NAZI party) of Hitler was able to oust the then ruling Weimar Republic due to some internal disagreement among the arrowheads of the ruling party over manifest weakness.
This is gradually manifesting in the ruling PDP across Nigeria. Presently, there are several pockets of clash of interests among key party stakeholders both at the state and national level, as some party loyalists appear tired of the weakness of the party to tackle aggressively, the socioeconomic challenges facing Nigeria.
These pockets of discontentment among party loyalists, observers say, constitutes a time bomb only waiting for the appropriate time to explode, especially in the face of the boisterous APC.
The cases of Akwa Ibom, Delta and Niger, among other States, readily come to mind in this regard. Recall that in Akwa Ibom State, Governor Godswill Akpabio went against the wish of the party key members to anoint his own choice candidate as his successor.
He did not stop at this, but also ensured that three senators from the state, including Helen Esuene, Eta Enang, and Aloysius Etok, would not return to the Senate, even their cries to the Presidency fell on deaf ears.
In Niger state also, the incumbent Governor, Bababgida Aliyu, against the wish of his allies, anointed his chief of staff, Umar Nasko, which is why the incumbent Deputy Governor, Ahmed Ibeto defected to the APC alongside two thousand other influential members of PDP.
It is expected that the three PDP senators representing Niger state would soon follow suit in the senate when the chamber reconvenes, just as the three PDP senators from Akwa Ibom defected recently to APC.
In addition, the issue of accountability is another critical point which might lead to the implosion of the PDP leadership in Senate. This fact was alluded to by the senator representing Lagos Central, Oluremi Tinubu, when she expressed displeasure over how the Senate is being administered.
According to Tinubu, who spoke to journalists in Lagos, she alleged that there is lack of transparency and accountability in the way the Senate is being administered, saying there are rots in the upper chamber, hence it has performed below average.
Even though this revelation as an insider earned her the price of facing the Senate Committee on Ethics, from which she risks Senate’s disciplinary measures, it has exposed the high level of discontent among the senators, including those in PDP, even though they keep mum.
From every indication, there is no doubt that a lot of senators are already aggrieved by the current leadership style in the Senate, which was why some of them recently sponsored stories in some newspapers, threatening to impeach the leadership of David Mark.
It is therefore very clear that given the mood of the lawmakers as wounded lions, especially those who lost the return tickets, the storm has already gathered against the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in the Senate, waiting only for a short time to precipitate.