Search For Speaker, Senate President: The Stalking Nemesis At NASS
IF the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were to be in good temper, the present scheming for the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly would have been a good time to give it back to the All Progressives Congress (APC). Nigerians would have loosened up from the shock of the past election, to enjoy the entertainment.
Watching the jostling for the four prominent leadership positions in the House of Representatives and Senate, it is possible that former President Goodluck Jonathan would also be having a good laugh. Whether his laughter is of the derisive variety or scornful stamp of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s I dey laugh squirm is hard to tell.
But definitely, the echo of the outgone president’s riposte that “some of the so-called statesmen are like Motor Park touts” could be heard with a distant pearl about it. Indeed, the APC cannot imitate their navigator-in-chief, to say I dey Kampe. The party is really walking an uneasy road.
In the search for the next Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the Senate, concerns about not ending up as a laughing stock and ensuring that sanity and stability reign in the National Assembly compound its worries.
In the unfolding drama, it is not hard to see the shenanigans: the party belongs to a few individuals. Care is being taken to ensure that the platform does not get into the hands of outsiders or settlers.
Yet, for as long as the search for ideal occupants of the two powerful positions and their shadows endure, Nigerians will continue to wonder whether the APC is really prepared for the change it promised. The horse-trading that has been going on in spite of the promised fight against corruption does not give a testimony about leadership built on purpose.
The core-investors are smarting for the absence of a laid down procedure to choose their proxies. Must a political party bicker over who should best represent its ideological focus in the legislature? What happens to openness and fair competition?
There are, it is easy to see, indications that the denial of zoning is pretentious and half-hearted attempt to zero-in on preferred candidates and escape the nemesis of a past seed of discord in that hallowed axis of the three arms zone. If there is no zoning, why the precipitate efforts to shortlist pre-qualified candidates after President Muhammadu Buhari insisted that legislators should be free to select their representatives? It was this kind of setting that gave rise to 19 versus 16 in the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF).
So, APC is getting to experience the fact that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. There is no disguising this reality: APC is scared of its shadows of secular progressivism. While it came naturally to the major actors to taunt the ruling PDP with schoolboy activism, in the changed circumstances, they fear that the poisoned arrow can turn to a boomerang.
The whole enterprise seems to be programmed to ensure that the man with ‘12 million votes’ in his kitty does not mount the saddle either in the Green Chamber or the Red. That is why nocturnal meetings are being held outside the chambers to select the party’s disciples that would preside in those important chambers.
In 2011, when the promoters of APC ambushed the PDP on its zoning format for the principal officers of the Green Chamber, it never crossed their minds that such a time as the present would come. So, they have suddenly become afraid of the shadow of that their totem pole of destabilisation against PDP’s zoning format.
Whereever there are discussions about how to settle the present leadership squabble, the shadow of an Aminu Waziri Tambuwal breezes past like an apparition! The resort to or claim of merit is part of the attempt to exorcise that ghost. How do you measure merit in a party that has as yet to hold the Federal Government or has a well-defined ideology?
The President did not make things easy either. In the flurry of visits by hordes of sycophants and appointment seekers, the leader in waiting forgot to meet with all those elected on the APC platform to unfold to them the essential ingredients of his leadership focus.
This way, it would have been easy to test the aspirants for both House Speaker and President of Senate on their understanding of the president’s blue print. In absence of that template, what could be the appropriate yardstick then to use in the selection process? Merit? Is that absolute or relative?
AND or merit and competence is apprehension that an ambitious or independent minded candidate could rock the boat or hold the government to ransom.
Could it be the need to reward political investment in the grand conspiracy to upstage the PDP? Apart from immediate past Speaker, Tambuwal, Femi Gbajabiamila played central roles in making PDP look badly before Nigerians. The need to reward him is contributing to the logjam and horse-trading.
That is why the idea of moving the post of Secretary to Government of the Federation, (SGF) to the North Central was mooted in the first place to assuage the feeling of marginalisation the shift of Senate Presidency to the Northeast could elicit.
Yet while scoring space is being created for the outgoing minority leader of the House of Representatives from Lagos, those pushing his game tend to forget that with Northwest-Southwest combination in the presidency, granting the speakership of the Green Chamber to the same Southwest may haunt it in the no distant future. Even at that the attempt to pair Senator Ahmed Lawan and Senator George Akume in an all North Senate leadership looks much like two left legs that could not do a 100 meters dash.
And so, to avoid such an unseemly scenario, despite the disclaimer to zoning, the idea of political accommodation for PDP filters in. How awkward would APC look to have a Senator Ike Ekweremadu as Deputy President of Senate still?
Then, remembering that in the absence of the President of Senate, the Deputy holds court, the apparition of PDP scares everyone. And the search continues with horses to trade! Ideally it would have been a perfect fit to have a President of the Senate from Northeast and a deputy from either, Southsouth or Southeast if not for the PDP machinery that cleared all the seats in those zones. But what of Edo State?
Will you have the National Chairman and the deputy President of Senate from the same state without causing a political uproar? If having the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the vice president from the same zone does not offend any ‘Change’ design, having the Deputy President of Senate and the national chairman from the same state would not.
Then, the apparition of religion hovers. Christian minorities from the north have started agitating that they should not be left out of the power loop after contributing to the winning votes.
Mohammed Mungonu from Borno expressed his ambition to be Speaker and the next thing was his stepping down for Gbajabiamila. Perhaps, he was emulating Senator Akume, who stepped down to improve Senator Lawan’s chances and ensure that the Northeast gets some outstanding position in the NASS.
But Hon. Yakubu Dogara from Bauchi State remains in contention for the Speakership. Add to the fact that he is a lawyer; he is also a ranking member. As such, the dictates of merit do not hinder him. It is clear that despite the negative impact of Boko Haram insurgency in the zone, the Northeast seems to be clear-headed in their quest to ensure visibility and leadership in the 8th National Assembly.
Though, the political actors from that geopolitical know that Senator Ahmad Lawan is waxing strong in his quest to become David Mark’s successor, they are not in a hurry to leave anything to chance. But all these permutations and posturing are taking place outside the main bowels of NASS. The real action would unfold shortly after the proclamation.
Foreshadow Of The Action
IN both lower and upper houses of the NASS, two things are sure to happen: It would not be an APC show alone and secondly, money will change hands. The Lagos/Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) wing of APC will move in with excess liquidity to support the Gbajabiamila/Mungono Speakership/Deputy Speakership positions as well as the Lawan/Akume joint Senate Presidency.
Knowing that the influence of money is a possibility and prepared to pay Asiwaju in his own coins, Senator Mark and his 49 remnants from PDP may mobilise either to upset or alter the APC game plan.
And seeing that the game plan is to stop a possible Bukola Saraki presidency of the Senate, Mark and the PDP team may line up beside the former Kwara Governor and insist that the position does not leave the North Central. In the alternative, the disagreement and bad blood within the APC could excite the possibility of a return of Senator David Mark’s Senate Presidency.
Of course with an alleged N20 billion war chest, Senator Mark has the capacity to pull the rug off the feet of APC to the relief of President Buhari, but the discomfort of the Southwest caucus.
But should Senator Saraki lose the position of President, a similar scenario to what obtained under the late Evan Enwerem saga could be a possibility. The late Chuba Okadigbo was obviously the popular choice of a greater majority of the Senators, but the then President Olusegun Obasanjo did not feel very comfortable with the charismatic and independent-minded Chuba.
As such, in line with the saying that if a man dreams to be a Napoleon Bonaparte, he will not be happy with whatever he is; Senator Saraki and his group may make the Senate too hot for the 8th Senate. Purport: There may be a case of musical chairs for the Senate President.
In the House of Representatives, Gbajabiamila/Mungonu may receive a backlash from Northern solidarity to protect the Buhari Presidency against the hawkish designs of the Southwest. But there are indications that the party leadership would have a hard time prevailing on Dogara to step down for Gbajabiamila/Mungonu.
The party would be on its own, as legislators get into the chambers. With Tambuwal out of the way, and Emeka Ihedioha on acting capacity, it is left to be seen what last minute game the PDP chieftain would play.
Would one north be dealt a blow or will the newfound unity find further expression? That is the crucial element in favour of Dogara’s candidacy. How would the outcome affect APC in the long run? If the philosophy of one north overcomes the South West push, then APC will settle for a one-term presidency.
Consequently, members of the new PDP in the merger may crave a return to their former political habitation to rebuild the broken walls claiming that ‘Pharoah’ is gone. Should APC fail to handle the delicate situation by coming out with carrot and stick, the party may not be the same again and Change suffers.
To carry on, the north might decide to look towards Southsouth and Southeast to survive the imminent Southwest onslaught. An all North NASS leadership will harm the party so bad. The benefit-to-risk ratio is skewed against APC. That is why the Saraki Senate Presidency looks more like it!