In Nigeria, politicians are known to be very good in devising ways that are capable of giving them a chance to steal, squander, and misappropriate state resources. As a country that has a mono-economy with little consideration given to other sectors apart from oil; everyone is seeing the country’s abundant petroleum resources as some large chunk of national cake, which they alone are entitled to every portion of it. This is the reason why nobody, not even the masses care about how the country’s resources are being managed as they hardly pay taxes and even those that claim to be paying, are not paying what they ought to be paying. Corruption, unfortunately has permeated every single space of our national life.
Democracy is a system of government that gives every branch of government some constitutional rights, which if trampled upon that branch could seek redress in the court of law. Nigeria from independence to date has practiced two major democratic systems: Parliamentary system, which was a direct borrowing from Nigeria’s former colonizer, Great Britain, which was discarded at the collapse of the First Republic; and the Presidential system which was adopted from the United States of America. Presidential system is a system that provides for the creation of two chambers; the House of Representatives and the Senate, in other words, the Green and Red chambers respectively. In Nigeria, the problem we are battling with has been the perpetual inclination of ruling governments to unilaterally hijack these two Houses to have them act their scripts in order to have an absolute, unquestionable authority over state resources and national policies.
In 1979 when the military handed over the affairs of the country to the civilian government of President Shehu Shagari, the ruling party, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) sought for a weak person who would be a rubber stamp for the presidency. In this instance, Joseph Wayas was chosen because he fully fitted the senate president’s caricature as designed by NPN having being a former civil servant who served in the Murtala/Obasanjo regime from 1969 to 1974 with unalloyed loyalty and submission to higher authority. And as it turned out, the party was not wrong in picking Mr. Wayas as its candidate for the position because he did give the presidency a soft nod on almost every bill presented to the senate.
From 1999 to 2007, President Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military head of state ruled Nigeria with an iron hand. During his eight years tenure, Obasanjo had four senate presidents replacing each one them at will using back door manouvres to achieve that. The House of Representatives too was never spared from Obasanjo’s totalitarian tendencies as many speakers were removed for daring to oppose his policies. Analysts had criticized Obasanjo for using excessive amount of money and threats in order to control the National Assembly during his tenure. He had the guts and skills to change the senate leadership at every slight provocation. The most controversial battle for the senate presidency during the Obasanjo regime was with Senator Ken Nnamani during whose tenure the issue of the third term agenda arose.
In 2015, when the coalition of some political parties defeated the sitting president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, a feat that had hitherto never happened in the history of the country, the issue of who will oversee the red chamber reared its ugly head in Nigeria’s mainstream politics, heated the political atmosphere, and created irreconcilable differences within the ranks of the new ruling party. The party, APC, being an amalgamation of many political parties had many interests within it and the senate’s number one seat garnered many suitors. While the party was scheming and preparing to instill its favorite candidate one that will readily accept and support all policies of the federal government in the one hand, on the other hand, the other camps led by Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara which comprised mostly members that left PDP were also strategizing on how to hijack the senate and the house respectively. After the party declared its anointed candidate, the other camp in the party devised their ways and outsmarted the party’s leadership. Saraki and his allies in APC formed an alliance with other parties’ members in the house to defy the choice of the ruling party and in return offered them some juicy positions in the new national assembly leadership. This happened while many APC members were attending a meeting called by the party on the day the election scheduled to take place, the Saraki and Dogara camps of the national assembly went ahead and carried out an election that produced Saraki and Dogara as leaders of the 8th National Assembly. That leadership was vociferously fought against by some powerful elements within the presidency, a mistake the APC thinks immensely contributed to their poor performance in office.
Back to the current drama. In an attempt not to repeat what happened in 2015, the All Progressive Congress (APC) announced through its national chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole that the party has already nominated its candidates for the leadership of the ninth assembly. To reiterate the party’s position, the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu on his 67th birthday party also affirmed the position of the party saying that they will not allow what happened in 2015 to happen again. He even went further to threaten that anybody that is not happy with the party’s choice is free to leave. The question every political analyst is asking these days is could APC have its way on this considering the fact that some of its members are already against the choice of the party’s candidates?
Looking at the tussle over the leadership of the national assembly people like me will be asking what is there in the national assembly that every ruling party want to hijack it. But this cannot be any far removed from the way the constitution mandated that before every bill is passed it must go through the national assembly, every budget before its passing must also follow similar processes and the national assembly has the constitutional power to sanction, call to order or to impeach a president if found wanting. For these reasons, no party, especially in Nigeria will allow a disloyal member to preside over either of the Houses. No matter what, the success of any government is largely dependent on the amount of support and goodwill it garners from its parliament, it is therefore politically expedient for ruling parties to strive to get the full support of their parliaments. But what’s important is not scheming to secure that support but how the scheming is done. In all things, democratic provisions must be fully respected and not trampled upon, subjugated, or checkmated. Our respect for democratic values must supersede all partisan considerations.
Ali Sabo works with Centre for Information Technology and Development in Dutse, Jigawa State. You can reach him either through email: firstname.lastname@example.org or his twitter handle @alygee124