With the swearing in of the president on May 29, 2015, attention has been shifted to the second arm of government, , the National Assembly, which was elected on the same day with the president. Expected to be inaugurated on June 9, 2015, however, tension has been building over who leads the NASS. Unlike in the past, this is the first time the NASS will be inaugurated without a clear indication of the candidates, who have been endorsed by the party to emerge as President and Speaker of the senate and house of Reps respectively.
Since the election of members of the NASS on March 28, 2015, speculations have been rife over those to take charge. Several candidates had emerged and the public thought these would be pruned down through consensus since the APC dominates the NASS as was the case under PDP. But every attempt to do so has failed as the candidates who are strong and powerful stuck to their guns.
They are Senators George Akume, formerly minority leader in the 7th Senate and former governor of Benue state; Bukola Saraki, former governor of Kwara state, and Ahmed Lawan, a third term member. Even an attempt by the APC members to resolve this in a shadow caucus election came to no avail. There seems to be an obvious stalemate.
The same scenario is also playing out in the House of Reps, where the South west is insisting on producing the Speaker, which may not agree with the zoning principle. In all this, the president has declared his neutrality and would allow the NASS to sort itself out and resolve the issue. Although commendable, this position of the president may prove untenable given our peculiar situation.
As a newspaper, we are concerned that the entire apparatus of government is almost paralysed by some bickering and ineffective party leadership in the matter which leaves the nation guessing and putative about the direction of the NASS. APC was elected to show leadership and it seems from all indications that this is not happening.
Hallmark believes that the senate has a singular opportunity to elect a competent and credible person to lead it and ensure that the independence already established under Senator David Mark should be maintained for the democratic culture to foster. Of the three candidates, we are not enamoured of the two former governors jostling for the position. Ordinarily, Akume, who was the minority leader, is a natural choice for the job, as in most democracies.
But, his performance and credibility as a governor for eight years in Benue state, do not justify giving him the job. Having failed as governor but managed to secure a senate seat, this newspaper believes that national leadership should not be used to reward just anybody. The position of Senate president is the third person in the nation and if he could not lead a state then it will be asking for disaster to entrust him with such exalted office. Even as minority leader, he did not distinguish himself.
Moreover, the speculation that he is being sponsored by a godfather of the party should produce red light especially given the fact that the person is behind Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila for the Speakership. This is a dangerous signal because it will pose a threat to the president and leave our democracy at the mercy of one man. So, the president should show more than a passing interest in this matter because it may determine the future of his presidency.
Like Akume, Saraki’s tenure in Kwara was a big disappointment in spite of his private sector background as a former banker. We recall his much publicized agriculture revolution involving Zimbabwean farmers which did not even survive his regime. He is being driven by vaulting ambition and not service to the nation, as it is speculated that he has his eye on the top job ultimately. While, it is his democratic right to pursue his ambition legitimately, Nigerians insist that his records speak for him; and they are not convincing.
Put together, their contributions to the senate in the past four years have been uninspiring and they should not be rewarded for mediocrity and narrow interests. We believe that Lawan is probably the best candidate outside the outgoing senate leadership. As a ranking senator, his voice was stridently heard on burning national issues. His brilliance is not in doubt and commitment to his beliefs unparalleled.
He is not a converted legislator as the other two who smuggled themselves to the senate after imposing their successors as governors. On the contrary, he is a true legislator and he is in the best place to maintain the tradition. There is also the issue of fairness and equity. North central has produced the position in the past eight years under David Mark and another zone should be allowed to do so. This newspaper believes that Lawan is the best man for the job.
Unfortunately, we are not going to vote nor are we APC members.