Speaker Aminu Tambuwal played a key role in dashing President Goodluck Jonathan’s second term hope, EMEKA EJERE, writes

Speaker of House of Representatives and Sokoto State governor-elect, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal is undoubtedly one of the main winners of the March 28 presidential elections. His dream has eventually come true with President Goodluck Jonathan losing to Gen Mohammadu Buhari (rtd). His All Progressives Congress (APC) will take control of the Federal Government come May 29.

The time bomb that has squashed Jonathan’s second term ambition was planted on June 6, 2011, the day Mr.Tambuwal got elected as Speaker against the wishes of PDP, his then party and the party with a clear majority in the green chamber at the time.

Right in front of PDP’s ‘Mr Fix it,’ Chief Tony Anenih, and an illustrious supporting cast that included Senator Anyim Pius Anyim and then National Chairman of PDP, Dr. Haliru Bello, Tambuwal trounced PDP’s preferred candidate for the position of Speaker, Hon. Mulikat Adeola-Akande, by 252 to 90 votes.

It was more than a body blow to PDP, which had zoned the position of the Speaker to the South-west and had left no one in doubt who its anointed was. But Tambuwal was able to snap 70% of the votes because he rallied a broad coalition that included independent-minded and the disaffected members of PDP and members of the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

Analysts believe that while it is true that ACN played a critical role in Tambuwal’s emergence, it is also true that ACN merely exploited the fact that PDP was unable to keep its house in order and had advertised itself as a party where agreements, even when documented, count for little.

The hypocrisy of the party on its own zoning formula (especially the blatant denial of the existence of any zoning formula) not only undermined the party’s ability to enforce zoning in the House, it provided an opportunity for a fight-back from the North, which was still smarting from how it was muscled out by incumbency and which, on account of numbers, had an edge in the House.

Also in the coalition that brought Tambuwal to power were House members opposed to the idea of their leadership being imposed from outside and the camp of the previous Speaker, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, that felt it was being persecuted for not playing ball in a particular way during the crisis occasioned by the sickness of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

But Tambuwal became a lingering problem to PDP not merely on account of how he emerged but largely on account of how the party hierarchy and the executive responded to his emergence.

With its preferred candidate winning only 25% of the votes cast, analysts believe PDP should have made a ‘tactical manoeuvre’. But so much time was wasted on thinking of how to discipline those who had the effrontery to disobey the party’s order and so much effort was invested in how to freeze out and impeach the Speaker.It was not easy for PDP to admit that it was a lost battle, perhaps because the party was used to winning all the time.

“A more pragmatic approach would have been to reconcile the aggrieved and court the House ‘dissidents’, especially given that it is easier to elect a Speaker than to remove one,” Waziri Adio, a political analyst said. A simple majority is needed for the election of the Speaker while a two-thirds majority is needed for his removal.

When the All Progressives Congress was formed, Aliyu Wammako, Tambuwal’s state governor and friend, as well as Sokoto State lawmakers at all levels, decamped to the APC. Tambuwal held on probably because of his position as Number 4 citizen, but that his disposition showed that his heart was with his compatriots was obvious. He even became overly critical of the President, saying at one time that Jonathan’s body language encouraged corruption.

Tambuwal had in a lecture he delivered in Washington DC in September 2013, declared that under the then political circumstances, it would be extremely difficult for the PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan to win the 2015 general elections.

He had said the only way the PDP could win was to ensure that the seven aggrieved governors return to the mainstream structure of the party. He was referring to the governors, who with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, staged a walk-out from a PDP mini convention and formed the New PDP with Abubakar Baraje as National Chairman. Though the factional party did not see the light of the day, it provided a ground for the Speaker to make more smart moves.

He was caught at different times in the gathering of the New PDP members but had inexhaustible reasons to make it look like mere coincidences.

Tambuwal is the political godson of Wammako, one of the aggrieved governors. The Speaker also promotes the Atiku faction of the PDP in the House of Representatives, where many of his close associates signed into the rebellion against Jonathan.

He had said, “So, it is up to the group that is led by Bamanga Tukur to appreciate the implication and the consequence of that action that was taken by the faction that broke away from the party at the mini convention. Tukur must understand what the action of those seven governors will cost the PDP before the 2015 elections, and failure to do that.

“I am afraid, if we allow that particular group, from what we can see, either to go and form another political party since they are working together or go and join the merger and possibly increase the strength of the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC), the PDP being led by Bamanga Tukur will have a very strong formidable force coming up against it in 2015.”

Tambuwal’s eventual defection had been a well-known open-secret, but it was devastating to PDP nonetheless, perhaps more devastating than the first time he wrong-footed the party.

At issue here is not just losing a seat to an opposing party, but losing the presiding officer of the House and the fourth highest elected officer in the country to another party without recourse to election or the numerical strength of the parties in the House.

But the PDP fought back with its National Working Committee (NWC) asking Tambuwal to resign as Speaker. PDP Governors’ Forum, led by Godswill Akpabio, made the same call, while series of meetings were also held to possibly impeach Tambuwal.

Other strong-arm tactics employed included the withdrawal of his security aides by the then Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba, and an attempt to forcefully reconvene the House, which a court had put on hold. Tambuwal had earlier adjourned proceedings till early December 2014, to enable lawmakers partake in the primaries of their respective political parties.

But having been the major beneficiary of defections in the past, many felt the PDP was not standing on firm moral grounds to be aggrieved. Dr. Wahab Dosumu (Lagos), Chief Adeseye Ogunlewe (Lagos) and Senator Gbenga Ogunniya (Ondo) defected from the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to PDP in 2002. That same year, Senator Arthur Nzeribe (Imo), Senator John Nwanunu (Abia) and Senator Usman Kadir (Kogi) defected from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) to PDP.

Senator Musiliu Obanikoro (Lagos) defected from AD to PDP in December 2004. Also, before the recent gale of defections, many governors had moved to PDP after being elected through other parties, especially in Abia, Bauchi, Imo, Jigawa, Kebbi and Zamfara States. All were welcome by PDP with fanfare and all kept their seats.

The second option was political, which was for PDP to use its numerical strength in the House to impeach Tambuwal. Unfortunately, this was a non-option as PDP needed two-thirds (240 votes), which it did not have and all Tambuwal needed to stay on was a third plus one (121 votes), which his new party, APC, had in excess of.

Therefore, the only real option before PDP was the legal one and on this it had to either wait for or approach the courts. The Section 68 (1) (g) of the Constitution which says a defecting member must lose his/her seat also allows the defector to keep the seat if there is division in his/her party. Tambuwal and his supporters believed the PDP was everything but united.