Like the drunk who habitually forgets the ignominy that his indulgence brings on him, the ruling All Progressives Congress is about to tread on the path of confusion that finished it before it started out in 2015. But it is hardly surprising. Any gathering of people intent on self-delusion would most certainly fall into errors of the past and if care is not taken, harvest worse consequences.
Six years into its existence and nearly four full years into its administration of Africa’s largest nation, the APC has failed to accept that it is an awkward assemblage of unlikely friends, who came together for a special purpose in 2013. It has continued to pretend to Nigerians that it is more than a political party, whose main intention anywhere in the world is the acquisition of power for the furthering of the interests of its major power blocs. The APC has continued to sell itself as the most purist political party that has ever happened on Nigeria and that anyone who shows a trace of personal ambition is the common enemy to all.
But there could be nothing more fallacious, in fact, deceptive! As deplorable as that is however, the APC would not injure itself if Nigerians are gullible enough to accept this party, which has, without discrimination welcomed anyone with a jot of electoral value from the opposing Peoples Democratic Party, which it has always portrayed as the archetype of the demonic in Nigerian politics, into its fold as the best thing that ever came its way. For the party to fail to be honest with itself would, however, even after all the internal wrangling that characterised its administration and the attendant polarisation, be indicative of self-destruct. I will explain.
At a dinner meeting hosted with President Muhammadu Buhari in honour of elected members of the National Assembly on Monday, the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, was said to have declared to shocked elected members that the APC had decided to present Senator Ahmed Lawan and Hon Femi Gbajabiamila as Senate President and Speaker House of Representatives, respectively. Newspaper reports indicated that the chairman presented this as fait accompli without providing any opportunities for comments thereafter. And that is wrong on so many fronts.
The first is that while the party should be interested in the personality of those who emerge as leaders in the legislative arms of government, it has no business in dictating same. The National Assembly is a national institution of hundreds of equal members and the choice of the first amongst these equals should be decided only by themselves. It is even worse that Oshiomole so brazenly disclosed this position at a meeting hosted by a President who has continued to tell Nigerians of his lack of interest in the personality of those who emerge leaders of the National Assembly. Oshiomole’s largely infantile behaviour, however, robbed the President of the any deniability to what would pass as interference in the affairs of a totally independent arm of government.
However, when a party is tempted to capitalise on the advantage of number to dictate who becomes leader of any of the legislative houses, it must embark on that mission with due respect to internal democracy and active engagement with all other legitimate aspirants to the position. In the absence of this, such a party is inviting an implosion that would ultimately come, no matter how long it takes.
And that is already manifesting. Although he insists on his loyalty to the party, Senator Ali Ndume, who alongside Lawan indicated interest in being Senate President in 2015, has spoken out against the decree by Oshiomole.
Addressing reporters on Tuesday, Ndume expressed the surprise of himself and Senator Danjuma Goje and Abdullahi Adamu, who all aspire for the Senate Presidency, to the party chairman’s position and directed the party to Section 50 (1a) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which donates the power to elect leaders of the legislature to the members.
“The 109 elected senators and House of Representative members are the constitutional kingmakers, as far as the emergence of presiding officers of both chambers are concerned and not the national chairman of a ruling party, not even the President,”
This should have sent red signals to any organisation with respect for the democratic rights of people to aspire like the APC claims to be. Unfortunately, the party has gone ahead to defy, even threaten Ndume and people like him who are only asking for a level playing field.
Spokesperson for the party, Lanre Issa-Onilu said in an interview with THISDAY newspaper on Tuesday that: “ If Ndume actually understands democracy, with due respect to the number of years he has spent in the National Assembly as a lawmaker, he should realise that we are practising a presidential system of government… the party has taken a position and anybody we presented for election and has won an election on the platform of the APC is duty bound, morally bound and status bound to comply with what the party has decided.”
Seriously? Even if the party has not given the dignity of a conversation to a person, who would possibly have been elected by his people, irrespective of what platform fielding him?
This is the arrogance that brought the APC the turbulence, which visited President Buhari’s first tenure and because the party failed to be honest with itself, it is four years later traveling the same path.
The APC told itself that the problem with the polity since 2015 has been the leadership of the National Assembly, while, in fact, the party itself failed to live up to its conventional role.
The first being that after elections, political parties take the backspace, leave those elected by the people to deal with public affairs without making statements that abuse the sensibilities of the populace like the APC leadership is currently doing.
The second point is that in coming to a consensus about anything, the party must do everything to ensure it reaches what lawyers call ad idem with all stakeholders. While individual politicians may threaten to pull the heavens down if they do not get what they desire in a political equation, the role of the party should be that of a mediating father, who may nurse personal preferences, but is astute enough not to show his hand to any of his children. Such a father lobbies with discretion to arrive at his own purpose.
When things breakdown the way they did after the emergence of Dr Bukola Saraki and Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives of the 8thNational Assembly, for instance, a political party worth its name should deploy its internal machinery to resolve all those issues and get the organs of state working in unison.
Contrary to that, the powers that be in the APC portray Saraki, Dogara and their supporters as the real enemies of Nigeria and threw away the opportunity for any form of reconciliation, which was what precipitated the cat and mouse relationship that exists within the National Assembly till date.
Democracy will never grow this way nor would the APC survive unless leaders and members of the party immediately bring themselves back on the path of genuine democratic practices.
First, the APC should speak to itself and accept that what happened between the executive and 8th National Assembly was failure of leadership and then proceed to institute internal democracy and perish the idea of imposing a rubber stamp National Assembly on the country.
The truth is that democracy is designed in such a way that while the legislature is a bride, the executive is the bridegroom, which should continue to court the former if it is to achieve its desired legacy and develop the society. Therefore, continuous engagement should be encouraged between the executive and other arms of government. There would be personal interests every now and then, but the executive does not need a malleable National Assembly to function effectively; what it needs is the creativity to manage relationships with not just the legislature but even the judiciary. Such engagement, which does not present the executive as superior to, or holier than, any other arm of government, is what Nigeria currently needs.