National Assembly Crisis: The Hard Way Out By Dr. Jaiyeola Ajatta

The National Assembly’s one month recess ends this week. But its top ranking members ought to know that this has simply postponed the evil day. They thought they could mend the broken glass by simply taking time off. Things don’t work that way. Let me put things in proper perspective.

The major cardinal point of the All Progressives Congress (APC’s) campaign is change. People voted for change and the real change APC clamored for is the change in attitude, change in the way we do things in the country, putting Nigeria first in all that we do. Now the question is, did we put Nigeria first in this instance? Did the Clerk of the National Assembly put Nigeria first in hurriedly conducting an election into the most sensitive posts after the president of the Federal Republic? Was the Clerk impartial in carrying out his duties when he knew that the APC controlled majority membership in both houses of the National Assembly, yet conducted election into the position of the Senate presidency with only seven members of the ruling party in attendance?

If the Clerk of the National Assembly wanted to protect the interest of the Nation and the dignity of the National Assembly, he would have waited for a fuller house to conduct the election and no one would have forced or faulted him. He simply acted in the old ways of impunity where individual interest superseded the interests of the Nation. That is why he should not remain in that position because he is obviously compromised.

We have to begin to understand that democracy is a representative government in which the few at the Senate and House of Representatives and state houses of assembly are simply representatives of the people. In that context, when nearly half of the members of the Senate were schemed out of the voting process to elect the number three citizen of the country, it meant that half of the country were not represented in that process. It made the election a nullity because it did not represent the view of the totality of the people of this Nation. It worries me really when people narrow the exclusion that took place to only the number of senators that were not there to vote. Those senators actually represent millions of Nigerians. In some cases, some states were 100 percent, totally excluded. Can the senate president be said to have been validly democratically elected?
To the best of my knowledge, the Clerk has plunged the Nation into a political and economic darkness affecting the lives of everyone. Let it not be lost on anyone that while the National Assembly is on recess trying to find a way round the problem, the Nation as a whole is on recess. The economy is on recess because as we speak, everyone is on a waiting game. Foreign investors are watching and waiting, the stock exchange is feeling the pinch, the free fall of the naira tells the story better and the impact on the national economy and Nigerians is there for all to see. It is time for the real change by putting Nigeria first in all that we do. In a few days time they will resume and the problem will remain there, the bickering, the distrust, the agitation for the right thing to be done and the Nation will continue to suffer. The burden on the Senate President
The senate president should know that the burden of occupying that exalted office in a dubious manner is too heavy. He might have won the seat through the most crooked means I have ever seen in global politics, but he cannot succeed in it because he is leading the elites and most senior citizens of Nigeria. He can not compel anyone to respect him. To successfully navigate the stormy waters of the Senate, you must earn the respect of the senators. David Mark succeeded as Senate President because he was respected by most members of the Senate during his tenure. First, because he was a good party man who came in through the maximum support of his party, PDP and did its biddings to the letter.

It is always difficult to build successfully on a faulty foundation. Sooner or later, the structure will crash on the head of the builder. I have tried to imagine how the Senate president would be viewed outside the shores of the country. Whenever he attends a conference of Senate presidents anywhere in the world, he carries with him the image of the country and having been dubiously elected, what image of Nigeria would they see in him?

I have tried to imagine the Senate President trying to speak to Nigerians on morality, on putting Nigeria first before self, on doing the right thing for the good of the Nation or even confronting the ministers or even the president when he steps out of turn. No, he cannot give what he does not have. The moral burden is too heavy for him to bear for four years in that office. Recently, the senate president’s summon was spurned by a Permanent Secretary, a sign of the shape of things to come.

It is important to point out the implications of all these as it affects the people of Nigeria. What it means is that bills will remain stunted simply because senators are trying to get back at the Senate President, getting majority votes on things that affect Nigerians will be difficult, doing the oversight function of the National Assembly particularly against corrupt practices will be difficult because whoever must correct must be seen to be upright himself.

By implication, the era of impunity, of rub my back and I will rub yours, of nepotism is still not far from us. The risk the whole nation bears is that a Senate President that came into office through trading the interest of his party and giving away the post of the deputy president, an inheritance of his party to the opposition simply to satisfy his personal interest can actually trade off the country if it favours him.

Let’s call a spade by its real name. This is a man who was trying to impress it on his party to give him the nod to represent their interest as the senate president but failed to turn up at the meeting where the interest of the party was to be discussed but sneaked to the Senate chambers to liase with the opposition to install himself as the Senate President. By that act, he has exhibited the highest degree of moral and political bankruptcy and such person is not fit for the exalted position of the number three citizen of this great country in an era of change. That is the moral burden the Senate president can hardly overcome unless the right thing is done. I must remind him of one little thing; that “whoever rides on the back of the tiger will end up in the belly of the tiger”. A deity will always increase its demand for sacrifice from time to time and PDP will remain a deity to Saraki as long he wants to remain in that office.

I have, to a large extent ignored the House of Representative Speaker not because he got into office through the right door, but there was some semblance of an election even though by default. What happened at the Senate was equally designed for the House of Reps but for the fact that information of what happened at the senate came to APC members at the venue of the meeting and they dashed down for the election, even then, the damage was already done.

That fisticuffs were not used to settle the matter is simply an exhibition of maturity on the part of the Honourables because I know that in my days in the National Assembly, such matters would have sent dangerous materials flying in anger.

The way out

As one script writer once wrote, “the only way is the hard way.” There is hardly any other way I see in sight in this whole sordid affair than either resignation of the Senate President which is not an easy decision or the Senate taking steps to remove him. Saraki should do the hounourable thing by resigning and allowing a proper election to take place. If he wins, then the Nation will accept and respect him. As a two time governor, and now a two time senator, he deserves respect. But when one’s antecedent continues to put a large question mark on his head, he should take steps to show himself above board.

On the other hand, the senators should begin the process that would eventually right the wrong.The interest of the Nation must supersede the interest of one manipulative individual. It is unfortunate that Senate president is not only trying to divide the APC, he has by his action put a strain on the unity of the country. The Eastern part of the country is beginning to see any move to correct the political aberration as an affront on their interest because Ike Ekweremadu represents their interest. This should not have been so if the Senate president had not been blinded by personal ambition. To him, the Nation can burn as long as he achieves his personal ambition.

What worries me most is that majority of the leaders of the party are not speaking out.The elder statesmen have kept mute in the face of impunity. Evil thrives where people of good conscience refuse to speak. This is not about party, it is not about sectional interest, it is about doing the right thing and presenting the country in good light in the committee of Nations. In fact, if truth must be told, Saraki’s action has greatly diminished the respect former President Goodluck Jonathan and President Buhari’s mature conduct during and after elections garnered for the country in the international community.

Dr. Jaiyeola Ajatta, former member of the House of Representatives from Oshodi-Isolo Federal Constituency 2, writes in from Lagos.

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