The 9th Senate: The Authority of a Party’s Voice


Too many times when I read of the internal rebellion in some of our leading political parties, Icannot but remember the firm and unchallenged authority with which the likes of Chief Meredith Adisa Akinloye or Chief Obafemi Awolowo ruled and managed the affairs of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) or Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN),respectively, in the second republic.

It was considered an aberration and an unacceptable height of intransigence for a party member to rise against the decision of the party after it had been endorsed by either Akinloye or Awolowo. Not even a President Shehu Shagari, in all his executive splendor and might, will fail to be on the same page with Akinloye on crucial national issues, as defined by the NPN. Such was the peremptory obedience the party commanded at the time.

But sadly, all that discipline seems to have gone, asthey say, with those good old days.

And that explains why today, there is a fierce fightin the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over whether the party’s position on the zoning arrangement on the leadership of the National Assembly come June, will be obeyed or torpedoed by the legislative radicals of the party.

Already, many ambitious members are threatening sulphur and brimstone if they are not allowed to contest on the floor of the National Assembly for the various offices of their choice. They have even contemplated teaming up with the opposition to have their way. Their argument is that the legislature, as an independent arm of government, should be allowed to choose its leadership without interference from any quarters, not even the party’s apparatchik.

Logical and democratic as the argument seems, those pinning hard on this prism may be reminded that a river, no matter how long and wide, that does not pay homage to its source and fountain will soon dry up.

Did any of the vaunting members now challenging the authority of the party not become whom they are because the party, once decided and approved of their candidacy? Did their candidacy at the time, not displace the ambition of some other person? It is thus selfish and narrow-minded for elected lawmakers to suddenly think and believe that they are strong enough to undertake the race alone. Sooner or later, they will realize that they need grace for the race. The missing “g” before the “race” is the god factor, which, in this context, is the party.

The grace comes from the blessing, approval and support of the party.

No doubt, the belief that the position of the party can be ignored may have been fuelled by the dark antics that produced the leadership of the 8th senate.The consequence of that roughshod ride by the National Assembly is all too glaring for all to see.

Yes, Senator Bukola Saraki survived four full years of leadership of the senate, it was more or less a pyrrhic victory, as no senate president, before now, had ever suffered as much traducing as he did. And this is in many sense.

The sheer humiliation and distraction of a sitting senate president frequently shuttling between the number three seat and the dock, is itself as befuddling as it is vitiating of the office.

The cat and rat relationship between the executive and legislative arms of government which characterised the last four years explains the poor governance benefits to the larger majority of Nigerians. Both arms of government held each other in perpetual suspicion and distrust. In fact, they operated in adversarial mode.

Imagine that the 2019 fiscal budget was only passed few days ago, thus defeating the determination to return to the January to December budget cycle, with all the concomitant drawbacks.The sad thing is that at the end of the day/year, when the budget is poorly implemented, it is the masses that suffer, not the political elite. But the elite is the cause of the misery of the people.

That is thus, not a path to be followed again.

The point had been made that the leadership of the APC should have the good sense of applying the rapproachment style in persuading elected lawmakers on what and how the party wants the leadership to be, and not talking down on the lawmakers like a village headmaster trying to intimidate timid school boys.

But even more than that, the APC leadership should be seen to be fair and nationalistic in the allocation of leadership positions, and more importantly, with the active participation of the lawmakers themselves and other stakeholders.

One reason Akinloye and co were firm and easily obeyed at the time was because their actions were largely seen in the light of fairness and justice, as oppression breeds rebellion.

The National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, a man sufficiently schooled in the act of negotiation, as a veteran labour leader, must put his persuasive experience and tact to use this time around. There should be no take-it-or-leave-it fixation. The arbitrariness that dwarfed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should not be one of the vices of the APC.

Nigeria must be the final denominator in all the decisions to be taken. The check should always be to examine if it will ultimately make Nigeria better and greater.

The greatest warrior is the one who gets back home with head unbroken, even if there are few strokes of lacerations.

All said, all aspiring members of the legislature must be guided by the overall good of Nigeria. 59 years is enough time for national tutelage. Let the growth and goodness of Nigeria begin. It starts from having patriotic leaders even in the National Assembly.