The constitution of the leadership of the Ninth National Assembly is already generating needless controversy, fuelled by ego-induced muscle flexing, a tendency to Machiavellian tactics and a penchant for political skullduggery. What we are witnessing is the crass individualism of politicians whose selfishness over-rides all principles of decency and consideration for the public good. I suspect a large number of these people are ignorant of the practical workings of democracy, while others are knowledgeable but are up to mischief – call it political power play. This category relish the grandstanding on the public gallery and the name recognition it engenders. For them, it is machismo, the political swagger.
The normal practice in a democracy is for the majority party to hold sway. It is this principle that prompted the saying that in a democracy, the minority will have their say, but the majority will have their way. Nigerian legislators cannot rewrite this principle. Also, in a democracy, a synergy is expected between the executive and the legislature when a party produces the president and also has the majority in the legislature because the presidency and the legislature in such a scenario are to implement the same party manifesto, with the party leadership serving as a clearing house – the coordinator. The convention in presidential democracy is for the majority party to produce the leadership in the legislature as well as committee chairmen, according to hierarchical ranking.
In the United States, the most senior minority party member on a committee is designated Ranking member. Where the party majority changes, the ranking member becomes the committee chairman. So, in the current situation at the National Assembly, the two principal positions should not be subject of tussle – the Senate majority leader, Ahmad Lawan, should succeed to the senate presidency, while the House majority leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, assumes the Speakership of the House of Representatives. Other principal positions are similarly aligned. Rankings are adopted to prevent undue acrimony in succession in the US Congress. What happened in the 8th National Assembly where a member of the opposition became Deputy Senate President is an aberration that should not be allowed to repeat itself. With the opposition scheming to hijack the leadership of the National Assembly and some members of the ruling All Progressives Congress in open rebellion against the party’s decision on leadership of the chambers, with senators Ali Ndume and Danjuma Goje as poster boys of this rebellion, the battle line is drawn..
One is scandalised when some self serving Nigerian legislators and their duplicitous, surrogate commentators in the media parrot the ideological inanity of separation of powers in a democracy and that the legislature should not be a rubber stamp of the executive. Ultimately, is government not a unified entity? Are the various arms of government expected to be at each other’s throat, work at cross purposes, in asserting a theoretical separation of powers?
Now, take the example of parliamentary democracy in Britain. In the British Parliament, it is from among members of the legislature (The House of Commons) that the executive is formed with the leader of the majority party emerging as Prime Minister. In America’s presidential system of government, the Vice President even doubles as President of the US Senate. The American President appoints hundreds of federal judges, including those of the Supreme Court. So, where IN REALITY lies the separation? On this issue of the 9TH National Assembly leadership, reason seem to have taken flight while emotion and mischief reigns among some people. And rubber stamp legislature? This is reflective of a cultural negativity where people don’t expect couples to live in harmony. Thus, a man supportive of his wife is dubbed a “woman wrapper’’. Does a 9th National Assembly that is supportive of the Federal Government’s agenda for development make it a ‘Buhari wrapper’?
The APC and President Muhamadu Buhari cannot succumb to the on-going blackmail. So far, the leadership of the APC, led by comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has stood firm against the onslaught. For the purpose of discipline in the party, he must stay the course. Nigeria’s fledgling democracy must establish a system of order. President Buhari cannot adopt a ’siddon look’ attitude or tepid approach. He should not be shy of exercising his veto power in the current situation. A former American President, Lyndon B. Johnson, had a way of bringing difficult members of Congress around. They get invited to The White House and President Johnson ‘’leans’’ on them. President Buhari must ‘lean’ HEAVILY on some people, if it will take that to bring sanity to the issue of leadership of the 9th National Assembly.