By Malachy Ugwummadu
Party discipline and party supremacy are twin determinant factors that provide effective guide for party cohesion and coordination towards set goals and objectives. These cardinal ingredients of party politics have eluded most political formations in Nigeria in recent history and in many ways have led to their failures and defeats at elections. Within this context, the nation, at large and across party lines witnessed a renewed vive and consciousness when the brand new chairman of the APC, Mr. Adams Oshiohmole recently issued a marching order to the substantive Minister of Labour and productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige to “constitute” and “inaugurate” statutory boards of his ministry with a clear threat to sack or cause the sack of the affected ministers. In his view, they had all abused the continued indulgence of Mr. President against stated party positions. Obviously, these threats, promptly rejected by the concerned minister were dismissed as statements made out of ignorance. It goes beyond the question of ignorance or arrogance and raises fundamental issues of law, procedure, processes, leadership style, rules of political engagements and general approach to party politics. For want of space, let us focus on the legal perspectives and party dynamics.
S. 147(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) suffers no ambivalence whatsoever when it proclaimed that the President has the power to appoint a Minister of the Federation of Nigeria. It provides thus: “Any appointment to the office of the Minister of the Government of the Federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the Senate, be made by the President”
The other critical role to be played in the appointment process of a minister is by the Senate of the National Assembly which shall be the confirming authority under S. 147(2). Indeed, by subsection 1 of Section 147 of the Constitution, Mr. President has the powers to create and establish such offices of ministers of the federation as he deems appropriate for the effective administration of the Federation. Besides, it is a trite principle of Labour law and labour relations that it is only he who hires that can “fire”. Conversely, if you did not hire, you cannot “fire”. Where then will Mr. Oshiohmole derive his powers to sack a sitting Minister other than the sphere of influence which he wields or possibly would wield in the entire APC political calculus? Surely, the chairman of a party is expected to enforce party discipline and compliance through decisive actions and activities.
This has eluded virtually all the political parties in Nigeria including the ruling party which has come under the weight of serious political indiscretion and arbitrariness where members of the cabinet act at cross purposes. It manifested in the general absence of a coordinated Government position accentuated by unguarded conflicting responses by state actors and functionaries. At other critical times, and to the embarrassment of the nation, we even observed such contradictions in the views expressed by both the President and the Vice President all of the same Presidency. It became worse, when inter-government agencies and departments of the same Executive arm of Government particularly the DSS and EFCC declared an all-out war against each other playing into the hands of a hostile Senate of National Assembly where the “hawks, Jackals and hyena” waited patiently to feast on the confusion created in the absence of party discipline and supremacy. It was immaterial that the leadership and control of Nigerian bicameral legislature was well vested in members of the same ruling political party. The nation suffered much more than that, as the APC administration hardly got anything done on record time underscoring the depth of the friction. Passage of successive Appropriation Acts repeatedly defied party consensus. We witnessed serious opposition to the policies of government by principal officers of the same ruling party. More than half the controversies and disagreements at the National Assembly, within the time under review, clearly had nothing to do with the lot of Nigerians and could’ve been averted thereby save precious legislative time and resources. It was possible if we had a functional ruling political party where party positions are conceived, debated and resolved before they are thrown to the larger state structure of parliament where party affiliations and partisan loyalty dominate discussions. Thus far, it has proved very difficult for the APC government to pursue and see through requests for Supplementary Appropriation Acts, Virament or even an innocuous Executive Orders without stiff opposition from members of their own political party save to add that I personally disapproved Executives Order No 6 for very obvious constitutional reasons.
The objective conditions to be considered in adequately appraising the state of affairs in the ruling party is not what the party stands to gain or loose by the present political developments but the inherent capacity it has to reinvent and recreate its professed ideals in the circumstance that it finds itself. This was precisely what informed and reinforced the choice of Adams Oshiohmole as against the former super permanent secretary, pro-democracy activist, acclaimed administrator and former governor of Edo.
The problem with APC has a provenance. It is with its conception, compositions and defining objectives at formation. APC was conceived right in the womb of a convoluted political environment largely defined by the ineptitude, graft, avarice and impunity of the Peoples Democratic Party. Its composition was hurried coupled together from clearly strange participants and actors who stuck to their conceited convictions even if they pretended to be of the progressive hue with an avowed bent for welfarist ideological leaning. In no time, the pretence became their albatross, nay stasis of the APC for they could no longer sustain the hypocritical pretences that railroaded most of them into positions of authority. In effect, there was not remarkable difference between the members of the PDP, N-PDP, APC and now R APC. How could they have been? When all that mattered then was the perfunctory claims by new entrants into the APC family that they have now repented and regret their role in PDP (including those who confessed to rigging, bribing and corrupting electoral processes on national television).
Certainly, it increased the political capital of the APC but also created the background for the present implosion as we now have it. Although, the advertised objectives of APC anchored around the mantra of change were carefully packaged to appeal to Nigerian as a calculated response to the failures of the PDP, it was not all that mattered as they also incurred the wrath of the Nigeria electorates who could not fathom the apparently seamless ease with which Senate President and Senate Ike Ekweremadu operated yet, could not foster similar co-existence between the same Senate President and members of his own political party even on threshold policy issues and programmes. Nigerians could not help but wonder how the leadership of the legislature easily mobilized a critical number of parliamentarians across party lines to scuttle party programmes and projects. Oshiomhole’s aggressive style therefore resonates within the circles of disillusioned Nigerians who realize that APC is presently stung by the same bug of indiscipline, indiscretion and impunity they have come to cure, yet he may not go far giving that the party has missed numerous opportunities to reclaim its integrity and remedy its battered image oxygenated by power blocks within the presidency one of whom has just been axed.
Anyone in doubt must come to terms with the fact that the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris consistently flouted the directives of the President to stem the spate of killings in the country including his refusal to relocate to Benue State in the wake of the massacre of Seventy-Three innocent souls, yet he is still the IG of Police till date and regularly consulted to fix security issues.
Such doubting Thomas must be reminded that one Abdulrasheed Maina former Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms and now fugitive of the law, was surreptitiously smuggle back into the civil service even after he was indicted and against valid advice by the Head of Service. Yet he was reinstated into the bloated civil service, given double promotion and paid about 15million in entitlement. Heads did not roll, instead, we heard him loud and clear when he gave further details of the actual locus of power in Nigeria. He even played host to the chief law office on Nigeria, Mallam Malami SAN in Dubai about the same time that he was declared wanted by the EFCC and we simply papered over it all. Could we have all forgotten in our present state of induced National amnesia, the conspiracy of the ruling class represented by the present power broker at the Aso Rock that made it impossible for Babachir Lawal to be shown the exit door until his continued stay in office fundamentally depleted the integrity quotient of the ruling party? Recall that this was after the presidential Panel headed by the Vice President himself turned in their report indicting the former Secretary of the Federation of Nigeria and after Nigerians rose as one to demand his exit.
In same vein, the nation is still very miffed that the substantive Minister of Finance Madam Kemi Adeosun is still in her office and representing this country even at international fora when she has expressly acknowledged and conceded to the illegality surrounding her NYSC certificate scandal.
On August 7th, 2018, the nation woke to the rude shock that the hallowed premises of the National Assembly came directly under brute force, siege and attacks by men and officers of the Directorate of State Security. It is a known consensus that Acting President Yemi Osibanjo got the endorsement of his boss to sack the DG, DSS yet it cannot be denied that President Buhari would still have been assembling, gathering reports, information and weighing his options carefully if he was around. Moving forward, the ruling party must go beyond the euphoria of the moment and manage the debilitating crisis within its fold in a more practical manner that can return the fortunes of power to the people who are the repositories of Nigerian sovereign power under S. 14(2)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended).
Malachy Ugwummadu is a Legal Practitioner and the National President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR)