Yesterday’s nauseating rumpus in the chamber of the House of Representatives again brought to the fore questions about the unity and preparedness of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC for governance.
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
While Nigerians continue to wait with patience as President Muhammadu Buhari comes to grips with the process of governance, not few are amused by the incoherence of the ruling party in getting its majority in the two chambers of the National Assembly to settle down to the process of governance.
Reflective of the disarray in the ruling party, the APC has been unable to come up with its full complement of principal officers in the two chambers of the National Assembly.
It is the longest time since the advent of the Fourth Republic that the National Assembly has not been able to showcase its principal officers. Even when the Senate came up with its Leader in the person of Senator Ali Ndume from Borno and his deputy, Senator Bala Ibn Nallah from Kebbi, it was another humiliation for the national leadership of the ruling party.
The humiliation was in the sense that the party had insisted on proclaiming the leaders for the two chambers, something that has not been done before.
While the chaos was ongoing in the House yesterday, the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki announced Ndume and Nallah as the leaders presented by the Northeast and Northwest caucuses of the party. The APC caucus in the Senate had earlier zoned the office of the Senate Leader and Deputy Leader to the Northeast and Northwest and in voting among the senators from the two zones, the two names emerged.
However, the party had preferred its poster boy, Senator Ahmad Lawan who vied with Saraki for the senate presidency for the office of Senate Leader, a move that was rejected by Lawan’s own zone who voted Ndume by nine votes to the two votes scored by Lawan.
Besides, the party in a letter to Senator Saraki had also demanded that another loyal senator, Senator George Akume be returned as Deputy Senate Leader and Senator Sola Adeyeye (Southwest) as Chief Whip and Senator Abu Ibrahim (Northwest) be returned as Deputy Chief Whip. The zoning permutation as articulated by the leadership would have meant that the South-South geopolitical zone would be missing in the body of principal officers of the Senate, a fact many senators had pointed out to the national leadership, albeit to no avail.
That was essentially because Akume, who was proposed as deputy leader comes from the same North-Central geopolitical zone as the Senate President.
In the House the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun led leadership had also written requesting the nomination of Femi Gbajabiamila, who lost to Senator Yakubu Dogara in the race for speaker as House Leader.
Like the choice of Akume, the proposal for the election of Gbajabiamila from the Southwest would have meant that the region would have produced two members from the party in the leadership with the North-Central and the Southeast being denied an office.
The inclination has inevitably led to suggestions of marginalisation from some sections of the party, particularly from the areas sidelined.
The North-Central caucus in the House led by Rep. Ahman Pategi from Kwara State at a press conference on Wednesday fumed that the party took the decision to name persons to the various positions without consulting them expressing shock in the action of their party which they claimed should not be seen to be preferring individuals or zones over another.
Pategi who was flanked by about 20 other members from the zone said: “We are also amazed by the directive of the party to the leadership of the House to take necessary action on the purported choice by the party, which we see as a clear usurpation of the powers of the zonal caucuses and their members as guaranteed by the constitution and the standing rules of the House of Representatives.
“We, therefore, strongly reject the purported selection by the party which we see as being in conflict with the principle of the federal character as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic.”
“It will be inconsiderate of the party to consider North-East and South-West that had produced the Speaker and Deputy Speaker for other positions. The exclusion of two zones is not acceptable,” he said.
Party members from the Southeast also upbraided the party on its inclinations.
Rep. Austine Chukwukere, representing Ideato South/Ideato North and Rep. John Chike Okeafor, Okigwe South of Imo State, who spoke at another press conference flayed the party saying “We can’t stand here and allow the party sweep us out.”
But the party is also faced with its own problems; to wit affirming its authority over the legislators who were sponsored on the platform of the party.
It is particularly difficult for the party given that the majority of those stoking the rebellion including Senator Saraki and Speaker Dogara were dissidents of the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP who moved into the APC from the PDP after helping to crash their former party.
The two men ironically were helped to office by the PDP which paid back the APC for the insidious effort of the former Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in frustrating the PDP’s zoning arrangement that helped to enthrone the Aminu Tambuwal leadership on the House of Representatives in 2011.
Given the background of how it catalysed the breakup of the PDP in the period leading to the 2015 election, many are surprised that the APC has allowed itself to be boxed into this avoidable cul de sac.
The party’s attempt to stamp its authority has, however, been badly managed with allegations of cronyism and dictatorship in the running of the party.
Many of the nominees preferred by the party as principal officers are known associates of a prominent national leader of the party, a decision some claim would mean locking out those not close to the leader from top positions.
Yesterday, as some members of the APC raised bedlam in what was obviously a pre-planned riot, it was remarkable that a sizeable proportion of those who rallied in support of Speaker Dogara were members of the PDP. The import was that the APC was just like the PDP with Speaker Tambuwal after 2011, pushing the speaker out of the party into the embrace of the opposition party.
Even more dangerous for the party is the fact that a sizeable proportion of those who had been heeding the party’s voice are also coming round to the side of the speaker.
One state caucus after another have come to pledge allegiance to the speaker. One of the most telling examples was the case of the Jigawa/Kano delegation who overwhelmingly voted by about 90 per cent against Dogara.
When the delegation paid a courtesy call, and as Rep. Ado Doguwa spoke on behalf of the joint delegation, it was obvious that the national leadership was increasingly losing influence over the party members in the House.
Not hiding the fact that they voted against the speaker, Doguwa said: “Members of the Kano and Jigawa caucuses did what they did because of the party’s position, but now that you have emerged as the speaker we have nothing but to concur with the will of God and to pledge our loyalty.”
He said that for the next four years that they hoped to accord Speaker Dogara an unalloyed loyalty.
Such pledges of loyalty are not surprising given the speaker’s powers and entrenchment. Many other members are also alleged to be taking turns to pledge loyalty in the light of the fact that the speaker has the final say on what committees the members may belong to.