Geo-political equity in National Assembly offices
The National Assembly is arguably the bastion of Nigeria’s democracy. As an institution that characterizes the representativeness of the federation, the National Assembly must ensure that the appointment of its principal officers reflect geopolitical balance and equity.
One of the ways to institutionalize our democracy and ensure that it is environmentally responsive to our realities is to condition it to reflect our diversities and turn them into an advantage.
Put succinctly, Nigeria is a fragile agglomeration of 250 ethnic groups. How the feelings and aspirations of these disparate groups are managed will determine whether the nation will overcome the challenges of development or not.
The President-elect is from the North-West, while the Vice President-elect is from the South-West. The President of the Senate should come from the South-East, while the Speaker of the House of Representatives should go to the South-South.
Given our diversities, appointment of principal officers at the National Assembly has always reflected our geo-political nuances, except during Jonathan’s presidency when Tambuwwal and Ihedioha upstaged the apple cart by superintending over the House of Representatives as Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively. The South West was cheated during Jonathan’s Administration.
Any wonder then that the region unleashed its anger on him and the PDP by embracing the APC in the 2015 elections. The argument that the South-East and South-South are pro-PDP and should not be allowed to produce the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House is noxious, inequitable, and patently primordial.
By some special arrangements in the National Assembly through alignment and re-alignment of forces, these appointments could be realized, even though the South East and South South are pro-PDP.
This is where the President-elect must play the fatherly role. The South East and South South have always been the traditional allies of the North, and this has helped to foster political stability at critical times in the political history of the Nigeria.
An Igbo adage says that a chicken does not forget who plucked its tail feathers during the rainy season. The President-elect should please recall that the defunct Eastern Region was the traditional ally of the North during the First Republic, 1960-1966, when the NCNC allied with the NPC.
Ditto for the Second Republic, 1979-1983, when the NPP allied with the NPN to form the government at the centre. One good turn deserves another.
The South East and South South zones should not be punished for a purported misadventure. Given the nature of Nigerian politics, which is primarily based on religious/ethnic oriented, no geopolitical zone can claim to have provided the momentum for the nation-wide change in the country from PDP to APC in the 2015 elections.
The momentum was provided by a combination of factors. The foremost factor was the deep yearning of Nigerians for change. Nigerians were tired of the ineptitude of the Jonathan Administration, and were prepared to effect change in the leadership of the country, even if the change was for the sake of change only.
The APC should be magnanimous in victory, learn how to share the spoils of office equitably, and manage its success in a manner that promotes national integration.
The winner-takes-all mentality of APC members in the National Assembly will not augur well for peace and stability of the nation. The party should broaden its support base to show that it is grassroots-oriented by bringing every group on board.
One of the things that killed the PDP was its lack of sense of internal democracy and equity which gave members the latitude to grow bigger than the party, without taking into cognizance the nation’s geo-political realities.
Now is the time for the APC to enunciate equitable rules and regulations for sharing the spoils of office at every level of government. In so doing, it should jettison partisan politics and primordial considerations, which have stalled the development of Nigeria for the past 54 years.
Already, Senators, like Bukola Saraki, Danjuma Goje etc., are jostling for the President of the Senate. Since the President-elect is from the North, the North is adequately represented.
Under the Jonathan presidency, the North got the Vice President, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The South East and South South should not be marginalized in the National Assembly, and other appointments at the federal level, under the Buhari presidency.
The two zones are the most neglected zones in the South in terms of development, despite the fact that they are oil-bearing. Jonathan’s six-year regime has not ameliorated the deplorable condition of the two zones.
Most federal roads in South East are in deplorable condition. Development is a collective responsibility that is best achieved by recognizing our diversities and managing our sensibilities in a responsive and accommodating manner.
Giving room for marginalization will resuscitate long-standing grudges and whip up emotion. Those arguing that the South East and South South were adequately represented under the Jonathan presidency are doing so for selfish reasons.
If they were represented during Jonathan’s government, should they now be marginalized? What is democracy after all if it is not about representation? The sensibilities of the Niger Delta militants and MASSOB should not be awakened by perceived marginalization.
We appeal to the President-elect to ensure that the South East and South South have a voice in the leadership of the National Assembly. By doing so, he would have set a good precedent for our democracy upon which future leaders can use as a reference point and upon which they can equitably build the moral and ethical foundations of our nation. •Nwogbo works with the National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja
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