3 hours ago/
•How Tinubu, Oshiomhole ruffled feathers
•Lawmakers torn between legislative autonomy, party loyalty
As the intrigues surrounding the leadership tussle in the National Assembly thicken, there are indications that the All Progressives Congress (APC) might hit a brick wall again in its bid to have its anointed candidates installed as presiding officers in both chambers of the parliament.
The leadership of the APC had, just after the general elections, announced its desire to have the serving Senate Leader, Sen. Ahmad Lawan (APC/Borno) and House Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (APC/Lagos) installed as President of the Senate and Speaker, House of Representatives respectively.
National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole launched an offensive when he presented both candidates to President Muhammadu Buhari at two separate dinners last month. However, Oshiomhole stirred the hornets’ nest when he presented the position of the party in a dictatorial tone that angered not just some members of his party, but provoked a rebellion among them.
Oshiomhole said that the APC having won majority of the seats in both chambers of the National Assembly, must produce the presiding officers and other principal officers except the positions statutorily reserved for the minority parties. According to him, the APC was not prepared to share power with the opposition let alone allow the opposition to clinch key positions even at the level of standing committees.
The matter came to a head when the National Leader of the APC and former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was quoted to had threatened members of the party in the National Assembly that they will be expelled from the APC of they failed to abide by the directives of the party on the leadership tussle.
However, a member of the National Assembly during the Second Republic, Dr Junaid Mohammed, said that while the ruling party had the right to show keen interest in those aspiring to lead the National Assembly, the dictatorial posture of its leaders fouled the air.
Speaking with Sunday Telegraph, Mohammed said the utterances of Oshiomhole on the leadership tussle in the National Assembly portrayed him as someone who did not understand party leadership. According to him, while the party had a right to demand the loyalty of its members elected into the National Assembly, its leaders must learn not to make careless utterances on the matter.
“I admit that because of what happened last time (2015), the APC wants to make sure it gets it right this time. But it appears that the same carelessness with which they handled the matter last time is also repeating itself.
“Last time some members of the party felt that they had something called independence or autonomy of the parliament so they can do what they like. But it would have made a lot of sense of they had won the election as independent candidates. It is only then that they can talk about independence of the legislature.
“However, Oshiomhole has carried over his attitude as a labour unionist and enforcer of strikes into the running of a political party and nobody has called him to order.
“If he thinks that it is only by bullying members of party in the National Assembly that they would achieve their goal then he must have a rethink. He should never have been the National Chairman of the ruling party or any other party for that matter. We tend to think people will change their character when they occupy certain positions of authority but it doesn’t happen that way. It is not possible for leopard to change its spots,” he said.
Mohammed did not also spare Tinubu and other leaders of the APC in his postulation that they may be inadvertently playing roles that could hurt their party in the long run.
He said that the fact that both Lawan and Gbajabiamila are perceived as Tinubu’s candidates had already become a challenge for these candidates.
“It is an open secret that Tinubu had a presidential ambition in 2023 and whatever he does now is perceived as designed to boost his own chances in the future. But how many votes can Lawan mobilise for him in Yobe and the North and how many votes can Gbajabiamila deliver for him in Lagos and the South West? But I don’t see how fixing certain people in certain places in the National Assembly can advance his political career. It will not and he needs to very careful,” he said.
Mohammed urged the ruling party to put their house in order by persuading their members to support their preferred candidates on the basis of merit rather than through coercion or godfatherism. He warned that if the APC goes about it recklessly they may create another opportunity for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to cash in on their mistakes.
Sunday Telegraph also learnt that the seeming breakthrough achieved by Hon Gbajabiamila in recent days might be a smokescreen.
Gbajabiamila, a ranking member of the House, had last Thursday received the endorsement of 178 members-elect. Before then, he was reported to have sponsored 50 members of the House of Representatives on pilgrimage to Mecca besides other gifts advanced to these members.
But these moves have also sent tongues wagging that Gbajabiamila had chosen to buy the conscience of his colleagues rather than marketing himself on the basis of competence and cognate experience.
A former Deputy Chairman, Committee on Media and Public Affairs in the House of Representatives, Hon Afam Ogene told Sunday Telegraph that apart from Gbajabiamila’s alleged link with Tinubu, these recent moves to woo members with pilgrimage and monetary offers might just become his undoing in the speakership race.
“On Tuesday, last week, they met with South West lawmakers at the residence of one of the South West governors where they allegedly distributed N200, 000 to each of them. He took 50 members to Mecca. Then last Thursday, the same man distributed Tecno smart phones to the 178 members who endorsed him.
“Find out how much those phones must have cost. Find out how much he spent on the 50 members he sent on pilgrimage. People should be asking where these monies are coming from. Why this desperation? It is not even a general election, it is just an internal election within the chamber,” he said.