By ‘Gbade Ojo (Ph.D)
A coup in civil-military relations parlance is no doubt a mutiny by the military intended to take over the reigns of power; an illegal action by a person and a group of persons to overthrow an existing regime and to establish themselves in power. Such action could be violent or peaceful, in whatever guise, a coup is a coup. A proper reflection of the national assembly saga is undoubtedly a civilian coup against the ruling party.
This piece is not intended to cast aspersion on any one but a simple guide for the Nigerian State, more so, that the newly ‘elected’ or do I say ‘selected’ Senate President along with his co-travellers in the House of Representatives are eminently qualified to occupy both positions. For Dr. Bukola Saraki, the head of Saraki dynasty from Ilorin Emirate was a two team governor of Kwara State (2008 – 2011) and a second timer in the senate too. In essence, he has got the required experience as a Politician. Hon Dogara Yakubu too from Bauchi State is not new in the parliament. Thus, their competence or integrity is not the concern of dispassionate Nigerians but rather the way and manner by which they emerged which has not only alienated them from the party that fielded them as candidates but putting the toga of a quislin on the two recalcitrant party members who threw caution into the winds simply because of their inordinate ambitions.
The June 9, occurrence couldn’t have being an issue but because of the fear of setting bad precedent. As a social scientist posterity and societal guidance is imperative though a number of commentators and putting up cum clumsy arguments. I have waited a while to collate the diverse strands of arguments by commentators before putting this piece up. For some the ‘coup’ was staged against the Jagabon, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, who has no doubt become a colossus of sort in Nigerian and politics. For some others, the coup was successful because Mr. President himself – Muhammadu Buhari – did not demonstrate sufficient political sagacity or keen interest to truncate the onslaught of the party rebels. Another set of people most especially the PDP which suddenly found itself in opposition clout argued that the ruling APC did not sufficiently prepare for the business of governance. Another set of Nigerians are of the view that the governors that defected along with their cohorts in the Senate and House of Representatives were grossly underrated vis-à-vis their capacity to rock the boat. While party leaders are aghast that the time test principles of party supremacy and discipline have been rubbished.
Be that as it may, the emergence of Saraki and Dogara is a bad omen and will not augur well for the nascent democracy. Their party made its intention known on its choice of candidates for the principal officers’ position of the National Assembly. In their wisdom, the party leaders must have taken into consideration ethnic and religious cleavages into consideration so that the process of national integration may not be jeopardized. But for Saraki, Dogara and their acolytes, their ‘blind’ ambition necessitated the ‘Coup’ against their party. Considered against constitutionality and legality, the process cannot be faulted, but morally which is another realm, the beneficiaries are not at rest neither are they comfortable in their new positions. If the argument of that Indian great Political Scientist – Appadoria – is anything to go by that ‘what is morally wrong, cannot be politically right’ the duo may not go with clear conscience having betrayed their party, which did not only announced its intention but went ahead to conduct mock election. Agreed that morality is a relative concept, but flouting party directives consistently may not give the culprits good image as party men.
Nonetheless, the consequential effects of the ‘coup’ are legion. First and foremost, the duo are now experiencing legitimacy crisis both from the large chunk of their colleagues that were schemed out of the floor of senate while the consensus coup was on and the party hierarchy that have been rubbished by attitudes of the renegades so to say. What is the beauty in an office one occupies with the fear of the unknown on daily basis? The high figure of well over 50 Senators that could not participate in the sham election is enough to destabilize the House if they are perpetually in a state of melancholy combined with the attitude of their party leaders that might have opted for the option of dealing with Saraki and Dogara with arms length.
The emergence of the duo expectedly has expectedly resulted into legislative immobilism. The election of other principal officers has been as controversial as the earlier ones. The fact of the matter is simply that APC is in this mess primarily because it lacks overwhelming majority in the parliament. In Senate composition of 109 Senators and distribution after election of 59 APC excluding the dead one, and 49 PDP then, the ruling party need to struggle for 2/3 majority for crucial decisions! Likewise in House of Representatives, APC has 214 members, PDP 125 elected members with 10 others from minor parties. Similarly to secure 2/3 in the Reps the ruling party equally need to negotiate with other parties. This kind of a picture is that of what we call ‘hung parliament’ in legislative parlance.
It is a kind of delicate balance in which if care is not taken any obstinate party member could go into negotiation and ‘unholy’ alliance with any opposition party to either destabilize the house or politically survive to the detriment of the ruling party. It is however incumbent on the party leadership to correct the anomaly and device strategies to prevent a re-occurrence in future being a bad precedent.
Without gainsaying, the national assembly saga has thrown up another challenge of power configuration. A correct reading and interpretation of chapter 2, section 14 subsection (3) of the 1999 constitution stipulate that “…there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government.” This is in line with the principle of federal character. But the current power matrix with Mr. President coming from Kastina State in North West, Yakubu Dogara, from North – East in Bauchi and Dr. Bukola Saraki of Kwara – State in North Central geopolitical zone definitely made the appointments to be skewed in favour of the North while Yorubas who equally voted massively for APC are alienated.
Perhaps, this realization made the hawks to pick Ike Eweremadu as Deputy Senate President and Hon. Lasun Yusuff from Osun State as deputy speaker – both spear tyres – in a system where to be second in command is a curse.
The hullabaloo in the national assembly is a needless distraction. It has gradually begun to hamper the work of the parliament. Nigerians are clamoring for change which necessitated voting enmasse for president Buhari. Now that the forces that may not be instrument of drastic change are in the political firmament, then, the system may slow down. For instance how could President Buhari send list of ministerial nominees to a parliament that is currently beleaguered?
Moreover, Nigerians are watching and anxiously waiting with bated breath how the national assembly logjam is resolved. No doubt, pragmatic solution may be painful but the party cannot afford to disappoint Nigerians. Presently, a number of commentators are blaming the ruling party (APC), while not holding brief for party leaders, I surmise that political class deserves castigation more than the party. Nigerians that desire change may eventually breathe a sigh of relief if the crisis is resolved in good time.
Conclusively the issue of sanction contemplated by the party may not achieve the desired goal. To sanction a party member for nurturing political ambition either in the legislative or executive arm of government may be antithetical to democratic canons and virtue. To wriggle out of the political cobwebs for now is not easy but attainable. All things being equal, the two dramatic personae who threw their hats into the ring damning the consequences may be asked to step down after a while, but definitely not now. To tolerate the current configuration till 2019 could be big risk for the ruling party. However, the party needs to have learnt enormous lessons from the ugly scenario in future by ensuring that they do their homework very well. Any candidate that is popular like Saraki among his colleagues may be tolerated or else good hands may be having feeling of denial that may drive them away from the party. PDP had similar experience and big guns left the party in droves. Party crisis management is a different skill entirely. APC cannot afford to let Nigerians down.
Dr. ‘Gbade Ojo teaches Political Science at the University of Ilorin and immediate past Special Adviser on Political Matters to Governor Ajimobi of Oyo State. He sent in this piece via email@example.com