9th NASS: Imposition and history
By IKE ABONYI
“Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things” – Peter Drucker
If history remains the reliable witness, then Senator Ahmad Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila should be nervous in their ambition to lead the nation’s 9th National Assembly. This is because it has neither been smooth for those who try to foist leaders nor for those being foist on the Assembly even if they force their way through. Since 1999, drama has always trailed the election of the leadership of the National Assembly particularly the Senate.
With our short memory we may have forgotten the Evans and Evan story over the tussle for the Senate Presidency in the 4th National Assembly from 1999 to 2003. How Senator Evan Enwerem of Imo state got the Senate presidency with the backing of the Executive against swanky and ubiquitous Dr. Chuba Okadigbo who was the choice of the Senators. And how Enwerem’s unpopular tenure was short lived as a result to give way for the distinguished senators true choice.
This wrong foundation was to give way to series of changes in the leadership of the distinguished body as the legislature tried to assert their infependence from an overbearing Executive. In the green chamber, Hon. Salisu Buhari’s controversial tenure with the Toronto certificate saga still remains green in our heads and how Hon. Ghali Na’Abba after succeeding Buhari used the remaining period of his tenure to fight for legislative independence.
the story did not change in the 5th senate with Senator Ken Nnamani and Hon. Aminu Masari enjoying some stability with occasionsl threats from the executive. The sixth and the 7th Senate enjoyed some stability in the Senate with Senator David Mark navigating both the executive and his in. But parliamentary watchers believe very strongly that Mark’s peaceful tenure was more due to the amiable democratic dispositions of the characters in the executive then, like Presidents Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan.
A lot of political watchers believe that Mark would not have had it that easy if he had operated during the reign of either overbearing chief Olusegun Obasanjoorundemocratic Muhammadu Buhari. Even in the House of Representatives where there was some disquiet during this era the uneasiness was not due to the executive excesses but more to individual, divergent interests of members. For instance, the then ruling party’s choice of Hon. Patricia Etteh for speakership did not go down well with a section of members who were basing their position on religious issue, but couldn’t come out publicly with it because of the mundaneness of such stand. Some Muslim members in the House felt it was irreligious of them to bow to a woman as speaker but they couldn’t stand on it publicly for fear of the consequences from the gender crusaders.
They later found a way out as they concocted the anticipatory approval story upon which they stood to remove her and brought in Hon. Demeji Bankole ending her five-month reign from June to October 2007. In the 6th Assembly similar story repeated itself: the choice of the party backed by the executive was rejected by members who instead chose Hon. Aminu Tambuwal.
This opened a prolonged acrimonious relationship between the executive and the house of Representatives that culminated in the eventual defection of Speaker Tambuwal to the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). Then came the 8th Assembly on June 9, 2015 with its unique characteristics where the minority in the Senate had to determine who took what resulting in their negotiating for themselves the position of the Deputy Senate President, the first of its kind in the country’s legislative history. Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara were to emerge through a strange marriage with the opposition.
It had a huge consequences, the Assembly was drenched in a crisis all through until the leadership of the two chambers finally dumped their ruling party, the APC, for the main opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). All the other attendant follow ups to this development are now history suffice to say that Executive/legislative harmony was visibly absent all through. By June this year, the 9th Assembly will be inaugurated with members of the two chambers elected in the February 23, 2019 controversial Presidential and National Assembly elections.
The jostle for who occupies what in the leadership of the assembly has already begun. From the foregoing stories, it is expected that some lessons ought to have been drawn from the past but indicators show that the people are still following the same old route that led them to crisis.
Also germane still is the obvious struggle for the independent of the legislature. Securing the independence of the legislature from the executive has remained the route of all the problems of the National Assembly leadership since 1999. The parliamentarians will not be allowed to take their destiny in their own hands despite the statutory roles in the separation of powers doctrine.
Ahead of the take-off of the 9th Assembly, the players have all crammed themselves in the same kind of vehicle that brought them to where they were in 2015. Rather than allow the adults elected by their people to take their destiny in their own hands, the APC leadership has taken it upon themselvestoplaytheheadmaster/ pupilroles, dictating to legislators who is to hold which position.
The National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiohmole did not want to give their membersanybenefitof knowingwhattodo, he assertively directed in a bullying manner who shouldbetheSenatePresidentandtheSpeaker of the House of Representatives. He even went further to direct that opposition Senators and Representatives in the House should not be allowed to chair any of the committees in the two chambersnotwithstandingtheexistingguiding rules. Thenationalleaderof theparty, BolaAhmed Tinubu, was to seal the directive with his own arrogant display ‘if you don’t like our choice leave’.
Going by that haughty display, the distinguished Senators and Honourable Representatives from their various constituencies with over 40percentmembershipfromtheoppositionare being browbeat to just come and rubber stamp whoever is presented to them possibly by even non-members. SenatorLawanandHon. Gbajabiamilahave therefore emerged as the anointed for the Senate Presidency and Speaker respectively. Anybody trying to challenge them is being pictured as rebels and may be treated as such.
But notwithstanding the threat which is undemocratic some persons have risen to dare them. Senators Ali Ndume and Danjuma Goje for the Senate and few other Honourable members from the South-West and North-Central have therefore bytheirinsistence in contesting chosen to damn the consequences. If these anointed Senator Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila could have gotten it in their own rights, the contest is now stiffer because of the garb of anointing fromoutsiders which theyare wearing and which is an anathema to an independent legislature.
WhatwillbeatstakeinJunethereforewould be the independence of legislature being represented by the ambitious rebels on one hand and partyloyalistsencroachingontheindependence of anotherarmof governmentin cleardefiance of thespiritof separationof powers ontheother side.
If Lawan and Gbajabiamila lose in their ambition, it wouldn’t be necessarily due to their lack of therequisiteleadershipqualities butdue largely to poor packaging arising from the arrogance of interlopers trying to dictate and undermineanentirelyindependentarmof government. If it happens, APC would have repeated a mistake it made in 2015 showing conspicuously that in those four years no lesson was learnt.
For the swaggering peacock godfathers like Tinubu and Oshiohmole who are trying to impose leaders on the elected representatives of their people, a famous Turkish writer, Mehmet Murat Ildan, has this admonishing forthem: “No matter how right or how beautiful your path is never try to impose your path on others.
(C) New Telegraph