Politics, Governance & Development
ONE of the major tasks that the 8th session of the National Assembly must critically address, when it finally convenes after the May 29 inauguration, is how to change its negative public perceptions, particularly in the area of jumbo pay and corruption.
As a matter of fact, the image of the previous sessions, dominated by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since 1999, has been so battered over the issue of jumbo pay and corruption creating the impression that many of the lawmakers are devoid of the moral clout to legislate for Nigerians.
At several instances, many Nigerians made uncomplimentary remarks about the integrity of the leadership of the National Assembly, which of course, led to public debates and controversies that often question the integrity of the parliament.
Therefore the incoming National Assembly that will be dominated by the All Progressive Congress (APC), must as a matter of necessity, live up to the expectations of Nigerians by ensuring that men and women of repute who have passions, not just for lawmaking but for the growth, development and well being of the average Nigerian, are elected to lead the Senate and also to serve in its 56 committees.
Sources disclosed to The Guardian that indeed, the leadership of the party, recognizing the importance of appropriate leadership in the functions and image of the National Assembly, has began the process of ensuring that the right people emerge as leaders of the Senate from among its returning Senators and the new entrants.
A source from the party told The Guardian that while the leadership of the party is working hard not to sacrifice integrity and commitment on the altar of zoning, “it is also going to ensure that all the geo-political zones have their fair share of the positions and postings.”
For now, the North West has produced the President-elect, Major- General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) who represented the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) arm of the APC merger while his running-mate, Professor Yemi Osinbajo of the South West is from the Action Congress (ACN) arm of the merger.
The National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun from South-South represented the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) arm of the party.
The source said that what could have been the balancing arrangement is for the South East to produce the Senate President “but unfortunately this could not be achieved as there was not a single elected Senator on the platform of the APC from the zone.”
With the burden of heading the Senate once again shifting to the North Central, there are two major contenders in the persons of former governor of Benue State, George Akume and his Kwara State counterpart, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
While Akume would be returning to the senate for the third term, Saraki is on his second term.
One of the members of the party disclosed that Akume is being considered for the Senate presidency as a result of his perceived closeness to the leadership of the party, particularly former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and others who believe in his maturity and integrity to steer the affairs of the Upper Chamber.
According to the source, “Akume is also said to have earned the trust of the leaders of the party and as a former Minority Leader in the Senate, he is most likely to command more respect among the Senators.
“He is not one of the hawks that defected from the PDP to join the APC; he had earlier defected from the PDP to the ACN and has remained consistent since then.”
Saraki, a two-term governor of Kwara State who once headed both the Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) as Chairman, is having the support of the younger generation in the party.
The source from the APC said, “Since the North West and South West have taken the two major positions, the Presidency and the Vice, with the fact that the North West and North East are dominated by the Fulani, it is appropriate that the Senate Presidency goes to the North Central, where there are concentration of several other ethnic nationalities.”
The source also tipped Saraki for the position saying, “Considering the fact that the other political arms of the party have benefited from the position arrangements, the PDP arm should also be compensated with the Senate Presidency, here Saraki fits in because of his contributions and that of the defected PDP members.
“What are we saying, if the PDP arm is not part of the deal the victory would have been difficult if not impossible. It is therefore important, at least for balancing sake, to concede the Senate President position to the PDP arm of the merger. This is where we felt Akume does not fit in if we are to really balance the equation.”
While dismissing the sentiment that the leadership of the party is reluctant to allow Saraki have it because of the corruption charges leveled against him by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), the source said, “the Senator has not been convicted of any crime. This is mere politics.”
Taking another factor into consideration, the source said Senator Saraki “stands a better chance in terms of experience, exposure and political managerial skills to lead the Upper Chamber because apart from being a two-term governor of Kwara State, his era as Chairman of Northern Governors Forum and Nigeria Governors Forum witnessed tremendous achievements.
“Another factor why the younger generations within the party are gunning for Saraki is basically because for the fact that he will not only stand as a good check on Buhari, who some believe is too rigid, he also understand the political equation between the North and the South.”
According to him, “For instance, while most Nigerians were happy over the election of Buhari, there is this subtle fear that the Fulani may likely want to surround him (Buhari) in future for the purpose of hijacking power but Saraki will be in a better understanding of the game than any other contender.
“Regarding experience, the former governor of Kwara also possessed an intimidating political past that not only qualifies him but also places him above others.”
WHILE the moves on who takes the senate presidency remain crucial, The Guardian also learnt that the leadership of the party is not unmindful of who occupies the post of other principal offices in the Senate and the Chairmen of the 56 committees.
Some of the names that have appeared so far include Senators Gbenga Ashafa from South West, James Manager from South-South, Barnabas Gemade North-Central, Kabir Marafa from North-West, Abu Ibrahim, also from North West and Bukar Aba Ibrahim from North East.
Commending the input of Ashafa and some of the Senators mentioned above in the last four years, a strong source from the party said it is important that the 8th Senate ensures that influential members who command the respect in their geo-political zones occupy necessary positions.
Citing example of Ashafa, the source said, “Since his inauguration as a member of the 7th Session of the National Assembly on June 6th, 2011, he has sponsored twelve bills and two motions: Language Bill, Income Tax Holiday Bill, Treaty (Amendment) Bill, Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill, National Directorate of Employment (Amendment) Bill, Harmful waste (Amendment) Bill, Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Bill, Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences (Amendment) Bill, Banks and Other Financial Institutions (Amendment) Bill, Advertising Practitioners (Registration) (Amendment) Bill, Banks Employee, Declaration of Assets (Amendment) Bill.
“He has also sponsored motions on the Deteriorating Service of GSM Providers and the Imminent Collapse of the Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos.
“He has also co-sponsored many other Bills and Motions with other Senators on the floor of the Senate among which are Social Housing Bill, Prohibition of Same Sex Marriage Bill, Lagos State Special Economic Assistance Bill, Motion on 2011 Lagos Flood, Motion on the solution to Terrorism in Nigeria, Motion on the Creation of Unemployment Data and Job Centres in the Country and Motion on Rivers State crises among others.
What Nigerians are expecting from the 8th senate is the emergence of men and women of integrity who will take the legislative job as a service to the nation and not as “a means to an end.”