Muhammad Alhaji Yakubu –
The All Progressives Congress –APC, fresh from a grueling encounter with the behemoth PDP, manifested early signs of suffocating exhaustion in the aftermath of its well deserved victory at the 2015 general election in the way it handled the outcome of the election of officers in the National Assembly. Being a new party sorted out of hitherto disparate political parties into an amalgam, it was least expected that the new party will manifest such weakness within such a short time of ascending to the big stage.
That the party allowed itself to slide into avoidable crisis so early on arriving at the big stage, lends credence to the argument that managing victory puts to severe test the spirit of common purpose, strength and unity of any union where individual interests run in pari passu with the union’s agenda. While the crisis lasted, tension, suspicion and friction afflicted and constrained the relationship between the executive and the legislature. On this, the APC had its first bitter taste of managing victory among diverse and conflicting interest of members in their respective private aspiration in the new democratic enterprise. Conflicts are meant to be resolved through compromise and reconciliation –stepping out of the individual’s narrow closet to the larger world of national interest with eyes fixed on the bigger picture.
Typical of and common to every historic event is the flash point that burst out around coveted, albeit contentious stake. The election of Bukola Saraki as the Senate President of the eight national assembly was the first significant flash point in the aftermath of historic victory of the APC in the 2015 general election. Saraki’s centrality to the process cannot be treated with isolated levity -more so that he came with very impressive pedigree and intimidating resume’ –as such his participation in the processes raised the standard and offset tradition for better involvement in the ideals and fundamental principles in quality parliamentary legislation. The outcome rattled and roughened feathers at the highest hierarchy of the party’s leadership structure. At the centre of storm is the current senate president –Bukola Saraki, and the crucial issue in contention is the need to reclaim and reposition the independence of the legislature in all matters central to its operation devoid of external influence. For the sheer tumultuous convulsion and uproar that the outcome generated it would be foolhardy and ludicrous to expect that the character that is central to process that scuppered and endangered a vetoed arrangement would escape the scar and hostility of injured interest
Nigeria democracy is maturing and struggling to prove its ability for reinvention and enhanced capacity as it frantically seeks to connect with the popular rhythm of democratic order in civilized climes. This affords a befitting explanation to why a critical component of Nigeria’s democratic structure – the legislature, had, in the past , attempted unlocking its processes from the grip of party influence –particularly its internal affairs and leadership selection process that throw up officers in the legislative carder that are not in the preference list of the political leadership.
Recent experience has shown that members of the national assembly have resolved to evolve a culture of resistance at whatever cost to their relationship with their political parties in refusing external influence on its electoral process. They are perfecting the art of warding off pressures and attempts which seek to narrow democratic options and choices of certain position to some persons. The fractious leadership, in the face of this development, has always been quick to issue subtle threat for disregarding its directive. A precedent was set in the house of representative when the immediate past Speaker of the House colluded with members of the opposition party – the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN to alter the preferred complexion of the leadership structure. Nerves were ruffled , relationship soured briefly , suspicion and claims of betrayal reigned for a while but the leadership, caught in the embarrassing position of having its directive violated , always find the courage to swallow its pride and accept that it has been outsmarted by its own party members. After a while , wind of normalcy breezes across , allowing for wounds to heal and dust raised to settle when the serious business of governance must take root in order to satisfy the expectation of the electorate who are eager to see the worth and value of their choice .
The saraki experience bears sharp contrast to the recorded precedent of brief clash between the party leadership and members of the national assembly in the election of officers. The Senate election of officers has always been less stormy compared to the house of representative- indiscreetly manifesting seamless tendency of swinging in the direction of the ruling party’s preference. In earnest, before now, the culture of the senate refusing the dictates of the party leadership in electing its officers was alien -rather opting to position itself in the range of the negotiating radar of the executive –it earned the praise of demonstrating better understanding, controllable exuberance and maturity but at very heavy cost to legislative independence and the beauty of separation of powers in a democratic experiment.
The short-lived tumult that greeted the senate election and the convulsive rift and tension that followed are path of the difficult process for laying the building blocks of a virile democracy upended by a virile and independent legislature. Neither the interest of democracy nor the nation is served if the legislature becomes a ready tool in the hands of select few. The saraki experience offered us our first instance of shifting positions between the party leadership and members of ruling party in the upper house of the national assembly on the issue of election of its officers –
Like in all novel instances – the first time experience came with heavy price –saraki did not go without a bruise – delivered in the garb of contrived allegation of false asset declaration. Then, came the gale of scathing harangue, treated with malicious mischief and blackmail- reeled out to demonize and disparage him with a view to making him a pariah in the party. Part of the undisclosed motive in the script was obviously not short of a clandestine plan to unseat him after he must have been found guilty of the charges. The world was not deceived –least of all the victim of this multi-pronged assault , on how and why a resourceful and very dependable member of the party who worked tirelessly to ensure its victory , made huge sacrifices suddenly became the most hunted. Saraki’s very first statement on the duck of the Code of Conduct Bureau when he was arraigned attested to this fact.
“As I stated while taking the plea in the case, I reiterate my belief that the only reason while I am going through this trial is because I am the Senate President. If I were to be just a Senator, I doubt if anybody will be interested in the asset declaration form I filled over twelve years ago”- Bukola Saraki
To the credit of the judiciary whose processes and proceeding on the case sufficiently answered to the truism that it is the last hope of not only the common man but equally the last hope of the innocent – CCB acquitted saraki and cleared him of any wrong doing.
What should jar awake the interest of the nation is not just the acquittal of Saraki on the hastily contrived spurious charges nor their face value –rather the nation must begin to wonder how he withstood the thunderstorm with uncanny stoicism , maintained his calm , refused to be distracted, walked over the booby traps unscathed and brought significant achievements. He engineered unrivaled leadership capacity that knitted diverse interests and tendencies into a united whole in a cohesive warm relationship, cutting through party affiliation , secured and reasserted legislative independence, oversaw the passing of a number hitherto jinxed bills that had been buried in the senate for ages , aside other bills critical to the nations development ,stability and unity, and ensured that the senate remained scandal free .
Quite an Intriguing paradoxical outcome that the saraki –led senate has at different times busted corruption perpetuated at the highest level in government, while a number of cases are currently under investigation in the senate –thus , rending active support to the government in its cardinal agenda of ridding the nation of corruption.. The current senate holds the record of passing the highest number of bills within the period of its stay since the inception of democratic government in 1999.
The Saraki’-led eight national assembly would enter the book records of Nigeria’s parliamentary evolution not as uneventful footnotes but in bold significant chapters of courage, capacity and cohesion, woven around and driven by an indefatigable senate president whose resilience and tenacity triggered a wave of counteractive actions that reversed adversarial attempts to give him and the senate names that were not theirs in lieu of names that brought honor , fame and glory to the national assembly .
No wonder President Muhammadu Buhari describe him as one of most Influential Politicians in Nigeria today (Vangaurd December, 2016)
Muhammad Alhaji Yakubu is S.A Political to the President of the Senate.