By Ochereome Nnanna
It was as exciting and gripping as a typical World Cup soccer match between the Super Eagles and Brazil or Argentina. Thanks to a number of patriotic television networks, such as the Africa Independent Television, AIT, the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA and even (believe it!) Silverbird Television, STV(obviously because its owner, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce was involved) we were able to watch it live from beginning to the end.

It could not have been more emotion-sapping if it had been a battle between one political party and the other. But in truth it was a civil war. Most civil wars (like the Biafra-Nigeria war of 1967 to 1970) can be bloodier than wars between nations; and the post-war bitterness can linger for generations. William Shakespeare in Macbeth confirmed this when he observed: “the nearer in blood, the nearer bloody”. Prof Jibril Aminu once told a Fulani proverb which translates: “Why should I harm you; are you my relation?”

It was a political standoff between two powerful factions of the newly-enthroned ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC: the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, faction led by Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, which had captured the machinery of the coalition, and the “new” Peoples Democratic Party, nPDP, led by the five former rebel PDP governors and their ever-vigilant sidekick, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

Tinubu and Buhari had started the power sharing by ceding the Presidency to Buhari (North West), who represented the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC and, to some extent, the All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP. Tinubu (ACN) provided the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo (South West). The June 9, 2015 inauguration of the National Assembly provided an opportunity for the party leaders to ensure that the spoils of defeating PDP were extended to as many stakeholders as possible to give them a sense of belonging. This is what the PDP calls “zoning”.

But the APC often says it does not believe in zoning. So Tinubu, once again, shared the top offices of the legislature between Buhari and himself. He allocated the Senate Presidency to Buhari’s CPC acolyte, Senator Ahmed Lawan (North East) and reserved the office of Speaker of the House of Reps to Femi Gbajabiamila (ACN, South West). If the Tinubu/APC formula had sailed through, the nPDP, whose desertion of the PDP principally led to its defeat, would have lost out. All the prime offices of the Executive and Legislature (President, President of the Senate and Speaker, House Reps) and of the Judiciary (Chief Justice of the Federation) would have been in Muslim hands, with Christians reduced to mere deputies. The PDP characterisation of the APC as “Muslim Brotherhood” during the campaigns would have manifested. The South East and South-South would have been shut out for not voting for the APC.

Democracy is not a perfect machinery, but it has a way of self-correcting anomalies in the heat of negotiations and jostling between contending forces. The nPDP faction, which had been dealt out of relevance by Tinubu, was so incensed that ALL its chieftains – Atiku, Kwankwaso, Bukola Saraki, Aliyu Wamakko and Waziri Tambuwal quickly closed ranks to fight back. They rejected Tinubu/APC’s strange primaries which picked Lawan and Gbajabiamila, and settled for the election of the principal officers on the floors of the Senate and House of Representatives.

In order to succeed, they went back to their friends in the opposition PDP and struck a deal. They conceded the Deputy Senate President to the incumbent, Ike Ekweremadu and the Senate Leader to two-time Senate President, David Mark, in return for the election of Bukola Saraki as Senate President and Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker of the House. I am surprised that the same deal could not reserve something, probably the Deputy Speaker of the House of Reps, for the strategic South-South zone. If this had happened, the coup against Tinubu/APC would have produced something for everybody. However, it was able to give something to almost everybody.

I also wonder why Buhari and Tinubu could not reserve something for the South-South (since the APC produced elected Reps members in Edo State) at least to compensate Governor Oshiomhole for his contributions and former Governor Rotimi Amaechi for the important role he played in the Buhari campaign. Ironically it was the South East which gave nothing to the APC that got something through the deal between the “rebel” APC faction and the PDP.

It doused the extreme Muslim dominance by producing Yakubu Dogara, a Christian from Bauchi State as the Speaker, House of Reps and integrated the South-East in a bi-partisan arrangement.

Some have said the APC took a beating from the election of the National Assembly officers. It was actually Tinubu that was thrashed for thinking only of himself and Buhari in the power grab. Buhari played safe and wise, saying he had no interest in whoever would lead the Legislature, and pledged to work with those now elected. He was the democrat and nationalist in this tussle. He was excellently advised, and thus escaped getting his halo scorched.

As I always say: “every charitable or uncharitable attitude is a boomerang”. Four years ago, Tinubu plotted to torpedo the PDP zoning formula aimed at giving something to every geopolitical zone and religious interest for justice and equity. Tinubu’s Tambuwal coup deprived the South West of any place in our Order of Precedence, but succeeded in giving a double portion (the VP and Speaker) to the North West. He said it was a quest for “merit”. In fact, it was Tinubu’s protégé, Gbajabiamila who used those very words in a press conference. Now, with Tinubu and Gbaja given back a dose of their own “merit” medicine, APC calls it “treachery” and other dirty names.

So sad for Gbajabiamila, a sound parliamentarian who would have made a great Speaker; nice, intelligent, loyal chap; but he got caught in a grim shootout between Tinubu and a tested, destructive rebel army

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