By Emmanuel Aziken
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s success as one of Nigeria’s most successful labour leaders is a fact that would remain etched in the annals of the country’s labour movement.
His success as governor of Edo State against the benchmark set by the eight-year administration of Chief Lucky Igbinedion is underlined by among others, the remodeling of sections of the state capital which had laid fallow for years before his emergence.
Well, that is never minding the predictions of the coming brouhaha between him and his hand-chosen successor, Godwin Obaseki over unsettled debts, unfinished projects such as the Specialist Hospital among other contending issues.
As he finished his tour of duty in Edo State, President Muhammadu Buhari publicly disclosed that he had work for him in Abuja. It turned out to be chairman of the ruling party.
Once he came in, the former governor took to his job with much aplomb. His stance on internal party democracy using direct primaries for the selection of party candidates was one of the most positive innovations to touch the political party process since 1999.
The proposal kindled crisis here and there leaving major dents in Imo, Rivers, Zamfara among other states. Now, it appears that the eager partisanship of the national chairman may take the party to another prolonged crisis.
First, was the decision to micro-zone the office of presiding officers of the two chambers to two individuals.
Now, in a way that no previous chairman of a ruling party has ever done, Oshiomhole has vowed to change the configuration of the National Assembly by stamping the imprints of his party on the legislature. In that direction, he said the party would not allow opposition lawmakers to hold chairmanship positions in the two chambers of the National Assembly.
His stance is supported by the practice in the United States Congress where the ruling party takes control of all 16 standing committees of the Senate and all 20 committees of the House of Representatives.
Whereas Nigeria copied parts of the presidential form of democracy from the United States, the Nigerian actors moderated its practice in the legislature. For example, the idea of the vice-president sitting as president of the Senate was not copied.
Similarly, the US tradition of one party taking hold of all committee positions was jettisoned in Nigeria in 1999, by circumstances and other factors that brought the party in the minority into reckoning.
One particular circumstance that made minority party members get juicy committee positions in the legislature in 1999, was the poor persuasive skills of the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which was the ruling party at that time.
The party foisted the pair of Senator Evan Enwerem and the youthful Salisu Buhari as Senate President and Speaker of the House. None of them lasted six months in office.
After that, out of the six persons that subsequently emerged as Speaker of the House of Representatives, the party only had its way in imposing one person, and that was Patricia Etteh. Ms. Etteh for no fault of her own, but because of the circumstances of her emergence did not last five months.
The others, Ghali Naaba, Aminu Bello Masari, Dimeji Bankole, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Yakubu Dogara came by popular acclaim.
Whereas Masari was the choice of President Olusegun Obasanjo through the persuasion of Governor Umaru Yar‘adua in 2003, the PDP nevertheless made a pretense of allowing competition even while it mobilized support for Masari.
Masari survived for four years because he looked beyond PDP to win friends from the opposition, All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP.
Remarkably, one of his henchmen, while he campaigned for the speakership, was Alhaji Ahmad Lawan, a member of the House from Yobe State. Indeed, Lawan was a regular fixture at the Masari for Speaker Campaign headquarters at the Penil Apartments, Abuja.
So, it was no surprise that after Masari won and became speaker that Lawan, even though a member of the opposition ANPP, served at different times as chairman of the juicy committees of Agriculture and Education. He was also a member of the Masari kitchen cabinet.
There have been cases of minority party members taking central positions in the kitchen cabinet of a presiding officer. The late Senator Mamman Ali was one in the Anyim Pius Anyim Senate until they fell out.
It is remarkable that as he goes about his campaign to become Senate President that Lawan has not inclined himself to Oshiomhole’s counsel as he is said to have reached out to the PDP minority in the forthcoming Senate. With a significant number of more than 40 senators, the PDP is well positioned to play a role in the emergence of the next presiding officer.
It is apparent that the APC has not in any way learned from the foibles of the PDP. Comrade Oshiomhole’s attempt to count his chickens before hatching could ordinarily be seen as dangerous. But if given the insinuations that the new set of lawmakers are Agric Chicken programmed for feeding instructions from party headquarters our democracy may then be in serious jeopardy!