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Tenth N/Assembly and ‘Arrangee’ leadership: Matters arising

At last, by the turn of the past week, the two chambers of the National Assembly had established in place, the core leadership positions being…

At last, by the turn of the past week, the two chambers of the National Assembly had established in place, the core leadership positions being the complement of principal officers, largely following processes which the powers that be referred to as ‘consensus’, but in reality was hand-picking, which in Nigerian parlance is better termed ‘arrangee’ leadership deals. First was the drama of June 13 2023 as was orchestrated by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which ushered in the Presiding Officers namely the President of the Senate Godswill Akpabio and Speaker of the House of Representatives Tajudeen Abass, along with the Deputy Senate President Barau Jibrin and Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu. From what the entire country watched on live television – apart from a few instances, that process of handpicking remained the preferred channel for the emergence of even the subsequent emergence of the rest of the principal officers by last week. 

Ordinarily, consensus which intrinsically is not an anomaly given that it refers to a general agreement, ordinarily implies that decisions on a matter enjoy the input of all stakeholders. But can the authors of the consensus deals in the leadership drama of the Tenth National Assembly vouch before their community shrines that every stakeholders in the National Assembly – being the members of respective chambers, participated in the so called consensus exercise(s). Given the avalanche of protests in both the Senate and the House of Representatives over the emergence of the respective leaderships, the answer is no. This, more than illustrated the fact that what took place was a mere handpicking of whosoever matched the parochial bidding of a designated potentate, with the process tagged consensus in error. 

It needs to be recalled that the entire multi-scene drama of emergence of the leadership of the Tenth National Assembly featured some of the most sordid outings in legislative practice in the country’s history. The drama runs against of the reported backdrop of the President of the Senate – Godswill Akpabio, securing his claim to the slot, not by the free will of the Senators, but through a trade-off with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, at the Presidential Primaries of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Reportedly, the deal was that Akpabio would drop his interest in the office of the President and support Tinubu who would in turn support the latter. The rest as is said, is now history.

This was why there was a rage of protests from the likes of Senator Abdulazeez Yari, who defied the ‘consensus’ claim of the APC establishment to run against Akpabio. Beyond Yari featured a series of protests by other Senators and Members of the House of Representatives as the anomalous, handpicking outings in the two chambers did not go down well with them, for the simple reason that crass impunity and tacit exclusion of a wide cross-section of them as stakeholders, were procured to drive home the dictates of so called ‘consensus’.   

The great English playwright William Shakespeare titled one of  his classic plays ‘All is well that ends well’, and which has a plot that features the adventures of some twisted characters who engaged in not too glamorous escapades, but which for the benevolence of providence, still enjoyed the dividend of a happy ending. An appreciation of the start-up of the Tenth National Assembly, with a leadership structure that is defined by the process of hand-picking (with all its offerings of the good bad and ugly tendencies), provides cause for concern given the ubiquitous Nigerian factor. While hand-picking may have been justified by the  lure of gaining speed in setting up house, the lessons of history – in fact Nigeria’s recent legislative history and for that matter – the immediate past Ninth National Assembly, have proved that speed and handpicking, may not always lead to the best outcomes in the country’s political space. The immediate past Ninth National Assembly is a ready example where hand picking of leadership of the nation’s central legislature provided serial compromise in its enterprise.  

It is on the strength of this point that the play-out of handpicking the emergence of the leadership of the Tenth National Assembly is riddled with danger signs. With the serial protests by aggrieved members at virtually every stage of the process, Nigerians have enough cause to worry over what type of legislature the Tenth National Assembly is turning out to be. And from the look of things, there still remains the need to read the ‘Riot Act’ to the institution, with the hope that such may help to steer it in the proper direction. 

To reconcile with the proper direction for the Tenth National Assembly, is what the country needs and is clearly spelt out in the Constitution. The basis for concern is defined by the fact that if in the routine process of producing its leadership, the Tenth National Assembly can waive off the surfeit of statutory procedures just to serve the parochial interests of its leading lights, can it be trusted not to push self-serving considerations in circumstances where the resolution of thorny national issues will depend on an altruistic disposition towards national interests? Moreover, will the presently bypassed actors and interests be disposed to fall in line just like that without much ado when their buy-in will matter most? 

The merit of these questions and may be more like them, derives from the reality that time changes everything, just as the present administration of President Bola Tinubu has started to demonstrate a deviation from the ways of the past Muhamadu Buhari era. Likewise, the reception of Nigerians to the Bola Tinubu era, will be different from that of its predecessor. 

However, the foregoing notwithstanding, even with the leadership of the Tenth National Assembly having been established under the circumstances of handpicked or ‘arrangee’ dispensation, Nigerians in their hard-pressed condition, are now looking forward to nothing less than the delivery of good governance, by which ever means the National Assembly hopes to work such out with the executive arm.  In the face of the burning issues of the day such as insecurity, economic strangulation of the masses, regional instances of insurgency, political turbulence and others, all that Nigerians want for now, is a happy ending with every government policy outing, which only a united Tenth National Assembly can achieve.


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