Our country has just had another cycle of national elections, on February 23 and March 9 precisely. By now we ought to have concluded with everything relating to actual voting and perhaps engrossed in post-election grievances and litigations, but unfortunately that is not the situation today. In many constituencies, voting is yet to take place and if we go by the electoral umpire’s position, elections will still take place. This speaks so much about the preparation and conduct of the 2019 general elections. We have made our views on that known at least on two occasions on this page and we will leave it at that and face other fall-outs from the general elections and in particular the jostle to fill leadership positions in the National Assembly.
The tenure of the 8th National Assembly would run out on June 6, and on that date the newly elected members would be inaugurated by the president of the Federal Republic. Inauguration would be incomplete without a leadership in place, and so struggles for top leadership positions have since ensued. This is normal, but what is not is the style. If lessons of history are anything to go by, the activities in this regard ought to be a purely party business. It should be an activity totally restricted to dictates of the majority party in parliament, but in our own case we seem to have externalized it and made it look like a national affair. Yes, it is, but in a very restricted, very selective sense; in this instance the key players should be the majority party and its members elected into the legislature.
When many allude to the fact that our constitution is faulty, one of the grounds could be found on the stipulation of how to elect leaders for the legislature. The law says, the legislators would elect leaders amongst themselves, on the surface this is the right thing to do. Constitution spells out the broad sides of issues. If it were to deal with every issue and anticipations, it would be so unwieldy that only a few of the citizens can read and make sense out of it. Constitutions give the broad outlines because the framers believe that majority of men and women who want to offer public service would do so from a position of pure motive, and if that is the case would possess the ability to go beyond the letters of the constitution to the spirit, what lawyers often refer to as intendment of the framers.
When those who drafted the constitution inserted that provision, certainly the intention was not to create a situation where the minority party, for any reason whatsoever usurps the place of the majority. Every act of good conduct must not be legislated for before it can be exhibited. Our constitution does not need to say the majority should lead before the practitioners in a democracy know that it is always a game of the majority. The issue of filling up positions in the National Assembly has always turned out a very controversial exercise, not because the provisions are not there or that they are not easily understood, it has been so because there is always this penchant in many of us to want to subvert rules and processes, and in doing so we are very disingenuous in searching out for lacuna in our rules and processes. We are always searching out for what the law did not specifically provide for, so that we can say the law did not say so.
This is democracy, and if what we have are democrats, the controversies that follow elections into National Assembly offices would not be. The power play that precedes the actual elections should not be such that the things that divide us become magnified and the bonds of unity begin to take nasty blows. If we had democrats out to serve the nation, elections of all kinds would be seamless and the nation would be better for it. For the 8th Assembly, party members broke ranks with their party and allied with the opposition to get into offices; this was wrong. Without party discipline, a party is likely to be rudderless. The consequent dissonance we saw characterized the relationship between the Executive and the National Assembly. This nasty development was taken to the point of absurdity when the unholy alliance produced an opposition legislator as the Deputy Senate President. Many of us laughed at the development, but it was certainly an aberration.
The effect of that misstep is still with us, and everyone had thought that event would have served as a useful lesson, but it would seem we never learn. Four years after that folly, another opportunity is up and unfortunately the legislators are threading the same path and the same cheer party is up singing and clapping, urging the legislators into another misadventure. Some Nigerians are beginning to talk about legislative independence and relating it to this matter, but the truth is that the issue at hand is a different thing all together. It is purely the business of the party with the majority of members. Bringing the opposition into it in any manner, is to elevate greed and desperation into what should purely be a sacrificial national undertaking.
Adams Oshiomhole, the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has taken some actions on the matter and for the first time, it will be right to emphatically say he is correct this time. The national executive of the party of which he is at its head has stated that the party has a role in the emergence of the National Assembly leadership; that is correct and proper. Oshiomhole had called a meeting of members elected on their platform and explicitly told them about party decisions and nominations in that regards. There is nothing wrong with this move except that he ought to have called them many times before making the nominations known, that way he would have built enough confidence and taken care of some fears and interests. The party’s zoning arrangement ought to have been in place long before the elections and not after. As it is, it would seem the party wasn’t sure it could win the polls the way it eventually turned out. Zoning of positions ought to have been on the basis of zonal equality and equity, by these arrangements those who already have prominent positions like the President and his Vice, National Party Chairman, should in the spirit of fairness allow the other zones to take up prominent positions in the National Assembly and elsewhere. APC lost some of the states in the recent elections substantially on account that it failed to realize that good politics is not only about tangibles, that intangibles in most instances provide the fillip to appreciate the tangibles. When people don’t have a sense of belonging, they hardly care about what government does or do not do around them. This is where the significance of proper zoning is located. A good advice to Oshiomhole should be to cease from making public statements on this issue and to work more underground to win the understanding of key party members, the legislators and of course the contributions of the president who as it is, a member of the party. It is wrong for the president to stand aloof and pretend he has no role; he has a role.