By Shakiru Yekinni Ayinde
What played out on the floor of the Nigeria’s Senate at the election of principal officers of the 8th National Assembly may be the beginning of the political ‘fiasco’ that someobervers have predicted would rock the APC.
Out of the four major offices in the Senate [Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Minority Leader], the PDP – despite its seeming lack of readiness to function as an effective opposition party- won three and a half of the positions, leaving just half to the APC, that is, Bukola Saraki who is half APC, half PDP.
Also in the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos lost out to Yakubu Dogara from Bauchi. This, to political watchers, is a good check against the perceived growing influence and domination of APC’s foremost national leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. However what is at play is beyond these kinds of assertions.
As expected, reactions have been trailing the exercise, the bulk of which included lamentations as to how the APC, despite its acclaimed ‘sagacity’ could have allowed ‘decampees’ from a party (the PDP), rejected by most Nigerians and seen by many as the ‘enemy’ of the people, to emerge at the top of the Legislature.
Some have even forgotten the fact that Saraki is an APC member and did not just worked for the APC in Kwara state. His influence as claimed by some was also felt in the neighboring states of Kogi and Niger.
However, these are outcomes of political permutations whose reality in the Nigerian scenario is calculated only towards self and group interest.
*Grasping the reality of politics*
Thus the common Nigerian who feels ‘betrayed’ by theses outcomes, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on media,[ Shehu Sanni] who faulted the outcomes of the election as well as the President, all demonstrated a common trait of political naivety!
This is the political shrewdness of the Sarakis which shows clearly the difference between the PDP and the APC- and this is where Nigerians should begin to grasp the reality of politics and politicking!
To start with, Saraki’s emergence was seen by some as a ‘palace coup’ against the wish of many among his own party members. Reports had it that at the time he was emerging as the President of the Senate, with 57 members casting the ballot out of 109 his colleagues from the APC who would have stood against his ambition were attending a meeting (a belated one if you wish) supposedly called by the President on how to resolve the lingering stalemate in the Senate over the same issue, with Saraki also expected in attendance.
That this kind of ‘trick’ could be pulled against the collective of those perceived as the more genuine, innermost members of the APC leaves one to wonder whether these ‘victims’ (for actually that is what they have become) really appreciates the meaning of politics, the circumstances of the victory of their party at the polls, the vigilance required to sustain themselves in power, and the enormity of the task with regard to their promises to Nigerians, particularly on fighting corruption.
An assessment of the victory of the APC at the polls which places its success squarely on the Buhari phenomenon is now being shown to be misleading. At par with that is the implosion from within the PDP which saw its members leaving in droves to join the APC.
In fact, the APC should now realize that though the political structure and machinery of the ACN of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Buhari’s unblemished character had been the building block of the party from inception, those who ‘pulled’ down the PDP, the ‘platform’ with which for 16 years the ruling elites have held Nigerians to ransom, are a factor without which the task of unseating a ruling party and government would have been utterly impossible.
Amateurish or treacherous
Thus the decision of President Muhammad Buhari to keep aloof of events in that chamber is either amateurish or treacherous. Amateurish, if indeed what took place was without his knowledge and treacherous if that meeting of the APC senators was actually called by him.
ut going by what we know of PMB, treachery is not his stock in trade, more so, when it was being denied that he did not actually call the meeting, he was only billed to be in attendance.
While one is not recommending a muscling of the Legislature as done by OBJ during his tenure, leaving that arm of government to men who continue to recycle themselves merely for selfish interest is far more detrimental than the OBJ’s approach.
And this is where one begins to fear for this old gentleman that something similar to what happened to him some 30 years ago may have began again, all due to his lack of understanding of the intricacies, not just of politics, but of the human nature.
After being invited to head the military regime which toppled the Shagari administration in 1983, then GMB failed to read the motives of one of his own subordinates – IBB- who would later overthrow him and plunge the country into a protracted military rule.
The reason for which the coup was plotted against him seemed now to be at play again, as it was said at the time, that IBB was to be retired for some terrible ‘offences’.
In a scenario to which the absence of the legislators was similar, GMB’s most trusted lieutenant, Tunde Idiagbon was made to vacate the scene of governance with a ploy that he leads Nigerian pilgrims to Mecca which paved the way for IBB to unseat GMB’s government!
Does PMB think that those who gave birth to, fed, nurtured and groomed corruption to a level of statecraft would allow him dip their most beloved ‘baby’ in the cesspool? Or does he think that the acclaimed goodwill he enjoys is shared by all Nigerians, particularly, the adroit politicians, many of who have the burdens of corruption cases tied to their necks?
Another interpretation that could have been given to the unfolding drama particularly by ethnic jingoists is that PMB’s silence was deliberately targeted at allowing his ‘northern’ brothers take over major positions to the detriment of the ‘South’, knowing pretty well the sensitivity of ethnicity and religion in the Nigerian politics.
This is why belated actions from the Presidency especially on political issues needing urgent attention will not augur well for his administration.
As it is, this lackluster performance of the ‘core’ APC members at the election exercise of the National Assembly may be the first stepping stone for the PDP to regroup and launch a counter, if as it may later turn out to be, many of them who have corruption cases to answer felt threatened by the dragnet of PMB.
With this new reality, the least one can say is that the two processes of law making and governance (since the custodians of the two functions – the Legislature and the Executive – need one another to function properly) are going to be tough if not contentious.
For instance, a touted Buhari proposal for a reduction by half in salaries and allowances of all political office holders, including members of the National Assembly may either not see the light of the day or get ‘watered down’ as usual in a Senate where Saraki, Ike Ekweremadu and David Mark call the shots.
Moreover, one is not oblivious of the fact that even the so called core APC is not populated by saints and that the average Nigerian politician sees politics as an investment for which returns must be huge.
Hence altruistic ‘exercises’ of leading by example, especially when politicians’ pockets are going to be leaner may have PMB as the only ‘athlete’. In fact, if PMB does not act in time to bring in seasoned experts on politics to shore up his government and agenda, he may at the end either become bogged down by altercations or unable to complete his tenure.
As for Nigerians who are watching the unfolding drama, it should be clear now that it is highly fallacious to place the ‘hope’ of an entire nation on the shoulders of one man or some individuals. Great countries have always had their period of mass mobilization for positive political actions, the gains of which are usually invested in institutions of the society, as instruments for checkmating and monitoring the excesses of power and its wielders.
Nigeria cannot afford to be different. Whatever may be the good intentions of PMB, we must play our role of checking our political office holders through highly responsive civil society groups, sufficient public enlightenment, adequate political education and informed social response if we must have a decent society.
After all, Eternal vigilance, they say, is the price of liberty.
Ayinde is the Executive Director, Center for Global Peace Initiative [CGPI], Lagos