By Rotimi Fasan

IF politics, especially in the Nigerian style, could be compared to the construction of a house, then it can be said that members of the All Progressives Congress are right now laying the foundation stones of another rancorous National Assembly and indeed executive-legislature relations. The tussle for leadership positions in the National Assembly is getting hotter and acrimonious which could be a foretaste of what Nigerians should expect once the ninth assembly begins work after May 29. The culmination of the implosive crisis in the APC was the defection of principal officers of the National Assembly who were members of the APC to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

National Assembly

Although for many members of the APC and indeed Nigerians, these that had more or less cornered the leadership of the National Assembly in the wake of deadly intrigues that more or less permanently polarized both the APC and the National Assembly after a bitterly-fought leadership contest were never true members of the APC. They were always outsiders with one leg inside and the other outside the party. Remember many of them had been disgruntled and disaffected members of the PDP who decided to pitch tent with the opposition to oust the Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP administration from power?

But they had scarcely achieved their avowed desire of sending Jonathan back to his kith and kin in Otuoke when they ran into the brick wall of NASS leadership that would pitch them against other leaders of the newly-constituted APC. Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara outsmarted APC party leaders and took control of the National Assembly on June 10, 2015. The falcon was never again to hear the falconer thereafter. Matters climaxed with the mass defection of powerful members that threatened to destroy the APC and with it the re-election chances of President Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders of his government in 2018. Both Saraki and Dogara, who appeared to be having second thoughts and started dragging his feet about leaving the APC at the last minute (until events made it too late for him to go back without losing face and influence), were the arrowhead of the internal opposition in the APC.

Intrigues, tension as Gbaja, 16 others jostle for Reps Speakership

The magic spell that the Saraki dynasty had managed to cast over the politics of Kwara State failed to work in February 2019 and Bukola Saraki, just as Adams Oshiomhole had promised, was swept out of power as he lost his re-election bid to the Senate in an O-to-gee moment. Dogara’s PDP took a hard hit (although it appears to be regaining control in some states with the conclusion of the “inconclusive” elections) in the February elections to the extent it can no longer contest the majority party position with the APC as it did for a long while after it welcomed APC defectors into its fold.

The February polls settled the dispute of which party has the majority of seats in the National Assembly decisively in favour of the APC. But that does not mean it made the fight for the leadership of the National Assembly less of a contest for control that could very well slip through its fingers or, at the very least, sow the seed of disaffection that could portend ghastly consequences for the APC administration of Muhammadu Buhari. That is the point at which the party now stands with the challenge posed to its choice of Ahmad Lawan as the next President of the Senate against the wish and expressed desire of Muhammed Ndume.

The selection of Femi Gbajabiamila as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives has not raised a major storm save for the potential threat that could have followed from Remi Tinubu’s wish to be deputy president of the Senate. It is highly unlikely that the office of the Speaker and that of deputy president of the Senate could be conceded to the South-West alone. While it is not clear that Tinubu has given up on her ambition, opinion seems to be settled around the fact that the choice of Gbajabiamila would be sustained without much, if any, incidence. This is hardly the case between Lawan and Ndume who is threatening to stand against the candidate of his party. Ndume is demanding a “level” field of play that he would have probably spurned had he been his party’s choice for the office of the Senate president. With members of the PDP and, perhaps, a few others ready to play ball, Ndume may be banking on pulling another Saraki-like sleight-of-hand on leaders of his party.

It is hardly surprising that the position of who becomes the president of the 9th Senate has generated so much acrimony- politicians like office. What may be of interest and, no doubt, concern for other Nigerians (given the long-term implication of the growing disagreement on the government) is the fact of the APC yet again showing itself incapable of managing victory. While it is the party’s business how it chooses to conduct its own affairs, to the extent that its failures portend danger for policy formulation and implementation in the country, then Nigerians have to be interested. We all know how the poor handling of the NASS leadership crisis by the APC led to the poor relationship between the executive, particularly the presidency, and the NASS leaders.

Not only were bills stalled, delayed or rejected (although a lot of the delays were caused by the incompetence of the executive personnel), members of the executive and the legislature could simply not see eye to eye. The hostility was palpable and personal to the extent that executive nominees for appointment and bills were rejected. We all know the fate the 2018 budget went through, with very damaging consequences on the economy and even the 2019 elections, before its passage. Supplementary appropriations of different shades had to be contrived in order to get things going.

Rather than resolving issues in-house, the contest for NASS leadership is now becoming an issue for national debate. Elsewhere matters like this follow laid down procedure. It is often very clear who and which party does what, either on grounds of seniority, control, influence or all three and more. But everything is done quietly without the involvement of every bystander. Conventionally, the party in control of a national legislature leads it and possible nominees for leadership position are known well ahead. But here everyone is a leader. Thus, even an Orji Uzor Kalu who has just made it to the senate is threatening “to shop” for support to be Deputy President of the Senate. This is the kind of foolery that leads to the sort of chaos that undermines legislative activities. Can our power-hungry politicians for once try to be responsible?

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