Nothing, perhaps, typifies the needless confusion over National Assembly leaders come May than the comments of Orji Uzor Kalu, one of the new senators waiting to be sworn in. In an interview at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, the former governor said “I will shop around and seek to become the deputy senate president if the APC refused to zone the position to south east.” Most newspapers reported the interview in which he further threatened to contest for the senate presidency if his zone did not get the deputy.
Neither the APC chairman nor the publicity secretary did well with their triumphalism by way of reckless statements over those the party will put forward to lead the ninth assembly. Of course, this is not new to APC; it has always been a difficulty for the party managing success. Some things are crystal clear: the first is that the party holds the majority in both chambers and is well positioned to clinch the leadership positions, save the minority leaders. Second, it also should have more than a say in who occupy these positions since senators and representatives were elected on the party platform. But the third thing that the party echelons seem to have forgotten is that APC boasts of renegades more than any other party in the last four years.
Even if we ignore the antics of Kalu and his ilk who could have pretended that politics at a level is about rewards for a job well done and considering the votes APC garnered in the south east, offering the zone the deputy senate president would be tantamount to ignoring other zones who delivered massively for the party. Of course, citizens of that area were well within their rights in voting for the party (ies) of their choice, but they should remember that one should not reap where he did not sow. Others like Ali Ndume cannot be ignored totally and that is why the party would do well to ensure that it puts its house in order before seeking to destroy the house that has not even been dedicated. The first misstep by APC was in picking an individual publicly without consultation with others from the zone the office was allocated to. It then followed up with a public announcement of the person even after Ndume had written the party of his intention to contest for the senate presidency.
Regular readers of this column will agree that it has always advocated for party supremacy but also a political party should always seek to accommodate the interests of its members as practicable as possible. Not completing negotiations with its members and rushing to announce an individual is a recipe for disaster. It takes a few disgruntled APC members to halt the party’s train and connive with PDP to install a different person. Ndume, as reported by newspapers, claimed that there were no consultations or discussions at the meeting where the party’s choice was announced, “As I said, such a decision was taken and we were not given the chance to ask questions. We were not allowed to make comments. The President made his remarks and after that, the national anthem was recited. Even the chosen candidate was not given the chance to thank us or say something about it. Those of us that have indicated interests were not consulted or given the chance to make any comments.”
Things can only get worse if not properly handled. The need for harmonious relationship between the executives and legislators is paramount in taking Nigeria further than where we are presently. This, however, should not translate into a pliant and see-no-evil, hear-no-evil legislature willing to do the bidding of the executive. Since 1999, we have seen how leaders imposed by the executive on the legislature usually end up. APC leaders will do well too to remember the contest between George Akume and David Mark for the senate presidency in 2011 and how it played out.
If they, however, conveniently forgot that, we might as well remind them of how the party was outmaneuvered in 2015 and Bukola Saraki emerged as president. They should equally be reminded of what the party’s spokesperson said in 2014 when the then House of Representatives speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, defected to APC from PDP with the PDP in the majority, Lai Mohammed said then, “It is not about the fortunes of the party, it is about the fortunes of the country. Now we are going to have more qualitative laws, and this is a man who enjoys support across board so we have a speaker who is accepted on the right and the left.” Interestingly, the PDP has been huffing and puffing that the party would be willing to contest all the leadership positions. Democracy is a game of numbers and if PDP can muster the required votes, let the game begins.
Hopefully, the APC can sort out the mess and put its house in order before May.