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The Nigerian Senate has ten principal officers, namely, Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Majority Leader, Minority Leader, Chief Whip, Minority Chief Whip, Deputy Majority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Deputy Chief Whip and Deputy Minority Whip.
The ruling party produces the Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader, Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip. The opposition produces the Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Whip. But to ensure a balanced ethnic representation, the ruling party or opposition can produce the Senate President or Deputy Senate President.
The above is also true of the House of Representatives. For instance, the opposition Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), produced Speaker Edwin Ume-Ezeoke in the Second Republic even though the then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN), controlled the House.
In the election and nomination of these officers, Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution provides for Federal Character without which ethnic suspicion and rivalries become the order of the day. This section states, “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.” Government of the Federation refers to the three-arm of Executive, legislature and judiciary; as well as the armed forces.
Furthermore, Oluwalogbon ‘Leke Abraham opined that the ruling elite informally agreed, in the spirit of equity, that the six geo-political zones, namely, North East, North Central, North West, South West, South East and South-South must be represented in every government. This is called zoning.
Nwachukwu Orji, quoted by Abraham, explained that federal character and zoning complement to ensure ethnic harmony. Whereas zoning is an informal arrangement, federal character is enshrined in our constitution. Zoning applies to elective positions; but federal character applies to appointive positions. And thirdly, zoning focuses on allocation of offices to geo-political zones while federal character guarantees equitable distribution of same among states (See Abraham’s ‘The Politics of Leadership Instability in Nigeria’s Senate, 1999-2011.’ International Journal of Politics and Good Governance, Volume VII. No.7.1 Quarter 1 2016. ISSN: 0976-1195. Orji’s ‘Eat and Give Your Brother: The Politics of Office Distribution in Nigeria.’ Inspire Journal of Law, Politics and Societies. 3 (2) 125-139).
On 11th June, the Nigerian 9th National Assembly, NASS, “elected” its principal officers. This was in line with Section 50 of the 1999 Constitution stipulating that the four principal officers, namely, Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker of the House and Deputy Speaker be elected indirectly in-house. Other officers are to be appointed.
Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan (APC North East) emerged President of the Senate with Ovie Omo-Agege (APC South-South) as Deputy President. Femi Gbajabiamila (APC South West) was elected Speaker of the House and Ahmed Idris Wase (APC North Central) as his deputy.
Their elections were in clear violation of both the federal character principles and zoning. Recall that in the Executive, President Muhammadu Buhari (APC) already represents the North West while Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (APC) represents the South West. Since the South West is represented by Osinbajo, the Speakership slot belongs to the unrepresented South East by right. The Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC), violated Section 14 (3) of the 1999 constitution; giving the South West a slot meant for the South East. This is not minding that the North also controls the Judiciary with Ibrahim Muhammad Tanko as Chief Justice of Nigeria. This underhand dealing is unprecedented.
In the First Republic, 1960-1966, the three Regions were equally represented in the Government of the Federation. In the Executive, Nnamdi Azikiwe (NCNC Eastern Region) was the President. Tafawa Balewa (NPC Northern Region) was Prime Minister. In the Legislature, Nwafor Orizu (NCNC Eastern Region) was President of Senate; while Ibrahim Jalo Waziri (NPC North) was Speaker. In the Judiciary the Western Region was represented by Adetokunbo Ademola who was Chief Justice of Nigeria.
In the Second Republic, 1979-1983, the ruling NPN respected federal character and zoning. In the Executive, President Shehu Shagari (NPN Sokoto) represented the North. Vice President Alex Ekwueme (NPN Anambra) represented the East. In the legislature, Joseph Wayas (NPN Cross River) represented the Niger Delta minorities while Edwin Ume-Ezeoke (NPP) represented the East. The West had Atanda Fatai Williams who was Chief Justice of Nigeria.
In this Fourth Republic, 1999 to the present, federal character and zoning were respected till the formation of the Hausa/Fulani-Yoruba duopoly in 2015. The Lawan and Gbajabiamila-led 9th Assembly is sectarian, at best, and rabidly anti-Igbo in form and content. Such dangerous assembly can be trusted to perpetual anarchy while preaching One Nigeria. It can only harden sectarian cleavages rather than promote our common values. The hate-politics spewing from it can only yield hate-speech.
We remind all that the Igbo membership of Nigeria supersedes their membership of ephemeral Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and APC. Their representation in the Government of the Federation is a matter of constitutional right rather than party privilege, denial of which negates such government. Nigeria 2023, raison d’etre for this gang-up, looks increasingly an improbable possibility.
Buhari must tell Nigerians why he’s purging Igbos from the leadership of the army, navy, air force, police, customs, National Security Council, judiciary and 9th Assembly. When did politics become another civil war? The esteemed Chimmuanya Orih is wrong. We Igbos refused to give Buhari our votes this 2019, not because we hated him for defeating Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in 2015 as Orih thinks, but because he would not restructure Nigeria to enthrone equity. But Buhari’s self-defeating purge dents his own lofty legacy; making one to wonder how posterity would remember him.
Lawrence Baraebibai Ekpebu, Buhari’s ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire in the mid 1980s and author of multi-award winning ‘Zaire and the African Revolution,’addressed the question of Buhari’s legacy in ‘Nigeria: Averting Paradox of Development.’ Considering Buhari’s larger-than-life image as an army general, military Head of State and elected civilian president, he advised Buhari to decline a second tenure, restructure Nigeria and ride into the golden sunset of history like the great Madiba. Buhari didn’t do that and went for a second tenure, only to lose in substance. He’s entangled with sectarian politics that diminishes him. This for a towering statesman who was to Nigeria what De Gaul was to France.
One question that tortures every self-respecting Igbo is why Orji Uzor Kalu turned himself into His Master’s Voice. Kalu fought former President Olusegun Obasanjo to a standstill to fix the Owerri-Onitsha Road, to believe Chris Nwedo. We now ask the learned Nwedo, so where is Kalu’s fighting spirit today? What changed him? Kalu speaks with perceptible fear in his voice. He’s today sermonising Ndigbo to expect nothing from the APC for failing to vote for the party. But did the Yoruba vote for the PDP in 1999 and 2003 even though they got the Presidency? Ndigbo must stop their former governors from representing them in the Senate. The EFCC could be hounding them.
At 26, I went into political exile as supporter of MKO Abiola. Isn’t it ironic that certain elements from Abiola’s own South West, on the very eve of June 12, championed this anti-Igbo agenda? Can we detest the injustice meted out to Abiola and the Yoruba and remain patient when same is visited on the Igbo?
My point is, while in exile in Belgium, I visited Waterloo. I wondered how the Duke of Wellington with 68, 000 troops could have defeated Napoleon Bonaparte and his 72,000 soldiers. It was Victor Hugo who put me in the clear. In “Les Miserables,” he said that Napoleon fell because he offended God. The ceaseless weeping of countless mothers whose sons perished in the Napoleonic wars finally moved Heaven to intervene. On the D-Day of 18th June 1815, therefore, everything worked in reverse for Napoleon. Non-military factors that Wellington was equally exposed to, rather than soldiers and guns, ultimately led to his downfall.
One, where Napoleon was told during reconnaissance that the field was flat, the place turned out to have deep ravines. In the heat of the battle, the ravines swallowed wholesale his charging elite cavalry, the very backbone of his army. Hugo believed God sent his angel posing as a poor Waterloo villager to misinform Napoleon.
Two; on 16th and 17th June, especially the night of 17th preceding the encounter, the gates of heavens were thrown open drowning Waterloo and its environs in great deluge. Mid-June is summer without rains. Yet, in 1815, the reverse was the case. In the morning of 18thJune, Napoleon was compelled to delay fighting till 11.20am for the reluctant sun to dry the water-sodden field before he could manoeuvre his sinking canons into position. The delay made it possible for Prussian reinforcement to reach the beleaguered Wellington.
Three; darkness descended on the battlefield much earlier than expected in what Hugo called “unseasonably clouded sky.” At the point of darkness Wellington had the upper hand. Another hour of daylight, and fighting, could have changed that.
And four, underdog Wellington only finished what Heaven started. Napoleon was put to rout and Europe had peace. Hugo summed: “When humanity cried out against a clearly bloodthirsty and vile government, mysterious forces latent in the trees and the air were moved to intervene.”
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