In the absence of any ideological pretensions in Nigeria’s politics, it is apparent that the struggle for leadership positions in the 9th National Assembly will assume the 2015 rancorous pattern that led to avoidable fracas. The ‘do-or-die’ determination of the combatants may likely not be for the good of the country. There is no doubt that the National Assembly is a place to make laws for good governance of the country.
In the absence of national political will to reform the assembly or reformulate it to properly serve the country’s needs, the deadly struggles for power and perquisites tend to define the importance of the positions and the prestige attached to them.
However, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) should not be grudged its privilege of choosing its National Assembly leaders if, as it appears, it constitutes the majority party in both chambers. But if, it is unable to put its house in order and creates a dysfunctional atmosphere to permit a credible challenge for its chosen nominees, as was the case four years ago, it must not blame anyone but itself. The Constitution is explicit about how the Senate President and the Deputy President of the Senate shall be elected. Section 50 (1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is unambiguous that “a President and a Deputy President of the Senate shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.” Similarly, Section 50 (1) (b) of the Constitution states that “a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.” The Constitution is silent on the role of the party and its supremacy as well as the role of the ‘executive’ branch on the matter. Indeed, other branches of government, especially the executive branch should not be part of the process. That is the essence of the principle of the separation of powers.
We recall that the manifest undeclared war between the 8thNational Assembly and the Buhari administration was traceable to the legislative leadership contests four years ago. It is impossible to estimate the extent that cold war marred the relationship between the two branches and how much it might have affected government work. Even if its effect was minimal, the Nigerian people were the ones who ultimately paid the price of such needless quarrels. This time, they must be spared that distraction.
At the best of times, the country runs too slowly, which manifests in delayed budgets, delayed bills like the electoral act amendments which came too late to be of any use, tardy decision-making and the slow official transactions in our government offices. Nigerians do not want a pace worse than what they have had in the last four years. They don’t want the three branches isolated in three silos and if partisanship could be reduced to serve Nigeria better, Nigerians would appreciate it.
We perceive a sustained pressure by the APC to play the winner-takes-all card. It is usually the line of least resistance, the freedom that power grants, the usual temptation to take the most of what can be taken. But we counsel caution and prudence. There are six geo-political zones in the country. It is not always wise to ignore even one of them or treat any as if it did not matter. The APC should take the American street wisdom aphorism that ‘the right of way is given, but not taken.’
Above all, positions of leadership should be given to those with capacity to execute the job, but leadership at all levels should always reflect the character and diversity of the country; and there must be no imposition of leaders under any guise. We also know that the titanic struggle for National Assembly leadership is not exactly about the work. It is also about the perquisites. The nation spends so much of its revenue on the welfare of elected political office holders and appointees. The government should muster the political will to reduce it.