Dr. Wumi Akintide

Once a senator or a representative agrees to put party supremacy above his or her own individual ambition or agenda, he or she cannot go to the Senate or House floor to vote against his or her own party. Bukola Saraki and Aminu Dogara more or less got away with murder, so to speak, in Nigeria because Nigeria is an outlaw society where indiscipline and impunity have become an integral part of Government policy.

That the Action Group under Obafemi Awolowo fully embraced party supremacy in the defunct Western Region was one of the reasons the Action Group was so successful because there can be no good and purposeful government if the so-called honorable members and senators are allowed to hide under Senate or House rules to disown and disobey their own party with impunity as Saraki has done.

Party supremacy works to the best interest of democracy. It helps to guarantee liberty, justice, freedom for all and life more abundant as clearly proved to us by the Action Group Manifesto in the old Western Region, which became the pacesetter for progress and development in Nigeria in that era. Some of the imperishable legacies of the Action Group like free education, medical coverage for pregnant mothers and their babies up to a certain age, and agrarian revolution by way of farm settlements in the old West could not have been possible without party supremacy.

Nnamdi Azikiwe tried to copy the Action Group by trying to implement the free education program in the Eastern Region, but the program collapsed within three years in large part because party supremacy was not as rigidly enforced in the N.C.N.C. like it was in the Action Group back then. You could not disobey or embarrass the Action Group and still remain a member. That was the bottom line.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that party supremacy is the only way out for the APC in the quagmire it has found itself. If all the PDP who decamped into the APC like Saraki had been made to sign a legally-binding pledge to obey the party directives or be fired, Bukola Saraki would never have been able to do what he did on the Senate Floor by openly conspiring with the PDP to disgrace, humiliate and embarrass his own party.

It was an outrage that party supremacy would have nipped in the bud before it became an uncontrollable inferno that may well consume the APC or make it harder for Buhari to successfully govern Nigeria. Buhari and the APC should have known that before asking Nigerians to vote for them.

The Saraki move would have been considered a heresy that would have led to the immediate resignation or firing of Saraki and his fellow conspirators in the Senate who won their elections on the platform of the APC. The APC is scared to death to even talk of punishing Saraki and Dogara, talk less of firing them from the APC. Saraki is now presiding over a Senate in which his immediate deputy, Senator Ekweremadu, is a PDP member. David Mark, who became the Majority Leader on June 9th, is also another PDP man. Saraki played a dangerous game because David Mark, who had 49 PDP senators on the senate floor that day, could easily have continued as Senate President because his party had the majority, compared to only 8 for the APC at the particular session. Saraki took a big risk because he was so desperate to be appointed Senate President that he shot out 51 APC members to get the outcome he had wanted. Only in Nigeria could such an incident have occurred without anybody seeking a redress in Court. I was speechless to hear how the coup was stage-managed on the Senate Floor and how the new President was totally ignored and rendered totally helpless.

Saraki has boxed the APC into a corner from which it cannot escape. Sooner or later the whole edifice is bound to collapse like a pack of cards because Ekweremadu and David Mark and the remaining 47 PDP senators who voted together under their party rules would not allow any of the Buhari-sponsored bills to pass in the Senate Chamber. How for goodness sake is Buhari going to be able to sign into law his agenda in the Senate Chamber with PDP members occupying the Deputy Senate President and Majority Leader positions, even though they lost the election by more than 2 million votes in the presidential election and the APC had 59 senators to their own 49?

If you are all in denial to answer that question, I cannot join you. The APC is all but finished as a catalyst for change in Nigeria... Anybody can deceive me. I only have a problem when I deceive myself. The APC is all but dead and Buhari who believes in running up the clock as a Government policy has more or less crippled himself as the new President of Nigeria...

He is not able to name a Cabinet and even less of a chance of getting them confirmed by the PDP-led Senate because the Joda Committee has recommended 19 ministers and 17 ministers in the era of austerity Nigeria has found itself. Part of the Buhari problem right now is how to navigate the troubled waters sure to follow the release of his Cabinet members. He is worried about how to pick those ministers without facing overwhelming public criticism.

He is right now facing public criticism over his appointment of 11 officials with 10 of them coming from the North alone and only one from the South. He is also facing a huge problem with his appointment of a Mrs. Zachary to acting INEC Chairman. You can multiply that criticism by 36 when he eventually releases his list for Cabinet Ministers and Ministers of State.

He is slow to submit that list because he knew the list was going to be a “Pandora’s Box.” Trust me. He would tell you he is slow to submit the list because he does not want to make any mistake. If you believe that crap, then I have an island to sell to you in the Pacific. You will believe anything.  What is happening in the Buhari camp right now is not rocket science. You can add 2 plus 2 to get 4. I have been in Government for 25 years of my life and I can tell you right now that Buhari has an uphill task picking a Cabinet for all of the reasons I have stated above. The man needs a lot of help to get himself out of the quagmire but the man is either in denial or driven by ego to want to admit he has a problem.

The APC leadership and President Buhari totally looked unprepared for the coup d’etat on the Senate and House Floors. The President in particular as the de facto leader of the APC is now looking confused and clueless about how to respond to the tragedy that has occurred in his legislative arm of Government. The prognosis is not looking good at all. The man ought to have fired all of the service chiefs in the military he had criticized while he was still a candidate. That he is leaving them there tells me loud and clear that his order of priorities is totally skewed.

Brigadier General Aliyu Momoh is still keeping his job and Captain Sagir Koli is still in exile for fear of his life and 60 Nigerian officers are still awaiting execution following a court martial by the military for refusing to fight Boko Haram with their bare hands. I hear that Buhari now wants to negotiate with Boko Haram. There are problems everywhere you look and all Buhari can do is run up the clock in the hope that some of the problems would dissipate or go away with time. That is no way to govern a country and to keep quiet is a treasonable felony in my judgment.

The development had raised a lot of questions among Buhari’s supporters like me about whether or not Nigerians have voted for the wrong leader in the last election. Buhari now looks like “Goodluck Jonathan on steroids” if you see what I see.  Buhari cannot provide any ready-made or foolproof answers to the raging inferno in the APC right now because Bukola Saraki has irredeemably damaged the APC by putting the PDP in a position to say to Nigerians, ”We told you so.”

To prove the efficacy of party supremacy, I must remind any of you reading this that Obafemi Awolowo had initially wanted free and compulsory education in the old West but the Party by consensus removed the word “compulsory.” Awolowo had no other choice but to go along with what the Party has decided. Ayo Fasanmi and late Akin Omoboriowo had wanted to become Governor of Ondo State on August 16, 1983, instead of Pa Adekunle Ajasin. The UPN decided that Ayo Fasanmi had to put his ambition on hold because the Party wanted Adekunle Ajasin. Late Akin Omoboriowo who refused to toe the party line and directive knew he had to resign or be fired. He chose to join the NPN.

The NPN was bent on rigging Omoboriowo into power to capture Ondo State by all means, but the UPN would not allow it. Hell broke loose in Akure the Ondo State capital with many houses burnt down and NPN members like Olaiya Fagbamigbe, Robert Akesogie Agbayewa and Barrister Agunbiade murdered in cold blood in French revolution-type mayhem.

The NPN abandoned Omoboriowo when they could not take the heat.  Pa Adekunle Ajasin actually won the election and was sworn in as Governor. If the APC and the Buhari were good students of history, they would have had a better appreciation of party supremacy and how it could have helped to discourage elements like Saraki and Dogara from doing what they did.

Now the APC and Buhari have won the elections in Nigeria but they do not know what to do with their victory because the PDP has infiltrated their rank and file. The PDP has taken undue advantage of the situation to rubbish the APC as we speak.

The fans of this column would remember my article in which I predicted that the APC and Buhari would have the shortest honeymoon with Nigerians. You all can take this one as my part 2 to that article. Many of you agree with me that I spoke the truth in that article and many of you have encouraged me to do a follow-up. I refuse to do a follow-up to that article before now because many of my good friends and mentors like Phebean Ogundipe and many others have advised me to soft-pedal on Buhari because he inherited a very bad situation from the PDP. They were all persuaded that if I continue my criticism of Buhari, the development might hurt Buhari and the APC irredeemably.

I agreed with them so I chose to keep my mouth shut. Even though I criticize Buhari and the APC, I still believe that Buhari is far better than Goodluck Jonathan, who completely ruined Nigeria. I still support Buhari but my confidence and trust in him have been badly shaken, I must confess.

I do not want the PDP to ever come back to power in Nigeria. I continue to believe that the PDP is not good for Nigeria. I was going to stop complaining about Buhari or the APC until I came across the Nnamani statement that the APC cannot enforce party supremacy on the Senate Floor because the Senate and the House of Representatives in Abuja have their ground rules that cannot be overridden by party supremacy or party discipline.

I call that a big lie if you remember Obafemi Awolowo and the Action Group I mentioned earlier. Those ground rules on the floors of the Senate and House cannot be a reason for any Parliamentarian or Senator to disobey his Party.

If the Nnamani’s statement is left unchallenged it could be a panacea for anarchy in the legislative arm of the government. The Executive will find it extremely difficult to govern and to pass any bills through the legislature. If the majority party cannot get any of its bills passed in the House or the Senate, how can it bring up the change that Nigerians have voted for? The Nnamani advice is a complete negation of how the presidential system is supposed to work in any country. I study the American presidential system and I have a pretty good idea about how it works. I don’t know where Nnamani got his own ideas from but I strongly believe he is wrong to pass such a judgment without explaining why.

Under the American presidential system those who will be Senate President, Deputy Senate President, and Majority Leader are always settled at the Party Caucus ahead of time. Those decisions only come for formal ratification on the Senate or House Floor. That is why it is easy to know ahead of time if a motion has enough support to pass when it gets to the Senate or House floor. A member cannot vote “yes” at the party Caucus and go to the floor of the House or the Senate to vote “no”.  A few of them might vote no or yes based on what their constituents are telling them but they have a responsibility to let the party know ahead of time why they are going to be voting against their party. Such occasions are few and far between and there is a due process for taking their party along. They just don’t act like Saraki to do what they like.

When Mitch McConnell emerged as the Majority Leader in the US Senate, it was already clear to the party he was going to take the position if the Republican Party wins the majority in the Senate. The man was already Republican Minority Leader in the US Senate for many years. The same rule applies in the House where the Minority Leader automatically becomes the Speaker if his party wins the majority in the House. John Boehner is the Speaker in the US House of Representatives today for that reason. All I am saying is that party supremacy has a place in the American presidential system that Nigeria has plagiarized. Ken Nnamani’s statement is quite misleading and that is why I am challenging it with this article.

The 1999 Constitution in Nigeria was presumably fashioned after American presidential system and one would have expected the same rules to apply “mutatis mutandi,” but it probably did not happen that way because of the narrow interpretation of individuals like Nnamani. The APC was rooting for Senator Lawan to be Senate President.  Bukola Saraki made sure that the vote was taken while o less than 51 out of the APC 59 senators could not be present at the Senate Floor to watch the proceedings and to cast their votes. Saraki completely shot them out of the process to get his way. Why was he so much in a hurry to hold the session while 51 members of the APC were absent from the Senate Chambers?  It is a legitimate question that the Court of Law would have asked Saraki to explain. The APC was too embarrassed to take the matter to court because they would have looked stupid if they did. That was the problem and Saraki took undue advantage of that stupidity to impose himself as Senate President in collusion with the PDP.

Saraki colluded with the Senate Clerk to schedule the meeting in the absence of those 51 Senators, which was a total breach or violation of the Senate rules that Nnamani was talking about. That was how Saraki was able to get his way in a “quid pro quo” agreement with the 49 senators of the PDP who voted for him plus 7 out of the APC 59 senators making a total of 57 votes for Saraki. If Party supremacy had been allowed to take hold, the 7 APC senators who stayed put at the Chambers to vote for Saraki would not have done so. As a matter of fact the 7 APC senators would have been subjected to party discipline or fired along with Saraki himself. Saraki is still Senate President till now because he disobeyed the APC and disrespected President Buhari by not taking him into confidence about what he was trying to do.

The Clerk of the Senate is a civil servant and therefore under the authority of the President. He was not even concerned about how the new President was going to view his decision to go ahead with the session on the Senate Floor. The man ought to have been fired immediately as a civil servant but the man still holds his job in spite of his glaring shortcomings because Buhari does not want to go there for reasons best known to him.

President Buhari did not help matters when after the election; he issued one of the most stupid statements ever made by any President. He said he really did not want to interfere with the what was going on in the Legislature because he respected the separation of powers and would work with whoever emerge as leaders in the Senate and the House regardless of who they are and their party affiliation or loyalty. I nearly had a heart attack when Buhari said that. I knew there and then that the man was either senile or insane or both.

It was the most stupid statement that Buhari would regret for the rest of his tenure as president because it was totally uncalled for and it betrayed his political immaturity or inexperience as a leader. He probably did not realize that as president, he was first and foremost the de facto Party leader. Even if his party was in the minority, which occasionally happens in America, the president had to be constantly aware that he achieved his office through a party platform he had to protect come rain or shine.

Buhari failed to understand that and he compounded the APC problem and gave some cold comfort to Saraki and Dogara in so doing. I repeat that party supremacy is very important in a democracy and any party or president who chooses to ignore it, does so at his own peril.

There is no way in the world that Buhari would be able to lead the APC to where it needs to be without some reliance on party supremacy and party discipline.

I rest my case.

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