Nigerians have always known that some Nigerian politicians are hypocrites. What most Nigerians did not, however, envisage is that hypocrisy in politics would be elevated to a ridiculous level, the way it is being witnessed today, under the All Progressives Congress, APC-led administration.
Although, there are several instances that lay credence to the above assertion, nothing exposes the party’s stalwarts’ hypocrisy, like its public display of anger on the emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu, as the Deputy President of the Senate, only on the basis of him not being a member of the ruling party.
Historically speaking, apart from 2003, and perhaps 2011, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which was the ruling party from 1999 to 2015, had never on its own produced the Senate leadership. In 1999 for instance, then President Olusegun Obasanjo preferred Senator Evan (s) Enwerem of blessed memory, while his deputy, then Vice President Atiku Abubakar, preferred Senator Chuba Wilberforce Okadigbo, also of blessed memory. In the end, Obasanjo shifted the inauguration of the 4th National Assembly by a few days, mobilized all Alliance for Democracy, AD, Senators, led by Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfewa, for Enwerem, and with the support of some PDP Senators, Okadigbo, who was highly rated to beat Enwerem, was shockingly defeated. The rest is history.
Again, in 2007, after the PDP met and endorsed Senator David Mark, as its preferred candidate, the North-Central zone, with the support of chief Tony Anenih, met and decided to challenge the position. In all, the group lined up three candidates to slug it out with Mark on the floor of the Senate.
In a well played out script, as allegedly dictated by Chief Tony Anenih (Daboh later confirmed the allegation in his petition to President Umaru Musa
Yar’Adua), once nomination for the election was opened, Senators George Akume, Nuhu Aliyu and Gbemisola Saraki were all nominated one after the other, in that order, after Mark’s nomination.
As soon as the nominations were brought to a close, Senator Aliyu urged the then Clerk of the National Assembly, Nasir Ibrahim Arab, who presided over the session to interpret the Rule of the Senate regarding issue of ranking, vis-à-vis Senate leadership position, which ordinarily should have disqualified Akume from contesting the position, since he was coming to the Senate for the first time.
But the Clerk simply said “we will not go into that, we have passed that stage and since there is no room for debate, we will not talk about that. The vote will be by simple majority.” Meaning that, you will not by the Rules of the 5th Senate, disqualify Akume from vying as a fresh Senator for the presidency of the 6th Senate!
As soon as the Clerk concluded his remark, Senator Aliyu again got up to say “in that case, I am withdrawing my nomination, I will support Akume.”
His action was greeted with applause from virtually all those who belonged to the same camp with him and Akume.
Again the Clerk said “if you’re withdrawing from the race, say so and do so without saying I support so, so and so.” He had hardly concluded his remark, when Senator Gbemisola Saraki too stood up to say she was equally withdrawing from the race.
In the end, all the Senators from Niger, Edo, Kwara and the remaining two from Benue, including all the former governors of Jigawa, Kebbi, Zamfara, Yobe and Kaduna, were among the Senators that voted against Mark, in support of Akume.
But in the end, Mark, with the support of some opposition Senators, went ahead to floor Akume by 68 to 39 votes. I covered these events of the 5thSenate as Sun Newspaper’s Senate Correspondent; as such I was a live witness to all that transpired before and during the election on the floor of the Senate.
The only difference between what happened in the past and what played out, in the last Senate inauguration, was the fact that the President, Muhammad Buhari, refused to show open sympathy and preference, for any of the candidates for the position.
However, some party leaders did take sides, with former Lagos Governor and a national leader of the APC, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, backing the Lawan/Akume ticket openly. And, many say he did that not necessarily because he believes the ticket was the best per se, in the circumstances the nation finds itself, but largely to make the emergence of another Yoruba and Lagosian, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, seamless.
Interestingly, in 2011, the then Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, backed Honourable Waziri Tambuwal, against the zoning arrangement of the PDP, to make him emerge as Speaker. Truth is, if the party had had the foresight then, it could as well, had produced Tambuwal’s Deputy, because the party had the capacity, to so do. If it failed to think outside the box then, why should it blame the PDP for its political foresight and sagacity, which saw it producing the Deputy President of the Senate now?
Today, it is convenient for some of the chieftains of the party to ask Ekweremadu to resign or orchestrate his political trial simply because he is the Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate, under the ruling APC. But when Tambuwal defected (from the PDP) to the APC, under the then ruling PDP, all the notable leaders of the party, including Lai Mohammed who was the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, stated clearly that there was nowhere in the constitution where it was stated that the Speaker (of the House of Representatives) must be produced by the majority party and that bi-partisan NASS leadership was good for the nation and showed that our democracy was growing. Even Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, then Minority Leader and now Majority Leader of the House, defended this same position, at the slightest opportunity, saying it was constitutional in synch with presidential democracy.
The question Nigerians should ask these hypocrites is what has now changed? The constitution has not been rewritten; and it is very clear that, it says” Senators shall elect the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President from amongst themselves.”
Thank God the first female Speaker, produced by Oyo State House of Assembly, Senator Monsurat Jumoke Sunmonu is now in the Senate, she knows about this kind of working arrangement better. At the inauguration of the seventh House in 2011, under the first tenure of Governor Abiola Ajimobi, the 32-Member Assembly had 13 ACN members, 12 PDP and 7 Accord members respectively. But Mrs. Sunmonu emerged Speaker, and the PDP, which should ordinarily have produced her deputy, was sidelined. Instead, the party went into an alliance with the Accord Party, and the arrangement saw the Accord Party producing David Olaniyan, representing Ibadan North 1 constituency, as the Deputy Speaker, ahead of the PDP, which was next to the ruling party then, in terms of numerical strength. Because it favours the hypocrites, they say it was democracy in action. Heavens did not fall.
So, why should the heavens collapse now?
Even if we have forgotten the events of 2011, what about what happened in Benue and Plateau States respectively, in this current APC-led administration? At inauguration, the Plateau State House of Assembly had 24 members with PDP having a slight majority of 13 members. However, APC produced the Speaker. Yet, they say, it was democracy in action. The Benue case was no different. PDP had the majority in the 30-Member House, yet APC produced Speaker. Chief Oyegun was happy, it happened. But he is bitter that a PDP Senator emerged Deputy President of the Senate, in an APC-led Senate.
From the forgoing, it is clear that it is either some Nigerians do not read about the past, or deliberately ignore the facts of history. But as we navigate through the current APC-led government, Nigerians especially, those of the APC extraction must check their conscience and speak the truth at all times, even if it hurts. As Othman Dan Fodio said, conscience is an open wound and only truth could heal it. Indeed, only truth can help grow our democracy to the envy of the international community.
–– Omipidan is a Special Assistant (Media) to the Deputy President of the Senate and can be reached on email@example.com