Wednesday, 29th November 2023

Saraki, the 8th Assembly and perception challenge

By Martins Oloja
26 May 2019   |   3:30 am
This is another right time to discuss the 8th Assembly within the construct of the last four years of democracy under our leaders. There are so many leaders in this contextual reporting of the last four years, for instance. The trouble still has been that though we have tried our best to discuss the fine…


This is another right time to discuss the 8th Assembly within the construct of the last four years of democracy under our leaders. There are so many leaders in this contextual reporting of the last four years, for instance. The trouble still has been that though we have tried our best to discuss the fine points of federalism as our paradise lost, yet there has been too much of unitarism even in our journalism and analysis of our paralysis. Most publishers would like to fund national newspapers. They always hate regional newspapers and journals that would not reach the powerful political actors in Abuja. There will be no lead story for (page one) in the newsroom even in Lagos generally believed to be the economic capital of the West Coast of Africa if the Abuja bureau chief and his/her reporters have not filed stories from the nation’s capital, Abuja.

Yes, we blame the governors for looking up to the hills and rocks in Abuja for sustenance every month, yet we too think we can’t survive even in the media without ‘national stories’from Abuja where the leader we perceive to be the most powerful in Africa is resident. Metro stories from thelocal, poor people are inconsequential and so we think they are not read and no one watches or listens to them- and so must be confined to the obscure corners and hours. We seem to have been conquered by the power and values of Abuja, the military through their Hurricane General Murtala Mohammed gave us on 3rd February 1976.

It seems to me that the Nigeria’s taciturn leader in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari is the only leader in the country some concerned citizens say they want restructured now. One of my senior colleagues scared me the other day in an informal conversation when he asked me to point out leaders of thought from South South through the South East and West to the North Central who can mobilise their people against President Buhari who will be sworn in for a second term on Wednesday this week.

Specifically, who is the political leader of the South South now who can call and the people will answer? Is there any clear charismatic leader in the South East now? Where is an authentic leader in South West at this moment who can mobilise the Yoruba for a possible mission? Don’t get it twisted, former President Olusegun Obasanjo is only a national and ‘glocal’ leader of Yoruba extraction. He is not an Awolowo. Bola Asiwaju Tinubu has not been accepted as an authentic leader of the Yoruba at this time. Though the Yoruba nation now without a clear leader, may not allow the new hawks in Abuja to devour him if the come comes to become for ‘#Project2023’, Asiwaju is still not a leader the Yoruba can trust at the moment. Who is leading the North Central and even the Middle Belt now? As the old banana trees are dying, where are the suckers that will grow to challenge the growing confidence of the Abuja strongman? It is not an illusion anymore, President Buhari’s confidence is growing luxuriantly like yam tendrils I used to see in my father’s farm in those day’s rainy seasons.

Only naive analysts who are knowledgeable but lack understanding of the times would be carried away by perception, sorry depression at this time that Buhari is a weak leader who hardly knows what is happening around him. I believe he has achieved so many personal specific objectives. For four years, he ruthlessly foughtand demonised the National Assembly and its leadership. The president’s men fought the Chairman of the Joint Session of the Assembly and the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki up to Supreme Court. Even the Deputy Chairman of the Joint Session, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara was pursued and demonised as a leader whose House initiated a notorious concept called ‘Budget Padding’, which has become part of the perception challenge of the federal legislature. The strongman of Abuja who curiously congratulated Senator Saraki on winning his persecution case at the Supreme Court sought to consolidate his hold on power. He went for the jugular of the Chief Justice of Nigeria Jutice Walter Onnoghen. Alas, within a few weeks, he got the CJN out of office – thanks to the uncommon efficiency at an administrative office and tribunal the organic law of the land calls Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal. While this efficiency at the Tribunal was activated, even the National Judicial Council (NJC) could not but speak in tongues about their Chairman who was in the lion’s den. The Court of Appeal too artfully entered a hibernation mode as CJN’s appeal cases on the hot potato at the Tribunal entered a judicial ‘voicemail’ until after the demolition of the CJN. What of the powerful EFCC Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu? The man was nominated in November 2015, his nomination was sent to the Senate in December 2016. He was rejected twice in 2016 and 2017, the last time on 15 March, (2017) on the strength of two letters the then Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS), Lawal Daura who hails from the president’s hometown, wrote to the Senate. But what happened thereafter? The president’s other men blamed Saraki’s Senate for the rejection. None questioned the origin of Daura’stwo curious letters asking the Senate to reject Magu as Chairman of the EFCC. Anyway, despite the Senate rejection, Magu is still in office and power. He will go down in history as the longest serving Acting Chairman of an anti-corruption agency. That speaks volumes to the supreme power of Nigeria’s President who also got the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC, a similar anti-graft agency to be confirmed by the same Senate the president’s legal advisers noted might not be competent to confirm Magu. In any case, the law professors have specifically filed seven cases in court – to keep Magu there until the emergence of a compliant Senateon June 6. So, who says Buhari hasn’t won battles after they deployed strategy, which prevented Saraki from returning to the Senate? Where were the NBA and vibrant Civil Society Orgarnisations (CSOs) when the demolition squad came for Onnoghen? I think, in the main, President Buhari should be given some credit for his artistry, courage of his conviction and audacity of his dream to return – even without significant first term laurels.

However, while celebrating the conquest of the people who have perception that they are very educated without understanding the Buhari times, let’s not get into the second term celebration with perception that the 8th National Assemblyachieved nothing because the state orators ‘successfully’ pushed the narrative with the jumbo pay conundrum that the leadership actually failed to manage well. Their naivety and greed put the negative perception on the national grid of deception.

What is this marketing communication thing, this bugbear called perception? It is a serious thing if you like the National Assembly leaders of the 8th Assembly fail to manage it. Perception vs reality?

I’m sure you’ve heard the common saying, “Perception is reality.”

If you want to break it down, perception is defined as “a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.” Reality is defined as “the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.” That is the way experts simplify the identical twins.

This is saying that you have a mental impression of something, and it defines how you see that something, regardless of the truth. It reminds me of another common saying that, “there are two sides to every story.” While this may be true, the perceived reality of each side of the story is believed to be the truth to the people telling it.

Apply this to your marketing – it’s a little scary. What your audience sees allows them to create an opinion of who you are as a company. Your online presence, from your website to your social media pages, play a role in shaping how people perceive your brand. This is the way some marketing gurus explain this thing called “perception is reality”
Trouble began for the Saraki-led National Assembly when the ruling APC could not put its house in order before the June 9, 2015 inauguration of the Assembly. And while some faction slept at the International Conference Centre, Saraki and Dogara emerged leaders of the National Assembly with Senator Ike Ekweremadu from the opposition party, PDP as Deputy President of the Senate. And then there was a credible speculation that Senator Saraki and one other former Governor of Rivers State had worked to prevent a big fish from becoming a running mate to President Bubari because of the implications of a Muslim-Muslim ticket. And it came to pass that the one prevented is still part of the nemesis of Saraki till tomorrow – in this perception tragedy. It will be in public interest to bury the hatchet and allow the National Assembly to work without implications of clash of political titans this time. And then there is a sense in which one can claim at this time that the fact that the Buhari’s men did not have their way in the choice of National Assembly’s presiding officers in 2015 has been a blessing, after all. The nation’s economy would have been worse off. After all, it was through a Senate question to the then Minister Mrs. KemiAdeogun that a revelation emerged in July, 2016 that the economy was in a ‘technical recession’, for instance.

There have been claims and allegation that the 8th National Assembly had caused delay of budget passage and there was a sabotage of the ruling Party’s legislative initiative. But not many parliamentary reporters have written contextually that the executive arm contributed more to critical delay factors as the ministers and the MDAs always stayed away from budget defence sessions.

Besides, how many citizens would believe that that in the four years of the Buhari administration, the Senate has passed 282 bills but the administration has forwarded only11 bills to the Senate, apart from the routine annual appropriations and supplementary budget proposals. The rest have been private Member Bills. Two of these bills, the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill and the National Minimum Wage Bill, have been passed. One of the Bills, the Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Act (Amendment) Bill was withdrawn by the executive following the disagreement between the Attorney General and the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). And no progress has been made on it.

Also, another one, the National Water Resources Bill was rejected because it infringed on the rights of states to develop their water resources. The remaining seven which are the National Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Establishment Bill, Federal Institute of Industrial Research for the Development of Micro, Small and Large Industries Bills, the Suppression of Piracy Bill, Communications Service Tax Bill, 2015; Federal Institute of Industrial Research Bill, 2017; Raw Materials Research and Development Council (Repeal and Re-enactment Bill 2018; Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (Establishment etc) Bill, 2018- are still at various stages of passage.

These are facts that have been ignored because of the perception issue not cleared by the Saraki-led 8th Assembly. The 9th Assembly should work harder to clear the poor perception issue because image is everything both in politics and business.