Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Respect the Opposition: Lessons from APC's Blunder

Yesterday, the Nigerian Senate elected their principal officers and we saw Senator Bukola Saraki of APC emerging Senate President and Ike Ekweremadu of PDP his deputy.

A lot has been said about this election: some hail the PDP for their political savviness, others say PDP merely saw a chance and took it; some say APC has sown the seed of disintegration amongst themselves, others accuse Saraki as being a traitor; some say that what happened and the current situation of things in the Senate House is healthy for the growth of our Democracy, others say it was illegal for voting to have commenced without the 51 APC Senators-elect who went for a meeting as summoned by President Buhari...they argue that it was wrong to assume that section 54 (1) of the Nigerian constitution was applicable in yesterday's scenario as the Senators were yet to be inaugurated. The said section reads: "The quorum of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall be one-third of all the members of the Legislative House concerned".

Well, I wouldn't delve into these debates now...but I made an important observation and learnt a very important lesson: "never disrespect your opposition". How come? 

Now, prior to the convergence of the Nigerian Senators...the time and "venue" of the event must have been earlier agreed on by all and sundry. By the events of yesterday, it is safe to say the venue was at the National Assembly complex and the time was 10 A.M. because that was when both Senators-elect and staff members of the National Assembly were allowed access into the complex. Reports say that Senators elected on the platform of the APC were to meet President Buhari at the International Conference Centre, Abuja at 9:00 A.M.; 51 of the 59 APC Senators left for this meeting and seemingly put the pre-agreed convergence and inauguration of all Nigerian Senators at the backburner. They were at the International Conference Centre till about 11 A.M. waiting for Buhari who unfortunately never turned up and only left when news of what was happening at the National Assembly reached them. Some say that these 51 APC Senators may have known that with Saraki and his team joining forces with PDP, their candidate (Senator Ahmed Lawan) stood no chance at becoming Senate President hence they chose to stay away from the election or look up to Buhari as their very last hope. But judging from the way they reacted when they got the news and the speed with which they headed back to the National Assembly complex I dare say that:
  1. The APC leadership and Senators-elect must have thought that all 59 members would be at the International Conference Centre for the said meeting with Buhari.
  2. They were audacious enough to think that as Senators from the ruling party, the event scheduled for 10 A.M. at the National Assembly complex would never kick-off till they arrive. They actually never seemed to have bothered about people who may be waiting for them at the National Assembly complex and were ready to wait as long as it takes for Buhari to arrive…they only left when news of proceedings got to them.
  3. Points 1 and 2 above clearly show that the APC leadership and 51 Senators-elect had no iota of respect for the Senators-elect from the PDP whom they expected to "sit and wait" at the hallowed chamber for their "superior" colleagues to arrive before the business of the day commences.
In their folly, they forgot that constitutionally, the Senate Presidency could go to any Senator whether from a majority or minority party. APC actually did risk a PDP Senator-elect emerging as Senate President because they had a greater number of members at the very point of election: 49 against 8. They should also be grateful that Saraki was there to be nominated because if he had gone for that "meeting", PDP would have had no choice than to nominate and vote in a PDP candidate as Senate President...and yeah APC would have needed 72 members to unseat him/her, a number which they lack.

Well...the arguments can tarry, but personally I think it all went wrong for APC yesterday when the 51 Senators-elect and some party leaders chose to disrespect PDP Senators-elect and take them for granted. Some may argue that even if the 51 Senators-elect were present during the election, Saraki would still have won as it would have been 57 against 51. However, they neglect the fact that Saraki was a sole nominee and was unopposed. This was because the PDP had reached an agreement with him and the 8 APC Senators-elect in the Chamber were either for him or for Ahmed Lawan who wasn’t in the Chamber at the time and therefore couldn’t be nominated. There also was no guarantee that if an election was conducted, all 8 APC Senators-elect who skipped the “meeting” would have voted Saraki. A look at what played out as the Deputy Senate President was elected goes further to show that the absence of the 51 senators played a role in APC’s blunder. 

There were 75 Senators-elect in the hallowed chamber when the election for deputy speaker was conducted. Ekweremadu polled 54 votes: theoretically, this should be 49 votes from the PDP and 5 votes from the 8 APC members who didn’t go for the “meeting”. An additional 18 APC members arrived and gave Ali Ndume their votes; 2 APC members out of the 8 who never went for the “meeting” also voted Ndume (20 votes in total); a Senator decided not to vote (can’t tell whom s/he would have voted for). 33 APC members were probably still on their way to the chamber or still at the International Conference Center waiting for Buhari. Assuming they were in the hall, and the abstaining Senator voted for Ndume …Ekweremadu may not have won outrightly and same goes for Saraki. 
  
I hope they have learnt their lesson and that they remember that PDP has 49 members which is more than enough to form a quorum in the house (36 members needed)...so when next an important event is scheduled in the House, they shouldn't go “gallivanting” as they do not really have a superior status in the Hallowed Chamber.

And for the record...I do like that Tinubu failed to take control of the Leadership of the National Assembly; I now hope that these lawmakers forget the politics and get down to the real reasons for which they were elected. God bless Nigeria.

The Oracle has spoken!!

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