Dogara: Knowing When To Sheathe The Sword

DogaraIN the murky terrain of national party politics, the task of carrying everyone along after a decisive victory could become as problematic as working to achieve the first objective. The governing All Progressives Congress (APC) has since March 28, 2015 been in the process of learning this vital lesson the bitter way. After the party swept to victory in the March 28, 2015 Presidential and National Assembly elections, little did it know it would have a major headache in sharing offices in the National Assembly. In the days of yore when the ousted Peoples Democratic Party held the reins, the concept of family affair, a veiled reference to impunity and unsavoury trade-offs, largely determined who got what. For the APC however, its pre-election rhetoric of change and a paradigm shift meant it was constrained to adopt a new approach.

This reality was even more apparent when President Muhammadu Buhari declared that he would not interfere in the election of principal officers of the National Assembly. The President went on to declare that he was ready to work with whoever emerged from the democratic processes within the legislative arm. That however did not mean that were no interests with respect to who would emerge as leaders of the legislature.

The diversity of alliances that resulted in the broad based rainbow coalition that won APC the Presidency, and majority seats in both houses of parliament had to be taken care of. There was the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), the faction of five rebel governors who left the then ruling party to team up with other power seeking camps to form the APC. The defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) all coalesced to form the formidable machine that routed and dislodge the PDP from power.

With the Presidency deciding to take a novel stance of non-interference, the APC was left with the task of acting as a clearing- house before a formal election. The competing interests could not reach a compromise and the due process took its course. At the end of a democratic process in which the losing side squarely accepted its loss, Yakubu Dogara became the new Speaker of the House of Representatives. Unlike in the Senate, where Bukola Saraki emerged, but traded off the seat of Deputy Senate President to the opposition PDP, Dogara was astute enough not to burn all bridges. His deft political move ensured the emergence of a deputy from the South West, the home region of Femi Gbajabiamila against whom he squared off for the number four position.

As one of the newest stars in the Nigerian political firmament, Dogara certainly fulfils the quest by a younger generation of Nigerians for fresher faces and competent young minds to drive national affairs. Cosmopolitan, and with what comes across as a pan Nigerian orientation, Dogara’s urbane outlook certainly won him friends from across the partisan divide to help him clinch the number four position. His decision to run for the position of Speaker contrary to the directives of the APC hierarchy has stoked an important debate about the dynamics of party supremacy versus the time-honoured principles of popular participation. There is the school that advances the position that the political party could only be supreme insofar as it lives and operates within the time honoured democratic principles of upholding the wishes of the majority.

Dogara’s push to the finishing line, in spite of the heavyweight interests arrayed against his emergence, has no doubt provided a historic precedent that would result in a re-evaluation of the rules of engagement with respect to the leadership recruitment process within political parties. This becomes compelling when it is considered that one of the challenges confronting the political party system in Nigeria is the tendency to have a few powerful voices abridge the democratic process and hobble popular participation. While it is true that there would always be influential voices that would be at the vanguard of constructing party interests, it is critical that space is allowed for the supremacy of the mandate of the electorate.

The fine art of balancing all of these tendencies within a political movement is important for ensuring stability and cohesion. A much more nuanced management of the issues by the party in an attempt to hammer out a compromise would have averted the lockdown the nation’s parliament has experienced since June 9, 2015.

Subsequently, in the search for a way out of the logjam, Speaker Dogara has cemented his place as a politician who knows how to locate his interest within the context of a bigger national interest. While it is true that all politics is driven by interests, the good politician must always learn to situate the interests he pursues within the wider societal interest. He must also know when his interests are antithetical to the wider public interest, and as such must be ready to jettison such interests. In this regard, the Speaker’s decision to bow to the wishes of his party with respect to some of the principal offices is commendable, both from a patriotic point of view and from the perspective of his own survival.

At least, for now, he can take a breather from all the bad blood that had been generated by the protracted tussle for the position of Speaker. He would also have earned some plaudits from his party elders, who would no longer see him as a recalcitrant young man, driven by blind ambition. In the end, Yakubu Dogara has made the point that while ambition is made of real stern stuff, it is just as important to adopt the principles of accommodation and inclusiveness. His is an important political masterstroke, which has elevated Nigeria’s political discourse beyond the mundane dictates of Machiavellian tendencies. Nigerians would be hoping other gladiators in the legislature would take a leaf from the amiable Speaker, to enable the nation bring a closure to the crisis in the National Assembly. D

ogara appears clam and cool-headed and has given Nigeria some hope that the political class is redeemable.

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