he recent elections of two principals posts in the Senate, which led to the emergence of Senator Saraki as President and Senator Ekweremadu as vice president of the Senate have been commented upon by many. The elections took place on 9 June with 51 Senators absent. Indeed, the Nigerian Punch and some commentators described it as Pyrrhic victory. Some see as a "political coup". Some described it as mutiny. Some saw it as handiwork of the fifth column within the party. Some described it as nemesis for Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu (ABAT). Some members and godfathers within the ruling APC were shocked, while some even hurriedly congratulated the outcome as victory for democracy. We read also that the British Ambassador to Nigeria had congratulated the Senate-President. For all intents and purposes, this article intends to do some analysis and implications of the election.
Absence precludes. Considering that 51 APC Senators were absent on June 9, it may be useful to quote a Yoruba Proverb, which I apologize for its accuracy "O ba won si nibe, o nbere pe bawo ni won se pin". This could somehow be interpreted that you cannot ask how things are shared when you are not physically present. A direct implication of this interpretation requires that to be relevant, physical presence either by the people interested or their proxy is inexcusable. If this condition is not met, the situation is subject to the control and decision of those present. Nigerian politics is wont of exploiting some innocuous inherent weaknesses in democratic procedures to exclude, remove and outmaneuver powerful opponents. We could recollect how the late MKO was outmaneuvered to give President Shagari a second term by a group led Dr. Umaru Dikko during NPN days, also we saw democracy ridiculed when Governor Ladoja was impeached in Oyo State. Since politics is essentially who gets what, physical presence is crucially important. Therefore, the lack of a majority of APC's Senate gave room for the outcome; hence we have to ask the next question
Blame the timing of the meeting: A pertinent question is who called the meeting for the first Day the Senate is to convoke? Yes, there is always meeting before meeting in politics, however, why did the meeting not called the previous day? Considering the importance of being physically present, this article queries who asked the Senators to attend a meeting with the President at the International Conference Center? Why was the invitation done in the name of the President and not at the instance of the Chairman or national working committee? Simply, those who invited the APC Senators are aware that they can't get the Senators to attend the meeting without using the name of the President; however, this was the period of time when the President was just barely returning to the country from the G-7 meeting. On one hand, we have to give credit to the strategist on the side of Senator Saraki for refusing to go to the meeting. Perhaps they are just disrespectful or they were aware of the purpose and knew that the meeting was not at the instance of the President as being claimed. On the other hand, we may chastise them for not subjecting themselves to the supremacy of the party leadership. The balance of the argument is that the Saraki Group must have well-understood from the gestures and statement of the President that he is not interested in who becomes the President of the Senate; as such, the efforts being made by powerful members of the party perceptibly being coordinated by ABAT was undermined. It could be inferred that the calling of the meeting pretentiously at the instance of the President and at a wrong time was exploited timeously by the winning side- Saraki Group in collaboration with other masterminds.
Constitutionality of quorum before inauguration: This article asks "is it legally accurate that the legislative rule of quorum could be used when the senate has not yet been sworn in? For lack of expertise, the constitutionality of the quorum formation before the entire Senate is sworn could not be answered by this article. Nonetheless, there are possible grounds to argue that the rule should be operative after the eighth Senate has been sworn in and other procedural matters of the Senate may now proceed without the full presence of the Senate members. Perhaps another related question that may be asked was why was the new senate so much in a hurry to exploit the legislative rule of quorum formation when 51 senators were not in attendance? We understood that more than 70 Senators are new. Could it not be more appropriate for the gentlemen of the Senate to allow their new members to participate at one of the first sacred duties of choosing first among equals? The bottom-line was that there was a hidden agenda to upturn the normal procedure in the name of legislative procedures to cause an upset and deliver what had been described as ambushed victory. Without being conspiratorial, could it be asked if some of those that invited the APC Senators collaborated with those that refused to attend in order to exploit the rule of quorum formation? Within the same context, could the Clerk of the National Assembly be complicit on the issue of quorum? On the usage of quorum, this article submits that the Nigerian Democratic ways of installing and removing principal officers ridicules democracy. The rush by some Ambassadors to congratulate the Senate President also seems unnecessary. On the Senate elections: for the victors, it is regarded as victory. For those within the party echelons it is regarded as indiscipline. For independent watchers, it is veritable sign of lack of seriousness, self-centeredness, and breeding ground of instability.
Anti-establishment pays off with the right strategy: Senator Saraki was not the candidate of the establishment and this has been the dominant stance. Deriving from this, the article asks "could it be that and why should it appear that APC is afraid of Senator Saraki being the Senate President"? A related question is why is the party or some of its leaders afraid of Senator Saraki? Since the conclusion of the Senatorial elections, the political contest for Senate leadership had begun, and consistently Senator Saraki's name was prominent. From his prominent defection from PDP into APC and his winning of the Senate, there is no doubting the fact that he is much more interested in remaining national political figure in the ruling party for obvious reasons. So why is his ambition to be the No 3 being actively canvassed against by other powerful members of the party? The simple answer in the opinion of this article is the prepositioning for 2019 and beyond has started. The clear lesson may be for the juggernauts within APC to beware of ambushes and settlement of scores, if they want the party to remain together and be able to deliver.
Abating of ABAT's influence. In furtherance of the analysis of the hurried election, the opinion of this article as shared by many others is that it was undertaken to dilute the influence of ABAT. Some had expressed opinions that ABAT is a former governor like the five PDP Governors as well as other former Governors in APC, and yet he enjoys special privilege within the party and of the President through the appointment of the Chairman John Oyegun and Deputy President Yemi Osinbajo and expectedly in some of the yet-to-be announced ministers. There is a clear perception of unrivalled powerful influence of ABAT; as such, other powerful members of the party appeared to have strategized behind the scene to dilute his influence on the legislative bodies. It is true that Nigerian polity has always being dominated by multiple, powerful individuals from independence. Nigerian politicians are necessarily regional leaders, and it goes to substantiate the fact that all politics are local.
Neutrality of the President: In some ways, the election in the legislative chambers exploited the neutrality of the President. The inaugural statement of the President that "I am for everybody and for nobody" was the confirmatory signal. As mentioned earlier in this article, it could be this statement of not being for nobody that encouraged Senator Saraki and a handful of APC Senators that were present for the election to go ahead. The President's statement had been interpreted by many in different ways, and it was sufficiently ambiguous for politicians to exploit for their inordinate ends. One on hand, the phraseology of the statement was not good for a nation expecting positive affirmation from the President being sworn in. In some respects, the phrase "for nobody" connotes aloofness and a tinge of I don't care. Speechwriters of the President could do a better job next time. Being for nobody is also somewhat arrogantly dismissive. Clever politicians drew their conclusions and exploited it with impunity to the leadership of the party.
Should the President interfere in legislature? From the aforesaid neutrality of the President, the question arises, "should the President be interested in the occupier of the principal posts in legislative chambers? Some argued that former President Obasanjo was very much interested in the occupiers of the principal posts. From comparative politics in in the United States, and for the independence of the three arms of the government, ideally, the President is not often seen to be involved in the selection of principal officers of legislature, but this is completely opposite to the interest of the President in the occupants of the Supreme Court. In many of the developed democracies, the political parties decide through voting the occupant of posts within the legislative bodies. In some of these developed countries, there have been situations where party leadership within the legislative bodies have been challenged and upset occasionally.
Dynastic continuity: The late Dr. Olusola Saraki established a formidable political dynasty before his passing, which expectedly his son is the currently leader. It is no doubt that fathers always wished to be bested by their children, hence it is no far-fetched that Senator Saraki would do all that it takes to equal his Dad's achievement with a view to best him. Political Dynasty is becoming global and even in the United States where Senator Hillary Clinton and Governor Jeb Bush represent two dynasties. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya, Bostwana and the Gulf Arab States are some of the countries that have witnessed members of the same family ruling their country. As such, we can't blame but rather understand where Senator Saraki is coming from and possibly where he is going. It is no speculation that the other powerful members of the APC saw it clearly hence their blatant antagonism.
Southeastern Senators collaboration: The national victory of APC grossly excluded the Southeastern and South-South regions. Irrespective of the explanations, this hardnosed exclusion is not politically sagacious. It is not also good for national integration, growth and development. The realization of the exclusion has somewhat engendered the agitation for relevance among the Southeastern political leadership. Therefore, it was no surprise that the Southeastern predominantly PDP Senators assiduously, deliberately prevented the emergence of APC's establishment candidates in the leadership of the bicameral legislature. Within this same point of discussion, one can ask "should the Southwest have put forward a candidate for Speaker of House of Representatives in the first instance and wouldn't that be considered too much for the zone having already secured the VP? In presidential politics, it is always winner takes all. Nonetheless, some sensitivity to foster inclusiveness and giving chances to others, Southeastern and South-South regions, in this case, could deepen democracy. At this juncture, it is worthy to commend the democratic maturity of Rep. Gbajabiamilla for reportedly congratulating and embracing elected Speaker Dogara.
Fifth column within APC: Bearing in mind the early praise for the outcome of the elections that defeated establishment candidates, it suggests existence of a fifth column - those for reasons best known to them working against the majority. Understandably, it was no coincidence that VP Atiku and former Speaker Tambuwal expressed the early praise for the victory of anti-establishment candidates. According to reports, Governor Tambuwal also rose to national prominence as Speaker through the same anti-establishment mutiny within the PDP; as such, he probably would have been involved in the strategy and execution as well as must be thrilled with the sweet outcome. Senator Saraki, the Deputy Senate VP Atiku and Governor Tambuwal were former stalwarts of the PDP, and their victory in the two legislative chambers has shown the strength of the former PDP wing in the APC. If they could not achieve victory in a larger setting like party primaries, they have demonstrated their mastery of the game in a smaller setting. Never underrate your competitor. As will be discussed later in this article, the stalwarts of ACN and PDP within the APC would endeavor to exert maximum pressure and seek maximum representation in this government. These two wings (ruling houses) are going to be very active ahead of the next presidential elections.
To be concluded in Part II