‘New Senate, House leadership best for Nigeria’s democracy’

OkechukwuA lot of controversy has trailed the politics that heralded the composition of the leadership of the 8th National Assembly particularly as it concerns the brinkmanship between the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

While a lot of commentators condemned the way the Senate President, Dr. Olusola Saraki merged saying it would have negative impact on the relationships between the executive and legislative arms of government, the Publicity Secretary of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Osita Okechukwu said it is a welcome development “since a one-party legislature is not good for Nigeria’s democracy.”

In an interview with The Guardian at the weekend, Okechukwu who is also a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC) asserted that the crisis rocking the party over the issue could have been avoided if the leadership had taken a cue from the non-interference position of President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to him, “the leadership of the party does not seem to know the man they are working with; they want to impose their wills on him which is very unfair. Yes, they insist on doing the politics but politics does not mean you must do underhand cuttings.

When Mr President came out at the Eagle Square in his inaugural speech, he came out openly and told the world that the Federal Executive Council under his watch would not encroach on the duties of the legislative and judicial arms of government.

“He went further to say he expected the legislature to carry out their duties diligently and that the judiciary should reform themselves for better administration of justice.

As if the party leadership did not hear him, before he went for the G7 meeting, he said he was ready to work with anybody so long as they adhere to due process.

“The 1999 Constitution empowers the members of the Houses – the Senate and the House of Representatives to within themselves elect their leaders. Yes, for those who believe in scheming, in intrigues and who cuts bills, they might say Mr President you got it wrong.

But this is not a man who is used to cutting bills. Why is he called Mai gaskiya. The history of his public service is anchored on the fact that he does it the way he feels is good for the public good above personal interests.

“It is 100 percent misunderstanding or a deliberate move to appropriate powers. Whether anybody likes it or not, the President is the leader and the face of the party.

So I will advice the leadership that for us to progress further, they should do their best to lay the foundation required to strengthen the party.

This crisis could have been averted if the party leadership who provided the critical supplement for the vote, back Buhari’s decision to allow the contestants to resolve their issues themselves.

“I am saying some of them did not work with the President earlier on but some of us who worked with him, we know he is not a man who would pad the budget to build a mansion in Abuja or to buy a vehicle for a girl friend. So don’t subsume your own will on the party. My appeal to all of us is that Buhari is the face of the change we are looking for.

He is the change agent. If he says go and resolve yourselves, if they had done so, the PDP intrusion could have been less.”     Okechukwu however said the development is good for the country’s democracy because it promotes bi-partisan relationship in parliament and government stressing that it would be difficult for Mr. President to have his budgets and bills passed by relying only on members of the APC who are not in two-third majority of parliament.

He said, “the APC has 59 senators and 73 senators or thereabout is two-thirds, the APC has 209 members in the House of Representatives and about 240 is two-thirds, so it means no matter whoever is annoyed, it is important that the person retraced and subdue his anger and let us work towards a bi-partisan relationship. Without this bi-partisan national Assembly, President Buhari would fall short of performance for the Nigerian people.

“He cannot even raise the funds appropriated enough to tackle insecurity or insurgency; he cannot have the backing of the parliament to fight corruption because the presidential system of government requires that Mr president must have cooperation, not interference. Cooperation is essential for Mr President to drive his process successfully.

“Luckily, that has happened. I do not see Senator Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President saying that if President Buhari wants to raise budget to develop Enugu and Gombe coal, he will oppose it.

I do not see him saying that President Buhari should not fix electricity and roads and other social amenities that could provide good health to the citizenry.

“I do not see any PDP legislator who would be opposed to it. What I know is that Mr President who would not place his personal interest above the interests of the Nigerian people. And he would not also distribute dollars to the legislators and would not any day overtly or covertly mandate anybody to go and distribute $50.000 for any cause in the National Assembly.

What this means is that anybody who wants the success of Buhari, the success of the APC and the prosperity of the country should queue behind Mr President who at all times would always place the public good above his own good.

“For those who want to govern through the backyard they should remind themselves the history of rise and fall of empires. And they should remember why the PDP failed.

The party failed when the culture of impunity triumphed. President Buhari would never allow the culture of impunity to triumph.”

On fears that the PDP could spring back in view of the role it played in the emergence of the parliament leaders, he said, “It is impossible. Throughout history, elections are anchored on the performance of the incumbent.

And there is no way a performing leader can be impeached without soiling his hands on corruption. Before you gather signature to impeach a president or governor, corruption must be in the front burner. As far as I know President Buhari, if Osita Okechukwu is given an assignment and he hears that I am buying bullet proof cars for $1.6 million, he would not wait.

The only thing he will do to show courtesy is to say Mr Okechukwu, they say your agency is buying bullet-proof cars for $1.6 million. If I say yes, I am going that day. He won’t wait for further dilly-dallying to take appropriate measures.

He would not allow even his wife or anybody to do what he does not want.    “So for him to fight corruption, fight insurgency, create jobs and give good governance, the PDP cooperation is needed. Don’t forget that in 2007, he openly wept. People thought that he was weeping for himself but he would tell you that he was weeping for the country.”

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