‘NASS ranking rule is tyranny of the minority’
THE ranking rule of the National Assembly that reserved the occupation of principal positions in the two chambers for old members to the detriment of freshly-elected ones has been described as an aberration in a democracy where the wish of the majority should always prevail.
The House of Representatives member-elect for the Okitipupa/Irele Federal Constituency of Ondo State, Prince Mike Adeniyi Negwo-Omogbehin on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said, “Preventing new members from occupying principal positions in the parliament is nothing but the tyranny of the minority.”
Apparently to lay emphasis on legislative experience, the ranking rule practice states that the more a member stays in chamber, the higher his or her ranking status, which is considered in occupation of positions of responsibilities that include the leadership and headship of some committees.
The number of old members in the incoming 8th session of parliament is only about a third of the membership thereby putting the new members, who by the rule are excluded from holding principal positions, in the majority.
Negwo-Omogbehin in a telephone interview with The Guardian yesterday said members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives should take a second look at that with a view to making it more democratic.
This is coming few days to the inauguration of the new parliament when the jostling for positions among members in the two chambers is reaching its peak.
According to him, “in my opinion, the crafters of the standing rule in the House perhaps never contemplated a situation like we have now when the old members will be of such an overwhelming minority in parliament.
“As it is today, we the new-comers are about 70 percent of the number of members in the House.
It looks to me that the crafters of the rule didn’t think that a situation where the minority will be in total control of the House.
That is what I call the tyranny of the minority.” When asked if he would champion the dropping of the rule he said, “it would be difficult for me as a new parliamentarian to call for that. But I think we should take a second look at that rule.
“Of course it is a little better because there is no section of all the rules that I have read so far, that restricts the chairmanship of committees to old members.
Some of us, the new members would certainly head some committees in the parliament.” He also declared that zoning the leadership positions of the National Assembly by political parties couldn’t work “because zoning is not a parliament issue. It is a political party issue that may not work at the floor of the parliament.
“Political parties can do their zoning arrangement but that is as far as it can go. On the floor of the parliament, members conduct their affairs in the best tradition of legislature which most times has nothing to do with party politics.”
Negwo-Omogbehin disclosed that the PDP has begun the process of playing the role of opposition in the country’s political scene with a forum in Port Harcourt where a new direction was sought for the party. He said, “Port Harcourt was put in place to prepare us for the opposition. PDP has been in power for 16 years.
Now that the position is reversed, we will need new orientation. We went to prepare ourselves and we met parliamentarians from other countries who had switched from being in majority to minority like it happened to us.
“In the situation that the PDP found itself, we have to prepare ourselves to be relevant and to begin the process of regaining power at the centre. That is what we are doing now and both the leadership and membership of the party are committed to this.”
He disclosed further that parliamentarians from Ghana and other African countries who had switched positions from being in the majority to the minority were invited to give talks about how to play the role of a credible opposition in a parliamentary democracy.
While stressing that all politicians should play the game according to the rule, he said other political parties should map out strategies to sustain the country’s democratic culture “which is gradually coming of age.” According to him, “Nigerian democracy is gradually taking shape and getting more entrenched.
The power of the ballot is now more visible and profound than before. So all of us, politicians, must play our role to sustain the pace so that our country can be counted among the big democracies of the world.”
Negwo-Omogbehin expressed optimism that with democracy and the commitment of all stakeholders to make it work, “Nigeria would soon get out of the myriad of problems confronting us as a nation and this will surely reflect in the socio-economic and political growth of the country.”