APC: Playing The Ostritch
THE All Progressives Congress (APC) has always prides itself, as not only a truly democratic party, but as the party that will not condone impunity and lawlessness in the running of its affairs.
Unlike the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that was used to whipping everybody to toe the line of its leaders no matter whose ox is gored, the APC pretends to live up to its change mantra of avoiding the mistakes of the PDP, when it comes to choosing the principal officers of the National Assembly.
Unlike the PDP that makes no pretence about zoning key positions in the National Assembly to various geo-political areas, the APC acknowledges the need for inclusiveness of all parts of the country, as stipulated in the amended 1999 constitution, thereby, creating a window of opportunity for prospective aspirants, irrespective of their geo-political leanings to take a shot at positions of their choice.
In line with the provisions of its constitution, the APC encourages what it’s chieftains term ‘consultation and understanding’ when it comes to power sharing, the sharing of principal positions in the National Assembly inclusive.
A reference point was the election of the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led national executive of the party, which was said to be a product of both ‘consensus arrangement’ agreed to all.
When Odigie-Oyegun emerged, those conversant with the mindset of the party chieftains already knew that the party had made up its mind that it’s presidential candidate would be from the north. Yet that did not stop the party from allowing Governor Rochas Okorocha from the Southeast to contest for the presidential ticket of the party against former vice president Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Mr Sam Nda Isaiah and Muhammadu Buhari — all of northern extraction during the party primaries held in Lagos in December last year.
The fact that Buhari, who eventually emerged winner of the presidential primaries, picked Professor Yemi Osinbajo as his running mate attests to the party’s readiness to adhere to the provisions of the constitution, particularly, the federal character principles.
The APC has, however, found itself in quandary, following the scramble for the seats of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate President with each of the six geopolitical zones laying plausible claims to any of the seats.
The words — democracy, consensus and zoning — are now a common refrain among chieftains of the party over the issue of selection of principal officers of the national Assembly. There was the effort by the party’s national working committee (NWC) to broker a power sharing deal, which considered, among others, ceding the seat of the Speaker of the House of Representatives to the Southwest and the Senate President to the Northeast geo-political zones, which met the brick wall.
Supporters of Yakubu Dogara, who is one of the leading contenders for the position, felt members of the House should be left to exercise their right to pick whoever deserves to occupy thenumber one seat, just as Senators Bukola Saraki, George Akume, Dr Ahmed Lawan remained undaunted in their quest to actualise their dream.
Afraid that such restrictive posture might boomerang at the end of the day, the party leaders retraced their steps even before the proposal was put before the national executive committee (NEC) of the party for endorsement.
THE history of the 4th Republic National Assembly is replete with failed attempts by the PDP top echelon to impose its principal officers. Patricia Etteh had short-lived stay as Speaker of the House of Representatives, mainly for the simple fact that she was not the choice of the members of the House, while the more acceptable Aminu Waziri Tambuwal had just ended his four years tenure on a graceful note.
Tambuwal emerged Speaker of the House against the wish of the PDP, which preferred Mulikat Akande. Same was the story of the late Chuba Okadigbo, who replaced the late Evan Enwerem, who was PDP’s choice for the Senate President.
In spite the pressure being exerted by chieftains of the party who are bent on pushing for the triumph of their respective candidates, the body language of President Buhari, who is the leader of the party, clearly shows his disposition not to interfere.
Two weeks ago, Buhari said: “I am prepared to work with any leaders that the House or Senate selects. It doesn’t matter who the person is or where he or she is from. There is due process for the selection of leaders of the National Assembly and I will not interfere in that process. It would not be business as usual. Nigeria has indeed entered a new dispensation. My administration does not intend to repeat the same mistakes made by previous governments.”
Notwithstanding the declaration by Buhari, there had been series of meetings and consultations between key leaders of the party in the mould of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Odigie-Oyegun, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, Atiku Abubakar and Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, former governor of the Rivers State on the issue of power sharing in the National Assembly.
Tinubu, who is undoubtedly pushing for Femi Gbajabiamila to emerge as Speaker, has aligned himself to the party’s position on the issue of zoning.
Assuring that merit and competence would not be compromised on the altar of zoning arrangement, he promised not go against the position of the party on the issue of the selection of the leadership of the Assembly.
According to him: “You have heard from the party, you have heard from the leadership, my desire is not to rock the party, I’m a disciplined party man and we will look at it critically. However, the nation is expecting us to take a decisive leadership decision and make one meritoriously, merit will not be compromised, you have to be competent, you have to posses the kind of character, attributes to the leadership, you have to be pan-Nigerian and be a very solid character to lead the National Assembly and that is what we are talking about.”
Asked whether his position does not tantamount to jettisoning the zoning arrangement, he said: “I am not to speak, not to go further on that, I believe we have a very determined party leadership, we have resolved to follow our leadership and the criteria set by that leadership including myself, is that we would not use zoning to determine and compromise the credibility, the qualification of an individual. It must be all encompassing and that is the question, if you take zoning as detrimental, discriminatory in some instances, you might compromise the quality of an individual.
Last week, APC’s National Secretary, Malam Mala Buni, re-echoed the party’s position after reports in the media claimed that both the Senate and House of Representatives seat had been zoned to the Northcentral and Southwest geo political zones of the country.
Claiming that there was no iota of truth in the story, Buni maintained that the party was deeply embarrassed by the story, which was apparently planted in the media to sow the seeds of instability in the party.
APC said nothing has changed since the President is ready to work with anyone from any part of the country, who occupies any of the principal offices of the incoming National Assembly, including those of the Senate Presidency and the Speaker .
Prior to the rebuttal by the APC scribe, the group of APC Senators, which styled itself as ‘Senators of Like Minds’ had claimed to have adopted Saraki, as their sole candidate for the Senate President.
Dino Melaye, who spoke on behalf of the members, maintained that a key basis of their action was due the fact that the Northcentral geopolitical zone from where Saraki hails deserves the seat.
The development underlined the fact that the APC, is apparently, not only playing the ostrich on the issue of zoning to save it’s face,the party at the end of the day may also need to worry on the prospect of incurring the wrath of any of the geo-political zones that may feel let down in the end of the day.
With less than a week to the inauguration of the 8th session of the Assembly, APC does not appear better for it, for allowing politicking, negotiations consensus building to determine the selection of the principal officers.
It appears zoning would have eased the tension.
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