A Necessary Scuffle | Independent Newspapers Limited
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A Necessary Scuffle

Posted: Jul 7, 2015 at 12:10 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Tochukwu Ezukanma 

Human behaviours are mostly determined by interests be them group, personal, ideological or class interests. These interests can be outrageous, dictated by selfishness, avarice, mean-spiritedness, etc. They can also be altruistic, determined by indisputably selfless concerns for the betterment of others. These diverse interests are continually playing out in human affairs. And politics, especially, democratic politics is (or should be) the equitable and just resolution of these interests, balancing out disparate and conflicting human interests for the greatest good of the greatest number of people.

The 360 members of the Nigerian House of Representative represent about 170 million Nigerians. That is, the individual representative represents, on the average, a little more than 472, 000 Nigerians. The National Assembly is the activity node of democratic politics, and thus, the epicenter of this supposed judicious harmonization of diverse human interests. It is splendid if this can be done, steep in etiquette and civility. But there is nothing wrong with it turning messy, unruly, and even, degenerating into a free for all fight.

Richard Nixon once wrote that, “in politics and statecraft, power means life or death, happiness or tragedy, prosperity or poverty” for millions of people. The Nigerian legislature should be a bastion of intrepid and vigilant custodians of the constitution and the public good. And every responsible, committed and honorable custodian of the constitution and the public good must be prepared to fenestrate decorum and civility in defense of the lives, happiness and prosperity of more than 472,000 Nigerians that he had sworn to represent.

The issue therefore is not the scuffle among the members of the House of Representatives but what triggered it. It is important to note that the crisis in the House of Representatives is somewhat different from that in the senate. Fundamentally, the problem in the senate is Bukola Saraki’s perfidy and usurpation. The pre-emptive “election” of Saraki as the President of the Senate, in the absence of 51 senators (nearly half of the entire senate) from his own political party (All Progressive Congress), was illegitimate and immoral. On the other hand, although the election of Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker of the House defied the predilections of the APC political leaders, it was legitimate and credible; he defeated the party’s preferred candidate, Femi Gbajabiamila, in a credible election. The contentious issue in the House is germane and pivotal: the supremacy of the party versus the independence of the legislators. Should the party choose the speaker and the principal officers, and the lawmakers, with their votes, only ratify the party’s choices or should the elected representatives of the people, despite their loyalty to the party, be independent enough choose their speaker and principal officers.

Technically, the party is supreme and members of the National Assembly are subject to its authority. But then, in this context, who is the “party”. Is the “party” really the party or a few powerful political godfathers hell-bent on imposing their favored protégés on the members of the House?  Even, in the most unlikely case that these choices are actually the party’s, there is still the need to strike a delicate balance between the supremacy of the party, and the independence and freedom of action of the legislators. If the representatives are all in want of knowledge, discipline and maturity, and, as such, need to be tightly controlled by the political party, why did the party nominate them and present them to the Nigerian electorate? On the other hand, if they are knowledgeable, disciplined and matured, as claimed by their party before Nigerians voted for them, why then did the party not trust their judgment in determining their leaders in the House?

The legislators in interacting and working with each other get to appreciate their individual talents and capabilities, and thus, can discern those that can be entrusted with leadership positions. As such, they are better informed than the political godfathers as to who are the most qualified contenders for, the office of the speaker and deputy speaker, and the principal officers. Blind obedience to the party in the determination of the leaders of the House will pander inordinately to political godfatherism. It may also undermine merit, as the emergent leaders will not be those that had distinguished themselves in their work, and thus, earned the respect of their colleagues but fawning, ingratiating and obsequious men and women that secured the favors of the political godfathers.

The people voted for the members of the House of Representatives, and thus, hitched their political fortune with them, not the political godfathers.