Tinubu can’t be Nigeria President and be allowed the luxury of Senate Presidency by proxy.
Q & A with Bolaji O. Akinyemi.
In the light of Nigeria’s current political dispensation and complexities, should we believe in zoning of the Senate Presidency or not?
Events in the political space for all I care have overtaken zoning. PDP for example failed the nation when the culture of the party was traded for the interest of some party Cabals. Their failure to uphold party tradition and constitution when the whole nation was looking up to them has made a ruse of zoning as a mere political formula to adopt when it is favourable to our political elites and discarded when it is not.
What factors then should determine the choice of the Senate president? What should be the message to stakeholders that are in the position to apply the factors?
The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended is a major factor. It vested the authority of representation of the people at the Senate on their elected Senators. This is the very expressive message that should be on the lips of every Nigerian. Legislators are there for their people and the party is only privileged to be the platform through which they contested elections. Little should be the interference of their party leadership at deciding who should lead them. The message is clear; ours is a constitutional democracy, superior only to the rule of the Senate in this matter is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. No one, is as important as each elected member of the Senate aside the people who sent them to the Senate. There is no room carved by the constitution for the recklessness of power and arrogance of political communication coming from BAT and Shettima. The Senators and their Constituents are the Stakeholders. But the game is for the Senators to play on behalf of their people and constituency and they must rise up to it, with only one question in mind; of what benefit is my choice of leadership in this class to my people who sent me here? If there are Stakeholders to be consulted, it is the people who sent them to the Senate. A town hall meeting with their constituencies on this will strengthen democracy. I expect them to give it a trial, and if they aren’t forthcoming, then politically inclined groups with the interest of our country at heart should create platform for NASS Members with people from their constituencies. NASS must not be left alone to take this decision that will impact greatly; negatively or positively on all components called Nigeria without due consultation.
Is Tinubu’s endorsement of Godswill Akpabio and Jibrin Barau as Senate president and vice president respectively justified or not?
Tinubu’s antecedents in Lagos should throw up caution in the senate. Gaining control of the legislative arm of Government is the desire of every Executive, it is the nature of man. But the wisdom of democracy is in the Separation of Powers. We are yet to maximize democratic dividends because of the abuse of Executive control over the legislative arm, from the states to the Federal, the story is the same. It’s against the ethic of Democracy to grant Tinubu such a wish, not even APC Senators should give consideration to it. The micro zoning to Akpabio is not even the decision of APC leadership, but of the President elect they are elected to keep in check. For me, it will be the first red flag of failure if Akpabio made it. Selling Akpabio on religious ground and his being the choice of BAT is a serious minus. The two are a threat to the fragility of our democracy in context of this season.
Recently, the Assembly members regretted zoning decision, and conceded that they goofed. What is your take on this and message to them?
To err is human to forgive divine, members should forgive themselves and revert to democratic norms and ethos. Like I said earlier, this zoning thing in the Assembly is nothing but a fraud. Who is zoning what and for who? Any rule of leadership engagement in a democratic Assembly that over-rules the contribution of the minority through the process is what it is, a political fraud!
The North West powered Tinubu to victory with 2.6 million votes out of the 8 million votes. They are seeking compensation with the Senate Presidency for Jibrin Barau to be the vice president, despite that the vice president is from the North East. Are you comfortable with their demand?
I don’t have to be comfortable with their demands, and nobody should, except them. Politics is about interest canvassing, position promoting through dialogues and debates. APC is indebted to the North West. But the question is; are the 108 senators indebted to North West? I don’t think so! The purpose of the legislative arm has excused them from the burden that is meant for the elected President. It’s his business to find ways to compensate them. Though, I personally don’t wish for a Muslim Senate President, for no reason more than the lack of respect for our faith and consideration for our numbers that powered APC’s Muslim/Muslim ticket. Abdulaziz Yari is for me a force lurking in the corner. Being an independent candidate is a tremendous advantage if he knows how to use it and if care is not taken, we may see a replay of what happened in the 8th Assembly. But then the question should be asked, who is Yari? What has been his contribution to the dynamics of stability in his home state Zamfara? The greatest need of our nation is stability, can Yari bring that to the table as Senate President?
Tinubu and Shettima his vice, are Muslims. Do you think the No 3 position should still go to a Muslim?
I really wouldn’t want to expantiate on this. I may be scuttling Yari’s chance in the process and increasing visibility for Akpabio on religious ground. Tinubu and not Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN or any of CAN affiliate Blocs chose Akpabio as the “Christian candidate”. The question is; is Akpabio a Christian? If he is, which is his church and who is his ‘hello Daddy’? I Am not here to give anybody out. But it is important that the public properly understands the foregoing and the Senate informed of public expectations. Who cares about the religion of a leadership over 107 classmates who all have equal rights in the Assembly and say, in it affairs. The most powerful office under heaven is the office of the President of Nigeria. An individual should not rough his way to the office of the president and be allowed the privilege of holding Senate presidency in proxy. That will be a fatal for experimental democracy. If for Tinubu and APC, Muslim/Muslim suffices, why not give him enough Muslims in his cabinet to work with if they are more competent, we mustn’t give him any excuse for failure. The decision shouldn’t be based on religion but competence. Who is the individual that can provide inspirational leadership for his classmates at the senate for the duties ahead of them. If there is any need to consider a Christian at all, that Christian should come from the North. Christian persecution in Nigeria is a media report to southern Christians. Those whose reality it is on a daily basis should provide the lead at engaging the Executive to find a sustainable solution and not the ‘Judases’ who sees nothing but monetary gain and their political advancement at the expense of our faith.
If a Christian is to be given the Senate Presidency, whom do you think the cap fits and what should be done to achieve this?
All the returning Christian Senators irrespective of their political party stand a chance, depending on how they go about it. There is a Senator from the North East that I had a chat with recently over the National Council for Christian Education bill 2022. We had Hot exchanges of our positions but I walked away respecting him. There is the Senator from a South West state whose performance at the last Assembly and constituency delivery swept all Senate seats for his party in his state. There are others from the South South, South East and North Central, I wouldn’t know if a Christian made if from the North West. Faith should be level for all while competence should determine who. PIA bill is a plus for Ifeanyi Ubah. If they can break from the partisan spirit that has held them down to divisive mediocrity, we may have a breath of fresh air and true experience of legislative life in our democracy. Consultation is the key to get this achieved. With the right policies drawn for the consultative engagement, it’s a 70/30 thing. It is a possibility for anyone who can screw the narrative to gain public sentiment and confidence of his/Colleagues. Are we being chauvinistic? Why are we not considering the gender balance in leadership of the Senate? Is that not a possibility? This for me should be a serious point to also consider.
The North West votes for Tinubu were higher than the South South’s. Should vote determine Akpabio’s choice since he is from the South South? Are you ok with his emergence?
I am ok with the emergence of anyone the Senate or House of Representatives gives the mantle of leadership. It is exclusively their right and responsibility. It’s political timidity to think in terms of general election votes in consideration of Senate and House of Representatives, where over 200 million people are represented by 108 Senators and 360 Reps. There is just 108 vote6 to decide who will be the Senate President. No more, no less!
Other geopolitical zones are agitating for the Senate Presidency but the North Central is not showing up at all? What is your take on this and message to them?
As it stand today, North Central is a conquered territory in the politics of Nigeria, our political experience speaks to that fact until we have leaders from that region in the frame of TY Danjuma who can rub shoulders with their equals from other regions. He did that effectively well, throughout his military career, on that history remains kind to him, his name and legacies. Middle Belt has paid prices at stabilizing the nations at critical time. The inspirational leadership of the natural Middle belt was lost when Abacha created the 6 regions as we have it today. It seeded the native home of Gen TY Danjuma to Taraba. And the middle belt has we have it today is in want of motivational leadership. It’s the same reason no one is speaking for Benue on the senseless killings going on there except the Governor. Gov Ortom is already tilting towards Wike’s support for BAT led incoming administration. Which of course is their right but his legacy as the Governor is about to be erased. Can the security situation in Benue be improved? What can be done to give strength to the state legislation that killer herdsmen have no regard for? Ortom should be in the forefront of any parley to see fresh direction in the leadership of the National Assembly, if he truly loves his people. But if there are articles for negotiations of political interests, he can stay with Wike.
What would you be glad to tell the Senate president that will emerge if you had your way to see him?
He should be mindful of the reckless romance of the Buhari led administration and Lawan led 9th Senate that has left the nation with burden of debt that his generation may not repay. He should lead 10th Assembly at thinking and deciding for tomorrow in all their engagements. He should lead them to weaken religion and strengthen spirituality so we can institutionalize secularism to lead our country away from bitterness, from extremism of tribe and religion fanning our insecurity.
What is your message to National Assembly Members?
Democracy is a game of numbers, what ever they have to do to be in their numbers and have the numbers to make legislative decisions to the benefit of the people and the nation must be done. The Chambers; Red or Green is a box to think of the people, where you are not allowed to think outside of. Minority like they say must have their say and majority their ways. Determining majority in the chamber is not a party affair but of political ingenuity. If they are short of idea and lack the strategy for this unfolding game, I can get His Excellency, Dr Bukola Saraki to coach them for this big league.