•Says it’s impossible for Ninth NASS to oppose Buhari or be rubber stamp
•South-East deserves any treatment it gets from APC
By Clifford Ndujihe & Levinus Nwabughiogu
Having secured the leadership of the National Assembly, former Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Ado Doguwa of the ,All Progressive Congress, APC Kano, has urged leaders of the, APC, to reward loyalty and hard work while selecting other principal officers of the National Assembly.
So far, Senators Ahmad Lawan (Yobe) and Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta) have emerged as Senate President and Deputy Senate President, respectively. So also were Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos) and Idris Wase (Plateau) as speaker and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives.
However, the posts of majority leader, deputy majority leader, chief whip and deputy chief in both arms of the National Assembly are yet to be filled
Doguwa, who is arguably the longest serving member of the National Assembly, having been first elected in 1992, and believes he is the best candidate for the majority leader of the House of Representatives, said the remaining posts should be distributed among the six geo-political zones in a manner that will reward hard work and support for the APC at the polls.
In this interview, Doguwa spoke on the intrigues and engagement that shaped the NASS leadership elections, why the Ninth NASS must protect the independence of the legislature and at the same time ensure the success of President Muhammadu Buhari’s policies and programmes.
Asked how the APC achieved the feat in the National Assembly, Doguwa said: ‘’What happened was like a build up to what we had long awaited for-the agitation and desire of the members of the Eighth Assembly, which for reasons we all know was dashed. The massive election of APC adopted candidates was not unexpected because of the kind of engagement we have had through the various windows of the party. The national secretariat under the leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole did a lot of things that were not done in 2015.
‘’He embarked on engagement with stakeholders left, right and centre and was in constant touch with the presidency. This time around, nobody will tell you that the president was not involved. He was directly involved and that was what gave rise to what you saw on June 11, 2019.”
On suggestions that the Ninth National Assembly would be a rubber stamp legislature giving the way the leaders emerged
Doguwa disagreed on account of the quality of members of the legislature.
‘’By implication of the institution of the legislature, there is no way you can expect the National Assembly to be a rubber stamp. I am sure it will not be. But that will not in any way make us go in dissonance to the good policies of the executive arm of government. We are one party with a comfortable majority in the House and good majority in the Senate. The policies and programmes of the government are our policies and programmes. So, while we maintain our institutional independence, we will as well guard seriously the sentiment of our government and political party.”
On the sharing of other positions such as majority leader, deputy majority leader, chief whip and deputy chief whip
Doguwa urged the party leaders to reward hard work. Giving his legislative experience and the support of the North-West zone to the APC, he urged the party to zone the majority leader position to the North-West. He is the only person from the North-West aspiring for the majority leader post.
‘’I would expect the party to remember that I come from a zone that gave the party the highest electoral contribution to the APC. The North- western part of the country has the highest number of the APC members in the House of Reps. In my caucus, which I led as chief whip, the North-West caucus has almost 92 members even with the recent Zamfara case, we have no fewer than 85 members. So I want to believe that the party would be just, humble to reciprocate the electoral gesture we gave to the party in the last general election,” he said.
And I want to state with all sense of commitment and sincerity that as far as our duties as legislators were concerned in the 8th Assembly, our working relationship with the executive arm of government in relation to promoting and protecting the policies of the Muhammadu Buhari administration was not poor.
For instance, look at the fight against insecurity, at every point in time there was always cause for Mr President to submit supplementary budget, ask for loans, to bring nomination for clearance in the senate, we have always done that; there was virtually nothing that Mr President presented to us that we denied him.
And in that extent I want to believe that Mr President was not referring to our working relationship as a bad one; for me Mr President was rather regretting the political development he had with our two presiding officers having defected to the opposition political party. No one would like that and I also support Mr President for expressing misgivings about that.
But I want to defer, if anybody perceived him or he meant that he has not worked well with us, I want to disagree with that, we have done everything to support Mr President, we have done everything to support his programmes and policies and whatever Mr President has achieved as a government, I want to say proudly it is to the credit of the legislature and to the credit of the executive arm of government.
The Assembly has been inaugurated, the presiding officers have been elected, the next is to get other principal officers to actually give the house a complete leadership; how do you see this playing out?
What is happening now is that we have finished what is called elective process where the two presiding officers emerged and even when we call it elective it was not without some kind of interventions by the political party. The party has remained a dominant factor to determine who gets what and when and we want to believe that at this juncture virtually significant number of the members have agreed to respect and promote what you call the supremacy of the party and it was our respect for the supremacy of the party that gave birth to this seamless election.
In my own understanding, I would also expect the party to now come up with a guideline that would provide explanations as to when, where and how to share the remaining positions but that does not stop us from aspiring.
I have been in the house for the past 27 years as far back as 1992 and for me to have risen that high, I want to believe that I am a leader by all right with or without a position. If the party will have anything to respect, the party should respect not only our loyalty to the supremacy of the party, which of course I have never been found but also respect and protect our conventions by giving considerations to ranking members of the House of Representatives.
When that is taken into cognizance, I will expect that the party would have no other person to consider from my zone (North-West) other than myself.
I don’t want to put words into their mouth, I understand they are still working. They have not come out with a final blueprint as to how to share the remaining positions but I want to believe that the party will be as fair as possible to make sure that the concept or the Marxian principle that says to each according is respected.
I would expect the party to remember that I come from a zone, North-West that gave the party the highest electoral contribution, and we have the highest number of the APC members in the House of Representatives. The North-West caucus, which I led as chief whip has almost 92 members even with the recent Zamfara case, we have no fewer than 85 members. So I want to believe that the party would be just, humble to reciprocate the electoral contribution we gave the party in the last general elections.
Some people would also say that the party has been fair to the North-West because the zone produced the President.
The president is like you are giving us our share in the executive arm of government. There are three arms government. In a situation where you have the vice president from the South-West and you gave them the Speaker of the House of Reps then why would you stop the North-West from aspiring for the next highest position?
You realised that there were protests against the ceding of that position?
Of course there were protests but those protest did not work because we all agreed to respect the party and I am sure even such protests did not work at that material time. I am sure that this time, the party would look back and do the right thing and avoid any possible protest again.
To ensure national harmony what would be your suggestion to the party with regards to the South-East that has not got anything in the executive, the legislature and the judiciary?
I don’t blame the party or the government for whatever decision they take against the South-East because politics is like risk taking; they decided to take their risk in their own way so they have to pay in the same coin. I have no regret whatsoever if the party gives the South-East the least position in the House of Representatives because that is what they so chose.
In 2015, when Femi Gbajabiamila lost to Yakubu Dogara the party compensated him with the post of majority leader. Now Bago contested against Gbajabiamila and lost, what if the party says okay let’s give him the majority leader since he is still a member of the party?
It is like I said, whatever my party comes up with even if that does not please me, I will stand by it. But logic will tell you that the Bago case and that of Femi Gbajabiamila are two distinct cases. Gbajabiamila was the legitimate candidate of the party, he went and did the party’s biddings and lost out and therefore there was absolute cause for the party to go further and protect Gbajabiamila.
But for an erring member, a member who dared the party and went to poll only to be beaten by more than 200 per cent, I don’t think Bago will even imagine that.
However, I want to believe that Bago at a point also played statesmanship role just like Dogara. At a point when we finished the election of the speaker, when we were to go for the deputy speaker election, Bago and Dogara played very key role in convincing John Dyegh, who wanted to contest for the deputy speaker to step down.
That was a very good development. But unfortunately it has further made Bago and John Dyegh to appear as if they were candidates of the opposition.
How do you mean?
If you ran for an election, your state governor from the same political party talked to you but you dared him, your party called you, you dared it, the chairman of the progressive governor’s forum called you on the floor of the House, you did not listen.
Our leaders spoke to them, while they were sitting they were exchanging emissaries. In the end, a former speaker, who does not belong to the same political party called and intervened and you listened. I want to say it is a good development but it further exposed them.
When the speaker called them and looked at their faces and told them to step down, they stepped down in the case of the deputy speaker but for Bago maybe they wanted to test the water. They tested the water and found it very hot and they didn’t want to subject the next candidate to that kind of heat.
With you as majority leader of the Ninth House of Representatives, what should Nigerians expect from you?
I know the ropes and onions, somebody who has had a lot of experience for about 28 years in the House, you don’t have to expect anything less than expertise. The business of that office is to handle the businesses of the executive arm of government, executive bills coming in, to defend the position of my party and at the same time not abusing the due rights of the opposition. There are some rights that are their due rights, we have to accord them.
So, as majority leader of the House of Representatives if God permits it, I want to tell you that I would lead with difference; I will lead with a sense of compassion, accommodate everyone and ensure that the relationship between the executive and the legislature goes fine without frictions.
We could have some institutional frictions but I want to believe that our relationships individually and collectively will be a symbiotic one and at the end we will jointly work to deliver expected dividends of democracy to our people.
Four years from now what should Nigerians expect from the APC government?
Four years from now I want to believe that the issue of insecurity will be history because we will consolidate the already laid foundations by the government. I want to believe that with the commitment of the President and our commitment to work with him in synergy, we will certainly fight insecurity and it will be history. We will create a lot of job opportunities, create enabling environment for private sector to operate so that in the end, the Nigeria we will have in the next four years will be far different from the Nigeria we took over from former President Goodluck Jonathan.