Ordinarily, yesterday’s election of Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki as President of Nigeria’s eighth Senate and Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, should have come as remarkable developments to the All Progressives Congress (APC) for stretching its good fortune to cover the legislature.
Both Saraki and Dogara are prominent members of the APC.
But the APC which only recently achieved a feat hitherto not witnessed in the country by throwing out a ruling party is the least happy about what transpired.
In a curious twist of fate, the APC which has been upbeat about its victory in the last general elections has on account of the election of the leadership of the National Assembly been downcast while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been beside itself with joy.
The APC in a statement shortly after yesterday’s election, said it will not accept the outcome while describing the process that led to the emergence of Saraki and Dogara as the highest level of indiscipline and treachery.
APC national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, insisted Senator Bukola and Hon. Dogara were not the candidates of the APC, saying majority of APC National Assembly members-elect had conducted a straw poll, which he insisted produced clear candidates for the two positions.
But the PDP in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh, commended the process that led to the election of the leadership of the two chambers.
“What is paramount to the PDP is the sustenance of our democracy and the wellbeing of our people, irrespective of creed, class or ethnicity. The PDP is therefore willing and ready to partner with like-minded individuals in other political parties and groups to sustain our democracy, ensure good governance and promote the unity and stability of our dear nation. Nigeria as a nation belongs to all of us. Its interest therefore must be put over and above personal, partisan or group interests at all times.
“In this regard, the PDP notes with gratitude, the immense contributions of the immediate past Senate President ‘the Baba of the National Assembly’, Senator David Mark for the decency and mature manner with which he ensured the smooth take off of the 8th National Assembly”, the party said.
The contrasting reactions of the two major parties are not without basis.
Since the removal of Alhaji Salisu Buhari as speaker of the House of Representatives and Evan Enwerem as Senate President in the early days of the President Olusegun Obasanjo era, both chambers of the National Assembly have not been spared executive interference in the election of their leaders.
But President Muhammadu Buhari had made it clear he would toe a different line even before taking the oath of office and promised not to interfere in the selection of the leaders of the National Assembly, saying he is prepared to work with anybody that emerges.
Initially, the APC agreed with the president on this and said it would remain neutral but the party was forced to change course when it discovered that things may not go its way if it sticks to that position.
The APC then conducted a mock primary last Saturday which threw up Femi Gbajabiamila as its candidate for the speaker of the House of Representatives and Senator Ahmed Lawan as its candidates for the Senate presidency.
It was the party’s way of ensuring the legislators toe its line on the very important matter of who heads the National Assembly.
But the outcome of the exercises were rejected by Saraki and Dogara who threatened to defy the arrangement made by the party to present themselves for election on the floor of both chambers of the National Assembly.
The party through its national secretary, Mai Mala Buni, advised the two candidates against acting contrary to the interest of the party but the two men who felt the party was not fair to them went ahead and contested the election.
At the inaugural sitting of the Senate, 57 senators voted for Saraki while there was no nomination for Lawan, who was the APC candidate.
In the House of Representatives, members went into voting and Dogara, just like what transpired at the Senate, defeated the endorsed candidate of the APC and emerged speaker.
Dogara scored 182 votes while Gbajabiamila polled 174 whereas in the APC mock primary, Gbajabiamila was declared winner after polling 154 votes while Dogara was said to have polled only 3 votes.
The development has reconfigured the structure of the current Republic giving it a uniqueness that may come with challenges most especially for the ruling party and the executive arm of government.
Both Saraki and Dogara, it appears, have entered into deep alliances with the opposition PDP to clinch the two coveted positions.
This is obvious from the fact that while the APC clearly spelt out its candidates, the PDP, early Tuesday morning, urged its members to vote for Saraki and Dogara. This many believed was what gave the duo victory.
The implication of this, according to many analysts is that rather than owe their rise to their parties, both the Senate President and the Speaker would now be made to view their parties as having opposed to their aspirations and may adopt postures that would reflect such dispositions in their leadership.
Many recall that this happened during the tenure of Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as speaker of the House of Reps, when the then opposition parties led by the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) defied the then zoning formula and gave the position of the speaker to Tambuwal from the north-western part of the country rather than leave it for the South-west that the then ruling PDP had zoned it to.
Since the development, observers also recall, Tambuwal had never left anyone in doubt where his loyalty laid until he exited as speaker of the 7th assembly.
Streaks of such proclivities have already begun to manifest with the manner the leadership position in Senate was shared where a member of the opposition party, Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP is to serve as Deputy Senate President.
Ekweremadu would be retaining the seat a third time after defeating Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume with 54 votes to Ndume’s 20 votes.
In the House of Representatives, just as in the case of Saraki, it was obvious that the PDP Reps gave their votes en bloc to Dogara in compliance to the directive given by the party and that the APC members had split their votes which made it possible for Dogara to poll the highest number of votes.
The APC has 213 members, while PDP has 140 and other political parties have a total of seven lawmakers.
Many fear however that the disagreement between the leadership of the National Assembly and their party may affect governance as it would stir up unnecessary controversies that could divert the attention of the president.
Many recall that Goodluck Jonathan as president, had more than a handful from the opposition camp when he lost the speaker of the House of Representatives to a rival candidate.
That Buhari will be kicking off his administration with both the Senate President and the Speaker not only in disharmony with the party but in open romance with the opposition; there appears a big challenge and the question is if Buhari who is having his first opportunity as president in a democratic setting will be able to cope with that.
Dr. Umar Ardo, a political researcher said it is left to be seen if the development would affect governance but added that one thing he is sure of is that the development would set the national leadership of the ruling party up and against the leadership of the National Assembly.
He said what is more revealing is the fact that the members of the New PDP that defected to the APC have after failing to get the presidency now decided to capture the legislative arm.
“The new PDP members who defected to the APC have gone back into alliance with the PDP to take over the National Assembly.
“This tells you that the intention of the New PDP members was to take over the presidency from Jonathan and after they failed, they have now ganged up to take over the National Assembly,” he stated.
Coordinator of the Human Rights Writer’s Association of Nigeria, Emmanuel Onwubiko, also said the development will not affect governance as, he noted, the legislature cannot afford to undermine the presidency.
He said what is important is that the development has helped to accommodate the South-east in the scheme of things as it now has the Deputy Senate President.
“It has balanced the equation because they did not know what to give the South-east, but now that aspect has been taken care of,” he stated.
Many however blame the APC and the president for what happened at the two chambers of the National Assembly saying if they had intervened and zoned the positions on time, it wouldn’t have gone to the level it did yesterday.
Former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, had earlier warned the APC against dilly-dallying on the matter saying the cost of prolonging the issue would be too heavy for the party to bear.
After winning the presidential election, the APC had tried to paint a picture of a truly democratic party by assuming a neutral position. Later it tried to enforce what it felt was best for the party but at the end of the day it failed to achieve both as it deviated from its principle of non-interference while it did not achieve its aim of imposing its candidates.
This however will not be the first time that the Senate President and his deputy would come from two different parties.
In the Second Republic, while the Senate President, Joseph Wayas was of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) his deputy, John Wash Pam was of the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP).
But that arrangement was as a result of an alliance between the two parties while the current situation is slightly different in that there is no love lost between the two parties which could be said to be preying on each other.
Many say with the reality of a truly independent legislature facing Buhari, his term may not be as smooth as he has hoped as he requires the cooperation of the two chambers in taking major decisions including the appointment of ministers.