By Shaibu Stephen Ojate
The recent election of the principal officers of the National Assembly has truly exposed the weakness of All Progressive Congress, the current ruling party in Nigeria. The All Progressive Congress is an amalgamation of defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, faction of All Progressive Grand Alliance, Congress for Progressive Change and All Peoples Party.
The aggrieved members of Peoples Democratic Party, under the auspices of New Peoples Democratic Party subsequently joined the party months after its formation. These groups of people contributed to the victory of the party at the centre.
With the composition of the party, the group of individuals who came together to form the party have different interest and this was why different camp are struggling for relevance in the party as seen in the NASS leadership election recently. The horse trading on who get what, which should get what had caused the clash of interest which made the party to finally nominated the like of Alhaji Ahmed Lawal and Femi Gbajamila as a consensus candidate for Senate President and Speaker of the House respectively after the mock election which the camp of Senator Bukola Saraki openly rejected
Recall that the aim of the mock election was for the good of the party, a step to resolve the National Assembly leadership election crises among the party members. The party in furtherance to this, on morning 9th June, 2015 asked all elected Senators and House of Representative members under the platform of All Progressive Congress to converge at International Conference Centre for a meeting with Mr President who promised to look into the issue.
Not less than 51 Senators under the platform of All Progressive Congress matched to the International Conference centre in anticipating of the President’s arrival and 8 APC members sympathy to Senator Bukola Saraki stayed at the National Assembly with elected Members of Peoples Democratic party when the election of Senate President was conducted. Senator Bukola Saraki was declared Senate President unopposed with no one to stand against him.
The election of Senator Bukola Saraki as Senate President has generated serious controversies and All Progressive Congress has described it as a sham. The Party has however in a press release on Leadership and The Nation Newspaper on 11th June, 2015 declared that the National Executive Committee of the Party shall take a disciplinary action against any members that work against the resolve of the party in the recent Nass leadership election.
While the debate lingered, some APC members have equally pinched their tent behind All Progressive Party hierarchy on their stance to take disciplinary action against Senator Bukola Saraki and others. This class of people had averred that the party should expel the like of Senator Bukola Saraki and host of All Progressive Congress members present at the National Assembly for the election saying they (Saraki and others) have undermine the party and the president.
These observers maintained that what Senator Bukola Saraki has done is tantamount to betrayal and he needs to be punished. They called for Senator Bukola Saraki’s sanction and also suggest for his expulsion from the party noting that such measure would make him loss his seat as Senate President. They contended that by that decision, he wouldn’t continue to lead the National Assembly as the party’s constitution is supreme to every individual’s interest.
Following the reactions of these observers on the election of National Assembly, i must ask, what is wrong on election of Senator Bukola Saraki as the Senate president which All Progressive Congress hierarchy are not comfortable with? I must ask again, is APC party’s constitution now more than the Nigerian Constitution? If the answer is no, what is their fuss on this?
Recall that the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari in accordance with Nigerian constitution had earlier written letter to the Clerk of the National Assembly mandating him to open for the 8th National Assembly. The decision of the Clerk of the National Assembly to call the Senators to reconvene for the election of the Senate President and Deputy Senate was base on this.
I don’t understand why Senators of All Progressive Congress would abandon the National Assembly sitting for President’s meeting at International Conference Centre when the Clerk has already communicated to them that the election of principal officers would hold on 9 June. Does the Clerk have any blame on this? The answer is NO.
Nobody stopped the absentee APC members from attending the sitting which work in favour of Senator Bukola in the Senate President. The absentee Senators have themselves to blame and not any other person.
I consider it as an exercise in futility for the absentee Senators to challenge the election of Senator Bukola Saraki as the Senate President. Even though I am not a Lawyer but i can analyse the position of the court on this.
Issues that will come up
Was the NASS leadership election legitimately done? The answer is yes. I say yes because the President of the Nation has earlier instructed the Clerk of the House to convey the sitting of the House for the election of NASS leaders. All the Senators had prior knowledge of this and they cannot deny it.
In view of this, the aggrieved APC Senators have no case before the Court as the Clerk acted on the instruction of the President. Thus, the President having instructed the Clerk to reconvene the House did not as well ordered him to postpone the NASS sitting when he planned to have meeting with APC senators. So, APC Senator to have boycotted NASS sitting/ Election for the President’s meeting is at their merry. The aggrieved Senators are just waisting their time to challenge the election of Bukola Saraki in court.
Did the Clerk follow the right process for the election of the Senate President? My answer to this is Yes. The take be that, the Senators need to meet a quorum before commencing sitting. With the presence of 8 members of All Progressive Congress and 47 Senators of Peoples Democratic Party, they have formed a quorum. So, the Clerk of the House doesn’t need to wait for the all the Senators to be present before he go ahead to conduct the NASS Leadership election.
Did the Clerk call for the nomination of Candidate? The answer is yes. When the Senators were sited, the clerk call for the nomination and Senator Ahmed Yerima did by calling for the nomination of Bukola Saraki seconded by Senator Dino Malaye. The Clerk later asked for any another nomination and no one made the call. It was on this ground that the Clerk of the House declared Senator Bukola Saraki as unopposed Senate President. There is no breach of the constitution in this regard. So, what is the fuss of Ahmed Lawal’s group prompting them to challenge the election of Senator Bukola Saraki as the Senate President?
I want to educate my reader that there is no breach of constitution in the NASS Leadership election process and if Lawal’s group finally head to court, the whole process would come to nought. I bet my readers.
If the party hierarchy of All Progress Congress have Senator Bukola Saraki and others suspended for not going by their party’s stance and that would potent great danger for their party. It will make the party to split and such would signal the death of All Progressive Congress in Nigeria in years ahead as some party members would defect to another party because ill treatment.
Thus, the present saga in All Progressive Congress has shown that APC party hierarchy are not good manager of crises and this has indeed exposed their weakness. If they truly wanted to resolve this, they ought to have done this month before the date set aside for the inauguration of the national assembly. So, they have no excuse on this.
I foresee more danger ahead in All Progressive Congress. I sense different group in All Progressive Congress fighting one another as time goes on. I foresee Northern Governors of All Progress Congress fighting with the present leadership of the party headed by Senator Ahmed Tinubu. I foresee an instance where the Northern Governors would like to dictate the pace of the party and South West Governors pocketed by Senator Ahmed Tinubu would object to this and when this happen, class of interest would come in and the party will slip.
I foresee Senator Ahmed Tinubu being rendered irrelevant in the party as time goes on and when this happened, he will dump All Progressive Congress to form another party. I foresee President Buhari having clash of interest with Senator Ahmed Tinubu on the share of political positions in the country and in the event of this; the party would split due to internal wrangling. I foresee clash of interest in All Progressive Congress ahead of 2019 election as Buhari might like to seek re-election and some groups in the party would oppose it and when this happen, some would dump All Progressive Congress for another party.
What’s next for the All Progressive Congress
Now that the All Progress Congress has finally taken over the power at the centre, they should be conscious of their doing and action. They should decentralize their party and avoid an instance where one person super-impose his interest on the entire party, good example the resolve of some cliques in the party to impose Senator Ahmed Lawal for Senate President and Femi Fegmebila for the NASS Leadership after their mock election.
If actually they want their party to last long, they should learn from the experience of the People Democratic Party on what led to their downfall. PDP never centralised their party on one person but there were some things that caused their crises which made many to abandon the party for another. All Progressive Congress party hierarchy should borrow a leave from Peoples Democratic Party on their past experience to know how to manage members.
The All Progressive Congress should as matter of fact jettison their plan to sanction the like of Senator Bukola Saraki and others on the NASS leadership election as if they do, it will spell doom for the party. What the party needs to do now is to reunite every member no matter what happen at the NASS Leadership election. Anything short of this would be counterproductive.
Shaibu Stephen Ojate is the Managing Editor of EAGLE REPORTERS, an International Online Newspapers with office in Abuja Nigeria federal capital Territory. He holds Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism from the International Institute of Journalism in Abuja.