By Zacheaus Adebayo
“Senator Bukola and Hon. Dogara are not the candidates of the APC and a majority of its National Assembly members-elect for the positions of Senate President and House Speaker…. The party is supreme and its interest is superior to that of its individual members.
Consequently, the APC leadership is meeting in a bid to re-establish discipline in the party and to mete out the necessary sanctions to all those involved in what is nothing but a monumental act of indiscipline and betrayal to subject the party to ridicule and create obstacles for the new administration… There can be no higher level of treachery, disloyalty and insincerity within any party”.
-Alh Lai Mohammed, National Publicity Secetary, APC
Unless you saw the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Lai Mohammed, gallantly defend the party’s position on national televisions, you would hardly believe that he indeed issued the statement, which excerpts I quoted above. It is a typical case of talking from both sides of the mouth.
It is easily recalled that the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN’s spokesman applauded when Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal beat Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola blue and black against the zoning formula and directive of the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP through ACN’s conspiracy with some ‘rebellious’ PDP lawmakers. It was all about Ahmed Bola Tinubu ensuring that the PDP did not have any rallying point in the South West and also to trigger internal discord. And indeed, the PDP and Jonathan’s administration never recovered from that blow.
Fast-forward to October 2015 when Tambuwal defected from the PDP to the APC. Again, hear Lai Mohammed: “I must say that this historic development means that our democracy is growing by the day and it is dynamic. On a more serious note, we welcome the defection of Tambuwal to APC. With this defection, APC has now taken the leadership of one arm of the national legislature. We think that having the head of the legislature from the opposition party makes for a balanced setting in government and it’s good for democracy”.
Citing the example of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) accord in which the ruling party, the NPN, shared the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly, NASS, he enthused: “When the accord concordia broke down, the then Speaker, Chief Edwin Umezoke, did not relinquish his position. Those who are saying that this has not happened before and that Tambuwal should step aside as speaker, do not have the backing of history and the constitution”.
Today, the former Minority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila is also crying foul. Hear him on Tambuwal’s defection: “We welcome and applaud the speaker’s decision… We are proud to acknowledge that the speaker remains not only a member of the House of Representatives but also its speaker. This position is consistent with the law and practice in a presidential system of government and Nigeria is no different. For the avoidance of doubt, the constitution requires only that the speaker or deputy speaker of the House of Representatives shall be elected by members of that House from among themselves. As a caucus, we pledge our continued support to the current leadership of the House of Representatives”.
Also, speaking at the APC Special Convention on October 29, 2015, the now incumbent President praised Hon. Tambuwal to the high heavens for defecting to APC and smartly retaining his office by shutting down House. Buhari’s exact words: “We will like to thank Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal for what he did yesterday. We were overwhelmed. Taking such a remarkable risk and sending everybody on holidays till December is an achievement”.
In view of all these, one wonders what moral grounds the APC cries blue murder over the successful democratic revolution that took place at the NASS on June 9 against impunity. It is an incident that has further bared the ugly underbelly and hypocrisy among the APC leaders.
Meanwhile, Section 50 (1) of the 1999 Constitution provides: “There shall be:- (a) a President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves; and (b) a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves”. So, what are the sins of the Senators and Honourable Members except that they simply obeyed the constitution, and spurned the selfish impositions by the APC godfathers.
Nothing could be more irresponsible and politically naive than the protest by the APC that the whole nation and the Senators-elect should have waited for them to conclude their breakfast meeting before going into the business of electing the presiding officers of the Senate. The NASS elections were held on March 28. If they could not put their house in order in 72 days, why should a nation be held to ransom because of the manipulations of some power-greedy politicians? More so, when President Buhari had since sent the Proclamation of the 8th Assembly to the Clerk to the National Assembly, directing him to perform the ceremony at 10am. The APC breakfast meeting and the inauguration of the NASS, which was more important?
Rather than complain that the Senate was inaugurated without a full compliments of APC Senators-elect, APC leadership should rather be grateful to PDP Senators for being honourable gentlemen and women. With an overwhelming number of PDP Senators in the chamber at the time the exercise began at past 10am, nothing stopped them from electing one of their own to take over the Senate. But they still delivered an APC Senate President. Could the APC have been this magnanimous?
Again, even if all the APC Senators were present, what difference could they have made when their house was already sharply divided between Senator Ahmed Lawn and Senator Bukola Saraki, while the PDP bloc votes were pledged to the later? To drive the point home, APC even stood far better chances of having their way in the House of Reps, but what difference did their full compliments make when PDP’s block votes ensured that Gbajabiamila was floored?
Furthermore, APC’s tantrums over the election of Senator Ike Ekweremadi as the Deputy Senate President make them all the more bad losers. When Tambuwal retained headship of the House of Reps after defecting to a minority party, the APC, didn’t Lai Mohammed say that “it means that our democracy is growing by the day and it is dynamic”? Didn’t he say that “having the head of the legislature from the opposition party makes for a balanced setting in government”? Section 50 of the 1999 Constitution does not expressly say that the presiding officers must come from the ruling party. So, Tambuwal’s defection to APC with PDP’s mandate can’t be right, while Ekweremadu’s democratic election as Deputy Senate President is wrong.
Again, if the APC has chosen to term it as an “unholy alliance”, the combination of the APC and PDP forces that produced the Saraki/Ekweremadu Senate presidency, it needs to be reminded that it first committed even a worse ‘unholy alliance’ in Benue State House of Assembly four days earlier when it connived with some PDP lawmakers to elect APC’s Hon. Terkimbi Ikyange Speaker of a House where the PDP is in majority, while the PDP made do with only the Deputy Speaker Hon. James Okefe Ejembi. Ikyange beat PDP’s Hon Ucha to the Speakership. In Plateau State, Hon. Peter Azi of the APC was also elected Speaker of the 24-Member State Assembly whereas the PDP is in majority with 13 seats.
The APC’s problem is that some power mongers do not seem to understand that the National Assembly belongs to all Nigerians, not the APC. It is not a must that whomever the majority party anoints for Senate President, Speaker, etc must go unopposed because whoever is elected as Senate President, for instance, will be Senate President of all Nigerians, not Senate President of the APC.
Rather behave like a bull in a China shop or become too petty like Senator Oluremi Tinubu who snubbed Senator Saraki’s handshake, the APC should blame itself for not heeding sound pieces of advise on the composition of the National Assembly leadership, preferring to chop alone amid impositions. For instance, I warned in a widely published article “The Impropriety of an all-North Senate Presidency” that the “APC must be reminded that it is gambling away its goodwill so fast and its lack of sense of justice and equity could be the straw that might break its back”.
I continued: “Concerning the Senate in particular, I am deeply surprised that the APC leaders are playing the ostrich, burying their heads in the sand of greed and powergrab instead of taking a realistic evaluation of the situation…. With 59 Senators (that is, minus late Senator Zanna) against PDP’s 49, the APC cannot just do what it likes with the Senate because it does not enjoy the kind of majority PDP used to enjoy”.
You cannot just fly a Lawan-Akume ticket and expect everybody, including the 32 Senators from the South East and South South to clap for you simply because you are the majority party.
APC should stop playing the bad losers. What goes round comes around. If ACN (now APC) elements Tambuwaled the PDP in 2011, the PDP also has the right to Saraki, and even Dogara and Ekweremadu the APC. Enough of this hypocrisy!
*Adebayo writes from Ibadan