As expected in a democracy, after the general electione, the battle ground has shifted to the sharing table. Of course, the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Isa-Onilu, had warned their party men and women that the game was a winner-takes-all affair, thus making it clear to the opposition parties in the legislature that there will be nothing to share with the APC in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
If you think that the apparatchiks in the ruling party are vehemently fighting to protect the interests of their members in the legislature, you are dead wrong. And if you believe that this post-elections hysteria and even the paranoia for the Peoples Democratic Party in the build-up to the inauguration of the 9th Assembly is down to the experience of the last four years, you miss the plot too.
There is really nothing altruistic in the insistence of the APC leadership that Senator Ahmed Lawan must be elected the next Senate President. In the same vein, there is no overriding national interest in recommending Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives. Both men are qualified for the different positions – just like their other colleagues. In fact, emerging feelers from the senators-elect, for instance, seem to contradict the tyrannical imposition of Senator Lawan on his colleagues. If the APC leadership does not have ears to the ground, they might be rudely shocked again. As it appears, many of of the APC senators – even PDP senators – for different reasons think that Ali Ndume rather than Lawan has defended the APC position in the Senate with all his might and everything in his possession. Therefore, they prefer him to be elected as Senate President. This is the kind of danger inherent in zoning to an individual rather than to geo-political zones or regions.
If the APC leadership can pretend that it zoned the Senate presidency to the North-East and not to Ahmed Lawan, there is no room for such pretence in the alleged zoning of the speakership to Gbajabiamila. And the reason is quite obvious for even a blind man to see. Whereas the entire North-East has nothing to hold on to so far, the South-West already has in its kitty the office of Vice President. And when it is considered that President Muhammadu Buhari in his second term has exhausted his constitutional opportunity for re-election to the same office, the import and the opportunities in the exalted office that Prof Yemi Osinbajo holds in the name of the South-West cannot be over-emphasised. Now, how anyone can justify overloading the South-West yet with another position of speakership when zones like the North-Central and South-East have nothing in the national power-sharing formula?
Therefore, any mention of Gbajabiamila in the race for the position of Speaker in the 9th Assembly not only offends the principle of equity and justice, but it also offends the logic of winner-takes-all as declared by the APC leadership. It offends the logic in the sense that regions are partly rewarded on the basis of the votes they contributed to the victory of the ruling party. This, perhaps, explains why a large zone like the South-East, even in the face of obvious inequity, is only making a half-hearted demand in the APC zoning formula. Yet, the same cannot be said of the North-Central that played a key role in the first coming of the APC to power in 2015 and has remained steadfast, even in the face of mistreatment by the Federal Government, especially in the several deadly herders-farmers clashes. Even in the just-concluded general election, the North-Central geo-political zone gave more votes to Buhari and the APC than the South-West.
Let nobody be deceived by the propaganda that there are precedents in the past justifying the simultaneous holding of the offices of Vice President and Speaker by a particular zone. Yes, in 1979, Chief Alex Ekwueme, a native of Anambra State, was the Vice President, while Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, who is also a native of the same state, was the Speaker of the House of Reps. The truth, however, is that there was a power-sharing accord between the ruling National Party of Nigeria and its alliance partner, the Nigerian Peoples Party. So, whereas, Ekwueme was of the NPN, Ume-Ezeoke was of the NPP, and the emphasis of the sharing formula then was between two parties. Now it is among regional zones. Even then, the country was not as divided as it is now, with all manner of fault-lines crying to be attended to.
Let it be known that the greatest danger of what the APC has done in zoning to individuals rather than groups is that it undermines national solidarity and even group interests. What is the APC afraid of in allowing a zone to arrive at a consensus about who it has chosen to occupy a particular leadership position? Surely that is more democratic and a political party in power has the added responsibility of showing good democratic examples by following the due process.
All this talk that “it must be Lawan or it must be Gbajabiamila” by the leadership of APC may, in fact, be a euphemistically-designed plot to allow only one individual to decide for a whole nation of over 200 million people who becomes President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House and logically afterwards, the committee chairpersons in his bid for the presidency in 2023. This same powerful individual has already conquered the APC by planting his vassal as party chairman. So the ‘next level’ is to conquer the government. Who noticed that someone is already grandstanding publicly as an alternate President advising on policy matters? Our country is certainly too big to be reduced to a footstool of one man, no matter how powerfully he looms.