My teacher and mentor, both academically and in the practical world of politics and activism since the 1980s, in his Daily Trust column of 5th April 2019, Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim (Mallam Jibo) argued that the decision of APC leadership to endorse the candidature of Sen. Ahmed Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila for Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives amount to imposition. Citing Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s (APC National Chairman) firm position to the effect that the only position the party is not interested is that of minority leader, Mallam Jibo accused the Comrade Oshiomhole-led APC of being “rash, brash, haughty and self-aggrandising in the management of party affairs.” Perhaps to justify his position, he pointed “numerous unverified stories about financial dealings being the currency of post allocation in the running of party affairs.”
These are very weighty statements and may be one should ask is there a relationship between “rash, brash, haughty and self-aggrandising” management of party affairs and the decision to endorse Sen. Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila for the leadership of the 9th NASS? If “financial dealings” is “the currency for post allocation in running party affairs”, could that imply that Sen. Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila procured the endorsement of the party leadership? May be discussion of issues around the contest for the 9th NASS leadership only presented an opportunity to rub in the subject of party management. The decision of the party to endorse Sen. Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila may not be related after all. But it is for Mallam Jibo to confirm.
A major submission of Mallam Jibo was that the National Assembly has won the autonomy battle and the Presidency and the party cannot impose leadership that it does not want. Citing Sen. Ali Ndume’s declaration for the Senate Presidency, he “suspect it is too late for the APC to retrace its step”. Is there any need for any retracing of step? Could the retracing of step here imply withdrawal of the party’s endorsement for Sen. Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila? Assuming the party is to take such a step, what value will that present for our democracy? Reading through Mallam Jibo’s column, I have serious difficulty reconciling his prescription that APC leadership, in this case President Buhari and Comrade Adams should focus themselves to “cajoling” members. How should this “cajoling” be carried out, if I may ask? How can this be any different from what was done in 2015?
Some reminders may be helpful in this respect. In 2015, for over three months, the party, at different levels, locked itself in meetings after meetings with members-elect, exploring as many negotiating options as possible. At some point, there was the reported internal contest, something akin to a primary. Somehow, the contending aspirants simply just refused to accept all resolutions. One of the dummies sold by the Saraki group against both Sen. Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila, for instance in 2015, was that of being surrogates of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. It is interesting how now they are also being accused of the same thing, this time around surrogates to Comrade Adams and President Buhari.
It is unbelievable that Mallam Jibo is the proponent of the 2019 allegation. Often, we try to use very negative terminologies to condemn what we detest. In this particular case, it is distasteful to be associated with Comrade Adams and President Buhari. Would it have been more encouraging if Alh. Atiku Abubakar and Chief Sokondus (PDP National Chairman) have endorsed them? In which case then it will be very democratic for Sen. Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila to aspire for the positions as surrogates of Alh. Atiku and Chief Sokondus? I am very sure, this is not what Mallam Jibo is looking for. But unfortunately, his analysis suggests that anybody but President Buhari and Comrade Adams may be right to endorse Sen. Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila. If one can ask, what should be the role of the party in constituting the leadership of the 9th NASS? Why do we have parties, if so-called liberalism suggests no role or responsibility for the party and its leaders in the process of leadership formation?
One is inclined to believe that the hangover arising from some of the bitter contests during the 2019 elections appear to be influencing most contemporary political analysis. Some of our leading scholars, including Mallam Jibo makes some simplistic submissions reducing political contests to some moralistic expectations. Interestingly, however you look at it, President Buhari and Comrade Adams being leaders of APC (the ruling party) will always be unpopular. In other words, give or take, win or lose, they will be condemned as both the problem of the party and the nation. Whether Sen. Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila win the leadership of 9th NASS or not, there will always be some problems traceable to the party, President Buhari and Comrade Adams. This underscore the fact that in the end leadership is not popularity contest. No further explanation on this will be required when one remember that President Buhari and Chief Oyegun (immediate past APC National Chairman) were inadvertently responsible for the emergence of Sen. Saraki and Hon. Dogara as leaders of the 8th NASS. Why? Simply because, they cajole and cajole, with President Buhari openly declaring that he will not intervene in the process electing leaders of the 8th National Assembly. How else could he have demonstrated so-called celebrated recognition of the independence of the National Assembly?
As a young student in the 1980s, Mallam Jibo and all my political science teachers taught me that political competitions are contests for supremacy. Under liberal democracies, we were taught that political parties are the platforms for the contests and one of their functions is that of aggregating interests. May be “cajoling” is one of the strategies a party could use to aggregate interests of its members. Be that as it may however, I think somehow, coming from the President Obasanjo’s garrison madness, which Mallam Jibo acknowledges, we are unable to concede that APC is in truth more liberal in its handling of leadership negotiations within the party. The sad commentary could be that even our politicians who are members of the party are not used to operating under liberal atmosphere, which may have accounted for the era of hostility between the APC Presidency and a fabricated NASS leadership that was pretentiously APC but PDP in every respect between June 2015 and October 2018.
My political science teachers, both in classrooms and our Marxist study groups shaped my worldview with the incontestable knowledge that politics is all about contest for power and however one look at it, it is a dictatorship. Those were times when hardly could there be any political discussion without reference to the opening statement of the Communist Manifesto – the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle. In those glorious times, struggle was hardly in contention. Rather, what was the contention was class struggles and the denial of any possible revolutionary outcome. While issues around the contest for the leadership of the 9th NASS cannot be interpreted based on class struggle analysis, they are however struggle nonetheless. Could there be any manifest elements of dictatorship? What could be the possible variables driving such dictatorship?
To be fair would be to recognize issues more objectively. Under PDP and especially under President Obasanjo, leadership imposition was the name of the game at all levels. All candidates produced by PDP for leadership at all levels have to be sanctioned by the Presidency. The party, PDP, was in every respect extension of the Presidency. It had no voice but that of the Presidency. Such a framework produced unstable situations especially between 1999 and 2007. Virtually all the legislative sessions experiences leadership disruptions in at least one of the chambers. The only exception was the 7th National Assembly, which had Sen. David Mark and Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal from 2011 to 2015. Sen. Mark partly because of being the Senate President of the 6th Senate enjoyed the support of Jonathan Goodluck’s Presidency to continue as leader of the 7th Senate and by extension the support of the party too. Hon. Tambuwal was however a product of rebellion as the choice of the Presidency and the party for the Speaker of the 7th House of Representatives was Hon. Mulikat Akande. Having therefore rebelled against the Presidency and the PDP, Hon. Tambuwal’s leadership of the 7th House of Representatives had to defy all machinations to get it out of office, including forceful security take over.
This must be what Mallam Jibo must have referred to as ‘hard-earned autonomy’. It is also the inspiration for the exciting leadership contest that took place in both chambers of 8th National Assembly in 2015. May be if the rebellion in the 7th. House of Representatives of 2011 did not take place, the 2015 narrative would have been different. Why aren’t we then celebrating Chief Oyegun and President Buhari for the outcome of the 2015 contests in both chambers? Without doubt, Sen. Ndume would want to ride the 2011 ‘hard-earned autonomy’ to contest the decision of the APC to endorse Sen. Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila. I don’t think we should debase the justification of leadership aspirants opposed to the choice of Hon. Gbajabiamila in the House of Representatives with reference to ethno-regional mobilization. We don’t have to agree with them but we need to respect their choices even as we (those of us supporting the party choice of Hon. Gbajabiamila.
This is where I have a big problem with Mallam Jibo’s arguments in his column of 5th April 2019. If Sen. Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila are ‘excellent choices’ for the leadership of the 9th National Assembly, what should be the role of our (organic) intellectuals who are expected not just to engage in social commentary and analyzing mistakes and shortcomings of leaders but more importantly to facilitate socio-economic and political changes? Having known Mallam Jibo and been one of his committed students all my working life, I will expect that consistent with his teachings, he will further expatiate how Comrade Adams and President Buhari can ‘cajole’ APC Senator-elect and House members-elect to ensure the emergence of Sen. Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila. Maybe it is a matter that need to be addressed confidentially. Three issues need to be recognized however.
First, Sen. Ndume should be acknowledged both by the party leadership and President Buhari. Under no circumstances should Sen. Ndume get projected negatively for merely expressing his resentment. Comrade Adams as National Chairman must take steps to bring Sen. Ndume very close such that he (Comrade Adams) is able to earn his friendship. It is a case similar to the kind of opposition he experienced in the hands of the leadership of petroleum unions (NUPENG and PENGASSAN) when he was President of NLC. Without disclosing much, I am sure Comrade Adams will understand the point being made here. It is a responsibility, which can be discharged through proxies.
Secondly, related to this is the need to ensure the institution of some regulatory requirements in the conducts of both Sen. Lawan and Sen. Ndume and by extension all aspirants for all leadership positions in both chambers. There are very hard decisions that party need to take. Beyond pronouncing the endorsement of Sen. Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila, what other steps could the initiate especially with reference to the rule of National Assembly to ensure control of the leadership emergence? Difficult as it may appear, this is necessary given that the party is also developing its own conventional approach for democratic selection process.
The third issue is that the public endorsement of both Sen. Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila by President Buhari and Comrade Adams is just the first step. I think the fear of Mallam Jibo is that, given recent experiences during the APC primaries for the emergence of 2019 candidates, the process of leadership negotiation for the 9th National Assembly risk being mismanaged. This is a valid fear. But do we need to overload such fear will all the unverified public allegations against Comrade Adams to make this fear legitimate? Certainly not. In any case, some of these allegations bordering on financial impropriety are simply untrue. Unfortunately, because we are in a society that has condemned every leader as a thief, all criticism against our public officials are incomplete unless they include allegations of corruption even if they are unverified as Mallam Jibo himself acknowledge. Mallam Jibo is certainly way beyond that.
Finally, does the party’s endorsement of Sen. Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila really represent imposition? Or, does the resentful decision of Sen. Ndume to offer himself for the Senate President means a rejection of the party’s decision? I believe that both the party and President Buhari, for being able to take a definite position on the leadership of the 9th National Assembly, are taking every step to correct the problem of 2015. More importantly, I think the definitive position of the party present a negotiable threshold. So also, the offer from Sen. Ndume is a bargain commitment. The question is, will there be negotiation? Will the party leadership, Sen. Lawan, Sen. Ndume and all the aspirants come to the bargain as contestants seeking to win votes, or will they come as warlords fighting to conquer fellow legislators? How can we help in ensuring that the process leading to the emergence of the leadership of the 9th National Assembly institute a democratic negotiation platform? Mallam Jibo’s brash commentary begs more questions than answer!
Lukman is of Progressive Governors Forum, Abuja, and can be reached through: email@example.com