Ordinarily, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is endowed with intelligent, courageous and fair-minded leaders who would not fall for the temptation of egotism.
But these are not ordinary times and the vibes from within the palaces of the movers and shakers in the APC portend imminent danger to a stable all-inclusive government based on the federal character principle enunciated in section 14(3) of the Nigerian Constitution.
The knotty issue that will test APC’s abhorrence of impunity, which was one of the major reasons Nigerians voted for the Party, is the zoning of leadership offices in the National Assembly. To be sure the APC as the majority party has the conventional privilege to zone the offices of Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. It reserves the right to choose the Leader, Deputy Leader, Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip of both Houses in Nigeria’s bicameral Federal Legislature. Here lies the albatross that is threatening to expose the underbelly of the party and may set its government on a controversial foundation, unless men of courage insist on fairness and manifest inclusiveness as much as possible.
My apprehension is fueled by the media report that a section of the leadership may have decided to zone Speaker and Deputy Speaker to the South West (Lagos) and North West (Kano) respectively. Without bothering with other issues, it is patently unfair and insensitive to contemplate that the two zones that have produced incoming President and Vice President should also produce the Speaker and Deputy in a six geopolitical zone structure.
To be fair, there are extenuating circumstances that may hamper the even spread of Legislative Offices enumerated above to all the six zones in Nigeria. For instance, the South East has no APC senator at all and has not produced any ranking APC Member of the House of Representatives. The South South has one Senator who is a fresher and does not meet the ranking criterion. But the South South has four
members – elect for the House of Representatives two of whom are ranking, with one of them reportedly parading impeccable credentials and legislative leadership experience.
Another factor that is implicated in the egotistic temptation may have arisen from the acrimonious campaign which accused a highly respected leader of the APC of denying the South West of Speakership in the outgoing 7th Assembly. Now that APC has won, unless higher consideration of national interest prevails, it is quite human to want to have a last laugh no matter the expense, by insisting on Speakership from the South West. But nobler consideration will at once pinpoint that the position of the Vice President has more than atoned for the alleged denial. Indeed, there would be more compensating legislative leadership offices from the Senate and House of Representatives without insisting on the Speakership.
I am one of those who wish APC well enough to point out the danger in deliberately shutting out the South South from the Speakership of the House of Representatives for the following reasons.
That zone lost the Presidency and if APC fails to be magnanimous in victory but embarks on vendetta by denying the zone the opportunity to produce Speaker, the government may unwittingly start on a controversial way in the minds of discerning Nigerians.
Nigeria just witnessed a very divisive campaign and the scars need quick healing and if APC brazenly fails to use the opportunity presented by the Representatives from the South South to build bridges that may very well help to ultimately bring the South South and even South East into the fold, there will be negative perception with far reaching consequences.
Section 14 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides thus: “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”
Flouting this provision of the constitution will be viewed by many Nigerians as an act of impunity which APC promised to change and for which Nigerians gave the party the mandate to govern.
For the love of country APC must endeavour to start well and aim to finish well.
…Abdulrahman Hassan, a public affairs commentator contributed this piece from Kaduna.