As was expected, the race for the leadership of the National Assembly is on with the attendant intrigues and horse-trading. In all circumstances, trying to secure the control of the all-important legislative arm of government is usually a political game of wits. It is not peculiar to Nigeria. In the case of the country, political parties with members in the two chambers and who are presenting candidates for the juicy offices deploy all the weapons in their arsenal just to ensure an effective role, if not control, in the Assembly. That is what is interesting, if not disturbing because of the bitterness that comes with it. In its first term, the All Progressives Congress (APC) was its own opposition. The rest, as the saying goes, is now history.
The party took things for granted in the out-going 8th Session and paid dearly for it as it ended up with a leadership that is perceived to be antagonistic to the Executive arm of government. Then it was seen by analysts as proof of lack, or even absence, of leadership. That may explain why the party is not taking chances this time round. Its hierarchy is crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s in an effort to avoid a repeat of the past. But, again, they are going about it the wrong way by insisting on imposing a candidate on the Senate, for instance. Even some members of the ruling party in the Assembly are resisting that approach to the issue. The members are stalling on who to queue behind as their leader. They want a more constitutional and democratic approach to the selection process that will produce the National Assembly leadership.
Sadly, in our view, the belligerence and irascibility of the party leadership is making some senators within the fold of the APC itself begin to firm up against what they see as an encroachment on their independence. Some non-partisan political operators are trying to coerce the politicians and make them understand the implication of getting it wrong again.
Perhaps, it is pertinent to remind all that though APC is in the majority in the two Houses, selecting the leadership of the National Assembly is not entirely an APC matter. Should anything go wrong, the impact will be felt by all and that is regardless of political affiliations? Nigeria cannot afford the kind of rebellion the National Assembly in the first four years of this administration.
The thing to be realised in this whole matter is that the Assembly is not an island unto itself. Even with the principle of separation of powers, the National Assembly needs the cooperation from Nigerians who elected them in the first place, to be able to pull this through and avoid the over-hanging threat of making itself an executive arm’s rubber stamp. That will not be in the nation’s interest.
Why we are worried that this could be what the APC wants for the country is because of the conflicting comments by the topmost echelon of the party’s leadership. While the President is promising an all-inclusive government, a departure from the policy he ran in his first term, the national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole appears to be canvassing a winner takes all scenario. He erroneously believes that the opposition will have no role to play in who emerges as the Senate President, for instance. He thinks that by imposing a single candidate voting, will not be necessary anymore. That too is a joke. The APC chairman needs to go and read the 1999 constitution again, especially the section that deals with the process of electing leaders in the legislature. It is purely the business of the Senators and the House members. The influence of the party is tangential, if not inconsequential.
He is saying also that the APC will not share powers with the opposition down to the chairmanship of standing committees. Such mindset is outrageous because it has never happened before. No matter how self-important anyone may want to feel, the opposition has a role to play in the running of the Assembly and there is nothing the party, or its chairman can do about it. If eventually it turns out that Oshiomhole is speaking the mind of the party, then they are unwittingly sowing the seed of discord in the National Assembly that will make the Bukola Saraki era look like a tea party. Even enemies of the government will not wish that for the president.
What is needed in the National Assembly, in the opinion of this newspaper, is diplomacy, moderation and accommodation. Hard stand and tough talk are decidedly unhelpful at this point in time. It is important that everyone concerned understands this before we spend another four years throwing political brickbats at one another and, at the end, wonder what went wrong.
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