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A House Of Assembly Built On Shaky Grounds

Shuaib Shuaib writes on the latest speakership tussle in the Bauchi and Edo States Houses of Assembly.

Governors Bala Mohammed and Godwin Obaseki
Governors Bala Mohammed and Godwin Obaseki

Once a bad political precedent has been set Nigeria, it is bound to happen again and again until it surprises no one and all the tricks that make it possible have been blocked.

The ruling party All Progressives Congress was prepared for the leadership elections in the National Assembly.

It wasn’t going to be caught off guard as it was in 2015 when a small number of mostly PDP elected members voted to make Bukola Saraki senate president.

As it has turned out, the scope of the party’s concerns were too narrow and restricted to the National Assembly.

It should have been just as focused on state assemblies in states like Sokoto and Bauchi where it won a majority of seats in the assemblies but lost the governorship seats to the opposition People’s Democratic Party.

Because it didn’t, state governors in both states have succeeded in replicating the election of Saraki in their various state assemblies, though it was more of a compromise in the case of Sokoto.

But the real difference between what took place at the national level in 2015 and what just happened in Bauchi is that in the former, APC lawmakers were naively absent while the duo of Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu were elected senate president and deputy senate president.

It is obvious the defeated former APC governor in Bauchi, Mohammed Abubakar doesn’t want to go away quietly.

But the real difference between what took place at the national level in 2015 and what just happened in Bauchi is that in the former, APC lawmakers were naively absent while the duo of Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu were elected senate president and deputy senate president

Of course no one can say with any certainty that the former governor has plans to influence lawmakers and manipulate political events from behind the scenes so to create atmosphere for him to make a comeback.

Yet, despite losing his governorship seats, his party still won a majority of seats in the state House of Assembly, 22 of the 31-seat assembly.

That gives the APC a lot of political leeway to not only make Bauchi ungovernable for Bala Mohammed but also the numbers to impeach him at the slightest provocation.

How the governor has chosen to go about this predicament was to deliberately and forcefully shut 20 APC lawmakers out of the process of electing the speaker.

The first impression it created is that the PDP is back to its old ways. With the show of force led by the police, the connivance of the clerk of House, Yusuf Gital and the undeniable hand of Governor Bala Mohammed, the PDP has managed to impose minority rule on the Bauchi House of Assembly.

Eleven members, eight of them from the PDP on June 20 elected Abubakar Suleiman as speaker.

This is not the first time the party is making certain that the minority should have its way while the majority gets to protest. In fact, there was a time in Nigeria the name PDP had become a byword for cheating.

Incredibly, close to the same thing happened in Edo which is being governed by the APC. Now, Adams Oshiomhole is not the most ideal or suitable person to lead a political party.

His leadership has left a trail of disaster and court cases in the wake of the party primaries he conducted for various political offices.

With the show of force led by the police, the connivance of the clerk of House, Yusuf Gital and the undeniable hand of Governor Bala Mohammed, the PDP has managed to impose minority rule on the Bauchi House of Assembly

Maybe the First Lady, Aisha Buhari best expressed the frustration many felt towards him after the party primaries when she questioned the rationale behind collecting money from aspirants only to deny them the space to contest in an open and transparent primary.

That opportunity is the only basis for a party to exist in the first place. But Adams Oshiomhole had to get personally involved in every primary contest with the determination to impose his will. And that’s not all.

In Edo where he governed for eight long years and personally picked his successor, Oshiomhole is still determined to call the shots.

In case the APC chairman needs reminding, a similar scenario played out in the PDP when it was in power. Bamanga Tukur was party chairman and he didn’t believe in consulting with governors and other stakeholders.

He didn’t have the patience for negotiations. Worst of all, he wanted to take control of politics in Adamawa.

The end result was a fractured party that may have led to the governor’s impeachment, but it also cost the president his seat and the PDP, the presidency.

While both the APC chairman and Governor Godwin Obaseki may no longer see eye to eye, it says a lot about Oshiomhole’s politics and level of interference that 15 of the 24-man state House of Assembly are still loyal to him and were poised to elect his preferred candidate as speaker.

This is not the first time the party is making certain that the minority should have its way while the majority gets to protest. In fact, there was a time in Nigeria the name PDP had become a byword for cheating

That was until the governor and his loyal team of nine lawmakers hoodwinked them by holding a late night inauguration and electing Frank Okiye as speaker.

In this incident, Oshiomhole is the one crying foul and he is right to do so. As much as the governor doesn’t need to have the party chairman dictating his every action, what has happened in both Bauchi and Edo is a rape of democracy, abuse of power by the state governor and a mockery of the democratic process.

It was excusable back in 2015 because in so many ways, it was an accident and a series of events simply conspired against the wishes of the ruling party.

But the recent events were meticulously planned by the governors and stealthy executed by the clerks of the houses of assembly, personnel of the police and a handful of lawmakers.

And in both states, the APC is vowing to employ all available democratic means to correct the situation. That can only mean the party plans to go to court or simply impeach the newly elected speakers.

Making threats of impeachment is nothing to Oshiomhole. He made the threat to Saraki only it turned out to be an empty one.

But in Edo, what is his end game? To install a speaker just for the sake of it or to ensure the balance of power is in his favour ahead of governorship elections in the state?

Initially, the APC was silent about what took place in Edo because it was a governor from the party that engineered the whole thing.

Maybe the First Lady, Aisha Buhari best expressed the frustration many felt towards him after the party primaries when she questioned the rationale behind collecting money from aspirants only to deny them the space to contest in an open and transparent primary

It wasn’t until the same occurred in Bauchi that it got an opportunity to speak out against it. And that exactly is the dilemma Oshiomhole faces.

How do openly confront and fight against a governor of your own party who has deliberately circumvented laid down democratic norms for selfish reasons?

How does Oshiomhole justify his own interest in the election of a speaker in the state without appearing to be waging a personal war, most especially when there was no partisan division in the election?

It’s a totally different case in Bauchi. First, the exclusion of the majority of the lawmakers in the election of principal officers was driven by partisan consideration and the desire of the state governor to protect himself from the threat of a state assembly led and dominated by the APC.

Second is the fact that there is a defeated former governor out there who is determined to reclaim his seat and is in court arguing the mandate to govern should be his.

The aggrieved former speaker of Bauchi House of Assembly, Kawuwa Damina who obviously hasn’t lost all hopes of regaining his seat, should also be considered.

In fact, the 20 or so APC lawmakers who were schemed out of participating in the election process held a symbolic election giving Kawuwa Damina back his former job.

While both the APC chairman and Governor Godwin Obasaki may no longer see eye to eye, it says a lot about Oshiomhole’s politics and level of interference that 15 of the 24-man state House of Assembly are still loyal to him and were poised to elect his preferred candidate as speaker

There is also the propriety of the actions the clerk of the assembly and all other authorities in state took that that enabled the election of Abubakar Suleiman as speaker.

The most curious thing is that Suleiman adjourned plenary indefinitely. Now, how is that even possible?

What is certain is that the moment the assembly reconvenes, all hell could break loose. How will Bala Mohammed stop the aggrieved members from impeaching his preferred speaker? How will the governor even stop himself from being impeached?

All of the signs are of a government and a house built on quicksand. Of course indefinitely could mean six long months, even a whole year or maybe never.

It will at least give enough time for cooler heads to prevail and a great deal of lobbying to take place.

Special Adviser to President Mohammadu Buhari on Media, Mr. Femi Adesina.

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