The last two weeks have been particularly traumatic for politicians who have stakes in the who-gets-what –and how in the ongoing leadership tussle in the National Assembly. While the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, is shutting his party out of the spoils of office in the upper legislative chambers, his colleague in the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara is learning fast to outwit party bigwigs in the power game.
And so far, both men appear to have won the fight against their clan, the All progressives Congress, the platforms upon which they were elected into the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively. Beyond the show of shame on the floor of the red chambers last week, it appears that power may be returning to the people.
Naturally, if we all had adopted the sit- and-watch tactics that President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have chosen in terms of allowing the members of the national legislature choose their leaders, perhaps we would not have had our ears shattered by the cacophony of voices that we have had of late. But, alas! We are a country where everything, every movement and sneezing, especially if it is political, matters a lot. Having tolled many sources and sounded out competent analysts on the Nigerian affairs on how we can overcome the lock-jam in the National Assembly, I remember that problem may be too far from being healed.
Some Nigerians keep derogatorily equating the present National Assembly fracas with the change that the APC promised to bring to Nigerians. They forget that the APC is an amalgam, a marriage of convenience. The All Nigerian Peoples Party, The Action Congress of Nigeria and the Congress for Progressive Change and a faction of the Peoples Democratic Party, coalesced to form the APC. What appeared from the outset to be a patriotic commitment to dislodge from power the gargantuan PDP that had become too turgid and unresponsive to the yearnings of the people, has suddenly become another disappearing season of great expectations.
For now, Nigerians still have the Presidency to look up to. The National Assembly is already beginning in a self-consuming footing that may hamper whatever legislative agenda it may intend to pursue in the future.
Two things are profound for me as far as the smoke continues to billow from the National Assembly as the quest for absolute control of the National Assembly by the various factions of the party rages: The first is that this crisis appears to be setting the stage for the return of power to the people. Already, the card reader gave us a glimpse into this possibility during the general elections.
Now, we are having the budget of the National Assembly being slashed from a N150 billion to N120 billion. This was an impossibility in the past, despite the loudness of public dissent. Last week, the Senate President inaugurated a committee to set an agenda for the Senate. Members of the committee were also from the civil society and other areas.
The current leadership may have had these plans up its sleeves long ago. But I think the nature of his emergence as the leader of the National Assembly has quickened the pace of the introduction of that policy. This reminds me of Moremi of the famous Yoruba myth who had to sell her way into enemy camp so she could fight from within and free her enslaved people.
The only reason the electorate may at this time be the phoenix-rising from the ashes is because the prodigal party man who has stripped his party of its cohesion is now at the helm. And the new company he must find and retain is the people – the ordinary Nigerians if he must sustain his ‘coup grace.’
Former Anambra Governor, Chris Ngige, had to do it when the Ubas were up against him and almost made Anambra State ungovernable but he won on the street with people-oriented programmes. Already, some youths are hanging on the balconies of these distinguished gentlemen and ladies that we have chosen to represent us and the two chambers must quickly help the Executive with quality legislations that can help turn around the economy so that these youths can begin to look beyond absent government jobs.
Saraki and perhaps, Dogara, if they continue to defy their party and keep moving in the direction of the people in terms of effective legislations, then at last power will return to where it naturally belongs.
The last and most important point for me is the fact that politicians in Nigerian are not aspiring to look beyond their jaundiced horizons. If they tried, perhaps, we would have learnt a lesson or two from Abraham Lincoln. The former American president understood how to work with former political opponents to achieve the common goal of building the nation. In assembling his cabinet after the 1861 election, Lincoln got together what has now been described as a team of rivals. Lincoln shocked the United States of America when he displaced his three prominent rivals—William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates—to clinch the Republican nomination for President. Following his election, he appointed all his three rivals to his cabinet—Seward was appointed as Secretary of State, Chase as secretary of the treasury, and Bates named as the Attorney General. This team went on to achieve remarkable things. Perhaps, if Nigerian elites can learn a lesson from this, they will save us the hoopla that emits from the National Assembly as well as make the real transition of power to the people even smoother.