ANALYSIS – Buhari’s Administration: APC Executive; PDP LegislatureFeatured, Featured Contributors/Columnists, Latest News Friday, June 12th, 2015
By Tajudeen Balogun, Head, African Examiner, Nigeria Bureau
If the emergence of Bukola Saraki as the Senate President, despite the opposition of his party remains controversial and unpleasant to (some party loyalists), then, the election of Ike Ekweremadu of the opposition as his Deputy, must be very disgraceful, disturbing and unexpected to not a few. There is no doubt in the fact that, with what played out Tuesday (this week) during the National Assembly (NASS), leadership election, especially at the Senate, a means of the persistent subterranean and ‘remote’ manipulation; arm-twisting of proceedings in the upper legislative chamber and most painfully, possibility of ceaseless disagreement between the Executive (Mr. President) and lawmakers on one hand as well as possible crisis of strain relationship between the Senate President and his party on the other, has been created.
Definitely, what happened Tuesday at the Senate betrayed the expectation of those who voted and expected change in the manner and focus of governance in Nigeria. Some have consistently likened the development to the immediate former Speaker, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal’s saga in 2011. Yet, I picked holes in that position as despite his choice which was against the party’s interest, his former second in Command, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, was of the same ruling party (then) as well as a core loyalist and an apologist of the former President Goodluck Jonathan.
With the present formation in the Senate; the obvious and remote factors that led to the composition, the possibility is very high that the present administration’s programme and its agenda might suffer a serious setback if care is not taken. No one with the present setting, should deceive himself that Saraki will detach himself from those who supported him in ensuring that his Senate Presidency ambition was realized! Also, let nobody kid himself that the new Senate President will be a man of his mind or operate independently, without necessarily being influenced by his supporters (from opposition) in the upper chamber. Indeed, what happened Tuesday was a slap on the ruling party and a big minus on the ranks and files of its leadership.
It is very painful that those that will be at the receiving end of the Tuesday shocker are the people – who had expected support and complement from the like-minded Senate/ House and Executive leadership in this dispensation, ultimately to have a break and total absence of the former ruling party, which has ruled for over a decade.
Although, Saraki had pledged to extend his support to President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration as well as promote his change campaign slogan. But with the circumstances that led to his emergence, to what extent could he go, to fulfil his promise? Similarly, to what extent Senator Saraki could be trusted by his party and its leaders, most especially that his election was largely due to his alliance and romance with members of the opposition in the upper legislative house?
This takes me to issues relating to party and its leadership; respect for internal democracy; individual and collective interest. I doubt if it happens anywhere in the world, that political party leadership will be totally indifferent in who becomes what within its fold. Although, it makes more sense to me if the ultimate goal is about discipline, commitment, efficiency and most significantly, interest of the people. But when a leader of a political party claims to be indifferent on the choice of who occupies key position (s), especially the one (s) that will have serious bearing in the long run, on the governance, performance and assessment of his party’s administration, then there is much to critically to pay attention, examine and discuss.
The above is the reason why I have reservation for the seemingly excessive neutrality of President Buhari’s in the build up to Tuesday NASS election saga. I am doing this critique very carefully as I strongly believe that, each arm of government should be given the deserving autonomy. However, the fact remains that both the executive and legislature of the same political party have the same manifesto, which they must collectively and jealously work together and ensure it is successfully implemented. In view of this, the two arms must be on the same page. So, where does neutrality come in this? I am not canvassing for imposition, yet the President ought to have been active; tactically and objectively involved in the process of arriving at a consensus over a candidate that would make his job smooth and ultimately make his government to be successful.
Also, I wish to be very careful in my reservation over President Buhari’s cold disposition to the pre-NASS leadership election debates within his party, just as I belong to the class that believes it is rather too early by now to begin to pick holes in a two weeks administration. Just to prove that the President did not act as expected in the matter, why his belated meeting the very day of the NASS election? And this was the reason why the parley failed to hold, leaving its aim defeated and the biggest disaster befell the ruling party; supporters pained and many hope dashed!
The position of Senate President is very key and sensitive to the success or otherwise of the administration of every democratic government. It is for this reason that President Buhari ought to have been involved from the outset and joined other party leaders in amicably resolving the matter. I am very convinced that the retired general remembers that success or failure of this government, he takes the responsibility in the end. Which is the reason why he should please watch his subsequent disposition (indifference) to every issue relating to the present administration.
Already, it is being speculated that Mr. President gave tacit support to Saraki. As I write, I maintained caution in admitting the rumour. Still, may I ask, did President Buhari also agree that the opposition member should also be elected as Saraki’s Deputy? If no, it means the President himself (if the speculation is correct) miscalculated; underrated and perhaps yet to know or understand the chemistry of an average Nigerian politician, his miserable and treacherous calculations.
It is too bad for the ruling party, which had struggled repeatedly to wrestle power, failed at the start, hence landed in the present dilemma. It is very bad that the old ruling house utilized advantage of the crack in the current ruling party and sneaked into power again through the back door, now virtually leaving the executive to the APC and legislature (NASS) being lost to the PDP! Perhaps with exception of the Osun-born House Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yusuf Lasun, the three others – Saraki, Ekweremadu and new Speaker, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogora are products of the PDP. Could anyone defend that these men, except Ekweremadu will be totally committed to their new party (APC), having failed to enjoy its leadership support before getting to their present positions?
With respect to dummy elections conducted by the ruling party for its candidates ahead of NASS Tuesday’s exercise, I consider the voting not worthwhile. Reason for my position bothers on the lingering stalemate which lasted till inauguration day. The best I feel the ruling party could have resulted to or done is to engage in appeal; persuasion; lobbying and negotiation with the candidates. The party leaders should have allowed this to linger; allow the candidates to proceed with their intra and inter party campaigns, without necessarily making any serious concession (like Ekweremadu) emerging the Deputy Senate President and allow them to go for voting. This to me, would have hindered members of the same party looking at one another as opposition. Certainly, one of the two – Saraki or the party’s choice, Senator Ahmed Lawan would have still emerged. Of course, a ruling party member would have been elected the Deputy.
Regrettably, the disunity and miscalculation robbed the party the total victory it needed especially at the Senate, thus allowing the PDP to loosely reap from where it not sow. It is a sad story for the APC and so many Nigerians who desired total cleansing in the three arms of the Nigerian government, starting from the present administration.
Now that the unexpected has happened, the ruling party must thread gently and softly in sorting out the confusion and correcting the misfortunes wrecked on it. For now, the APC must be confronted with the reality that flexing muscle with Saraki will not and cannot result in any pleasing solution, rather, might worsen it and the extent of damage to the ruling party and its new government will be far reaching. In place of likely planned suffocation; ‘marginalization’ or victimization against the just elected NASS Chairman and his APC supporters, the party should call him, his co-party Senators as well as those on the side of the party, mediate and unite them for the purpose of achieving the big and enormous tasks before the upper legislative chamber and the present government in general.
Frustrating Saraki will not and can never work. Removal is also out of feasible option, because the ruling party as the blue Chamber stands for now, does not have the required number. Well, the aggrieved Senators have vowed to approach the court to challenge the manner of Saraki’s election. Of course, they have right, so also is the party to take legal action. Personally, I am not comfortable with this option anyway. Again, the aggrieved APC Senators have demanded President Buhari to summon the Senate Clerk and question him on why did he allow the election to hold despite the absence of majority of the APC Senators? This call is in order, at least to establish if truly there was conspiracy between him, Saraki’s supporters, both in the ruling and opposition parties.
As mentioned earlier, Senator Saraki has vowed not to return to his old party, but that is from him for now. In politics, particularly Nigeria’s, political culture is like weather, it changes persistently and can be very unpredictable. Therefore, instead of resulting to altercation with him and his supporters, the APC leaders should unite its Senators, with a view to spring a surprise and go ahead to change the present combination in the without affecting Saraki’s position.
Saraki’s present Deputy and the circumstances that threw him up were like a case of ‘political rapist’ or a robber. Such did not happen in the 16 years of (Ekweremadu’s) party in power, therefore, if he was edged out after sneaking in via the backyard and bundled out, I make bold to say nobody, except the PDP, which is the main conspirator in the entire saga would grudge, but heaven will not fall. In fact, it will be the joy of Nigerians, as those who voted the ruling party into power, never expected such a situation to play out in the first place.
Now to the ruling party, it is important that the APC leaders realize that many Nigerians (opponents and supporters) have formed their various opinions on the unprecedented outcome of the NASS leadership election; that many of them including those who voted for the party have identified where the APC goofed. For now, some are speaking, while are still watching and assessing the situation. Therefore, the best the party’s leaders can do now, is to manage the situation and dear not allow it to snowball, thereby, making the government they fought so hard to bring into power failed and link it to frosty relationship between the ‘APC Executive and PDP legislature’. Nigerians have suffered from the claws of bad governance over the years and the hope placed on this administration is just too high. As a matter of fact, some have been complaining they are not comfortable with the pace the government is operating. Nigerians are that impatient.
Therefore, the people of this country will not admit any excuse for non-performance from this government. APC, heed this call! Please put your house in order, before it is too late! The four years tenure the party has to spend in power has started counting and running out right after the May 29 inauguration.
Finally, I wish to acknowledge the stand of the ruling party, saying its President is not the Party leader. If the true principle of this tinkering is objectively allowed to be entrenched, that will begin to benefit the clamour to develop institution in Nigeria. Happily, the same party declared that its President is a product of the association. If there were no inordinate and sinister ambition to place personal interest above the national’s, I believe the standard will work and benefit all. However, the same standard can never and will not undermine the office of Mr. President. Therefore, it is very key President Buahri appreciates again and embraces the fact that he has been voted to be in charge of Nigerian affairs, the bucks – positive or negative in the end comes to his table. In effect, enough of his indifference to issues, whether critical, sensitive or otherwise relating to his dispensation! As a retired Military General and former Head of State, I still maintain my confidence his case will not be like the ‘one’ who was recently in power, but obviously not in charge.
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