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Encumbering governance with APC’s internal crisis

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[FILE] President Muhammadu Buhari welcoming Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and Senate President, Bukola Saraki during a meeting to end Budget impasse on April 26,2016 at the State House, Abuja. PHOTO: STATE HOUSE

Since 2015 when it emerged as the ruling party in Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been bogged down by circumstances of its formation with dire consequences on the platform and the government it is leading.

• Executive, legislative arms in deadly intrigues ahead of 2019
The crisis rocking the All Progressive Congress (APC)-led Federal Government particularly as it concerns relationship between the Presidency and the National Assembly has defied all solutions.

From its small beginnings in the form of struggle for the control of party structure and government machineries, the crisis has grown to such pettiness and dirty politics resulting even in very embarrassing scenarios.

Instances abound where the lingering crisis had affected basic tools and ingredients for good governance like the national budget, appointment of key government officers, legislations, policy initiatives and general running of government.

The Genesis
In the days preceding the 2015 general elections, the political associations that transformed into the APC including the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) each had its own idea of the benefits to get from the association.

And as the camps were engaged in the plots and strategies to control the soul of the new party, more problems emerged from the camps of other political groups that joined after the merger.

The strongest of these joiner groups are those who defected from the Peoples Democratic party (PDP). They included five governors from Kano, Rivers, Kwara, Sokoto and Adamawa as well as the then House of Representatives Speaker and incumbent Sokoto governor, Aminu Tambuwal, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and scores of legislators from the Senate, House of Representatives and State Assemblies. Relying on the terms and agreement they struck with APC leaders before defecting from the PDP, this group of politicians also joined in the scramble for the party’s soul.

But by the time the sharing of positions within the party was over, only the three original parties that merged into APC occupied party positions leaving out the PDP defectors. United by this common grievance, the PDP group became desperate to fight for the National Assembly leadership positions, which were the only ones left whether or not the three original owners agree.

Before June 9, 2015 when the election of the 8th National Assembly leadership was due, the PDP defectors were disappointed that the National Assembly positions they so much wanted have also been shared among the ACN, ANPP and CPC members.

For instance, Senator Ahmed Lawan of the defunct ANPP was picked as APC’s candidate for the position of Senate President while Deputy Senate President was reserved for George Akume of the defunct ACN. In the House of Representatives, ACN’s Femi Gbajabiamila got the nod to be the Speaker as the CPC was to produce the Deputy Speaker.

The table turned when the PDP defectors led by Bukola Saraki won the support of all lawmakers elected on the platform of the PDP in their quest to take the position of Senate President. The game in the lower chamber also changed as Yakubu Dogara, also a PDP defector, emerged as the Speaker.

This was largely believed to be the main cause of the political bitterness that set in shortly after the emergence of the current leadership of the National Assembly. President Muhammadu Buhari did not waste time to express reservation when he said that he would work with Saraki and Dogara as National Assembly leaders even though he would have been happier if the real candidates of the APC had emerged. Also, the ACN caucus became so upset that its leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, at several fora, expressed disgust that the PDP defectors failed to comply with the instruction of the APC leadership.

Saraki has equally linked his later travails at the code of Conduct Tribunal to the outcome of the National Assembly leadership election pointing out that his trial was designed to punish him for his emergence as Senate President.

The face-off however became worsened when the Senate leadership failed to agree to the instruction of the party to give the remaining leadership positions to its nominees. When Ahmed Lawan later emerged as the Senate leader in 2017, things had so much gone out of control.

Why the crisis refused to abate
It is the belief of many observers and political analysts that none of the efforts made so far at resolving the problem was genuine enough to succeed. At the moment, members of the group of PDP defectors are still seen as usurpers on the various leadership positions they occupy at the National Assembly.

With the commencement of political calculations for 2019, the camp of PDP defectors has equally not forgotten that the original founders of the APC have no place for them and as such, several meetings are being held to further strengthen their position. As things stand, even though they may not fully go back to their old platform, the Saraki group has not ruled out the option of a coalition with the present PDP.

Victims of the crisis
The face-off has affected many aspects of governance since 2015. The business of budget making and implementation is a major victim as every budget presented since 2015 has been bogged down by crises.

And because of this atmosphere of mutual suspicion between the Executive and the Legislature, every little mistake by either of the party is blown out of proportion. For example, the delay in passing the 2018 budget is being blamed on the refusal of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to appear before the Senate to defend the figures voted for them. However, the executive arm of government continues to argue that it has provided the necessary details for the lawmakers. It remains to be seen whether or not the meeting of the National Assembly leadership with the President last Thursday would be of any use in this budget impasse.

Another fallout of the crisis is appointment into key offices of the Federal Government to which the Constitution placed immense responsibilities on the Senate. Again, both parties have made things difficult for each other.
An example is the nagging issue of the Senate confirmation of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, which has been smeared in dirty politics since 2016 when he was nominated for that office.

The Senate screened Magu, disqualified and pronounced him unfit for the position and requested the Presidency to nominate another person for the job. But the Presidency rejected this and insisted on having Magu occupy the office.
When Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said there was even no need to have sent the name of Magu to the Senate for confirmation because the constitution empowered the President to appoint persons to occupy such offices without the Senate, the lawmakers not only condemned that statement, they also passed a resolution not to work on any further request from the Presidency for confirmation of appointments particularly those ones not specified in the constitution. And so, over 40 of such nominations have been pending before the Senate without consideration.

Also affected was the meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria which has been put off for a long time due to lack of quorum. It was only last week that the Senate took a decision to make an exceptional consideration of the nominations by screening two deputy governors and four members of the MPC.

The face-off has also put hurdles on smooth passage of key legislations and getting presidential assent with the current disagreement over the amendment of the Electoral Act being a ready example.

The amendment of the Electoral Act, according to the lawmakers, would prevent politicians from reaping electoral benefits from the bandwagon effects that could come when the presidential election is held before others. A few lawmakers who opposed the amendment are still undergoing investigation and trials in the Senate. And true to predictions, the President rejected the bill.

Without wasting time, the Senate began the mobilisation for overturning the President’s veto thus taking the face-off to a new level of tension.
On the same day, the Senate charged the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, to caution judicial officers against granting court orders capable of truncating the functions of the parliament.

That was sequel to an order of an Abuja Federal High Court Presided by Justice Ahmed Mohammed asking the National Assembly should not to take any action on the bill. The Senate argued that the court order was a clear breach of the principle of Separation of Powers as enshrined in the constitution.

Lost hopes
Hopes that the impasse could be resolved have become dimmed because of lack of direction by the party leadership, which has not been able to get on top of the game. Unfortunately too, the Tinubu presidential reconciliation committee has serious difficulties resolving the problems.

A key stakeholder in the political scene reviewed the development and submitted, “The problem rather requires an urgent meeting of stakeholders in which frank submissions regarding the remote and immediate causes would be made. The President who is the leader of the party would have to put down the robe of politics and intrigues, rise tall above every other person and hit the nail on the head. If his views are delivered in a tone devoid of favouritism, sentiments and other interests, many party leaders would have a second thought about their positions on the issues at stake.”



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