Hannatu Musawa

The historic 5th quadrennial election to be held since the end of military rule in 1999, witnessed teeming Nigerians voting for “change”, have since come to an end. The fever-pitched atmosphere, apprehension and trepidation that characterized the polity before and during the elections finally came to an end with the election of Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and an overwhelming majority of APC senators, governors and federal and state house of representative members nationwide. In an election generally seen both locally and internationally as credible, free and fair, Nigerians voices were finally heard via the ballot box as they chose a “change of guard” at the helm of affairs. By voting for APC and its “change” mantra, Nigerians expects the prevailing status quo in the pre-APC administration to be changed. Nigerians primarily expect a government (at all levels) that would put the nations interest ahead of any individual interest or aspirations which more than often, proves inimical in the long-run to the unity of the country.

With the inauguration and swearing in of Mr. President on 29th May, a major news headliner that has been inundating the print and social media for some time now is the brewing conflict within the APC administration. Barely a week and a half into the APC administration, power tussles engendered by egocentrism and self-interest has began rearing its ugly head threatening to undermine the unity of the party so soon. A microscopic perusal of the genesis of the conflicts, one can easily and discerningly tell that the conflicts are purely based on individual interests as opposed to the overall and best interest of the nation. In particular, the leadership tussles within the incoming APC National Assembly members is a textbook example of Nigerians in leadership positions, always putting their individual and selfish interest before the nation’s interest. Alarmingly, with this conflict threatening the unity of the party, which prides itself as a conduit for change, one can’t help but question whether the change that we sold our campaign on and an intention to dedicate ourselves for Nigeria’s interest was genuinely embraced by everyone. One can’t help but question whether this supposed “change” was embraced by everyone in the party in the same way it was embraced and understood by President Buhari and a select few. Also, one can’t help but wonder if many that were identified as agents of change under the banner of the APC, were indeed false prophets of change.

With regards to the incoming National Assembly leadership, this was an ample opportunity for the incoming APC legislators to exhibit the “change” on which they were voted upon. Putting Nigeria first should have been the utmost desire of these legislators and no underhanded means or external force should have been adopted or interfered in the National Assembly leadership elections. From the activities and results Nigerians witnessed in the last one week, it may be safe to assume that, individual interests, as opposed to National interest, was the leading component that influenced the conduct of the legislatures. This would be applicable to both the leading factions that played a part in macabre dance that has come to be known as the Nigerian political contest.

If there was a genuine desire to enforce national unity and exhibit an “extraordinary change”, the members of the National Assembly and APC exco’s could have sat down and considered the formula that would have been in the best interest of Nigeria. They could have considered the best option that would foster the unity of Nigeria and provided the most conducive atmosphere for President Buhari to apply his mandate of change.

Prior to yesterday’s National Assembly contest, the idea of any of the APC legislatures supporting a candidate from the PDP was almost sacrilege. Seeing the results of the National Assembly contest yesterday, where PDP Senator Ike Ekeremadu was returned as Deputy Senate President among other candidates (supported by some APC legislatures), Nigerians now know that counting out the candidacy of any PDP member for leadership position, was nothing but a bogey!

If it was always acceptable for APC legislatures to vote for PDP candidates for leadership positions, then why wasn’t that anomaly or privilege applied in a manner that would best benefit Nigeria. Had APC encouraged or considered electing a Senate President from the South East, irrespective of party affiliation, perhaps there would be an increase in the spirit of inclusion and togetherness.

Indeed, there is no rule engraved in stone that prohibits a member from a minority party leading a chamber or both chambers of the National Assembly, if the member is voted by a majority of their peers. This has been clearly shown in the legislature elections. Had APC just gone ahead and done this, not only would it have exhibited the much desired change that teeming Nigerians has been yearning for, the party would have also extended the proverbial olive branch across the Niger to open the doors for a deflated Igbo community.

What we have seen played out between the APC legislatures in the last couple of weeks has been the exhibition of individual aspirations at the detriment of, not only the unity of APC as a party, but at the expense of Nigeria as a whole.

Assuming the nation had been put first, during the APC zoning of the Senate Presidency and Speakership positions, another formula, which would augment unity could have been the support for the emergence of a Northern Christian for either the Senate Presidency or Speakership. This is purely based on the fact that the President – Muhammadu Buhari – is a Muslim and there should have been a consideration for the next Northerner in the hierarchy of leadership to be a Christian. Application of this particular formula would have been specifically important since the Middle Belt and Northern Christians overwhelmingly supported Mr. President and the APC in the April polls, despite the religious dichotomy and tension that already exists in the North. This would have also gone a long way in integrating the unity of “Arewa” in a manner that was done during the era of the illustrious Sardauna, Sir Ahmadu Bello.

As we move from A to B, the fear for many Nigerians discerningly looking on is that many of these interests are wedged in a premature and ill advised aspiration towards 2019. There is already trepidation that some of the more Machiavellian recently elected governors have their eye and a game plan targeting the presidential election of 2019. It is alleged that some identified actors involved in the schemes and intrigues that have gone on within the APC are only interested in using whatever position they secure as a springboard for their 2019 ambitions. If so, it’s likely that these elements are unconcerned with the unity of the party and the nations in the pursuance of their self-centered ambitions.

As this new administration begins, those in leadership positions must struggle and try hard not to make the mistakes of the past. Such mistakes were what sunk the power of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which held power for 16-years.

Indeed, there are valuable lessons to be learned from the past if we want to forge ahead positively. During the just concluded polls, Nigerians came out en masse, clamored for, fought for, voted for and ushered in change. The yearnings for this change have got to be protected and sustained at all cost during this administration. The nation must be put ahead of the interest of every single individual in government that is putting self before the over 170-million people who gave their mandate.

We are in 2015 and the prime focus must hinge on solving the problems of the present. Our country is already besieged with a myriad of problems, and Nigerians voted for change in proffering effective solutions to them. It’s about time that we realize that the unity and overall benefit and interest of the country prevails over any interest or aspiration of any individual, in power or out-of-power. If all the game playing is about 2019, they must appreciate that 2019 is still 4-years away and we should not allow any individual aspiration hedged on the future, to continue tainting and informing the decisions of the present.

Written By Hannatu Musawa

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