Nigeria: So, No Peace Again in the Senate

opinion

The brewing controversy over who the principal officers of the National Assembly (NASS) should be means that, once again, there will be no peace in the revered chambers.

The last four years witnessed unending drama at the NASS following the election of Bukola Saraki as senate president that was largely opposed by the presidency.

The ensuing contention virtually truncated activities at the NASS as calls for Saraki to step down rent the air. But the man remained dogged and could not be pushed around.

As the 8th NASS rounds up shortly, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), appears to have sworn never to allow the same mistake happen again. But that decision is the mistake that the APC made in 2015 that caused unfavoured senators to become leaders.

AS it were, the battle line has been drawn. The fight is two-pronged. First is the fight within the ranks of APC as Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume is vehemently opposed to the choice of Senator Ahmad Lawan as the anointed candidate for the senate president seat. This development smacks of a plan to fail if the APC cannot get its house together. Nigerians are the losers.

Second is the contention of the other opposition senators-elect, particularly, the PDP, who also want to be involved in selecting their principal officers. These senators have vowed never to anyone impose leaders on them. They argue that that constitutionally, they should elect their leaders.

Thus, as an arm of government in a democracy, the presidency, which is also the executive, should not dictate who their leaders should be. For if the executive had its way and imposes leaders on the legislature, and then the lawmakers would just be mere rubber stamp, as the executive would dictate for them.

Except something is done urgently to nip the brewing volcano in the bud, Nigerians may be in for another four years of waste and poor governance wherein the only issue in focus would be the in-fighting at the National Assembly on one hand and the presidency on the other hand.

There is no way a split in the revered chambers on one hand, even before the elected members were inaugurated, and the presidency would augur well for Nigeria. Does it mean that the APC did not learn any lesson from the 2015 imbroglio, which pitched the incumbent Senate President, Bukola Saraki, against the APC leadership after the party miscalculated and lost out in who presided over the two chambers of the NASS.

Just about this time in 2015, after the APC won the presidential election that brought Muhammadu Buhari to power, this same imbroglio reared its ugly head as the party tried to interfere in who the leaders of the NASS should be.

As a matter of fact, it was the APC's interference that led to the emergence of Bukola Saraki as Senate president. If the lawmakers had been left alone, all the APC lawmakers would have been present at the inauguration chambers when the election was conducted. And with their larger numerical strength, they would have elected someone other than Saraki and Ekeremadu as president and deputy.

But by APC's undue interference, fifty-one APC senators-elect left the chambers and went to the International Conference Centre (ICC) for a spurious meeting with Buhari, the president-elect, over the senate presidency issue.

The circumstances of the meeting were not clear at the time. It was not even clear who scheduled the meeting at a time the new NASS members were supposed to be in the chambers for a crucial election.

The bogus meeting did not hold yet the bulk of the APC senators were fooled and herded to the ICC building where they were until the wise senators that stayed back conducted the election in their absence and Bukola Saraki was elected as senate president while Ike Ekeremadu emerged as his deputy. That was the end of the story. All the hues and cries by the APC against the election amounted to nothing. There was nothing anybody could do about it; it was like spilt milk.

In the present circumstance, trouble started when the leadership of the APC announced Senator Lawan as the new senate president. But Senator Ali Ndume has said the choice of Lawan should be regarded as nomination and not imposition.

Ndume, who has declared his intention to contest for the post explained that his interest for the senate presidency is not personal but that his colleagues are solidly behind him. He vowed that any attempt to impose people on the 9th senate will fail.

Ndume expressed consternation that the national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomole, told senators that a decision had been taken to adopt Ahmad Lawan as candidate from the North-East for the position of senate president. He expressed shock that the party ignored the provisions of the constitution for the emergence of leadership of the Senate.

Section 51 (a) of the constitution says, "There shall be a Senate President and Deputy Senate President who shall be elected by members of the House". If there is a clear and succinct constitutional provision as this, why then should APC as a party want to flout it? The history of the National Assembly shows that previous imposition of leaders ended in crises.

For instance, in 1999, the ruling Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP), imposed Evans Enwerem but he didn't last.

Thereafter, Senator Adolphus Wabara was also imposed and again, he didn't last. After that, the PDP refrained from imposing leaders but instead adopted zoning for the positions. That option worked better as the lawmakers supported it.

Given the ugly experience of imposing leaders on the National Assembly, the APC may be stoking trouble by attempting to impose leaders? The APC is working a tight rope. Any attempt to impose leaders would amount to stoking trouble in the National Assembly.

APC should not take its re-election for granted. The party should beware that in our most unstable political environment where selfish interests rather than altruism is the norm, politicians remorselessly and without qualms, jump back and forth from one party to another, it would be foolhardy to trust politicians.

It should not be forgotten that APC is a coalition of different parties whose sole aim was to gain power; it doesn't mean that the members share the same ideology and values. What individuals are going to gain from the alliance remains the preoccupation.

There will be no peace in the polity if APC dabbles into the issue of NASS leadership. The APC may show interest and lobby through its caucus but the lawmakers should be allowed to choose their leaders without undue interference.

Nigerians want improved living condition and not political wrangling all the time. APC should not waste this four years fighting itself.

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