By Mike Nkwocha
THERE is no doubt that the AllProgressive Congress, APC’s victory in the last general election will take Nigeria in a different direction from the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, leadership of the past 16 years. In recent times, the only presidential contender that has attracted enormous public confidence in his ability to tackle plethora of problems confronting our nation is General Mohammed Buhari, the President -Elect. The expectations are too high and the pressure for a quick-fix is already on.
But we should all realise that the General does not have a magic wand to wave and solve all our problems in one day. What we expect from the good General and his party is to show us clearly that they are in the process of laying strong foundation for effective governance and good service delivery. Ours to recommend and advice and wait for positive action.
After all, like the popular Nigerian adage says “it is the same Alhaji that we are all tending the cattle for”. To this end, much is expected from APC in their choice for leadership of National Assembly and persons appointed into the Federal Executive Council to assist the President.
The most immediate of these decisions for the President-elect and APC is the matter of leadership of the National Assembly because of the strategic importance of the legislature in a democracy and the agenda of change that was used by APC to serenade Nigerians into handing an over whelming victory to an opposition party, the first time in the history of our country.
APC leadership should realise that Nigerians will start counting their sincerity and performance from the selection of leadership of National Assembly to the actual performance in office. A weak foundation would have been erected for anybody to hope for a scintillating performance in office if the party allows petty politics and naked show of power to drive their decision.
A situation where leadership of APC starts to campaign against zoning arrangement in deciding the issue of leadership of National Assembly bothers on cockiness and chicanery because the party used the same zoning to determine the position of office of President , Vice-president and its National chairman . Our legal lexicon has institutionalised Federal Character or Zoning to ensure inclusiveness and effective administration of our country.
So for a party whose major electoral asset is the credibility of its leaders to turn around to canvass against those core values that made it attractive to the populace is courting nothing but scorn. Any objective person should easily agree that National balancing, strong character, integrity, experience/competence, leadership skill and equity are the core criteria the APC should seek, to determine who will head the 8th National Assembly.
The lessons of leadership failure of the PDP should not be lost on the APC. Luckily for the party, the three contenders to the leadership of National Assembly are credible personalities but the party must choose the best to send a message that they are well equipped and ready for leadership. However, I believe that Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki is better situated to discharge the functions of the office of the Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly than the other two distinguished Senators- Dr. Ahmed Lawan and Chief George Akume. My reasons are as follows;
National balancing: The APC started National balancing when the Presidential and Vice-Presidential tickets were given to the North-West and South-West respectively. The Chairmanship of the party was zoned to South-South leading to the emergence of Chief John Oyegun. Recollect that Chief Bisi Akande was prevailed upon to step down as interim Chairman for the position to go to South-South.
The Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum and Northern Governors Forum have gone to the North-West and North-East. The party initially zoned the position of Senate President to the North-central but later threw the contest open. The reason was not stated but it was speculated that the Godfathers of APC felt that zoning it to North central will make it easier for Dr. Saraki to emerge.
But for proper political balancing, the position should go to the zone because it is the zone that made it possible for APC to win when they changed their allegiance from PDP to APC. Dr. Saraki and Chief Akume are from this zone but fortunately for Dr. Saraki, Chief Akume is no longer in the contest. Strong Character: one of the most endearing qualities of Dr. Saraki is his strength of character.
Strength of character is a necessity for an aspirant to such exalted and exacting office. Dr. Saraki showed his stuff when he disagreed with his father on the choice of his successor as the Governor of Kwara State. In a country struggling with nepotism, his insistence on power rotation in his state against his father’s desire to install his sister is a big plus for him.
It showed a man with character and class who cannot easily be swayed by base and mundane instincts.
His strength of character was also put to test when he left the new PDP to APC at the time they disagreed with President Jonathan on the running of the party. A firm and discerning mind is needed to run the Senate and interface with the executive arm for good governance to become institutionalised in Nigeria.
Integrity: Today, Saraki is one of the most investigated public officer yet nothing has been found to tanish his reputation. A reformer who believes in positive change will always find himself at odds with the system. Some people will call it controversy but it is actually a progressive controversy when a top politician continually engages the system for a better society.
If it is not so, then I wonder what it was when Saraki alerted the nation on the rip off called fuel subsidy. His motion for a probe of fuel subsidy on the floor of the Senate brought another round of investigation of his tenure as Governor. A Governor who voluntarily waived his immunity and was given a clean bill of health by no less a person than the famous anti-fraud czar, Nuhu Ribadu, at the time almost all the Governors were indicted for corruption cannot be underestimated in matter of integrity .
Experience/Competence: Saraki has shown exceptional ability in this area. As a Governor, he managed his state excellently to enable him to install his successor. He turned Nigerian Governors Forum into an effective body to midwife a robust relationship between the Federal and States Governments. He epitomizes the Igbo adage which is translated to mean that “one cannot use a mirror to search for a golden bracelet worn on the wrist”.
Leadership skill: Many of these attributes have horned the leadership skill of Saraki to a point of excellence. Nigeria and APC need a person of such great ability to assist General Buhari in the onerous task of nation building. There is no gain saying the fact that every Senator is qualified to be a Senate President but it is only one person that can occupy the position at a time.
I believe that the time is ripe for Saraki to lead the National Assembly to join other arms of Government to take Nigeria to prosperity and development. The leadership of the National Assembly should be a bridge between the centripetal and centrifugal forces in National power game viz: APC and PDP, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa/Fulani, Ijaw, Tiv, etc. Saraki’s support base cuts across these interest power blocs and he is in a better position to reconcile their conflicting demands by utilising his exceptional leadership skills.
Equity: In law, it is said that whoever comes to equity must go with clean hands because equity can only intervene when somebody is acting in good faith. There are five parties that merged to form APC namely: ACN, CPC, ANPP, PART OF APGA, AND NEW PDP. In the distribution of offices, CPC and ACN have got the President and Vice President respectively. APGA has the Chairman of Progressive Governors Forum while ANPP has the National Chairman of APC and is rumuored to be on the verge of emerging the SGF.
It means that it is only the new PDP that is left out in the sharing arrangement. Let’s not forget the fact that it was the new PDP that changed the game for APC when they entered the alliance with their five Governors. So for equity sake, the chairmanship of the National Assembly will be an adequate compensation to them through Saraki.
Finally, in life, there is time for everything and everyone. It is useless when mere mortals fight hopelessly to rearrange divine arrangement. In my humble opinion, there is an unseen hand that arranged the equation to favour Dr. Saraki and it is needless to fight it. In this period of Change, Let the Nation continue to crown who the cap fits.
Barrister Mike Nkwocha writes from Awka, Anambra State.