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A Chink In His Armour?, By Soji Apampa

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The people will not be forgiving if by trying so hard to establish one’s integrity one loses sight of the tough battles that need to be fought to deliver on the mandate. Did PMB really abdicate the opportunity to have a say in who emerges Senate President preferring for “due process” to take its course? At what price to the electorate who voted for change? Will the PMB nominees who can really make a change be confirmed as ministers, or will the new mafia block them? Will he be prepared to fight to have them on board or what are we now to expect?

In the week before the historic inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB), in an article titled “With May 29 Approaching, Is there Really Excitement in the Air?” I remarked that, “In 2015, we are in the situation where the APC is taking over national government and will also be the majority in the NASS – will history repeat itself? Most of the forward looking policies being promised by the APC, including moves to strengthen the fight against corruption and grow the economy may require new laws and thus actions by the NASS.

The APC controls some 22 States out of 36, as well as the national government and thus wields colossal political power but a tussle to control this source of power cannot be ruled out. The clear losers at the moment are lawmakers from the South-East, South-South and the PDP in general, as well as non-APC controlled States.” Well, on June 9, 2015, 47 PDP Senators and 10 APC Senators unanimously nominated and elected Senator Bukola Saraki as President of the Senate of the 8th National Assembly (whilst 51 APC Senators were absent at a meeting) in a manner that prompted headlines suggesting a coup had just taken place.

Was Saraki’s defection from PDP merely part of a grand scheme to arrive at this point? Were the 10 APC Senators who broke ranks politicians who had defected from the PDP too? Could the APC not have seen this coming? The rules of the Senate allow a Senate President to be elected by simple majority whilst it would take two-thirds of their number to remove him – we may argue about the rationale for the two different standards but those are the rules. Bukola Saraki worked for what he achieved and should be congratulated for outsmarting the APC leadership to emerge Senate President, even if he had to do so primarily via enlisting the support of the PDP Senators, or shouldn’t he? The dictionary definition of subterfuge includes “deception used to achieve an end”, “stratagem employed to conceal something, evade an argument.” Was this an act of subterfuge or was it just a cunning, shrewd move in the generally dirty game of politics? Has Saraki drawn the battle lines within the APC or should the public read nothing more into the events? Whichever way you choose to answer those questions, this is an ominous start to governance under PMB, and is it revealing a chink in his armour?

The change we seek is not something we sit back and wait to be handed to us, it is something all well meaning Nigerians should become vocal in seeking…

If the APC’s majority is as fluid as it is appearing (consisting of persons whose allegiance can easily flow from the APC to other parties as and when it suits them), what level of support can PMB actually rely upon within the National Assembly? Is this a foretaste of things to come? In his inauguration speech, PMB made the statement that, “…I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody…”, which some have interpreted as meaning he is distancing himself from Bola Tinubu and stating he is his own man; but is he really the man for the kind of dirty politics unfolding which requires the political wisdom of street fighters like Tinubu? What the President should fear is a junctioning of forces from the South-East, South-South and the PDP in general with renegade members of the APC to serve their own ends and not necessarily the change the people seek and for which they delivered such a massive mandate. The people will not be forgiving if by trying so hard to establish one’s integrity one loses sight of the tough battles that need to be fought to deliver on the mandate. Did PMB really abdicate the opportunity to have a say in who emerges Senate President preferring for “due process” to take its course? At what price to the electorate who voted for change? Will the PMB nominees who can really make a change be confirmed as ministers, or will the new mafia block them? Will he be prepared to fight to have them on board or what are we now to expect?

The main battle will be over the economy and that is still ahead. The corporate chieftains and civil servants will be watching this unfolding drama, wringing their hands because finally, they may have found a chink in his armour and now understand how to achieve their ends in this new dispensation. How tough will reforms be if shrewd, old politicians ally with them and manage to block reforms from sailing through the National Assembly despite the APC’s majority? Are we returning to the days when the NASS and Governors forum held OBJ’s administration to ransom? Is this a mutation and translation of the Governor’s Forum into NASS? Will PDP Senators or their APC collaborators also chair a good number of the committees of the Senate?

The change we seek is not something we sit back and wait to be handed to us, it is something all well meaning Nigerians should become vocal in seeking as PMB is showing he is willing to create the space for us to hold people accountable but it might be asking too much to also expect he can do it all by himself.

Soji Apampa, the co-founder of The Integrity Organisation, can be reached at Twitter: @sojapa, and email: soji.apampa@integritynigeria.org.

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