As the National Assembly leadership crisis continues to defy solutions, there are concerns that the government of President MuhammaduBuhari might be hobbled by the rift in the NASS. OLUSESAN LAOYE reports
There are strong indications now that the government of President MuhammaduBuhari is now threatened by the present leadership crisis in the National Assembly, which has continued to widen the division in the All Progressives Congress, APC. The crisis in the National Assembly which started with the emergence of Senator BukolaSaraki as senate president and YakubuDogara as the speaker of House of Representatives in contravention to the APC zoning has started to rub off on the presidency.
It is clear that the situation in the National Assembly is already generating tension in the polity and also affected the activities of the Buhari’s government which has not been able to make any move since he was sworn in on May 29, 2015. Before the inauguration of the new federal government, the hope of Nigerians was that the presidency would hit the ground running but Nigerians are beginning to be skeptical following the development at the National Assembly, which is expected to play a key role in driving the change.
The election of the principal officers of the national assembly last week resulted in fist fight especially in the House of Representatives which forced the NASS to adjourn plenary until July 21. This means that two months have been wasted since the inauguration without anything to show for it.
Just as it happened during the election at the senate and the House of Reps when the senate president and the speaker were elected, last Thursday both Saraki and Dogara decided to go their own ways contrary to what the party had decided. Rather than allowing the position of the party to prevail in the choice of the principal officers especially the list forwarded to them by the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Oyegun, they nominated their own candidates.
For instance instead of Ahmed Lawan emerging as Senate leader, Saraki announced Senator Ali Ndume and this triggered off confusion on the floor of the Senate as Lawan and his loyalists protested the outcome and refused to recognize it. Before then, the South West had got the position of the Chief Whip which was given to Senator Adeyeye.
What is now bothering Nigerians is what becomes of governance in the country with the APC unable to put its house in order. The actions of both Saraki and Dogara in going against the position of the party is another pertinent issue which gives much to be desired and this is why political analysts and commentators are asking what interest is Saraki and Dogara protecting because their actions have now led to division in the national assembly as well slowing down the process of governance.
Other questions being asked was how the situation can be brought under control so that the country could move forward. While some people argued that it is now time for President Buhari to move swiftly to douse the tension, others believe that the party should call a meeting where the entire interests group will be present to resolve the problem. It is believed that the party at this stage should wield a big stick on both Saraki and Dagora because of anti-party activities.
Before the House of Representatives adjourned till next month after the fracas that brought out, some APC lawmakers headed by Hon Nasil argued that what Dogara wanted to do was wrong because it was not his prerogative to appoint house leaders, but that of the party. The group condemned the action of the speaker and warned that he should not do anything to undermine the party or polarize members of the APC in the House.
A public commentator, Mr.Gbola Oba while reacting to the present political situation in the country opined that with the situation now, the APC which claimed to have the majority may end up being the minority because right now, Saraki and Dogara are leading a faction, while Lawan, Gbajabiamila are leading a different faction with the PDP having a block majority. This he pointed out would be very dangerous for the Presidency because if care is not taken, the situation could remain like this for the next four years.
He was also of the opinion that the situation may breed anarchy. He argued further that the PDP conspiracy brought Saraki and Dogara to their positions and as such they cannot for now go against the conspiracy which brought them into power. He is of the opinion that since the PDP had lost the presidency, they will be looking for a way to control the National Assembly by proxy which they have found in Saraki and Dogara. He pointed out that the so called change which the country fought for seems to have been lost now in the National Assembly because to him, PDP may have found its way back through the back door and the Presidency could be lame duck for the next four years if proper measures are not taken to control the situation.
Mr Oba who expressed his worry over the situation pointed out that Sarakia and Dogara would now do everything to protect what they have because any attempt made to be assertive could lead to their fall because the if that happens the PDP could be forced to back out and that would spell doom for them.
Also Chief Ayo Opadokun of the coalition of Democratic Reform and a member of the APC is of the opinion that the party should mete out strong punishment on Saraki and Dogara. He said what they did was a total affront on the party because whatever position they may occupy they got it through the party, and the party should be supreme while its decision should be binding on all party members. Opadokun then called on President Buhari to come out and deal with the situation else it will undermine his presidency.
Opadokun said that he agreed with the APC governors that the party is supreme and the position of the party should be binding on all of them that contested elections through the platform of the party. It will be recalled that the APC governors met with President Buhari, and the party’s leaders where they all agreed that the party’s position should be respected.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, and his counterpart in Imo State, OwelleRochasOkorocha condemned the situation in the National Assembly, saying that no one should feel too big to obey the party’s directives.
Hallmark however leant that the APC governors have now decided to call their members in the National Assembly for a meeting before the larger meeting of the party, which will be headed by the President Buhari. In a statement Buhari told Nigerians that he is the leader of APC.
Saraki, while adjourning the sitting of the senate avoided linking it to the crisis in the NASS which according to sources could have led to a move to remove him from office. The reason he gave was that the adjournment would enable the members to study the house rules and that the senate could come to sit in case of emergency especially on the presidency’s list of the ministerial nominees.
Dogara who looked sober about the scene in the House of Representatives expressed his sadness over what happened. He said the country expected much from the legislature and the party to bring about the change they preached when they were seeking the mandate of the people. He said that members should not allow their personal interest to override the interest of the people who voted for them. Dogara stressed that the action of last week Thursday was regrettable and promised that the APC as a family would settle whatever differences that is in the party.
In his own reaction, the principal actor in the crisis, Hon Gbajabiamila was optimistic that the issue will be amicably resolved. But one of the strong APC legislators in the House, Hon Alhazan Ado-Doguwa said that what Saraki and Dogara did was not right, adding that they both occupied the positions through the back door. He argued that what happened was an indication that Saraki and Dogara are still in PDP, but wearing the robe of APC.
Hon Ado-Doguwa pointed out that as far as they are concerned the decision of the party is supreme as they would not condone any impunity from any member who intends to threaten the existence of the party and to undermine the presidency. “What we are telling Saraki and Dogara is that they should let us know where they stand and if they are still interested in their former party, they should go back so that those of us in the APC will be able to put our house in order.”
”If they want peace we are going to give them peace and if they want war we shall give them war but we are not going to allow any impunity from them. We are ready for them and we are not going to allow them to bring their indiscipline to our party, where we respect party supremacy.”
As the APC has slated a larger meeting of the party for this week to resolve the crisis and sort out the interests of various groups in the party, the PDP group in the national assembly has absorb itself of being in alliance with anybody. The party argued that the attitude of the APC is unacceptable because it has made the national assembly to start on a wrong note. Members of the PDP in the national assembly therefore warned the APC members to respect the rule of law.
In another meeting of the PDP Board of Trustees, it was said that the strategy to be adopted in sharing positions of the party in the national assembly has been worked out. AlhajiHaliru Bello who spoke called on the PDP members to remain calm as they are working out the way forward, while they are also waiting for the Senator Ekweremadu’s committee report on the political situation in the party. AlhajiHaliru called on the members of the national assembly to allow sanity to reign.
Political observers have now agreed that the ball is in the court of President Buhari who before now refused to show interest in the national assembly leadership crisis, but has now assumed the leadership of the APC to ensure sanity in the party so that things will not get out of hand.