The Oasis Reporters
August 26, 2018
Today, two things are happening in the polity.
One, the APC is fighting naked for the position of Senate presidency, having officially lost it when Bukola Saraki left the party for the minority opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
Two, the party is singing the song of ‘national interest’ to blackmail Saraki into resigning his position as the president of the Senate, or alternatively to mop up public sentiment to augment a movement for his impeachment.
Issues of supplementary budget and INEC finance proposal for 2019 elections are the present bearers of national interest.
To be kind to facts, the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomole has become so neurotic about Saraki that he cannot for once sense that his unending cry about Saraki’s ‘closure’ of the Senate for personal reasons in the face of pressing issues of national interest have become too rehearsed, banal, and insincere. Oshiomole wants to remove Saraki, as if he is the Senate, yet he wants Saraki to reconvene the Senate.
Isn’t it more reasonable that if Oshiomole was very concerned with the interest of the people, he would not openly declare a war of removal on the Senate President and yet advise (or more appropriately, compel) him (through propaganda) to open the Senate, except Oshiomole in his wisdom believes Saraki is a dummy?
But certainly, one among the two must be a dummy. Recent developments since 2015 has shown that Saraki is used to such words as “toe the path of honour and resign”; “go and clear yourself first, that is how it’s done in saner climes”.
Saraki heard those songs all through his trial at the CCT until eventually the Supreme Court acquitted him of those charges. The person who thinks repeating those songs with new beats will make Saraki resign must be a toddler.
The APC are very skillful in selecting the things that are in the interest of the nation. In no time like the past few weeks have those words been noised here and there by the Chairman of the APC. This sudden discovery of the national interest is not only sly but also dangerous. Indeed, there are things in the interest of the nation, like the INEC budget and the like. The interests of the nation are always there, they exist on their own; but the culture of discovering them only when they are useful for political blackmail is not desirable, and this is the hallmark of the APC under comrade Adams Oshiomole.
But Oshiomole could be pardoned. He was for many years before becoming a politician, a labour leader — he led the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) for many years. The NLC is a pressure group, otherwise called ‘interest’ group. Since we are always mostly influenced by our backgrounds, our comrade’s obsession with the song of ‘interest’ may not be unconnected with debris and hangovers from his aluta continua past.
Whereas, Oshiomole does not hope that his lamentation about national interest will provoke Nigerians to pressurize Saraki to resign. He doesn’t, certainly—Nigerians seldom do that. His intention is to use ‘national interest’ to justify an illegal removal of Saraki from the position of being Senate President. As we have it, there are no legal means for removing Saraki except a two-third majority of the Senate removes him upon clear allegation of misconduct. For this we sympathize with the APC.
Our sympathy is with the APC because the existing law in Nigeria does not ensure that the position of the Senate President or of the Speaker of the House of Representatives will fall under the command and control of the ruling party. This is not good for the nation, say the APC and their lovers, because it would put a stumbling block in the way of good proposals of government that come to the National Assembly for parliamentary approval.
This seems true.
Yes it can be true if there is a violent animosity between the party leading the Executive and that leading the Legislature. But virulent animosity needs not exist where politicians combine their own interests with some national objectives at least, such as economic growth, employment and reduction of poverty. Therefore, the reason why it is not good for the ruling party to control the Senate is one, Senate President is a position with which the ruling party usually wants to settle one of their members, and by so doing get access to the power and wealth of the number 3 citizen.
Two, not controlling the Senate may affect their electoral prospects on most occasions, and logically, hamper their efforts to retain power. In this circumstance, the APC really needs our empathy.
Meanwhile, by the time we cut through the cloud of hue and cry about national interest, we would find that having a member of the minority or of the opposition as the leader of the legislature does not create so many crises as the APC and apologists have been noising.
First, where the ruling party has the majority seats in the Senate, the senators would still vote in their good conscience, so to speak, in allegiance to their party. The Senate president does not rig votes on the floor of the house, neither does he have power to cancel a resolution of the house. It is hard to think that the Senate President will influence voting. The senate President cannot illegally suspend a senator without incurring court condemnation.
In addition, because Nigeria is a presidential system, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives are not ‘political leaders’ the way the leader of the lower House is in a typical parliamentary system. Neither of these leaders needs to command a majority in the house. The reason is that the parliament in presidential system does not formulate policies of government but rather makes laws and do oversight functions, and these are done by the legislature comprising of elected representatives and not the senate president/speaker; the business of the Senate President and Speaker of the House is to preside over sittings and voting in the house. This is unlike the parliamentary system where the legislature and the executive are almost the same. The Head of Government is the Prime Minister, and he is both a cabinet member and a legislator. In appointing the Prime Minister, the Head of State appoints necessarily the person who appears to him likely to command the support of the majority in the House. That the Senate President needs not control a majority in the house perhaps accounts for why the constitution is silent on the matter of Saraki being the president of the red chamber even as a member of the minority party.
In a presidential system, the President is powerful—even in the United States, much more than the legislature, at least by prestige. It is only wise, for the avoidance of tyranny that the legislature is separate from the executive; otherwise the legislature would be a ‘yes sir’ compliant parliament, what in common parlance is called rubber stamp assembly.
Unfortunately in Nigeria, the APC and its cheerleaders are more in love with an impotent, house-servant National Assembly. Do not forget that their President had no idea what democracy was when he ported to the movement.
Written by Deji Adesoye.
A Public Affairs Analyst.