New NASS leadership, fallout of marriage of convenience
MORE questions have been thrown up about the way the plot that produced Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara as the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives was hatched on Tuesday.
In a manner that left many watchers of events dumbfounded, the table of parliamentary control was turned in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a minority platform, while the All Peoples Congress (APC), a party that was thought to be firmer in enforcing party supremacy, lost the garb of party discipline.
Many hypotheses have been propounded ranging from conspiracy theory involving the highest level of leadership of the APC, to the exploration of the cracks in the weak alliance that led to the formation of the party in 2013.
Four major political platforms, the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), and a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) had come together in the first successful attempt to form a mega party in Nigeria to float the APC.
The strength of the new platform was buoyed by aggrieved members of the PDP who, led by five outspoken governors, joined forces with it having caused a destructive division in their own party through the formation of what they called the new PDP.
The aggrieved PDP members, coming from a party that had become so unwieldy that indiscipline and personal aggrandizement of members have relegated party supremacy to the background, became the fifth group in what was gradually becoming an association of strange bedfellows.
The cracks along the lines of the initial backgrounds were not too visible during the campaigns because of their united resolve to wrest power from the PDP, a party that had been in political control of the country for all the 16 years of the present democratic dispensation.
Like all congregations of groups of diverse backgrounds, the differences became noticeable after the March 28 victory when lines of demarcation were being drawn to segregate the groupings according to their origins.
Hence, the PDP group started agitating for relevance on the ground that President Muhammadu Buhari, his Vice, Yemi Osinbajo and the National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, were from the CPC, ACN and ANPP respectively.
The Tuesday “parliamentary coup” could therefore be seen as a realignment of forces of old foes who recognized the importance of working together, no matter what has transpired between them earlier, to remain relevant.
And to seal the deal, Senate Deputy President, Ike Ekweremadu, who was holding the same position in the last dispensation and who, two weeks ago, was saddled with the responsibility of reorganizing the PDP for continued relevance in the country’s political scene was put in the picture.
The responsibility of Ekweremadu, who is the only principal officer in the new National Assembly that does not belong to the APC, to reposition the PDP, is also pointing to the fact that of the possibility of the return of the defectors to their former party.
If this occurs, and the possibility is very high because the renegades are still bonded, then a situation where the different political parties would control the Executive and Legislative arms of governments.
Not that this will be entirely new. Towards the end of the last administration, in a scenario similar to the Tuesday exercise, incumbent governor of Sokoto State and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, defected from the PDP to the APC on the floor of the House and still retained the gavel.
Because of the stormy period that the Goodluck Jonathan administration passed through in the Executive/Legislative relationship beginning from the revolt of Tambuwal and his supporters before and after their final defections, there are fears in many quarters that the new Buhari administration may face similar challenges.
That is why some observers believe that the President should take more than a cursory look at the unfolding scenario instead of the current position where he seems unconcerned about the happenings at the parliament.
At the beginning of the jostling for the National Assembly positions, the president was quoted to have stated that he was not interested in whoever emerged as the Senate President or the Speaker because he was prepared to work with anybody.
The circumstances in which the leadership however emerged suggested that the presidency, or some powerful forces within the inner circle, might have been involved in the process.
Otherwise, why would a meeting be called for 9.am on inauguration day when the letter of parliamentary proclamation had already been dispatched to the bureaucracy of the National Assembly some four days earlier?
Although presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, was quoted to have said that the 51 APC Senators who gathered at the International Conference Centre were obeying presidential directive, Buhari didn’t show up nor send representatives.
And in a statement that was more on the side of ambiguity than clarity, Buhari in another statement by Femi Adesina, accepted the new leadership that came through a “somewhat constitutional” process even though he would have preferred that the lawmakers toed the party line.
In all these, the ACN camp, personified by former Lagos governor and APC leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, seemed to be the aggrieved lot considering the reactions of politicians within and outside the party that wanted to reduce his influence in the APC.
A major player that was fingered as one of those determined to “clip the wings” of the Asiwaju, is former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar whose abode was the first to be visited by Saraki moments after his emergence, confirming that some notable leaders within the new government were already playing “anti-party politics”.
Although the party rejected the new leadership in a statement issued by its spokesman, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, many see the medium as only speaking the minds of the Tinubu group because other leaders and even the Presidency, do not agree with the position.
But whether what looks like cutting the nose to spite the face, if actually Tinubu was the target of the conspiracy, would not open a plethora of challenges for the Buhari presidency especially in its avowed fight against corruption, seamless relationship with the legislature and effective party discipline, remained to be seen.