NASS Leadership: Matters Arising | Independent Newspapers Limited
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NASS Leadership: Matters Arising

Posted: Jun 15, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Last week’s election of National Assembly NASS, leadership, was unexpectedly dramatic. Senator Bukola Saraki of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) was elected unopposed as President of the Senate, while Ike Ekweremadu of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) retained his position as Deputy. This was opposed to the ruling party, theAPC’s arrangement that Ahmed Lawan from Yobe State should be President and George Akume of Benue State, his Deputy.  In the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara from Bauchi contested against Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos and won, contrary also to APC’s agreement that Gbajabiamila should become the Speaker. Expectedly the APC leadership felt slighted by Saraki and Dogara’s attitude and considered their actions treacherous. The Senate now has somebody from an opposition party as Deputy President.

Although it is obvious that the Senate presidency has remained in one zone for too long, as Senator David Mark, President from 2007 to 2015 is from North-central like Saraki, yet this is a test case for APC to show its dexterity in resolving issues amicably. Nevertheless, the aborted meeting of APC leaders with President Buhari, which gave room for the avoidable NASS leadership election drama, was ill-conceived. It was a calculated attempt to compromise Buhari who tactically avoided them for the sake of ensuring an independent legislature. He might have remembered that his allegiance is to Nigerians and not the party.

Past Nigerian Presidents had hitherto taken keen interests in who became NASS leaders, but Buhari appears different.  His body language indicates that he wants to work for Nigeria and not just for APC.  He believes that the stability of Nigeria’s constitutional order and overall interest of the common man are paramount, hence his willingness to cooperate with the new NASS leaders. It is indefensible for APC leaders to have fixed an appointment with the president, even if it is for a good reason, at a time the inauguration of the National Assembly was supposed to be holding. The action is self-serving and smacks of party indiscipline.

If the APC refuses to accept Saraki as threatened before its recent recant, the new Senate President would have been unwittingly pushed back to the PDP with his teeming supporters. That would put the party at the mercy of its main opposition, which would then control the Upper House. When PDP zoned the office of the Speaker to the South-west during President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), a legacy party of today’s APC assisted in scuttling that order by supporting Aminu Tambuwal from the North-West. Tambuwal won the seat and surprisingly enjoyed the tremendous cooperation of his colleagues. That is a signal to the necessity of allowing NASS members to always choose their leaders.

But while Dogara may have a smooth tenure because he won a keenly contested election, Saraki may not have it easy unless the leadership of his party accepts and helps him appease to his aggrieved colleagues to let things be. This is important if the party does not want to broil in crisis and eventually lose its members in the Senate to the PDP. Rather than cry over spilt milk, it is better to start considering how the present leadership set-up in the Senate can engender a balanced democracy in the interest of Nigerians.