Saraki, Dogara in the wings? By Simbo Olorunfemi
In a bid to prevent the reoccurrence of the malady that visited APC in 2015, which saw the party ‘lose control’ of the Senate and the House of Representatives, with the leadership emerging in spite of the party’s preference rather than the conventional practice of it being on account of the party’s concurrence, the party might be treading towards a repeat, which will see lightning strike it twice on the same part.
In part, what is playing out is a long-term effect of the events of 2015, which might have irreparably damaged the fabric of the party supremacy, reconfigured the delicate geo-political balance that the original plan would have put in place, making it so difficult to rebalance the geography of positions at the top of the political ladder within the party since that time.
But the difficulty in finding an effective balance at the top of the ladder in the National Assembly to accommodate disparate forces and contending tendencies is not just about 2015, leading to 2019 and beyond that, there is a lineup of issues that make the vociferous nature of ongoing contestation almost unavoidable.
The party has chosen to bell the cat, in the bid to pull the rug off the feet of some contestants and avoid the 2015 scenario, but in showing its hand so early and in the manner in which it was shown, it might have created room for those not satisfied to rally forces to countermand it’s position. While the long time between now and the convocation of the National Assembly gives the party leaders to dialogue and cause a rapproachment with those who feel short-changed, this time also offers a window of opportunity for those same forces to reach out both within and outside their party to rally support that might just put them in a stronger position than that of the party choice in determining the direction the pendulum eventually swings.
What makes the situation particularly tricky is the configuration of the forthcoming National Assembly, which has opposition parties in a stronger position than they have ever been. For the 109-seat Senate, APC has 59 senators; PDP 36; LP 8; NNPP 2; YPP 1; APGA 1 and SDP 2. If the opposition parties stand as one, and 10 APC Senators go rogue, that could lead to an outcome different and uncomfortable for the APC.
In the House of Representatives it is even more tricky. Of the 358 seats whose results can be confirmed, APC has 176 seats in the House while the PDP has 118 seats. The Labour Party has 35 seats, while the NNPP has 19 seats. APGA has five seats, while SDP and ADC have two seats each. YPP has a single seat. 2 seats are either pending or unconfirmed. Effectively, opposition parties have a total of 182 seats compared to a maximum of 178 APC can possibly have, making it a delicate situation for the party.
It is the nature of the situation and the precedent set by Saraki-Dogara that has had the party working full time. A memo purportedly prepared by the Progressive Governors Forum was said to have recommended thus :
‘a. Senate President – South-East or South-South or North-Central
b. Deputy Senate President – North-Central or North-West
c. Speaker of the House – North-Central or North-West
d. Deputy Speaker of the House – South-East or South-South
However, the National Working Committee of the party would, in an unprecedented move, announce not only a definitive zoning formula, but one with names attached to it, as follows:
Senate President – South South Senator Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom); Deputy Senate President – (North West), Senator Barau Jubrin (Kano).
Speaker, House of Representatives North West-Hon. Abass Tajudeen (Kaduna); Deputy Speaker (South East), Hon. Ben Kalu (Abia).
While it is almost impossible to come up with an arrangement that can satisfy everyone, especially those who had thrown their hats in the ring, this decision no doubt caught some off-guard. While the contest between South-East and South-South was neither here nor there and could have gone either way, with leading candidates burdened by their baggages, the decision to ‘over-compensate’ the North-West which led to the shutting out of the North-Central from the organogram appears to be the most controversial bit.
The North-West had argued that it deserved much more from the bargain on account of the quantum of votes it brought in to swing victory in favour of the APC. But the North-Central did not do that bad as well. The fact that it had enjoyed a lengthy hold on top positions in the National Assembly in the past is not a strong enough argument to me. The position of Speaker could have gone to either the South-East or North-Central, with the current Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase, who appears to have a good measure of support among his colleagues and has been at this for a while, at a vantage position.
While there are still other principal officer positions such as Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader, Chief Whip, and Deputy Chief Whip that can be offered to compensate those who may be required to withdraw from the races or step down, none of those can possibly appease Wase who is currently the Deputy Speaker.
The party would sweat to be able to find an acceptable resolution that would take it out of this logjam. It definitely has its work cut out.
But I have also read/heard some berating the party for getting involved, quoting the constitution, telling us decision on who occupies these positions is only that of members of the National Assembly and theirs only.
That argument can only come from a place of ignorance. Did the members of the National Assembly not emerge on the platform of the parties, each with agenda and policies it seeks to actualise through the mechanism of the legislature? How would the party now be indifferent to who emerges as leaders in the Senate and House to help it actualise it’s objectives?
The Senate President
I am led to suggest, given the argument and tone of some of the contributions I have been reading that there is quite some misunderstanding on the place of the Executive -Legislature relations and that of the governing party. Some have assumed it that because there are 2 separate arms, they are supposed to work at cross-purposes, mistaking cantankerousness for vibrancy, rating the outgoing Assembly as a rubber-stamp and the Saraki-led high. Yet the records loudly speak otherwise.
In the Presidential system, every party, particularly the one in control of the executive, works hard to have a firm control of the legislative arm to be able to execute its programmes. It is not an aberration, it is the norm. Collaboration and cooperation is the norm when the same party controls both arms. I doubt that it is part of the brief for a Senate President to the arrowhead of opposition/antagonism against an executive arm controlled by its own party, as was the case before now. The tendency here to assume antagonism for productivity is an erroneous one.
I would suggest that it is because there was a decent level of cooperation between the two arms under the outgoing dispensation that the administration was able to see through some of the most consequential landmark legislations that Nigeria has ever had, and other administrations have tried but failed to make law. These would include the Petroleum Industry Act, the amended Electoral Act, the Disability Act, etc.
The onus is on the APC, as this issue is largely a party affair, to carefully manage the jostle for positions at the National Assembly, carry everyone along, which I don’t think has done, find a way to review it’s position, so that it does not inadvertently lead itself into another Saraki-Dogara situation. For its own sake. For the sake of governance.