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Prior to the election of the principal officers of the 9th National Assembly yesterday, there had been wheeling and dealing by the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to produce a pre-determined outcome.
On several occasions, Adams Oshiomhole, national chairman of the APC, drummed it into the sub-consciousness of members on the need to make the leadership of the 9th National Assembly an APC affair.
He had insisted, “This time around, we must ensure that we have a leadership of the National Assembly that shares the vision of the executive. Although we will adhere to the principle of separation of powers, there is only one government and unless the various arms pursue the same agenda, it is difficult for the executive to realise its vision because legislative backing is often required for the executive actions.”
The insistence by the ruling party to take control of the 9th Assembly was predicated on its experience in the 8th Assembly. Although Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara, former Senate president and speaker, House of Representatives, respectively, were elected on the APC platform, the manner of their emergence as principal officers of the bicameral legislature went contrary to the aspiration of leaders of the party and the Presidency.
As a result of the manner of their emergence, Saraki and Dogara became a pariah to the APC family. The frosty relationship that existed between the Executive and the legislature negatively affected governance. Meaningful collaborations that could have positively impacted the Nigerian people could not take place as each camp saw the other as an enemy.
In the series of fights that took place between the Executive and the Legislature, the masses bore the brunt. Important bills that were passed into law by the lawmakers were not assented to by the President.
One major concern that trailed the campaign for the Senate presidency and House of Representatives speakership was the fear that the emergence of Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila would spell doom for the country in the next four years. Those who nurse this fear allege that the National Assembly would become a rubber stamp.
At every turn, the leadership of the APC and the Presidency had alleged that the ‘unfriendly” disposition of the 8th National Assembly frustrated the efforts of President Buhari to achieve for the people. In fact, some have blamed the lawmakers for whatever the Executive did not do rightly in the first four years.
The election of Lawan and Gbajabiamila may have cleared the way for the APC-government to perform optimally.
The expectation now is that there would no longer be any excuse if anything goes wrong, or if passed bills are not assented to. It is also expected that budgets will be passed expeditiously and implementation executed without let.
President Muhammadu Buhari had recently accused Saraki and Dogara of frustrating implementation of budgets, hence hindering him from taking care of Nigerians.
According to him, “I asked them how they felt to hold the country at ransom for seven months without passing a budget. Unfortunately, they were not hurting me; they were hurting the country. So, really, in terms of patriotism, I think I rated them very low indeed. But to hold a budget for seven months cannot be justified if you really bother about the country.”
Before the election of the principal offices of the National Assembly, Lawan and Gbajabiamila had promised that a vote for them would not mean surrendering their independence to the Executive arm of government. They had also promised to run an inclusive government, contrary to the advice by Oshiomhole to corner all reasonable offices at the two chambers. It is expected of them to draw a line on the extent of their relationship with the Executive and the extent to which they would allow party influence over the activities of the National Assembly.
The national chairman of the party, it would be recalled, had emphatically said: “We will not share power in the House of the Representatives and the leadership must ensure that critical committees that drive government are chaired only by the APC members. If the Nigeria people wanted them to be chairmen of committees they would have voted for them.
“So, all the chairmen of committees, except the one that is statutorily reserved for the opposition, which is Public Accounts, they can have that. So, we would not do the kind of thing that happened the last time in which some APC members became distant spectators in the management of committees, when the PDP had majority of the strategic committees in the House; that will not happen in the next Assembly.”
If this advice is carried out, it would mean that there would be a rancour in the two chambers, and that would create a problem of instability and tension. Again, that would also portray Lawan and Gbajabiamila in bad light.
Recall that both lawmakers had made promises to their colleagues in other parties on fairness and equity if they would have their support in the election yesterday. Reneging on such promise would amount to double-speak and taint the integrity of the two officers.
Of serious concern also is the implication of yesterday’s development for the South East. The outcome of the election appears to have shown a marked marginalisation of that zone.
Guy Ikokwu, a Second Republic politician, wondered: “If you don’t have a National Assembly whose leadership is inclusive, then who are they debating for, because it departs from democratic norms? “The current situation shows that Nigeria is not moving in the right direction; every region should be carried along in the running of the country.”
He further blamed the leadership of the APC for the current situation, adding that it was not a good sign for the country.
“The APC leadership should blame themselves for whatever happened in the National Assembly. It shows that Nigeria is a failed state; every part of the country should be carried along not only in the National Assembly but in the appointment of security chiefs which is not the case now,” Ikokwu added.
Olisa Agbakoba, lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), equally pointed out that the decision of the leadership of the APC was a breach of the constitution and federal character commission, stressing that the move may not lead to unity in the both chambers.
“What has happened is not good; it does not lead to legislative harmony; the constitution says the process of appointing people must include ethnic consideration; it is a breach of the federal character and section 14 of the constitution.
“I don’t know how the APC expect legislative harmony and inclusion with this arrangement, and they expect the Southeast to be happy? I thought they said their government would be inclusive, except they are telling us they are still campaigning; we are talking about governance,” he added.