The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has positioned itself for a battle with Bukola Saraki, the Senate President. I believe such a battle is not in the best interests of the party at this time, and should not be seen as a priority. Failure to heed counsel will lead the party to continue to confuse neutral political observers and undecided voters that the APC is not different, despite its rhetoric to the opposite, from the PDP.
As the saying goes, that “there is no honor among thieves”, it will be very hard for a brutally honest Nigerian to not find faults in the behaviors of Nigeria’s biggest political actors. While I have always counseled that politics should be judged more on policy delivery than the rhetoric that surrounds the fight for political office and relevance, if one has to be realistic, both are still very important.
A politician who is more interested in delivering dividends to his people and cares less on the political side of things, will find himself at the mercy of his political associates and registered opposition. There are many cases of how this has played out in the past and present, but with regards to the present quagmire that the APC finds itself in, where it is the majority party in the senate but does not occupy the topmost positions, no other similitude best fits the present situation than that of Rashidi Ladoja and the PDP in 2003.
In 2003, Rashidi Ladoja had just won the governorship election of Oyo state, and his party the PDP won more members of the State Assembly in its surprise victory than the previous ruling party, the AD. As has become customary at the time, the governor was expected to influence the election of the speaker of the house, in order for him to have a smooth running as regards his agenda to develop the state. However being a democrat, he was quoted to have said he does not need to influence who the speaker is, since the legislature is supposed to be a separate arm of government. The space created by his absence in that Assembly election was filled by the Late Lamidi Adedibu, his political partner in the elections that brought him in. Once Adedibu started having issues with Ladoja’s independent posture in the governance of the state, he pushed the State Assembly to impeach him from office. While Ladoja made frantic efforts to establish control of the House to stop the impeachment plot and was able to get enough members on his side to push back any impeachment, Adedibu locked out members loyal to the governor with the connivance of the FG and Police during the crucial impeachment vote and was able to impeach Ladoja successfully albeit illegally.
Although Ladoja was able to regain his governorship position before the end of his term after a Supreme Court victory, he had paid the price of being too democratic in a nation that is not ready for legislative independence as ideally as it should be.
Fast forward to 2015 and President Buhari had a similar posture to Ladoja. He was not interested in who becomes the president of the Senate or the speaker of the House of Representatives. He only wanted to be President of the country. He just wanted to govern. While his political partner, Bola Tinubu, advanced the candidacy of Ahmad Lawan as Senate President and Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker of the House, it was ultimately not successful, as Bukola Saraki conjured a deal with the opposition, PDP to vote for him while using his offer of the Deputy Senate Presidency to lure them. It worked, partly because he has sold out his own party in the allocation of the highest seat of a body where they are majority, but also because the election took place while most of the senators of the ruling party were in a caucus meeting, and were not aware that a sitting of the senators loyal to Saraki and all of the opposition was holding to conduct the vote that produced the Senate President and his deputy.
Despite the immorality and illegality of what transpired, President Buhari still congratulated the winners of the sham senate elections. A similar thing happened in the House of Representatives with no price to pay for the traitors.
The price the APC paid for the actions its overambitious members took was that those members delayed its annual budget, allowing little time for its implementation when it is eventually passed. Even worse, the passage of the budget was usually met with allegations of its being “padded”. Padding in the Nigerian legislative parlance means that the National Assembly, in doing its work of going through the budget proposals and approving it, removed certain infrastructure projects proposed for implementation and replaced it with projects conceived by individual members and passed it for the President’s assent.
Given the developments in the National Assembly where the Senate President and some members of the ruling party moved to the PDP, it is clear that on a moral basis, the Bukola Saraki should not be seen occupying the position of the President of the Senate, given that his decampment from the ruling party means that the minority party in the National Assembly now holds the two topmost positions in the Senate.
When viewed from the lens of what the constitution says however, Saraki is well within his rights to remain as president of the Senate because, only a 2/3 majority of the members of the Senate can impeach him from holding that office.
We have seen Adams Oshiomole, the APC chairman calling for Saraki’s impeachment, when it is clear his party does not have the numbers required to achieve it. They are presently 16 senators short of the number required to have that done. Going to town to claim that 2/3 of the members at a sitting is what is required to remove the Senate President does not augur well for our democracy. It implies that the APC may use the instrumentality of the security forces to hold a sitting that will lock out the members of the opposition, to impeach the Senate President. If that happens, the APC will lose the moral high ground which it presently occupies in this matter and bring itself low to the level of a morally inept person like the Senate President.
Even more, the APC has a bigger battle to fight. It is the fight for the soul of this country. It is a fight of a government that has gone a long way to bring greater accountability to governance against the forces that believes it owns Nigeria. That battle is the battle to keep Muhammadu Buhari in power till 2023. The party should not lose focus on that more important goal while getting itself enmeshed in a battle with Saraki. The war is more important. Win the war and the battle will never be lost. Do otherwise and remove Saraki illegally, and don’t blame undecided voters whose abstention from voting in the presidential election in 2019 will be more of an endorsement of the removal of APC from power than it is to keep it in the Aso Villa.