Editor's note: Constant Legit.ng contributor, Ini Akpan Morgan, is eager to see the incoming administration of the president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, hit the ground running. He says: "I desire to see him lead a stable and a focused administration. In my opinion, only a committed and dedicated National Assembly leadership can ensure this." Below is Mr Morgan's ideas on how Buhari could ensure he is surrounded with loyal partners dedicated to make the lives of Nigerians brighter.
This is the second part of Mr Morgan's message to Muhammadu Buhari; you may find part one here.
The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Legit.ng.
Let me show you, Mr president-elect, how the setting for your government has divinely played out itself.
Since 1999, when our democratic journey started, it has been silently agreed that power will be shared between the North and South regions, and among six geo-political zones of North-West, North-East, North-Central, South-West, South-East, and South-South.
Clearly, power-sharing equation was classified into six political offices spanning the executive and the legislature, namely: the president, the vice president, the Senate President, the speaker, House of Representatives, the deputy Senate President, the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. These have been built into our national psyche.
According to precedence also, it has been silently agreed that the region that produces the president should also produce the Senate President and the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives — two presiding offices and one deputed office. The president, by this silent agreement, is required to nominate his vice president from the other region, which should as well produce the deputy Senate President and the speaker of the House of Representatives – one presiding office and two deputed offices.
Between 1999 and 2007, the South-West produced the president, the South-East produced the Senate President, and the South-South the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives; the North-East produced the vice president, the North-Central the deputy Senate President, and the North-West produced the speaker of the House of Representatives.
The same way in 2007, when the North-West produced the president, the North-Central the Senate President, and the North-East the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, just as the South-South produced the vice president, the South-East the deputy Senate President, and the South-West the speaker of the House of Representatives.
The unfortunate loss of our president led to the tilt in this balance of political power equation. Even as most of us prayed that by 2011, the tilt will be adjusted, it was clear how President Jonathan exploited the divine opportunity God bestowed upon him to write his name in gold by coveting the right of the North to continue in its presidency, and God deserted him; the reason why his administration was tainted with blood stains.
This is why, Your Excellency, you must terminate the continuous tilting of this political power balance. We must return on course, to our designed path to a sustainable, people-driven democracy and national cohesion. This will bring national healing, no matter who is sacrificed for the purpose of justice, fair play and brotherhood.
However, we must not rule out the precedence set by the unfortunate tilt in reference. Even in law, precedencies are admitted to determine the course of justice and fair hearing. Therefore, we must not quickly erase the fact that when President Goodluck coveted the continuation of the North as president, he also permitted the South-West to be robbed of its alternate right to produce the Senate President and the North-East to produce the speaker of the House of Representatives.
These two zones lost out of the political power equation, and they were calm about it because most of those vocal from these zones belonged to the opposition parties. Using the so-called ‘Senate ranking rule', Senator David Mark continued as Senate President, so did Ike Ekwerenmadu. This also led to the nouveau political coup d’état in the House of Representatives, which still robbed the South-West and the North-East of political patronage.
Mr president-elect, the time to halt this drift in our political advancement is now, and you must not show such disinterest as you have clearly shown in the issue of the leadership of the National Assembly. There is no way we can discountenance the issue of the Senate ranking rule: if it becomes necessary, to sieve out the person to whom the Senate President should fall. This is why you have to show leadership now.
Political privileges, party loyalty status of candidates
Kindly permit me to bring into focus the major contenders for the seat of the Senate President. While noting that it is important to acknowledge that every distinguished senator elected to serve in the red chamber is eminently qualified to lead the senate, nevertheless, there are factors of privileges to be considered in order to get certain issues in their correct perspective.
His Excellency Senator Abubakar Olubukola Olusola Saraki: This very amiable politician hails from Kwara state in the North-Central zone. He started off as a member of the defunct All Peoples Party (APP), serving in the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo government of national unity as a presidential aide. By the turn of 2003 elections, he decamped from the APP to the PDP, winning the gubernatorial elections to become the executive governor of Kwara state.
Apart from winning his reelection into the Kwara state govt House, he progressed to lead the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF). His charisma in leadership enabled him to build the NGF into a political voice, which essentially contributed to issues of governance at the centre. At the close of that era when he had to relinquish his position as the chairman of the NGF, it is insinuated that he single-handedly chose his successor, Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who still bears true allegiance to Bukola Saraki till now.
Bukola Saraki, after losing out as a presidential aspirant in the PDP, moved on to become a Senator in 2011 but still remained a strong influence over the NGF. At a point Nigerians began to see the NGF as a political pressure group, which made some governors more or less interested in issues at the centre than in their own States where they have the mandates they held as governors.
As a member of the PDP, Senator Saraki fell out with President Jonathan, likely because of the embarrassment he suffered being accused of financial crimes and taken to court on the matter. I have still not heard the end of that matter.
As things subsequently turned out, issues boiled to the point where the infighting between presidency and the PDP on one side and the NGF and some PDP bigwigs on the other escalated. The NGF crisis, the suspension of serving governors from the PDP and the subsequent walk-out staged during the Special National Convention of the PDP is still fresh in our minds.
Bukola Saraki, with others who were led by Atiku Abubakar out of that convention, met at the Shehu Yar’adua Centre and nominated his surrogate Abubakar Kawu Baraje as chairman of the association they called the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP).
In the long run, Senator Saraki joined other members of the nPDP to join the APC and contributed immensely to the success of the president-elect in the last election. One thing Bukola Saraki has not been able to hide about himself is that he is an ambitious man. Desperately ambitious.
This is the same man who did not mind bringing to nothing the reputation of the man who made him everything he is today. His father, Senator Olusola Saraki, Senate Majority Leader in the Second Republic, was known as the strongman of Kwara politics, but of all the strongmen who tried to demystify the man, it was only his son, Bukola, who succeeded. That man may have answered his call to glory believing that his son cannot be trusted to make sacrifices in politics
His Excellency Senator George Akume: This noble and easy-going politician hails from Benue state in the North-Central zone. He began in 1999 as the executive governor of Benue state on the platform of the PDP, after which he contested and won the 2007 senatorial elections to represent Benue state in the National Assembly.
Senator Akume, who likely may have fallen out with his successor to the seat of governor in Benue state, decamped from the PDP to the ACN. He contested and won reelection into the Senate under the flag of the ACN, progressing to become the Senate Minority Leader.
He is one of the prime movers and committee heads that midwifed the merger of the opposition parties to birth the APC. As Senate Minority Leader, he was able to assist the Senate President to handle the matter of the cross-carpeting of the PDP senators in the red chamber without any rancour. An admirable and dedicated party man who gave the ACN its northern outlook, Senator Akume is well-respected in the South-West.
Senator Akume is a strong voice and force in the politics of Benue state, and his position as the APC leader in the state is uncontestable. He worked assiduously to ensure that Benue state delivered the president-elect, the governor-elect, and majority of member of that state to the National and State Assemblies. He may appear a very deft politician but he does not show himself to be desperately ambitious. I am not sure if he has any case in court on corruption.
Distinguished Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume: This vocal and strong-willed politician hails from Gwoza, Borno state in the North-East zone. Senator Ndume began his political career in the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and got elected into the House of Representatives in 2003, reelected in 2007 and became the House Minority Leader.
In 2010, Senator Ndume decamped from the ANPP to the PDP due to a fallout with the political leader in his state at that time, His Excellency Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, winning his election into the senate in 2011. Ali Ndume is a very dynamic politician, who contributed immensely to the success of the APC during the national and state elections that delivered the president-elect. He was also a member of the nPDP.
Unfortunately for this amiable politician, at the peak of the insurgency in the country, he was linked with terrorism and alleged to be a sponsor of the dreaded Boko Haram militancy because of links traced to him from telephone communication with one of the suspect linked with the insurgency. We have not heard the end of that case.
Distinguished Senator (Dr) Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan: This unassuming and vibrant senator hails from Yobe state in the North-East zone. He was first elected into the National Assembly in 1999 as member, House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the committee on agriculture and education at different times. He was a member of the House of Representative until 2007 when he contested and won the Yobe North senatorial election into the Senate.
He is a pioneer member of the All Peoples Party (APP) until it was rechristened the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). As a consistent opposition politician, he has contributed immensely to ensure that Yobe state remains the stronghold of the opposition in the country. He contributed much to leading the ANPP into the merger that threw up the APC.
A low-profiled politician who chooses to be a voice only heard contributing to national discuss. Senator Ahmed Lawan is one politician who has distanced himself from every appearance of controversy and a level-headed leader in his own right.
My sincere fears
My president-elect, it is an open development these days to see members of the legislature impeach an executive together with the deputy in order to enthrone the head of such legislature as the principal executive. Among the four contenders for the seat of the Senate President, it is not hidden that it is only Senator Bukola Saraki that commands the required structure and resources to bulldoze his way to that seat.
Bukola Saraki, apart from Atiku Abubakar, is one of the PDP dropouts in the APC that the PDP is looking forward to lobbying back into their fold. He enjoys the support among the governors, past and present. He also enjoys the support of majority of the PDP senators-elect. He is the only politician apart from Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who has a solid political structure and followership. He is the politician in the Senate who can comfortably meander between members of the APC and the PDP.
I fear that if you do not enjoy the cooperation of the leadership of the National Assembly in your drive to 'kill corruption,' such discontentment between your government and the legislature may likely lead to the National Assembly initiating impeachment proceedings against you. Ambition is made of sterner stuff. Senator Bukola Saraki is made of such stuff.
I therefore wish to be comforted and to ask you to allay my fears by instructing that anyone amongst the candidates jostling for the seat of the Senate president who has any case pending in court should withdraw immediately from the race, and anyone in the APC who refuses to concede to this instruction should be expelled from the party forthwith.
Based on the above analysis volunteered under three classifications, we can deduce the following:
On contributions to the merger, it is just that, since the CPC has thrown you up as president and the ACN the vice president, the ANPP is allowed to throw up the Senate President, and the APGA the speaker of the House of Representatives. The nPDP can choose who from the South-South should take the deputy Senate President, and who from the North-Central should take the seat of the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, for their contributions to the success of the APC.
On political precedence, I have pointed out how in the outgoing administration, the South-West and the North-East were marginalized out of the political power-sharing equation. Between the North-Central and the North-East zones, it is absolutely clear that, if the seat of the Senate President must follow justiciable considerations, fair play and national cohesion, the North-Central has enjoyed a fair share of political power allocation in the senate.
Between 1999 and 2007, the North-Central enjoyed the office of the deputy Senate Presidency. Between 2007 and 2015, they have held onto the seat of the Senate President. I am sure you will agree with me that the office of the Senate President is not an exclusive preserve of the North-Central. This throws up the North-East as the most privileged region to produce the Senate President.
Still on precedence, especially as it concerns the Senate ranking rule, it is discoverable that the most senior ranking senator in the APC today remains the one who has spent the past 16 years as a legislator. Amongst the four candidates above, only Senator (Dr) Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan wears this cap. Senator Lawan remains the only candidate among the four aspiring to the office who has been consistent in his political party-following and has remained true to the opposition and its struggle against the wiles of the PDP.
Mr president-elect, while other candidates in the race enjoyed frolicking with the PDP at one time or another, it is Dr Lawan that remained and suffered the same fate as you. I think that the ANPP should throw up the next senate President based on political precedence, privileges and loyalty, as Lawan remains the only man standing and deserves to be rewarded for his steadfastness.
Mr president-elect, your intervention in this regard will encourage political loyalty, sacrifice and candour. It will discourage politicians who do not await for the 'rainy season' to green their grass but roam about to seek pastures green. Those who have refused to offer a sacrifice in their political career must be made to do so now: this is the cry of change!
Ini A. Morgan is a Port Harcourt-based architect, writer and public affairs analyst. He is married with children.
Read his previous appeals to the president-elect: My Open Letter To Muhammadu Buhari, Part One: Ensure Police & Civil Defence Corps Reforms and My Open Letter To Muhammadu Buhari, Part Two: Paths To Take.
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