Should the NASS reconvene today, the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo should restrain these anti-democratic forces as he did exactly a week ago.
It has been a season of bizarre, dizzying and horrifying moments in the 8th National Assembly, the legislative arm of our government. Although in the past, we had watched in utter disbelief, spectacles of shame and outright lawlessness in both chambers of the parliament, none of that came close to last week’s invasion of the precincts of the legislative complex by the Directorate of State Service (DSS). Even though Lawal Daura, erstwhile boss of the security agency lost his job in the fallout of the barricade of the parliament, tension remains heightened today. Peace remains elusive in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The party is still split down the middle.
And the desperation to forcefully remove the Senate President Bukola Saraki and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, thickens. Like a broken family whose members will like to destroy their father’s inheritance rather than share it, I have this nagging, dampening feeling in my spirit that if the National Assembly dares to reconvene today, as reportedly planned, the nation will likely witness a more dangerous and tumultuous plenary with far reaching consequences than we had witnessed before. The thing in the present circumstance is to postpone sine die, any resumption.
While the situation in the House of Representatives is not as delicate as that of the Senate, because the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara hasn’t yet defected as widely speculated, and considering the numerical strength of APC members in the lower chamber, the desperation in the plots to force the Senate president to resign or be impeached, has become an occupational disease that must be removed, no matter the cost. Things can go from bad to worse today, regardless that the main reason to come back from recess is to consider the supplementary budget for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for next year’s general elections. It’s indeed unfortunate that Saraki has become a delicate bone in APC’s throat.
It’s not hard to understand why his planned impeachment is been pursued with uncommon energy by the APC national Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole. Since he assumed office less than two months ago, Oshiomhole has shown unbridled proclivity to provocative words against any real or perceived enemy. And Saraki is seen as the rebel, the public enemy Number one that must be vanquished, whether according to the law or other means. “Saraki’s time is over”, Oshiomhole had declared in his press conference last week. But in a joint press statement signed by media aides of Saraki and Ekweremadu, however described Oshiomhole as one who is crying like a “rain-beaten chicken”.
Let’s summarise Oshiomole’s press conference and put some of his accusations against the Senate president in context: He (Oshiomhole) accused Saraki of deliberately choosing to delay the passage of the 2018 budget till June, in his words, “to coincide with the period of the rainy season such that those aspects of the infrastructure such as roads, for example, cannot really be constructed during the rainy season”. These, he claimed, “were not errors of the head on the part of the Senate under Saraki’s leadership”. They were clearly designed, he said, “to frustrate the capacity of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government to address the physical infrastructure deficit without which the ordinary man in the street cannot feel the impact of governance”. Weighty allegation, isn’t it? The APC national chairman went further to accuse the Senate President of creating a “sense of division” in the ruling party. In that regard, he insists that if Saraki fails to resign, he will be “impeached according to law, not by thuggery or anything that is undemocratic”. He went further to say that the APC will work hard, and do everything within its power to defeat Saraki in his home state of Kwara, adding that the “Nigerian project is far more complicated” than the Saraki dynasty. Oshiomhole won’t accept a situation where a minority of 49 PDP senators will preside over a majority of 53 APC members in the Senate.
That’s a moral question, but doesn’t win the argument. And that’s where Oshiomhole lost me. The removal of a Senate president is out of Oshiomhole’s hand. He has spoken like a labour leader that he once was, but a national chairman of a political party and a ruling party for that matter, must be forthright, tactful, and should weigh his words carefully, never lose his cool, and never playing loose with the facts. On all these counts, Oshiomhole has come, in my opinion, short. This is why Saraki has beaten the party in all plots against him. By speaking the way he has spoken, the APC chair, has perhaps, unwittingly, devalued the merits and pain of having a Senate President, elected on the platform of the ruling party, but now a member of the main opposition party in the senate.
The truth is that, as Oshiomhole tried to rationalise, the budget is every President’s biggest weapon to cause positive changes in his country. But, to heap the delay of the passage of the budget on Saraki leadership misses the point. When last did the National Assembly pass the budget much earlier than June, even under Jonathan presidency when Saraki was not in the saddle as senate president? It is sometimes necessary to magnify the hawks to balance the doves. A hard-hitting speech and receiving a rousing ovation may serve only a public purpose, but it doesn’t solve the inner need. In other words, removing Saraki and Ekweremadu may serve the public purpose agenda of the presidency and the ruling APC, but how do you secure the required constitutional number to get these two principal officers out? Are you going to resort to unconstitutional means to actualise that goal?
READ ALSO: Saraki’s time over – Oshiomhole
This is why the threat by the coordinator of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, Danladi Fasali, to physically take over the National Assembly Complex, if Saraki refuses to resign, should be taken serious as an affront to the sanctity of the parliament. Fasali spoke in
Abeokuta, Ogun state at the weekend during the inauguration of the Secretariat of the Buhari Campaign Organisation. The Acting National publicity of the APC, Yekini Nabena, has spoken in the similar vein last week. Today may be the day the anti-Saraki forces are waiting for, to unleash mayhem. Should the NASS reconvene today, the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo should restrain these anti-democratic forces as he did exactly a week ago. I sometimes empathise with APC in its self-inflicted bleeding. But, my sympathy is not enough. APC, from the beginning, was a hurriedly packaged strange bedfellow to grab political power. The outcome is the recent gale of defections. The party apparatchiks put their eyes off the ball on June, 2015, the day of election of principal officers of the 8th National Assembly, and instead converged somewhere else.
The party must continue to regret that day. It shows absolute lack of talent and strategic thinking. It wasn’t Saraki’s fault. He emerged Senate president, fair and square, in line with section 50(1)(a) of the Senate Rules that stipulates how the Senate president and the Deputy Senate president shall be elected. Chief Audu Ogbeh, current Minister of Agriculture, saw the firestorm in APC plate early when he told The Punch newspaper after Saraki’s was elected Senate president, that it was too late in the day to suspend Saraki from the party. Threats don’t subdue Saraki. It makes him stronger and defiant. If in doubt, check out his political travails and triumph, even against his own father. And, attempts to remove him unconstitutionally gives him more oxygen to continue to survive politically while his traducers losing sleep because they are drawing their arsenals from the same script that had failed.
Yes, Saraki may be an impetuous, impudent politician with over size ambition (and almost all politicians are), current plots to oust him at cost will split the ruling party more at a time it needs unity the most, six months to the 2019 elections. To paraphrase Henry Wadsworth Longfellow… ‘All your danger is in discord’. APC tackle challenges of more immediate sort and allow peace return to the National Assembly so that the lawmakers should also debate issues of immediate importance. And INEC budget for 2019 polls is perhaps the most crucial now.