Last Friday, I decided to do something I hadn’t done in a long while. I went into the main bowl of Transcorp Hilton, Abuja to nose around for a different kind of news. Since that was the day the authorities were rounding off the weeklong induction of the first batch of newly-elected senators and representatives, I reckoned there would be so much to hear or see. And, there was!
The hotel which never lacks guests lived up to expectation that fateful weekend. The lobby though was unusually jampacked. With everyone dressed to kill, it was absolutely impossible to differentiate between those who had come to be inducted and those whose sole aim was to abduct attention or job or money, or all. Any novice reporter would have fallen mugu.
Not me, because where I come from (an Akwa Ibom Local Government Area called Uruan), anytime we are in a quandary we resort to our trademark third eye -rather than the kindergartenish marketplace tactic called thinking cap that you put on, in your own Local Government Area. The moment I slipped into the Uruan realm -whatever that means- water found its level. I could tell who was who, and who was what. Clearly, pretenders to the throne far outnumbered the parliamentarians, but that is a story for another day.
Among the lawmakers-elect, I observed something which at once enlarged my faith that someday this country shall get leadership things right. Most of the men and women I encountered displayed a certain hunger and humility and patience which are veritable qualities for success. They wanted to learn; they wanted to listen; they did not rush off as most so-called big men in Nigeria do. In fact, one (who had served as a two-term member of House of Assembly and Commissioner in his native state of Borno) even told me he believes being in the House of Representatives would teach him how to be a better Nigerian; adding that he would rely on and partner the media all the years of his tenure!
I could not help but steal a photograph with him, the moment I found out he has something to do with Chibok directly. That was the first time in my 47 going to 48 years on earth, I would ask to take a photo with anyone. That speaks to the profound effect that the very short, unplanned meeting with the Rt. Hon. Ahmed Jaha Babawo had on me. It still has, which is the reason his is the only name mentioned of the tens I met.
I thought he came across as a virgin, a political virgin in Abuja: sincere, down-to-earth, posterity-conscious, amenable but surefooted. Of course, before and after him, I also had the privilege of meeting minds with other equally-good colleagues of his from across the country, but they fell to secondplace in my rating because they flaunted two mannerisms concomitant with most of our politicians; two traits that Rt. Hon. Babawo never displayed. As soon as I popped the poser that took me there, they suddenly switched gears and totally forgetting themselves, transmogrified from their hitherto charming, sweet selves into something beyond description. They bragged and swore and cursed and threatened!
I don’t like politicians like those. They are too easy to shut up or buy over. And, I told them so. Trust the daredevils: they simply retorted by doubling down.
At the end, as Alhaji Mohammed -my Abuja neighbour and friend who works at the National Assembly- and I drove out of the remodelled, expansive facility, I could not stop penduluming my fears (for the 9th NASS) in my mind. We discuss those fears presently. Meanwhile, I also made three discoveries during the one-man expedition. The 9th NASS will be peopled by the very personifications of experience, history, and anger.
Now, let’s tie up all loose ends by paraphrasing ‘the poser that took me there.’ Would the14th century stratagem that failed the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) in the party’s expedient approach to installing the leaders of the bicameral national parliament in 2015 prove talismanic four years after? The answer that I found on the floor of the induction venue should be of priority interest to the party, President Muhammadu Buhari, his kitchen cabinet, Sen. Ahmed Lawan, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and indeed every power broker and watcher in and out of Nigeria. The senators and representatives awaiting inauguration are too experienced in this game which is no respecter of even surefire guarantees; they are too aware that executive brazenness has terminally hurt its relationship with the other two arms; they are too angry with chronic impositions and such other legislature-disrespecting attempts by the party in cahoots with the presidency.
The 9th NASS teamsters are too these and more to be treated like elementary pupils the way Chairman Adams Oshiomhole and Leader Bola Tinubu have been going about the making of Sen. Lawan and Rt. Hon. Gbajabiamila as Senate President and House Speaker respectively. Carrying on like people who learned nothing from the 2015 debacle can only mean that neither the party nor the presidency is prepared for business. It’s not rocket science to decode that the magic is in talking with, not talking to and certainly not talking down on these elected not appointed representatives of the people. Being arrogant and condescending to the point of calling these independent deciders ‘traitors,’ ‘serpents’ and threatening them with expulsion from the party is a Neanderthal scarecrow that’s too ancient and puerile to make any impact in the 21st century.
By the way, the glaring injustices embedded in the zonings of top spots of the 9th NASS are capable of incensing even an APC bigot. For instance, zoning the senate presidency to the northeast(one man, really), as well as microzoning the speakership to one particular person too in the southwest, home of the vice president, and simultaneously positioning the leader’s wife who hails from the exact same geopolitical region for senate deputy president could annoy your most trusted allies in the south south, southeast and north central to become rebels. APC should lobby rather than impose knowing that their eternal nemesis, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), are walking to and fro; looking for either how or when to devour the advantage. God bless Nigeria!