It is no longer news that the Seventh National Assembly has been inaugurated and the principal officers of both the Senate and the House of Representatives have been elected. For the Senate, the re-election of Senators David Mark and Ike Ekweremadu as the President and Deputy President was a long foregone conclusion even before Monday the 6th. However, for the House of Representatives, the battle to become speaker involved bravery, intrigues and defiance, or in the words of the ruling PDP, rebellion by its members.
The PDP in its ‘almighty, untouchable’ wisdom had zoned the seat of Speaker to the South-West which had only 5 PDP representatives out of 90 from the entire zone. They even went as far as anointing Hon. Muraina Ajibola as the preferred candidate, some say the single handiwork of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. However, that arrangement was challenged by Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal from Sokoto, urged on by the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) which controls the South-West and Edo State and didn’t want a speaker who would have his loyalty to their arch-nemesis in their region, rather than to the Nigerian State. Hon. Tambuwal also had the support from all the other opposition lawmakers and a large group of reps from his own party, many new and idealistic, desirous of an independent legislature. The rest is now history. Hon Tambuwal won resoundingly in the election, even after the PDP dumped Hon Ajibola and threw their ‘weight’ behind Hon Mulikat Akande-Adeola, who had a good chance of winning until she got the party’s backing, in the end making her look like a potential stooge.
This election is capable of redefining our politics in many ways:
1. It has shown that our legislators are capable of thinking for themselves, rather than following party directives blindly, even to go rebellious, the house had to modify its voting procedure to open secret balloting in order to protect rebellious PDP members from the party’s wrath. An independent legislature is a great asset in every democracy; it shows that they are not a rubber-stamp assembly.
2. Also, this could be the start of reforms within the ruling party. It will force the party to start allowing dissenting opinion within the party, although this has to be the within the wider framework of a party ideology, which honestly, is lacking right now. A party the size of the PDP should be able to accommodate various opinion groups within it; their command-and-control structure is more military than political. Politics is about having dialogues and debates for the greater common good. Military is about conquests and victories. Already, the National Chairman has been quoted as saying that the party would be built as beyond just a platform for winning elections, but as a party with an ideology. This could be a catalyst.
3. Most importantly, this election drives the final nail into the coffin of zoning. Zoning, the controversial arrangement by which the party shared posts among the 6 geo-political zones in the name of equity, but which in effect sacrifices merit for political expediency, came under serious threat when the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan challenged it in order to run for the office of the President. As we all know, he prevailed and eventually won the general elections. By the results of the present make-up of the top 6 posts, the North-West has the 2nd and 4th most powerful offices: the Vice-President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, while the North-Central has the 3rd ranking office – the Senate President. The South-East has the Deputy Senate President and the Deputy Speaker, not to mention the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, a hitherto un-zoned office, which though in the background, is a powerful one in our bureaucratic structure. This leaves the South-West and the North-East without any office in the top 6. This is the very first time that an arrangement like this is happening.
I am not complaining about this. Matter of fact, I am ecstatic about the fact that this unnecessary product of backward thinking called zoning is dead and buried. For me, whether or not Hon Tambuwal won the election didn’t matter to me as much as the fact that he ran. Defying the party directives was victory enough for me. He had to pull in broad support from his colleagues, across party, regional and religious lines to win, clearly indicating that they feel he is of deserving merit. Now, this is what you get when you create a level-playing ground. If Hon Tambuwal hadn’t the courage to run, the honourable members would have had no option but to pick between Honourables Ajibola and Adeola-Akande, when neither of whom might have been their choice.
As for the PDP, they are left scratching their heads on what to do, especially as how to ‘compensate’ the South-West for the massive votes they casted for President Jonathan in April. As for the North-East, they were going to have the office of the National Chairman of the party zoned to them, which becomes vacant next year. Frankly, I do not care who becomes the party chairman, since I am neither a member of the PDP nor is the government responsible for the office. As Simon Kolawole, the Editor-in-Chief of ThisDay Newspapers and my favourite Nigerian journalist always says, zoning is just the arrangement by which they share plum jobs and our resources among themselves using our emotions and sentiments. I do not see how a speaker of the House of Reps will benefit the South-West when a President Obasanjo, from the same South-West didn’t make much direct impact there, at least positively, in 8 years.
Once people in government are doing their job excellently, we forget where they came from or the religious beliefs they profess. It takes a lot of conscious memory to recall that Ernest Ndukwe, the efficient former NCC boss is from the South-East. Even those holding anti-North sentiments in the South cannot but admit that Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Central Bank governor is doing an excellent job. And that’s the way it should be. And that’s what our demand should be about: not where you are from, but that you do an excellent job, because in the end, that is all that matters.
With this drama playing out, I am not sure that the present National Chairman of PDP would refuse to run for the next March when his tenure runs out. He is from Kebbi State. Technically, it is not the turn of his zone. However, precedents seem to be in his favour.
Adieu zoning. Your life filled us with false hopes. Alas, we have seen through the smokescreen you created. We will be happy to miss you.
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