It’s Safe to Back Away

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After hitting the roof, following the number of its legislators that switched political party loyalty, mainly to the People’s Democratic Party, the leadership of the All Progressives Congress may have come to terms with the fact that it lacks the majority needed to take control of the National Assembly and this accounts for the relative peace in the federal legislature, writes Shola Oyeyipo

It is an established fact that politics is a game of number, but very importantly, it is also a game of timing and planning. There are many actions that must be taken at appropriate times and they must be well planned.

To say the relative peace in the National Assembly is simply a graveyard peace, is stating the obvious because indications are there to show that given the opportunity, the ruling party will remove the National Assembly leadership.

Contrary to expectations, both chambers of the National Assembly resumed from their fourth annual recess and quietly settled down to legislative businesses, as if all is well, but that is far from the truth. Each side of the divide is simply aiming at the other’s jugular and waiting for the appropriate time to go for the kill.

Judging from the attempted invasion of the National Assembly that led to the sack of former Director General of SSS in August and the position of the duo of the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yusuf Lasun and the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan at the party’s recent national convention, it is clear that the ruling party is embittered that the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara are both in the opposition and they would do anything to remove them.

At the special national convention of the APC held in Abuja penultimate weekend, Lawan and Lasun told the gathering that the ruling party has a clear majority. In fact, banking on their so-called majority the duo vowed to ensure that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security budget proposals are passed, forcibly, if needs be.

Apparently, the two men were simply blowing hot air. If the APC had even a slim chance, the party would not have thought twice about removing Saraki, and Dogara upon resumption of plenary. The plan to remove Saraki and Dogara may not fly on the floor of the National Assembly as it may be difficult to muster the constitutionally required two-third legislators to sack them.

Hon. Mohammed Monguno (Borno State-APC) puts the issue in clearer perspective when he said upon resumption of the National Assembly that: “My advice is that the Senate President and the Speaker, House of Representatives should honourably resign since they have changed the party on which platform they were elected.”

He opined that being opposition lawmakers and minority in the National Assembly, their leadership, “Is going to affect core legislative duties because the manifesto of the party they belong to is in conflict with the ruling party and it will affect the agenda of the ruling party. And that may lead to sabotage.”

He feels it was honourbale for the Speaker to simply step down and allow somebody else take charge of the House of Representatives, but his demand showed clearly that the ruling party was only waiting for an appropriate time to act, because when asked if the APC would remove the leaders, Monguno said: “If we can muster the majority, we are going to remove them.”

Monguno’s position put side-by-side the position of the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who in August, vowed that there would be no going back over plan to remove Saraki after his defection to PDP, was indicative of the party’s plan to oust the duo of Sarki and Dogara.

“If they have only 49, and the APC have 56, they will tell us anywhere in the world, where the minority will produce the leaders of the House. We cannot be subjected to a minority rule in Nigeria. Whether Senator Saraki likes it or not, he can only take the part of honour by allowing the APC to take its rightful leadership of the Senate. If not, he would be removed lawfully and democratically,” Oshiomohle boasted.

“As the governing party, we are committed to leading with example. Everything we do we ensure is in the provisions of the law, including the impeachment of Senator Saraki.”

Suddenly, the APC has changed its stand. The party seems ready to work peacefully under the opposition leadership “in national interest.” First, it was the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas (APC), representing Jada/Ganye/Mayo Belwa/Toungo Federal Constituency of Adamawa State) that said the lawmakers have agreed to work together irrespective of party affiliation.

“This House is very calm. The atmosphere is cool; and with our leaders, we have no issues. There is no anxiety. There is no problem between us and our leaders.

“However, as a member of the APC, I will always try to protect my party. There is nothing wrong with that as other members in other parties are expected to do the same. But on national interest, we are on the same page. There is nothing we have done to demonstrate that there is a problem,” he stated, stressing that members of the lower chamber of the National Assembly have similarly agreed to give necessary support to the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect was the sudden turnaround of Senate Leader Lawan, who had always said that his party has 53 senators, PDP has 49, African Democratic Congress (ADC) has three, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has two, and two vacant seats. Like Namdas, he said the lawmakers were more focused on upholding national interest than pursuing personal or partisan agenda of impeachment of a member and therefore are not putting the agenda to remove Saraki in the front burner.

That was his latest position at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where he said: “We must be nationalistic; we must put national interest above individual, parochial or partisan interests. We definitely have to bury our hatchet for us to work for Nigeria and Nigerians; and perhaps that might have informed the disappointment of many people who thought there will be crisis in the National Assembly.”

As good as the position taken by the APC lawmakers may sound, Hon. Sergius Ogun (Edo State-PDP), said it may be an exercise in futility and unnecessary. He emphasised that no party has the constitutional requirement to embark on the venture, “No party has the 210-majority needed to remove the House of Representatives leadership and that should be the last thing on anybody’s mind.”

However, the Dogara leadership in the lower chamber has been assertive. Upon resumption, he vowed that federal lawmakers will resist any attempt to continue to frustrate the enactment of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, particularly the use of card readers for the 2019 elections. The House also threatened to suspend plenary when one of its members, Hon. Abubakar Abdulahi Lado (APC) was held in detention by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) arm of the Nigeria Police. He was quickly released the following day.

While a significant number of Nigerians have their eyes on the executive – legislature relationship, virtually every Nigerian is waiting with keen interest to see what becomes of the Eight Assembly, in the long run.