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‘We should be grateful to PDP for conceding Senate presidency’

By BRIDGET CHIEDU ONOCHIE
09 July 2015   |   11:40 pm
Implications of the new Senate leadership for APC The emergence of Ekweremadu as the Deputy Senate President brings to mind the reason I have not been an advocate of easy amendment of the Constitution.
Enang

Enang

A member of the 6th and 7th Senate and chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Ita Enang told BRIDGET CHIEDU ONOCHIE in this interview that the party is wrong in its rejection of Senator Ike Ekweremadu as the Deputy Senate President. Excerpts: 

Implications of the new Senate leadership for APC The emergence of Ekweremadu as the Deputy Senate President brings to mind the reason I have not been an advocate of easy amendment of the Constitution. I believe we should practice the Constitution and see the aspects of it before we think of amendment. I am sure that in different areas, a lot of people would not have thought that it was possible to have a minority party member taking a position of Deputy Senate President.

But given history of political parties in Nigeria, you remember that under the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), there was an agreement like that but that was at the level of the two political parties. However, this other one is at the level of legislative caucuses of the two political parties. I think All Progressive Congress (APC) should be grateful to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) because at the time Ekweremadu was elected, PDP had majority on the floor and would have conveniently chosen the Senate President, the Deputy Senate President and then nominate minority leader and minority whip and immediately hit the gavel and adjourn for one week because they were the majority on the floor at that time.

It was a high level of political accommodation that made only Ekweremadu to emerge because they were in the majority. Again, I do not see the emergence of Ekweremadu as a threat to APC. I rather see it as a maturity of the lawmakers and independence of the legislature. It only posed a challenge to APC to be very alert and to be aware that they do not control everything on the floor of the Senate.

So, it is going to make for greater alertness and greater intellectual productivity by the APC senators. But fortunately for Nigerians and unfortunately for APC, the Nigerian Senate does not run on party basis but as a Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which does not take into account, the political party one belongs to. That may be a credit to the emergence of Ike Ekweremadu. Also, they do not have two/third majority.

So, there is no question that they will have to decide what only APC members can do. Therefore, it becomes a kind of situation where, if the President has an issue, which he wants to pass or he wants removed where the Constitution requires two/third, he cannot get only APC people to do it.

He will need the PDP. This may be one of the areas PDP has advantage. On the claim that Ekweremadu was not elected with the required number of votes, I am sure most APC members will think that I should say ‘no, he did not’, but what is the quorum? At the time they took the vote, yes, the house constituted a quorum and if it had a quorum, what they need was a simple majority. It is not simple majority of all the members of the Senate.

It is the simple majority of the quorum being present.  Stand on APC official position I will be very reserved in answering the question because of its political nature and I am a member of the APC. My party has taken a decision and I should be seen to defend the position of the party and if I have a different opinion, I should be speaking to that party within the caucus and the internal workings of the party. I want to say that at the state we have arrived now, we should make all our actions politically correct.

The greatest answer to this question does not lie in the legality of the matter. No section is correct politically and legally but what I want to say is that our party should call the house to order early enough because Nigerians are not very patient when it gets to putting their political house in order. Nigerians as at today expect miracle in the power sector, miracle in employment, in foreign relation and in security. They are expecting Boko Haram attacks to stop; they are expecting Chibok girls to be found and lots more.

What we should do now is to go back to the core reasons Nigerians voted for and that is to effect the change they want. Although the issues that are raging now are part of structuring government but the heat brought about by trying to structure government is becoming almost diversionary and it is capable of affecting the confidence of the people in government. So, we should go back to confidence building and in a hurry too. We should go to the street, listen to the people and think fast in resolving the issues.

Secondly, we should not speak of most of these issues in the press. We should go back to the party, call all the parties together to a meeting, hold something like a town hall meeting but in a party secretariat and arrive at solutions to this matter because Nigerians are not interested in what is going on, they are interested in the solution to their problems; they are interested in the manifestation of the reasons they voted for us.

I think All Progressive Congress (APC) should be grateful to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) because at the time Ekweremadu was elected, PDP had majority on the floor and would have conveniently chosen the Senate President, the Deputy Senate President and then nominate minority leader and minority whip and immediately hit the gavel and adjourn for one week because they were the majority on the floor at that time.  It was a high level of political accommodation that made only Ekweremadu to emerge because they were in the majority.

So, you may be legally correct but not politically correct, you may be politically correct but not legally correct. To take an academic view of issues involved is to go to the Standing Orders but I can only talk about these Standing Orders for academic reasons and as the longest serving Chairman of Rules and Business Committee.

The positions of Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Senate President and the Deputy Senate President and even Speakers and Deputy Speakers in States Houses of Assembly are created by the Constitution and that is a matter for all Nigerians and for all parties. But the positions of other officers of the respective political parties are created by the Standing Orders of the respective houses.

There are Houses of Assemblies that do not have Deputy Whips and there are others that do not have minority leaders because they do not have minority in their house. So, they are created by the standing orders and these standing orders also state how they will emerge. Standing Orders create leaders, deputy leaders, whips and deputy whips. It creates also chairmen of committees. There is the question of the supremacy of the party.

That is handling the matter in a manner that you use the caucuses of the party within the legislative houses to allow these persons to emerge. I know that in APC for instance, they have used the caucuses at different levels but I think it is time to go back to the drawing board. The summary of all these matters is the overall worries and I want our party to go back and commission a study on how the problem of PDP started and how it ended so that we can ensure that since one step of what started like a small problem in PDP has started, the next step would be how it would be handled.

The summary of all these matters is the overall worries and I want our party to go back and commission a study on how the problem of PDP started and how it ended so that we can ensure that since one step of what started like a small problem in PDP has started, the next step would be how it would be handled. The solution to this problem is for all of us to go on a retreat and examine each of these steps one by one, quickly put our house in order before Nigerians lose their patience. I agree that every step in constructing the legislature has always raised tension and anxiety but when anxiety and tension seem to drag, we get to what Obasanjo said is a joke taken too far. I will not call it a joke because it is not a joke but I think it is a disagreement that is getting longer than necessary.

The solution to this problem is for all of us to go on a retreat and examine each of these steps one by one, quickly put our house in order before Nigerians lose their patience. I agree that every step in constructing the legislature has always raised tension and anxiety but when anxiety and tension seem to drag, we get to what Obasanjo said is a joke taken too far. I will not call it a joke because it is not a joke but I think it is a disagreement that is getting longer than necessary.

But all I would want to plead is that all of us should come back together, resolve it as a family and don’t take the PDP silence for granted because my fear is that what is happening now may make PDP to be waking up and I am not aware if PDP is behind this matter. We cannot give credence to any external force.