By Zazheaus Adebayo
The persistent call by the Chairman of the ruling All Progressives (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomole and APC Senators like Abu Ibrahim, Ahmed Lawan, Ali Ndume, Abdullahi Adamu, George Akume, etc. for the resignation or impeachment of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has reached a worrisome decibel.
According to Oshiomole, “49 Senators cannot preside over the affairs of a House in which APC has 56 senators. And I ask them to tell us anywhere in the world where minority rules over majority. Whether by morality or by law or by convention, Senator Saraki can only avoid impeachment by toeing the path of honour- step down so that APC can take over the leadership of the House”.
Unfortunately, it is this wrong sense of entitlement, rather than strict reliance on the Constitution, that has been APC’s undoing on the issue of National Assembly (NASS) leadership since 2015. A party position like Majority/Minority Leader is not the same as Senate Presidency. Section 50 of the 1999 Constitution unambiguously provides that “There shall be: a President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by members of that House from among themselves”.
Whereas a party can guide and persuade its members on the choice of persons for these offices, lawmakers are ultimately at liberty to vie for any legislative office or vote for any colleague they repose confidence in. sadly for the APC, it managed its slim majority at inauguration of the 8th National Assembly poorly and unjustly. It backfired.
PDP came with 49 Senators. APC had 59 (Ahmed Zannah, Borno Central, died before the inauguration). The Senate Unity Forum (33 APC Senators-elect) endorsed Senator Ahmed Lawan, while 26 Like minds were for Saraki.
Meanwhile, the entire PDP Senators and House Members-elect adopted Saraki and Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara as the party’s sole candidates for the Senate Presidency and Speaker in the meeting at Senator David Mark’s residence, which lasted till the early hours of the inauguration day.
So, even if some APC Senators didn’t embark on the wild goose chase at the International Conference Centre, Saraki and Ekweremadu were home and dry with the support of 25 APC Senators-elect and 49 PDP Senators-elect as opposed to Lawan who had just the backing of 32 APC Senators-elect. The PDP cashed in on the division on the APC to become the kingmakers. It is pragmatic politics. The situation was so hopeless for the APC that the NASS complex was initially blockaded to scuttle the inauguration.
Therefore, not only is the Senate Presidency not a constitutional entitlement of the APC, the Saraki/Ekweremadu Senate Presidency was not the making of the APC as a party. Oshiomole is demanding for a return of what isn’t APC’s property and what APC never gave to Saraki.
Meanwhile, with the failure of the 24th July and 7th August coups on the Senate leadership vide security sieges, there are horrifying attempts to twist what constitutes two-thirds of Senate as prescribed by Section 50 (2) of the Constitution for the removal of Senate’s presiding officers.
Instructively, the courts have already determined what constitutes two-thirds of the Senate. In National Assembly V. President (2003), the Court of Appeal, in a judgment delivered by Justice Oguntade, ruled that two-thirds of 109 Senators was 73, while that of the 360 Members of the House of Representatives was 240. This has also been determined by the Court of Appeal in Asogwa v. Chukwu (2003).
In fact, Senator Evan Enwerem and Senator Chuba Okadigbo were removed as Senate President with 90 and 81 Senators, respectively. None was less than 73.
Issues of morality
Saraki and nPDP the New PDP (nPDP) joined the APC merger with five governors, scores of state and federal legislators, and political heavyweights that helped APC to clinch power. But, they were to be schemed out of the top leadership positions in Nigeria. President Muhammadu Buhari (defunct CPC) and Prof. Yemi Osibanjo (defunct ACN) already occupied the two foremost positions. Yet greedy APC leaders wanted Senator Ahmed Lawan (defunct ANPP) as Senate President, Senator George Akume (defunct ACN) as Deputy Senate President, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (defunct ACN) as Speaker, and Hon. Monguno (defunct ANPP) as Deputy Speaker. Between one who used and dumped people and the dumped ones who fought back for political survival, who is immoral?
Oshiomole’s sermons on the minority not presiding over the majority are so hypocritical. He has suddenly forgotten the events of 2014 when Aminu Tambuwal, defected from the PDP to the APC with the speakership and the APC hailed and defended the move.
As I recounted recently, Buhari said: “We will like to thank Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal for what he did yesterday. We were overwhelmed. Taking such a remarkable risk and sending everybody on holiday till December is an achievement”.
APC’s spokesperson, Lai Mohammed, hailed: “We welcome the defection of Tambuwal to APC. With this defection, APC has now taken the leadership of one arm of the national legislature. We think that having the head of the legislature from the opposition party makes for a balanced setting in government and it’s good for democracy. Those who are saying this has not happened before and that Tambuwal should step aside as Speaker do not have the backing of history and the constitution”.
APC’s Leader in the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila declared: “We are proud to acknowledge that the Speaker remains not only a Member of the House of Representatives but also its Speaker. This position is consistent with the law and practice in a presidential system. The constitution requires only that the Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be elected by Members of that House from among themselves”.
In June 2015, Hon. Terkimbi Ikyange and Hon. Peter Azi of APC became Speakers of the Benue and Plateau Houses of Assembly, respectively, despite APC’s minority status in both Assemblies. APC’s Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu became Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly on the platform of the PDP in 2011, but never resigned as Speaker when he defected to the APC. Those, who come to morality, should do so with clean hands.
Impeachment: In whose interest?
Listening to Oshiomole, one would think that what brought APC to power in 2015 was a promise to impeach Dr. Saraki. He vituperates as if Nigerians would judge the APC in 2019 by the number of Sarakis they impeached, and how toxic they made the political climate.
Except the above is the case, then I am afraid Oshimole isn’t doing Buhari and APC any good. He hasn’t demonstrated that he knows the difference between picketing, vibrating, and threatening governments with strikes as a labour leader and helping a party to build cohesion and goodwill to deliver on campaign promises. Instead, APC has seriously hemorrhaged in public goodwill and loss of three governors, an Ambassador, over 37 House Members, and 14 Senators, including a Senate President since Oshiomole emerged party Chairman. He may argue that there were already problems before he came, but that was why he was hired.
Respected authorities in the presidential system like Bowles insist “The Presidency’s single most important relationship is that with the Congress”. Sadly, Oshiomole, who wants lawmakers to reconvene to consider something as important as foreign loans to finance the 2019 budget as well as belatedly submitted budget for 2019 elections, is the same man swearing everyday that Saraki must resign or be impeached or hell will be let lose. The APC wants vital approvals from the congress, yet the EFCC, Police, and DSS all answerable to an APC government are unleashed to harass, embarrass, framing up, and persecute the presiding officers, laying sieges to their homes and the National Assembly.
Oshiomole needs to be reminded that unemployment rate stood at 8.3 percent when Enwerem was removed in 1999, but had risen to 13.1 percent when Okadigbo was removed in 2000. And while Oshiomole and the APC pursuing Saraki’s impeachment, the capital market is slumping in proportion to the toxic political environment, while hunger and wanton killings are ravaging Nigerians. Unemployment rate today is 18.8 percent as against 7.5 percent in July 2015 and the third quarter report will be worse. So, na who impeachment epp?
- Adebayo writes from Ibadan