WHY MUHAMMADU BUHARI MUST MIND WHO SITS AS SENATE PRESIDENT IN THE EIGHT NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
An Open Letter to the President-elect, Federal Republic of Nigeria
My first open letter to you, my President-elect, was upon a sincere desire to see you get your policy direction right, especially as it concerns vital areas that should benefit the ordinary Nigerian; and on issues of justice and national cohesion.
I cannot sit and watch you make a very vital error, which one of your predecessors, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, made during his first term in office. I will advise you to ask him to tell you his own story; peradventure you will see reasons with my submission in this letter.
I am aware that you have shown consistency in building your life and style around modesty and simplicity. I am also aware of how issues arising from your sincere efforts to see a better Nigeria in your first adventure as Head of State between 1984 and 1985 have caused you pains, slander and the near damage to your hard earned reputation.
I wish to believe that apart from been grateful to God and Nigerians for enabling your second coming as a leader over your country, I see you endeavouring to remedy the impression of some Nigerians that see you as a stern leader. Believe me: you owe no Nigerian any apology for your service during that era. That time required such measures as you exerted.
I am very concern that your desire to exercise care and caution in order to avoid an early mistake in the match to your inauguration as President is already making you shift unnecessary grounds. As President-elect, you should never say you can work with ANY leader(s) the National Assembly throws up.
I agree that ALL members elected to serve in the Eight Assembly are honourable and distinguished men in their rights, but believe me, a few of them are more clever as politician than you are. My President-elect, I see you more as a studious democrat and not a politician.
A few returning members of the National Assembly are shrewd politicians who are essentially pretended democrats, and these ones can prove to be hard nuts to crack when you need to crack nuts in your effort to move Nigeria forward, if you mistakenly look the other way and allow take positions that could stall some of your needed advance: I am just concerned.
Let me give you an example of the direction my warning will take. Recently you received a delegation of the APC serving Governors and those elected; led by the indefatigable Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha, on courtesy visit to you at the Defense House in Abuja, during which two issues were placed before you: recommendations from the States of those who should form the list of your appointees to the Federal Executive Council, and secondly, a request for revenue bail-out to enable States meet their present financial shortages. You outrightly refused both requests. I commend your courage and frankness.
I must confess that many ordinary Nigerians were encouraged by your reply to these demands. This is the caliber of man that you have built yourself to be: to say what you believe as you believe it.
Nevertheless, your frankness and straight-to-the-point reply did not only expose you as a very determined leader, but also as a tactless, straight forward “Nigerian” politician. This is what ordinary Nigerians require from their leaders, but the political class will never see it like the ordinary man.
To them politics does not necessitate “permanent friendship” but “permanent interest”. I therefore realized how vulnerable your innocence and sincerity will set the people who think they “made” you against you. Nevertheless, you should not believe that any politician made you, they all keyed into a divine providence that was waiting to happen.
Coming back to my illustration with the experience of Olusegun Obasanjo: you will recall your comic verbal exchange with the then President during one of the National Council of State meeting, at a time you came down with a mild flu, during the 2002 “the bird flu” pandemic in China.
The President had jokingly asked you if you had just returned from China, and you answered: “I have not been globe-trotting Your Excellency”, directly referring to his abandonment of governance at home and choosing to travel like “Ajala…all over the world”. He almost paid a dare price for leaving Atiku Abubakar in charge of governance, when in 2003 he virtually knelt and begged him for his reelection.
Atiku Abubakar, in the effort to entrench himself as the political leader of the PDP, cleverly warmed himself up to all the PDP governors in the country and cuddled governors of the opposition parties, buying off their allegiances to the leadership of the PDP.
During the National Convention of the PDP in 2002 to elect its flag bearer for the 2003 presidential race, it took a last minute pitiable appeal by Obasanjo to Atiku Abubakar to save him watching the emergence of Alex Ekwueme as the Presidential candidate of the PDP. Subsequent events after this are known to Nigerians with astute political awareness.
The political influence of the governors, erstwhile, serving or elected; in the polity from that time has never been a matter any President takes for granted. They consolidated their hold over the polity and only the refusal of Chief Obasanjo to shift any ground for them during his second term lessen the gravity imposed by this new political power bloc.
I recall how Chief Obasanjo strenuously tucked Orji Uzor Kalu into his mother’s apron; and silenced him for the remaining part of his administration. Atiku Abubakar also paid his own price for been such temporary lord over his boss.
Obasanjo did no wrong in entrusting his powers to his Vice President, it is a constitutional requirement to so do; but then, no President has tried that again: not even an ailing President Umar Musa Yar’adua upon his sick bed in Jeddah, shared power with a brother ex-governor like him. Nigerian politicians, being who they are, require the “stick and carrot” approach to governance.
So you are mistaken, my President-elect, to show no concern about who leads the National Assembly during your administration. Don’t be deceived, even the members-elect to the Eighth assembly wish they could know your mind about their leadership. You must give them leadership here my President-elect; especially over the new comers, lest they are devoured by the returning ones of the nPDP and PDP breed.
I don’t know what led to the creation of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, but I can bet that Atiku Abubakar was more aware of this creation than was Olusegun Obasanjo. Let’s not forget that he started off as a Governor-elect in that administration, and being from the “Shehu’s political school of thought”, he was seen in the PDP as “the leader”, a sort of a forerunner, and Obasanjo as a jobber.
So it was with naked power that Obasanjo bought back his honour as President, instituting the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), making a dare-blooded young police officer its inaugural chairman and set him after all who opposed him. In this effort, not even Mallam Nasir El Rufai spared Atiku Abubakar, who was his benefactor.
Taking a look at the Peoples’ Democratic Party today, please reminisce upon the G32 leaders who created and made the party the envy of political parties during the first part of the Fourth Republic, reminisce on what became of those frame-working leaders today: do they still have any voice in the party or have they been made puppets?
Reminisce also upon the diabolic turns in the “no-love-lost” relationships between every outgoing governor-godfather and their incoming governor-godson, and the present power rebasing of every serving PDP governors. These are all I have to showcase as reasons for my early warning to you my President-elect.
I do not need to tell you that in the PDP, serving and erstwhile governors determine who gets what, who stays where and who goes where. It is a recurring political pandemic; it is already a cancer in the political blood streams of all erstwhile, serving, and incoming governors of the PDP.
Let me repeat this for clarity: no governor of the opposition parties before now has tended or tends such power as the governors of the PDP tend over their President, political party officials and over their States. Opposition governors are known to follow after their leadership. This characteristic of followership by serving governors brought the APC this far.
It is not coincidental that the members of New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) association that joined the APC in late 2013 were led by Atiku Abubakar. I suppose you are not as naïve to believe that Doyin Okupe was daydreaming when he swore to be called a bastard if the APC survives one year.
This did not happen only because the nPDP entrants into the APC knew they had to stoop to conquer: the need to cooperate and enable the APC win at the centre was their main focus, no matter the sacrifice they would have to make to see it through. At least Chubuike Rotimi Amaechi made that clear to all recently, at his “Principle of Commonsense” book launch in Lagos. Mr President-elect, this is NOW about commonsense.
Sir, it is now your responsibility as the leader of the APC to drum it into the overzealous brains of the members of the nPDP that they were never a party in the merger of the opposition parties; and that they joined in after the merger: this must be of cardinal note to the APC and its leaders when shifting grounds for members of the nPDP.
In all considerations within the party, it must be clear to the foremost members of the APC that the nPDP members are refugees in the APC, and in decision making, the core merging parties must instill their kind of discipline to streamline activities and aspirations of the refugees amongst them. They must be made to line up with decisions of the merged opposition parties, than allow them dominate them in anyway.
They should be given a choice, either to stay under rules or they leave; after all, they have succeeded with joining to oust the PDP, and have chosen “the lesser devil”: this is about “permanent interest” or you will regret any concession you make.
I have spoken at length and this is what I am trying to point out to you, my President-elect: that you must endeavour to focus more on ALL members of the originating opposition parties; the reason been that members of those parties have admirable political characteristics that identify them as consistent, dedicated and dependable over the years.
To have endured the painful neglect of participatory democracy for 16 years and never gave in to the temptation of joining the PDP, as some have done, or get drawn to their easy baits is worth rewarding NOW.
In a brief analysis, let me graphically show you how the setting for your government has divinely played out itself, and I wish to use the following elements to demonstrate my sincere submission:
1. Contributions to the Merger:
Three political parties came into the merger that birth the APC with their entire structure and organs; the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) that you founded and led; the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), ably led by His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; and the All Nigeria Peoples’ Party (ANPP), by His Excellency, Dr Ogbonaya Onu; and not the least, the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), which came with a faction, but majorly, they came as the necessary bride of the APC to give it its national outlook.
The APC was complete with this merger and never needed any other combination to make it thick and acceptable to Nigerians, who were already tired of the arrogance of the PDP.
In the current power sharing equation, it is clear that you have taken the office of the President on behalf of the CPC, your very dependable Vice President-elect, Prof (Pastor) Oluyemi Osinbajo is of the ACN, I therefore cannot see the reason for you to close your eyes to the denial of the ANPP the opportunity clearly falling to it by allocating the seat of the Senate President to the Party, and that of the Speaker of the House of Representative to the APGA.
I don’t intend to forget that the members of the nPDP also joined you, but clearly not as a merging party, but as members of the PDP who were seeking refuge in the APC after it was registered as a political party.
This is the major reason why it will be criminal of me to bring them in, under equal terms with the others, when I have clearly illustrated how different APGA is from the other three, for bringing in a faction of itself.
It is therefore out of place to choose to reward a group of people, who although are tested pillars of democracy but those whom have continually demonstrated deviance to constituted party authorities and they are known to be independent minded.
If a Political Party is supreme in a participatory democracy, then these men were somehow wrong in breaking up from their political party. You must watch their motives and their drives.
If the CPC and the ACN have been settled without any qualms, the ANPP and the APGA must follow suit according to their contributions to the merger.
I am not attempting to sideline the nPDP, but I am drawing your attention, Your Excellency, to the fact that this breakaway group – not even a faction, because a court of competent jurisdiction refused to recognize them as a faction – from the PDP, known for their nature of mongering for power, should not be permitted in any way to use their money bags to wield influence over sound reasoning within the APC, especially anyone who has been a State Governor under the flag of the PDP, in a way to undermine those who have been faithful to the cause of the opposition from 1999.
2. Political Precedence:
From 1999 when our democratic journey started, it was silently agreed that power will be shared according to the two regions of the North and the South; and to the six geo-political zones of North West, North East, North Central, South West, South East and South South.
Clearly also is the fact that power sharing equation was classified into six political offices spanning the Executive and the Legislature, namely: the No. 1 office – the President, the No. 2 office – the Vice President, the No. 3 office – the Senate President, the No. 4 office – The Speaker, House of Representative, the No. 5 office – the Deputy Senate President and the No. 6 office – the Deputy Speaker of the House of representatives. These have been built into our national psyche already.
According to precedence also, it has been silently agreed that the region that produces the President should also produce the Senate President and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representative – two presiding offices and one deputed office.
The President, by this silent agreement is required to nominate his Vice President from the other region, which should as well produce the Deputy Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representative – one presiding office and two deputed offices. These have also been built into our national psyche.
It cannot be denied that between 1999 and 2007 when the South West produced the President, the South East produced the Senate President and the South South produced the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representative; even as the North East produced the Vice President, the North Central produced the Deputy Senate President and the North West produced the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The same way in 2007, when the North West produced the President, the North Central produced the Senate President and the North East produced the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representative; just as the South South produced the Vice President, the South East the Deputy Senate President and the South West the Speaker of the House of representative.
The unfortunate situation that led to the unfortunate loss of our President led to the tilt in this balance of political power equation. Even as most of us prayed that by 2011, the tilt will be adjusted, but it was clear how President Jonathan exploited the divine opportunity God bestowed upon him to write his name in gold by coveting the right of the North to continue in its presidency, and God deserted him: the reason why his administration was tainted with blood stains.
Thank God this is over by his grace and mercy. This is why, Your Excellency, you must terminate the continuous tilting of this political power balance. We must return on course, in our designed path to a sustainable, people-driven democracy and national cohesion. This will bring national healing, no matter who is sacrificed for the purpose of justice, fair play and brotherhood.
However, we must not rule out the precedence set by the unfortunate tilt in reference; because even in law, precedencies are admitted to determine the course of justice and fair hearing. Therefore we must not quickly erase the fact that when President Goodluck coveting the continuation of the North as President, he also permitted the South West to be robbed of its alternate right to produce the Senate President and the North East to produce the Speaker of the House of representative.
These two zones lost out of the political power equation, and they were calm about it because most of those vocal from these zones belonged to the opposition parties. Using the “Senate Ranking Rule”, Senator David Mark continued as Senate President, so did Ike Ekwerenmadu; this also led to the nouveau political coup d’état in the House of Representatives, which still robbed the South West and the North East of political patronage.
Mr President-elect, the time to halt this drift in our political advancement is now, and you must not show such disinterest as you have clearly shown in the issue of the leadership of the National Assembly please.
There is no way we can discountenance the issue of the Senate ranking rule, if it becomes necessary, to sieve out the person to whom the Senate President should fall. This is why you have to show leadership now.
3. Political Privileges/Party Loyalty Status of Candidates:
At this point, kindly permit me to bring into focus the major contenders for the seat of the Senate President. While noting that it is important to acknowledge that every distinguished senator elected to serve in the red chamber is eminently qualified to lead the senate, nevertheless there are factors of privileges to be considered in order to get certain issues in their correct perspective.
His Excellency Senator Abubakar Olubukola Olusola Saraki: This very amiable politician hails from Kwara State in the North Central zone. He started off as a member of the defunct All Peoples Party (APP), serving in the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo Govt of national Unity as a Presidential Aide. By the turn of 2003 elections he decamped from the APP to the PDP, winning the gubernatorial elections to become the Executive Governor of Kwara State.
Apart from winning his reelection into the Kwara State Govt House, he progressed to lead the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF). His charisma in leadership enabled him to build the NGF into a political voice, which essentially contributed to issues of governance at the centre. At the close of that era when he had to relinquished his position as the Chairman of the NGF, it is insinuated that he single handedly chose his successor, Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who still bears true allegiance to Bukola Saraki till now.
Bukola Saraki, after losing out as a presidential aspirant in the PDP, moved on to become a Senator in 2011 but still remained a strong influence over the NGF.
At a point Nigerians began to see the NGF as a political pressure group, which made some governors more or less interested in issues at the centre than in their own States where they have the mandates they held as governors.
As a member of the PDP, Senator Saraki fell out with President Jonathan, likely because of the embarrassment he suffered in been accused of financial crimes and taken to court on the matter. I have still not heard the end of that matter.
As things subsequently turned out, issues boiled to a point where the infighting between presidency and the PDP on one side; and the NGF and some PDP big wigs on the other, led to a serious schism in the party.
The NGF crisis, the suspension of serving governors from the PDP and the subsequent walk-out staged during the Special National convention of the PDP is still fresh in our minds.
Bukola Saraki, with others who were led by Atiku Abubakar out of that convention, met at the Shehu Yar’adua Centre and nominated his surrogate, Abubakar Kawu Baraje as Chairman of the association they called the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP).
On the long run, Senator Saraki joined other members of the nPDP to join the APC and contributed immensely to the success of the President-elect in the last election. One thing Bukola Saraki has not been able to hide about himself is that he is an ambitious man: desperately ambitious.
This is the same man who did not mind bringing to nothing the reputation of the man who made him everything he is today. His father, Senator Olusola Saraki, Senate Majority Leader in the Second Republic was known as the strongman of Kwara politics, but of all the strong men who tried to demystify the man, it was only his son, Bukola, who succeeded. That man may have answered his call to glory believing that his son cannot be trusted to make sacrifices in politics.
His Excellency Senator George Akume: This noble and easy going politician hails from Benue State in the North Central zone. He began in 1999 as the Executive Governor of Benue State on the platform of the PDP, after which he contested and won the 2007 senatorial elections to represent Benue State in the National Assembly.
Senator Akume, who likely may have fallen out with his successor to the seat of Governor in Benue State, decamped from the PDP to the ACN. He contested and won reelection into the senate under the flag of the ACN, progressing to become the Senate Minority Leader.
He is one of the prime movers and committee heads that midwifed the merger of the opposition parties to birth the APC. As Senate Minority Leader, he was able to assist the Senate President to handle the matter of the cross carpeting of PDP senators in the red chamber without any rancor. An admirable and dedicated party man who gave the ACN its northern outlook, Senator Akume is well respected in the South West.
Senator Akume is a strong voice and force in the politics of Benue State; and his position as the APC leader in the State is uncontestable. He worked assiduously to ensure that Benue State delivered the President-elect, the Governor-elect, and majority of members from that State to the National and State Assemblies.
He may appear a very deft politician but he does not show himself to be desperately ambitious. I am not sure if he has any case in court on any corruption case.
Distinguished Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume: This vocal and strong willed politician hails from Gwoza, Borno State in the North East zone. Senator Ndume began his political career in the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and got elected into the House of Representatives in 2003, reelected in 2007 and became the House Minority Leader.
In 2010, Senator Ndume decamped from the ANPP to the PDP due to a fall out with the political leader in his State at that time, His Excellency Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, winning his election into the senate in 2011.
Ali Ndume is a very dynamic politician, who contributed immensely to the success of the APC at during the national and state elections that delivered the President-elect. He was also a member of the nPDP.
Unfortunately for this amiable politician, at the peak of the insurgency in the country, he was linked with terrorism and alleged to be a sponsor of the dreaded Boko Haram militancy, because of links traced to him from telephone communication with one of the suspect linked with the insurgency. We have not heard the end of that case.
Distinguished Senator (Dr) Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan: This unassuming and vibrant senator hails from Yobe State in the North East zone. He was first elected into the National Assembly in 1999 as Member, House of Representative, where he serves as Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Education at different times. He was a Member of the House of Representative until 2007 when he contested and won the Yobe North Senatorial election into the senate.
He is a pioneer member of the All Peoples Party (APP) until it was rechristened the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). As a consistent opposition politician, he has contributed immensely to ensure that Yobe State remains the stronghold of the opposition in the country. He contributed much to leading the ANPP into the merger that threw up the APC.
A very low profiled politician who chooses to be a voice only heard contributing to national discuss. Senator Ahmed Lawan is one politician who has distant himself from every appearance of controversy and a level headed leader in his own right.
4. My Sincere Fears:
My President-elect, it is an open development these days to see members of the legislature impeach an executive together with the deputy in order to enthrone the head of such legislature as the principal executive.
Among the four contenders for the seat of the Senate President, it is not hidden that it is only Senator Bukola Saraki that commands the required structure and resources to bulldoze his way to that seat.
Whether you believe it or not, Bukola Saraki, apart from Atiku Abubakar, is one of the PDP drop outs in the APC that the PDP is looking forward to lobbying back into their fold. He enjoys the support among the governors, past and present.
He also enjoys the support of majority of the PDP senators-elect. He is the only politician apart from Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who has a solid political structure and followership. He is the politician in the Senate who can comfortably meander between members of the APC and the PDP.
I fear that in your drive to “kill corruption” in the country, my President-elect, if you do not enjoy the cooperation of the leadership of the National Assembly, such discontentment that should arise between your government and the legislature may likely lead to the National Assembly initiating impeachment proceedings against you.
Ambition I am told is made of sterner stuff, Senator Bukola Saraki is made of such stuff. I therefore wish to be comforted and to ask you to allay my fears by instructing that any one amongst the candidates jostling for the seat of the Senate president, who has any case pending in court, should withdraw immediately from the race, and anyone in the APC who refuses to concede to this instruction should be expelled from the party forthwith.
5. My Sincere Submissions:
Based on the above analysis volunteered under three classifications, we can deduce the following:
– On Contributions to the Merger, it is just that since the CPC has thrown you up as President and the ACN threw up the Vice President, the ANPP should be allowed to throw up the Senate President and APGA allowed throwing up the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The nPDP can choose who from the South South should take the Deputy Senate President and who from the North Central should take the seat of the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives for their contributions to the success of the APC.
– On Political Precedence, I have pointed out how in the outgoing administration, the South West and the North East were marginalized out of the political power sharing equation. Between the North Central and the North East zones, it is absolutely clear that if the seat of the Senate President must follow justiciable considerations, fair play and national cohesion, the North Central has enjoyed a fair share of political power allocation in the senate.
The North Central between 1999 and 2007 enjoyed the office of the Deputy Senate Presidency and between 2007 and 2015 they have held onto the seat of the Senate President.
I am sure you will agree with me that the office of the Senate President is not the exclusive preserve of the North Central. This throws up the North East as the most privileged to presently produce the Senate President.
Still on precedence, especially as it concerns the senate ranking rule, it is discoverable the most senior ranking senator in the APC today remains the one who has spent the past 16 years as a legislator. Amongst the four candidates above, only Senator Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan wears this cap.
– On Political Privileges/Party Loyalty Status of Candidates, I have clearly analyzed how it is only Senator (Dr) Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan remains the only candidate among the four aspiring to the office of the Senate President who has been consistent in his political party following and has remained true to the opposition and its struggle against the wiles of the PDP.
My President-elect, while the other candidates in the race enjoyed frolicking with the PDP at one time or the other, it is Dr Lawan that has remained and suffered the same fate as you.
I think, based on my submission that the ANPP should throw up the next Senate President, based on political precedence, privileges and loyalty, as expressed above, he remains the only man standing and deserves to be rewarded for his steadfastness.
Mr President-elect, your intervention in this regard will encourage political loyalty, sacrifice and candour; and also discourage politicians who do not await the political rainy season that should green their grass, but roam about to seek pasture green wherever it could be found.
Those who have refused to offer a sacrifice in their political career must be made to do so NOW: this is the cry of CHANGE!