NASS: Why Saraki’s Rebellion Succeeded
It is barely three weeks into Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure as our democratically elected president and already it can be argued with sufficient justification that his first major crisis occurred with the conduct and outcome of the elections to fill the vacant leadership positions in the National Assembly (NASS) last week.
Senator Bukola Saraki, and Yakubu Dogara, somehow succeeded in getting themselves elected as Senate President and Speaker of the House respectively with the ‘help’ of their conniving opposition party the PDP. Not only that, the PDP also inexplicably managed to get one of its own – Senator Ike Ekweremadu – elected as the Deputy Senate President in a manner that both astonished and angered millions of supporters of the APC who would never have blinked their eyelids were the PDP to be proscribed altogether.
To those APC supporters, Ekweremadu’s re-election was the most painful event in the entire episode of the script that played out in the NASS last week. It was like having an ‘enemy’ take up permanent residency in their households. It threatened to undo most of their hard work in the lead-up to the elections which was hinged on the mantra of change.
Despite all his individual qualities, Senator Ekweremadu did not represent the change the teeming supporters of the APC envisioned. His membership of the much maligned PDP precluded that. And so the ultimate question is: how did Saraki and Dogara get away with what seemed like an impossible feat to the extent that the leadership of the APC, inclusive of President Muhammadu Buhari, cannot dare to contemplate reversing the outcome of the elections that brought them into power without activating the self-destruct button on the tenuous coalition of parties and individuals the party is made of?
The first answer, if truth must be told, is for us all to embrace the undeniable fact that none of our laws were flouted in the process adopted for the elections in the NASS. Like President Buhari himself confirmed in the statement released by his Special Adviser Femi Adesina, the elections were wholesomely constitutional.
The second major factor which those opposed to both Saraki and Dogara appear to have realized too late is that President Buhari is not Olusegun Obasanjo. Even if they failed to acknowledge Buhari’s decision not to interfere in the affairs of the NASS, two weeks of his presidency should have taught them that the new president is a systems person who has no inclination to act outside clearly defined structures and parameters.
President Buhari so far has shown that he is a respecter of bureaucracy, a fact mistaken by his critics who are equally entitled to believe that he is too slow to act. Saraki and Dogara had few doubts that Buhari will never interfere in the institutional processes of the NASS and proceeded to activate their plot with precision. By contrast, it is now obvious that both Senator Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila trusted in the party supremacy and the intervention of the President as its leader. The rest, as it is often said, is now history.
While the elections were being concluded in the hallowed chambers of the NASS, they were caught napping waiting at the International Conference Center (ICC) in Abuja for a meeting with Buhari in the hope that his intervention would be in their favour.
That said, both Saraki and Dogara must count themselves lucky that Olusegun Obasanjo was not the president at the time of their election. If Obasanjo were the president, Senator Saraki, in particular, would have had the cases of graft brought against him by the EFCC swiftly re-opened. Instead for strategising to become the Senate President, he would have been conveniently ‘disqualified’ battling to clear his name in the courts at this material time.
But the third and most decisive reason why Saraki and Dogara prevailed was the hard-line posture of the APC party leader Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu during the entire impasse. The APC like I stated earlier is by and large an amalgamation of numerous parties, individuals and even interest groups. There is the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) which produced President Buhari. There is also the original Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to which Tinubu, and by extension Vice President Yomi Osinbajo, belonged.
There is also the All Nigeria People Party (ANPP) which harboured people like the Nassarawa state Governor Al-Makura. Chief Rochas Okoroacha also brought in a faction of APGA. But by far, one of the most telling inclusions was the defection of the G7 – later G5 governors from the PDP called the nPDP, which gave the party a massive nationwide spread and stronghold in the Northwest and North-central parts of Nigeria. Above all, they also boasted a certain Atiku Abubakar in their ranks!
A very close friend of mine who also doubles as one of the consultants to the NASS who was present as the dramatic events unfolded, was emphatic that Senator Tinubu was entirely to blame for the outcome of the elections for his winner takes all attitude that would have precluded members of the nPDP members of the APC from benefitting from any of the elective positions on offer.
By the time of the NASS elections both the CPC and the ACN had already produced the President and Vice President respectively. There was also a wide consensus that the ANPP should produce the Senate President and Senator Lawan from the Northeast was favoured and widely accepted by the party members.
That left the position of Speaker of the House yet to be filled. With the nPDP completely out on the limb, there was a strong argument that the faction should be allowed to produce the Speaker of the House but Tinubu still insisted on Gbajabiamila who is from the ACN faction. He also did not accept that Honorable Yakubu Dogora, who is from the nPDP faction, to be nominated even as the Deputy Speaker to Gbajiabiamila.
That, in essence, was what triggered the rebellion that resulted in the triumph of Saraki, Dogara and Ekweremadu last week. In the coming days and months, volumes will be written about the outcome of the elections, but in actual reality it was all about greed and the lack of equity in the sharing of leadership positions in the APC. The PDP may gloat for as long as it likes, but in the actual reality, the APC opened the door for what appears to be a temporary triumph and promise of much needed revival. For the generality of Nigerians who yearn for positive change in the affairs of the country, we can only hope that all parties would have learnt useful lessons from the elections.
BETWEEN OMAR AL-BASHIR AND THE ICC
Yesterday, a major drama played out in South Africa. The Sudanese President was attending a meeting of the African Union when a South African High Court ordered his virtual detention and repatriation to the International Criminal Court at the Hague for trial following his multiple indictment for alleged atrocities committed during the Darfur crisis which were somehow linked to him.
While I believe that all accused should have their day in whatever court that is entitled to try them, I cannot help but applaud the South African government for its refusal to restrain Omar Al-Bashir from leavings its shores in this instance. Even as I write this someone – and American – is idling away on a Texas ranch after causing the mayhem that threatens the peace and security of the entire world. By invading Iraq on the basis of blatant lies told on its possession of weapons of mass destruction, George W. Bush literally opened the doors of hell from which the world is yet to recover.
The unjust and illegal invasion of Iraq led directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands. It also produced the murderous gang called ISIS who now threatens Nigeria through Boko Haram their affiliate group. If Bush did not listen when Mandela cautioned on the invasion of Iraq, why should South African pander to the wishes of the West this time?
If Bush and a certain Benjamin Netanyahu who has also committed untold atrocities in Palestine are walking free, why shouldn’t Al-Bashir? Why are both the US and Israel not signatories to the ICC protocols? And, if at all, the protection of human rights is the ultimate goal, why should the signing of the protocol be made optional in the first place?