By Salihu Moh. Lukman
It was Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, while declaring to contest for the position of National Chairman of APC on Thursday, May 10, 2018 at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, who argued that “party supremacy comes from decisions of the party made by the relevant party organs. The decisions of the party have to emerge from the debate by party organs at various levels, and the conclusions reached will constitute the party’s position on any matter which will then be binding on all the members of the party from the President to every member.”
Comrade Oshiomhole must have had at the back of his mind the sad experiences of having to accommodate the rebellious leadership of the 8th National Assembly who defied efforts by APC leaders to regulate conducts of some APC elected National Assembly members in 2015, partly because of absence of clear decisions of party organs. At the time of inaugurating the 8th National Assembly on June 9, 2015, the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC: 2014 – 2018) was unable to regulate the conduct of elected party members in the National Assembly, notably Sen. Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara who respectively emerged as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives. Their emergence as leaders of the 8th National Assembly was a defiance against the preference of APC’s leadership for Sen. Ahmed Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila for the position of Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.
In 2015, the consultative process for the selection process of the leadership was narrowed to the NWC. No NEC meeting or National Caucus was convened. The party’s Board of Trustees was not constituted. Somehow, the Saraki/Dogara groups in both Chambers of the National Assembly were able to defeat the groups loyal to the party’s NWC. Good enough, this situation was corrected in 2019 and a wider consultative process involving both the NWC, elected members of the two chambers of the National Assembly and other party leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari was initiated by the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC. This accounted for the successful emergence of the Sen. Ahmed Lawan and Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila-led 9th National Assembly.
As a party, it would seem that APC has relapsed back to 2015 mode of allowing elected National Assembly members to proceed with the business of constituting the leadership of the 10th National Assembly in an unregulated manner. This is very risky, not just for APC but for the country. Given that as a party, we contested the 2023 elections with a Muslim-Muslim ticket of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Sen. Kashim Shettima, unregulated contest for the leadership of the 10th National Assembly could produce another Muslim as Senate President. In fact, there is also the high probability that a Muslim could also emerge as Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives.
At a time when irrationality has become overbearingly manifest in the politics of the country, no thanks to the so-called Obidient politicians who thrive in peddling lies and falsehood as a strategy to mobilise support, every care should be taken to manage our diversity. It is quite frustrating for many members of the APC NWC that as leaders mandated to provide leadership in managing affairs of the party, we have become onlookers in matters that we should be directing. This must be urgently corrected.
The APC NWC led by Sen. Abdullahi Adamu need to become more aggressive in driving the process of negotiating leadership of the 10th National Assembly. Laidback attitude of the NWC being the administrative organ of the party has produced the embarrassing situations of public disagreement with the National Chairman over the issue of consensus Presidential candidate before the party’s Presidential Primary in June 2022. It is also responsible for some of the disagreements between some members of the NWC with the party’s Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) before the 2023 elections.
Part of the challenge is that it has become a practice whereby NWC continue to appropriate powers of superior organs of the party, especially the National Executive Committee (NEC). So long as the NWC continue to govern the party based on the strategy of usurping the powers of NEC, elected representatives of the party will continue to organise rebellion against what could be regarded as positions of the party. We need to strongly appeal to the National Chairman, Sen. Adamu to consider wider consultative process in managing affairs of the party. Adopting wider consultative process will require invoking provisions of the party constitution to convene NEC and National Caucus meetings.
This public appeal has become necessary given the flood of aspirants for leadership of the 10th National Assembly, which if left to continue unregulated could throw up unexpected people in the leadership of the 10th National Assembly. Should that be allowed to happen may result in producing the undesirable consequences of destroying the electoral viability of APC in future elections. As a ruling party, mandated to provide political leadership to the country for the next four years, everything must be done to sustain the confidence of Nigerians.
As a concerned party member and leader, I make this appeal conscious of where we are coming from. We have proven to Nigerians that nothing is impossible in Nigerian politics. We have successfully consummated the first and only merger of opposition parties in the political history of the country. We are the first party to successfully defeat a ruling party. It is therefore not impossible to be the party that can facilitate the emergence of Nigeria as a strongly united country. For that to happen, we need to douse the current ethnic and religious tension in the country.
Dousing ethnic and religious tension in the country will require sacrifices on the part of all of us both as leaders and members of APC. Without going into the details of the sacrifices required, we certainly would need to invoke the powers of superior organs of the party where all proposals could be tabled, debated and decisions taken, which should be binding on everyone, including elected representatives in the National Assembly. Perhaps, we need to acknowledge that the critical issue before us as a party today is decision about zoning formula for offices in the National Assembly and in the Asiwaju Tinubu-led government.
Partly, because of the ineffectiveness of the party’s National Secretariat, no proposal is on the table for consideration of any organ of the party. Instead, we have many fake proposals circulating with hardly any attempt to initiate alternative proposals for debate within the constitutional structures of APC. It may however interest all of us that the configuration of the leadership that will be assuming office on May 29, 2023 is about the same with that of 1999. Recall that in 1999, we had former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar respectively from South-West and North-East. Taking bearing from that, we had Senate President from the South-East and Deputy Senate President from North-Central. Recall that also we had the National Chairman of the ruling party from North-Central.
In the House of Representatives, we had a Speaker from North-West and Deputy Speaker from South-South. Other positions in the leadership of the National Assembly were distributed accordingly to other zones. Given the challenge of neutralising religious tension in the country, this would appear to be advantageous. For instance, if Senate President is to come form South-East, he would certainly be a Christian. The only problem is the experience of 1999 – 2003, which highlight problems of instability with the South-East holding the position of Senate President. Also, as at 1999, the South-East strongly voted for the PDP to emerge as the ruling party. The same could not be said today.
Perhaps, to avoid that, and to compensate the South-South, which gave more votes to the APC, including winning the Governorship election in Cross River and majority members of the Edo State House of Assembly, consideration can be given for the South-South to produce the Senate President. If that is to be considered, then the position of Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives should be given to the South-East. All these are issues to be debated, around which a decision would have to be taken one way or the other. Once there is a decision, it will be binding on everyone.
So far, we only have individual aspirations for leadership positions in the 10th National Assembly. Most of the aspirations hardly recognise the challenges of national cohesion. Unfortunately, most of those aspiring for positions of leadership in the 10th National Assembly appear to be disrespectful to structures of the party and their membership, including the NWC. Hardly do they show any interest to consult the NWC as an organ or its members individually. Somehow, there is also the demeaning perception that aspiring leaders could always acquire (however defined) the support of party organs. This must be remedied.
For instance, I have people from North-West declaring to contest for the position of Senate President without the courtesy of consulting any of us from North-West in NWC. As much as I respect every elected National Assembly member from North-West, I will appeal to those aspiring for the position of Senate President to step down their aspiration in the overall interest of national cohesion and to ensure that in line with our commitment as leaders of the North-West to support the administration of Asiwaju Tinubu to assume office in May 29, 2023 with a good support base from Nigerians across every section and irrespective of ethnic and religious divide.
*Salihu Moh. Lukman, All Progressives Congress, North-West Zonal Office, Kaduna