Hardball Politics at the National Assembly

A political hardball took place at the inauguration of the 8th national Assembly on June 6, 2015. The opposition party, People Democratic Party (PDP) senators connived with few senators from the ruling party, All Progressive Congress (APC) to elect the senate president and deputy senate president favored by the opposition party against senators chosen by the ruling party. This sudden turn of event seems very strange, but I am not too surprise by the outcome.

I think this was planned long before the event took place. Bukola Saraki who emerged the senate president co-opted the PDP senators to fulfill his ambition while on the other hand, PDP wanted to punish APC who defeated their presidential candidate, former president Goodluck Jonathan. Adding insult to the injury was the re-election of an opposition member, Mr. Ekweremadu, to the position of deputy senate president. The president, Muhammadu Buhari, and an APC chieftain, former vice president Atiku Abubakar quickly recognized the election result. Their quick recognition of the election result is either due to their strict adherence to democratic principles or it is the outcome they wanted all along.

The question that must be asked is why did few members of the ruling party connive with the opposition party to hand the senate president and House speakership to people who were not favored by the ruling party. It is clear that PDP had ulterior motive which is to destabilize APC if possible, and to be in a position to influence legislation at the national assembly.

This marriage of convenience and conspiracy between some APC members and PDP to elect House and Senate leadership is directed largely at one man, former governor of Lagos state, Bola Tinubu. The way Bola Tinubu has maintained an ironclad control of Lagos politics in particular, and the rest of APC controlled states in the southwestern Nigeria terrifies other APC leaders. The fear that he will possibly duplicate same control at the national level is a chance some APC members did not want to take. I believe former vice president, Atiku Abubakar is the leader of the APC faction who wants to whittle down Bola Tinubu’s power. He probably believes that such action is necessary to save Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency.

A closer look at the nascent presidency of Mr. Buhari can buttress Mr. Atiku’s line of thinking. Bola Tinubu’s archenemy, Bode George of PDP said that Bola Tinubu keeps pushing his luck too far in his unquenchably taste to control events in APC. First, he wanted to be vice presidential candidate which Mr. Buhari declined. He relented and handpicked Mr. Buhari’s vice presidential candidate, Mr. Osinbajo. He wants to be the power behind the throne after APC victory. Bola Tinubu is a nice man and a detribalized Nigerian, but he cannot get rid of his penchant to control events around him. When his successor, governor Babtunde Fashola tried to emerge from his shadow and assert himself as governor of Lagos state, Bola Tinubu nearly engineered his impeachment. He later backed down. When time came for selection of Governor Fashola’s successor, he practically pushed Mr. Fashola aside and handpicked a candidate, Mr. Ambode who is now the governor of Lagos state. When he wanted his wife to contest for senate seat, he basically told the sitting senator not to seek re-election so his wife will take over. I do not think that Mr. Tinubu cares if you are a Hausa, Yoruba or an Igbo man provided you don’t challenge his authority.

I have no doubt that he wants to perpetuate same control at the national level which means that all cabinet members, chairman of parastatals and other major appointment must be cleared by him. He worked very hard to get Mr. Buhari elected as president, but maintaining the type of control he has exercised in Lagos state at the national level will be a disaster for Nigeria. What is good for him is not necessarily the best thing for Nigeria economic, social and political development, and above all, Nigeria democracy. Nigeria cannot afford god-father politics at the national level. Nigeria can survive such control at the state level, but not at the national level. President Buhari has a lot in his plate and wants to accomplish few things before his term runs out. He needs the space to freely pick whom he thinks will help him accomplish his objectives. Nigerians will judge President Buhari very harshly if he fails to deliver.

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